The first International Women’s Day gathering took place more than a century ago in 1911. Today it is a global movement celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women.   

The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women's equality. Over the past hundred years, we as a society have made great strides, but there is still much more work to do.  

As we will discuss this morning, the global COVID-19 pandemic has further underscored the importance of continuing this work. Over the past two years, we have witnessed the pandemic’s disproportionate impacts on women. Additionally, the tragedy currently unfolding in Ukraine is a reminder of the unique impacts of such humanitarian crises on women. As we have seen around the globe, refugees forced to flee their home countries are overwhelmingly women and children.  

As we deal with the ongoing repercussions of the pandemic and the current humanitarian crises underway in many parts of our world, we must prioritize women’s participation across society, and particularly in the labour market, as critical to our collective economic recovery and prosperity.  

As an institution of higher learning, the University of Waterloo has an important role to play. The learners we are educating today will play an important role in shaping our global post-pandemic recovery. We must ensure that this next generation of talent includes a diversity of women’s voices. We also know that education is strongly related to health and social outcomes.  

It is also important to consider the intersections of gender with other dimensions of identity. As we continue to witness, the pandemic, and other global threats such as climate change, compound existing social and economic inequities in society.   

They create additional hardships for already marginalized groups—including women, as well as Indigenous communities, racialized people, low-income communities, people with disabilities and other equity-deserving groups.   

In Waterloo’s strategic plan, we acknowledge that having a diversity of voices and perspectives enriches our teaching and research. To truly honour the rich diversity of our community, we must proactively find, prevent and remove barriers, so everyone feels included and welcome at this institution, and can achieve their full potential.  

As we celebrate International Women’s Day and the many achievements and successes of women at our University and in our surrounding community, we must also reflect on what we can do to advance women’s equality, and to build a more equitable and just society for all.