As I reflect on International Women’s Day, this year feels different. Not simply because of the fundamental shifts in our everyday lives due to the pandemic, but because our society has undergone a significant shift over the past year.
We can be proud that our University and society have been able to acknowledge and work towards long-term policy and societal changes in the name of equity. We can and should be proud of these accomplishments, but despite all the progress that we have made, systemic inequities and injustices persist in our institution and in our society.
So many of us are seeing, feeling and participating in the outpouring of activism, emotion and focus on justice of the past year and beyond. That combination was felt more than 100 years ago when women from around the world came together to march and protest in what would become International Women’s Day.
They demanded what was right, fair and just: equity. Equity in voice. Equity in opportunity. Equity in prosperity. Today we see that vision with renewed focus. Not just for women, but at the intersection of equity and gender, race, nationality, income and so much more.
As we celebrate and reflect on the contributions and accomplishments of women the world over, it is important to remember that this is just one day. Addressing inequities must be something we do every day. Let today be a catalyst for further change. It is a day of community, connection and reflection. But it is much more, too.
Equity is everyone’s responsibility
Today is a time to celebrate. To look forward. And, to recommit. This is not a once-a-year effort, nor something that is just a women’s issue. It is an everyday, every week, every month and every person issue. We cannot forget that.
I’ve seen what we have been capable of achieving in a short amount of time. We met the targets we set as part of the HeForShe campaign and as I’ve said in the past, that is only the beginning. I am encouraged by the determination and willingness to drive the change we need as a community and as a world-class institution.
Together we’ve built a launching pad for action and it is exciting to see what possibilities lie ahead of us with the continued work of the Equity Office, Indigenous Initiatives and now the President’s Anti-Racism Taskforce.
The intersection of equity
It’s so important for us to recognize that tackling gender inequity is not something that happens in isolation. People who identify as women face many challenges at the intersection of their gender, their race, their sexuality, their origins, their religion and so much more.
If we want to see the changes we are making for women to take hold and last for generations, we will need to drive forward change at the link between these intersections wherever they occur. That will produce impact at a scale that strives to rise up and empower everyone.
People who identify as women have been a driving force for so much good at Waterloo and in our society. We have a duty to take their legacy forward to expand and enable the growth and development of every member of our community.
Let that be the legacy of today. Let that be our call to action. Let that be the bedrock of innovation that pushes us forward as a university and as a welcoming and just society.