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Charla Huber: Leaders make space for gender equality

A group of very powerful women was in our region recently. It was the 37th annual meeting of federal-provincial-territorial ministers responsible for the status of women. In each province or territory the ministerial role’s name changes. In B.C.
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Charla Huber's daughter Soleil, 9, chats with federal minister for Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development Maryam Monsef at the opening reception of the 37th annual meeting of federal-provincial-territorial ministers responsible for the status of women in Victoria.

A group of very powerful women was in our region recently. It was the 37th annual meeting of federal-provincial-territorial ministers responsible for the status of women. In each province or territory the ministerial role’s name changes. In B.C., the position is called the parliamentary secretary for gender equity, and Esquimalt-Metchosin MLA Mitzi Dean holds the role.

The annual meeting brings representatives from across the country together to work collaboratively in achieving gender equality. The group discussed women’s economic empowerment and leadership. They tackled tougher topics such as gender-based violence which includes cyber-violence, human trafficking, domestic violence, the safety of Indigenous women and girls and the safety of members of the LGBTQ2S communities.

I was invited to attend a reception for this meeting, based on my work in Indigenous relations, and I was able to mingle with ministers and representatives in attendance. It was a powerful room, and I felt very humble to share space with so many smart, influential and confident women. The reception was on a Monday night and I brought my daughter with me, mainly because I am a full-time single mother who has had far too many babysitters for work events lately.

My daughter is nine and has accompanied me to many adult functions. She put on a dress and her best business blazer, and we headed to the reception. It wasn’t until I drove home that I thought about the coincidence that I, as a single mother, needed to bring my daughter with me to this reception. Being able to bring my daughter with me was a true demonstration of making space for someone to provide gender equality.

I’ll be the first to admit it: Being a single mom in business sometimes leaves me worried others will think that I might not be as dependable, dedicated or efficient as other workers. I work really hard, and often overcompensate to ensure I am not fitting that stereotype that people may think of.

During opening remarks at the reception, I noticed my daughter chatting with a woman near the edge of the room. It turned out to be Maryam Monsef, federal minister for women and gender equality and rural economic development. It made me feel happy for my daughter to have the opportunity to feel included and especially to be acknowledged by a federal minister.

“We absolutely need to make the space and ensure everyone has a role. We need to support people,” said Dean.

Gender equality means providing space and opportunity to women who are pregnant, who are mothers, who are gay, who are Indigenous, who are minorities, who live in poverty and who are non-conforming. Gender equality is about creating space and opportunities for people of all genders, and this includes non-binary and transgender people.

“Non-binary youth spoke to us about being shut out of every aspect of their lives,” Dean said, explaining hearing stories about landlords and employers mistreating them. “There are so many people who don’t conform who are fighting for equality.”

When we make room for people from all backgrounds, it strengthens our communities as a whole. This strength comes from diversity, and ensuring there are a variety of perspectives and experiences represented at the table. The outcomes are different because of inclusivity, and that is why I think meetings such as this one are so valuable.

Recently, I moderated a conference session for the B.C. Non-Profit Housing Association on women in male-dominated fields. I am always one to look for a positive spin on things, but I found some disheartening statistics that include the B.C. gender wage gap is still 22 per cent and that women on average take a $16,000 hit on their annual salary per year, per kid.

I am grateful we had so many leaders together talking about gender equality and who are working collaboratively toward it.

It doesn’t have to be only women making space for women — there are plenty of men who are doing so as well.

Even me having this column is a demonstration of making space. I am so appreciative to have a place to share a different perspective that isn’t always given the space to be shared.

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