COLUMN: A day to honour pioneering women

International Women’s Day, which is celebrated on March 8 each year, is a very important day for women. It gives us a day to appreciate the accomplishments of pioneering women of years past, and to recognize all the women today, who continue to lead the way for the generation of tomorrow.

International Women’s Day has been observed since the early 1900s, when many transitions and expansions were occurring around the world. It began as a movement to challenge the oppression and inequality that women suffered and to provide them with the right to vote.

Despite being recognized as persons under the law in Canada and winning the right to vote federally in 1918, we still continued to struggle with inequality in the workplace, less pay and social ideologies that dictated to women their “place” in the world.

So how far have we come from the pioneering women of the early 1900s when International Women’s Day was established - and political activists like Nellie McClung challenged the social norms of her day for every woman’s right to vote?

Feminism has of course, played a big role in advancing the perception of women and opening the door for more choices. Gloria Steinem was a huge leader in the rights for women in the sixties and continues to embody the strength and empowerment of women today. She was once quoted as saying “I have yet to hear a man ask for advice on how to combine marriage and a career”.

We have had many notable women leaders in Canada, like Kim Campbell, who was the first woman Prime Minister in Canadian history. And right here in our own city, Mayor Dianne Watts, became the first female Mayor in Surrey - the second largest city in the province. We have female astronauts, firefighters, lawyers and doctors. Young women are welcomed into university, and can work and have a family, or be stay at home moms. Women today have real choices.

As a stay at home mom, I consider the concept of choice extremely empowering. It has been a huge leap from the 1950s, when being a stay at home mom was an expectation – to today’s world, where being a stay at home mom is a choice.

I have been university educated, had a great career, and am now a stay at home mom for my children. I am a strong believer that women can have it all – just not all at the same time.

We have witnessed significant change in our society’s thoughts about women’s equality. But that should not make today’s generation of women become complacent. We still live in a world where women make less money than men, are not represented enough in business or politics, face sexual harassment in the workplace, and encounter domestic violence and social stigmas. But no matter what – our society is evolving.

So on International Women’s Day, let’s take the time to celebrate not only the great achievements of well-known women leaders, but also ones in our own lives – whether they are a teacher, a mentor, a friend, a mother, or a grandmother. The true leaders of today’s generation are the ones who quietly go about leading without pomp or pretense.

Kelley Scarsbrook is a stay-at-home mom who writes bi-weekly for Black Press.

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