Every day is International Women’s Day, said Rosa Miller, president of Prince Rupert’s Women’s Leadership Network.
“I think it’s great that we have one day, but I do my best every day for myself and to encourage others to step forward and have their voice heard. You can do it in a way that’s not aggressive or assertive or turns people off. But if you have something to say, now’s the time to say it. If you want to affect change, now’s the time to do it,” she said.
Women’s stories have come to the forefront of many discussions — #MeToo and Time’s Up to name a few — in the past year. On March 8, the theme for this year’s International Women’s Day wants to keep the momentum going with #PressforProgress. The official website reads “we can’t be complacent” — much still needs to change.
In Canada, women earn 88 cents on the dollar a man is paid for the same job. The 2018 federal budget addresses this disparity, announcing it will implement pay equity legislation, which would include a process for employers with less than 100 employees and pay requirements for federal employers as well.
Change needs to be made in Prince Rupert as well. Miller is conducting her own gender parity review. As the president of the Women’s Leadership Network, she’s making a list of all the women on the boards of societies and organizations in the city as well as senior management positions.
Through her work in the community, she discovered there weren’t as many women as she had assumed in these positions. Out of curiosity, the list was born.
“It’s not meant to be an attack on any organization,” she said, but to highlight the benefits of gender diversity. Her interest brought her to studies of Fortune 500 companies, which have been ranked better and more profitable when they have more diversification on boards and management levels, she said.
The Women’s Leadership Network is a group of women focused on helping women move forward in their careers — whatever they choose to do. For Miller, it was important to be part of the society, because a similar one didn’t exist when she was growing up in Prince Rupert.
“It used to be if you were a girl in school, you were told you could be a teacher or you could be a nurse. And those are amazing professions, but if you want to be an engineer, you can be an engineer. If you want to be a long-haul truck driver, you can be that too,” she said. “You’re allowed to have a family and kids and a career, and it’s OK to want that. It’s not about giving anything up, it’s about finding the right balance for you.”
In the past few months of putting the list together, Miller said she’s noticed that it’s not necessarily the organizations or employers driving the lack of women in higher positions.
“I think often times it’s women who are reluctant to put their names forward for whatever reason that may be,” she said. “There’s definitely still an attitude that there’s a place for women and it’s not here, but there’s a lot of organizations that are really working to change that culture. Now we need to get the women on board, and to not be afraid to take that step.”
The plan is to have the list done in time for summer — and the next election season in Prince Rupert.
“In light of the fact that there’s a municipal election coming up, those are great positions for women to be in. Even if they’re not ready maybe to run for council, getting involved,” Miller said. “My hope is that when people see this list, they’ll either see women who are there they can look to as an example, or they’ll see there’s a spot that they can fill.
“The change starts with you. If you don’t do it, who will?”