I am excited to celebrate International Women’s Day with our annual dinner this evening honouring our community of women, and those who identify as women. It is a joy to see the energy and drive in the room as we remember those women who have fought, and those who continue to fight today, for women’s rights and equity.
It’s important to remember that International Women’s Day is just one part of a movement for gender equity across all aspects of society. I know it can be easy to come back to a single day of celebration every year and feel good about the progress we’ve made, but to be truly successful we must take the energy the day brings and drive it forward.
International Women’s Day marks a moment to celebrate when women made great strides in the fight for fair rights to work, live and vote as equal members of society. What we often overlook is the struggle and the long years it took for pioneering women to achieve these rights.
I have learned that to truly be a feminist and champion for the rights of women, we must expand our scope beyond a single event, and instead strive for equity every single day. International Women’s Day is a tremendous opportunity to build excitement for continued change. For it to be a force, however, we must look to challenge the status quo tomorrow, the next day and every day from then on.
The Challenges Before Us
Over the course of the last one hundred years, since the founding of International Women’s Day, there has been progress in women’s rights in Canada and around the world. That being said, we cannot rest on our successes and pat ourselves on the back. There are still systemic equity issues in higher education, in our society and in countries around the world.
We must acknowledge how gender imbalances in leadership teams can create toxic power dynamics; understand the unique challenges women in academia endure, especially in male-dominated fields; and, recognize the added pressures women of colour, Indigenous women and the LGBTQ community face. It is vital that we act to make progress for future generations on issues such as these.
The University of Waterloo’s HeForShe IMPACT 10x10x10 commitments are a good start, and have proven to make an impact. But I do admit that we can and will do more. Progress is good, but sustained action is the only thing that will result in long-term success.
Let us mark this International Women’s Day as a moment where we continue the movement towards the lasting impact of true equity. As a beacon for innovation and knowledge around the world, we must set an example and show what the power of equity, diversity and inclusion looks like. Please join me in making this vision a reality today, tomorrow and forever.