March 8th marks an important day for all of us to celebrate and reflect upon. March 8th was International Women’s Day. The theme for International Women’s Day this year was “Balance for Better,” emphasizing a more gender-balanced world. It’s exciting seeing this movement spread across the world, continuing to make strides in creating more equal opportunities for Women.
Although what we see in our profession is quite different than the norm, with over 75% of teachers being women, what is concerning here is that this percentage isn’t reflected in leadership at the school, school division, Local and Society level. Women continue to be underrepresented at all levels of leadership. This is also reflective of a national trend in which differences continue to exist among formal leadership positions. Although the trends in women and leadership continue to move upward, the advancement of women into these positions is much slower than it is for men.
On a positive note, many of our members recognized this and in 2016 the Manitoba Teachers’ Society put together a commission called the Women in Education Leadership Commission (WELCOM). This commission worked incredibly hard to examine the experiences of women in, or aspiring to be in, leadership positions. They produced a final report which outlined a series of recommendations that could be carried out at the division, Local and Society level. Through this the Women in Educational Leadership (WEL) Symposium was brought to life. I was elated to be a part of the symposium this year.
This year marked the second annual WEL Symposium inviting women across the province to share experiences, support one another and listen to incredible guest speakers. I had the pleasure of listening to inspiring women such as Katherine Bueti, the President of the Law Society of Manitoba, who shared her experiences of being a woman in the military as well in the Law community. She is a strong advocate for all and a great supporter of women in leadership roles. Uzoma Asagwara is an entrepreneur, registered psychiatric nurse, and activist who spoke about her personal journey, finding your own identity and founding QPOC (Queer People of Colour). Other women presenters included; Honourable Myrna Driedger, Kathy Antymis, Erna Braun, Lorelei Bunkowsky, Donna Davidson, Terri Hill, Anna Mangano, Jen Zoratti, Judy Wasylycia-Leis, Kerri Twig, Lynne Skromeda, Ashley Richard, Commissioner Loretta Ross, and Barbara McAfee. This event is open to all MTS members, and can be funded through the PPDF monies or perhaps a member’s school.
At the Local level, I am so excited to start working towards another WELCOM recommendation. At RETTA, we have struck a WEL planning committee to develop a strategic plan to implement the WELCOM recommendations within our Local. Through this our Local can continue to support women in, or aspiring to be in leadership positions. Breaking down barriers and providing support to women to allow them to thrive in leadership roles. I look forward to continued collective action and shared responsibility for a more gender balanced world.