International Women’s Day

Missions and biographies

  • Mar. 6, 2020 6:30 a.m.

Mary-Ellen Smith teacher and BC’s first woman MLA (1918). She was the first woman cabinet minister and Speaker in the British Empire. Smith worked on issues of suffrage, workplace protection for women and minimum wage. In 1929 she represented Canada at the International Labour Organization. (Photo provided by BC Labour Heritage Centre)

If you have, or are, a wife, girlfriend, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, and grandmother then March 8, every year, should be marked on your calendar. International Women’s Day (IWD) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women through out history and in our modern day. It also marks a call to action for acceleration of gender equality. The 2020 theme is “I am generation equality: realizing women’s rights”.

The first organized IWD was held in New York on Feb. 28, 1909 and was first celebrated by the United Nations in 1975.

“The world has made unprecedented advances, but no country has achieved gender equality,” The United Nations said on their website.

“In the meantime, legal restrictions have kept 2.7 billion women from accessing the same choice of jobs as men. Globally, women earn 23 per cent less than men.”

Each year, IWD recognizes contributions and supports women’s advancement with missions and objectives. In 2020 these are:

raising greater awareness about issues impacting women’s equality

taking a stance to call out inequality while working to forge more positive action

highlighting and applauding where important gains are being made

celebrating women’s achievements and accomplishments

The six areas and missions in 2020 which IWD supports the advancement of women in are:

Women in Tech – To celebrate digital advancement and champion the women forging innovation through technology

Women in Sport – To celebrate women athletes and applaud when equality is achieved in pay, sponsorship and visibility

Women at Work -To champion women of all backgrounds who dare to innovate, lead, and uplift others towards a more equal and inclusive workplace

Women Entrepreneurs – To support women to earn and learn on their own terms and in their own way

Women’s Health – To assist women to be in a position of power for making informed decisions about their health

Women’s Creatives – To increase the visibility of women creatives and promote their work for commercial projects

On International Women’s Day, we recognize and pay homage to our empowered sisters who have blazed the trail to make our lives such that we can have balance bewteen careers and families. As we continue the walk towards gender equality today, we can be thankful for these women who have stood in front of us and have made it so we have the right to chose our own paths.

A message from Jennifer Rice

First woman elected for North Coast MLA

“As the 95th woman elected MLA in B.C., and first woman elected to represent the North Coast as MLA, I’m proud to be a part of a government that introduced legislation to allow me, as a mother, to bring my newborn son Lua on the floor of the B.C. legislature. One hundred years ago, politics was no place for women. While there are still barriers that need to come down, today it can be a place for everyone,” Jennifer Rice MLA said.

“On this International Women’s Day, I’m thinking of the women who fought for the right for someone like me to become an MLA. We owe so much to generations of trailblazing women and girls who came before us, who spent lifetimes fighting against sexism and gender-based discrimination—whether they received public recognition for their work or not.”

“On International Women’s Day, I’m also thinking about the work that we still have to do, and the duty we have to use our platform in politics to help break down barriers faced by women and gender-diverse people in B.C. The advancement of women, especially Indigenous women, women of colour, and women with disabilities, who face disproportionately more structural barriers, is a key part of what we are working to achieve as a government. Actions that our government is taking— such as by eliminating interest on B.C. student loans, and expanding access to grants for advanced education, working towards creating universal child care in BC, and introducing paid leave for people facing sexual and domestic violence— will advance equality and open a better future for people facing those structural barriers.”

“I think my dual role makes me better at what I do. Some people might think being a mother competes for my attention, but I prefer to see that rather than detracting from my work, parenthood brings clarity on what matters to British Columbians. I am better able to empathize with the everyday struggles families face,” Rice said.

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Women Shoreworkers at Namu Cannery – women cannery (Workers at Namu on the central coast in 1954 removed racist signs on the women’s washrooms. A joint meeting of 154 first nations and white workers voted unanimously to end segregation in the facilities. It was a small step in the long march to overcome racism and ethnic divisions in B.C.’s fishing industry. (Photo provided by BC Labour Heritage Centre)

First maternity leave – In 1974 the Association of University College Employees (AUCE) Local 1 at UBC made history with the first maternity leave to be included in collective benefits. In it’s first collective agreement, UBC clerical and library workers achieved fully funded maternity leave for its members. It was the first union to do so, years before any other. (Photo provided by BC Labour Heritage Centre)

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