I hope the stories of these women will inspire and spur us to action, and be a catalyst for those who will lead us to the next great heights. May this book serve as a step in changing the narrative about women and who we see as our leaders, champions, and luminaries.
PAULINA CAMERON, Author, Canada 150 Women
For eight years, I had the immense privilege of running a national organization focused on supporting and elevating young women. It was created with a desire to learn from the diverse voices of extraordinary female role models who are leaders in their fields.
While a lot has changed, we still have a long way to go toward equality and equity. The data remind us that the gender pay gap in Canada still exists, that the proportion of women in positions of power is not at par, and that women are not financially or systematically supported at equal levels. But there is great reason for hope. More women than ever are starting businesses, leading our communities, and achieving “firsts,” “seconds,” and “thirds.” Feminism is experiencing a global resurgence—from the Fearless Girl statue on Wall Street to Women’s March Global, women are being seen and heard in an unprecedented way. Some will say feminism is not needed, or that it is outdated or divisive. That is not the feminism I know.
Feminism is an invitation for us, women and men alike, to bring forth our best selves and to operate from a place of generosity and abundance. Feminism is an invitation to co-create possibility through power, equity, and imagination. Canadian women are the barometers of our country’s incredible human potential. The women who contributed to this book represent only a fraction of that potential, and their stories serve as an inspirational representation of the countless other known and unknown accomplishments of all women in Canada throughout its history. Some of these women you know well, and will get to know better. Others, you may be meeting for the first time. All of them are remarkable.
I couldn’t have engaged with all our extraordinary contributors and their stories on my own. I first gathered a team of talented women to help me curate these stories—Jill Earthy, Lois Nahirney, Cybele Negris, and Maili Wong—who are themselves sources of inspiration for many. Together we reached out deeply and widely into communities. We researched awards and recognitions: from nationally scaled honours like the Order of Canada, to more community-based impact awards like the YWCA Women of Distinction. We consistently checked our perspective and challenged our selves to be mindful of diversity across many metrics. Our criteria were simple and powerful: women who are leaders in their fields, who make a difference for other women, and who inspire those around them. Canada has no shortage of women of this calibre.
As you will read in the interviews, we must acknowledge and hold space for Canada’s history. As we celebrate 150 years since Canada’s Confederation, we must also remember that our country is more than 150 years old, and that our work of being truly united is not yet over.