On this International Women’s Day, My Comox Valley Now talked with women in the Comox Valley about the importance of the day.
Cumberland mayor Leslie Baird said the day gives an opportunity for conversation about past issues and let them go.
“I think that International Women’s Day is a prime example of women getting together to help each other when they come into these tough times and how to deal with it,” said Baird. “It gives you an ability to let go of some of the hurts of the past.”
The day also resonates with local business owners who say the day allows for appreciation and encouragement throughout their careers.
“I think to have a day specifically dedicated to women can help everybody, no matter what gender they are, to really think about and appreciate what women do for everybody in our society,” said Yiyang Lu, owner of Bosley’s by Pet Valu Courtenay.
For Baird, the landscape has changed in many positive ways for women in politics. She said the landscape when she was elected for council in 1990 is much different today.
“It was challenging because a vast majority [councillors and mayors] were men and so we were a very small group of women that thought in a different way,” she said.
Baird said she was lucky to not always be the only woman on council and was able to get things done and be respected. She says now people are more accepting and more people are involved in council to balance things out.
“Back then we just carried on and knew that it was there but there was very little support out there,” she added. “It’s so rewarding to know that there is support out there for women now.”
Baird said bullying however still exists in the workplace and needs to be addressed in future.
Baird said it feels really good to be the first female mayor in Cumberland and Lu believes things have improved in the area.
“I feel very lucky as a business woman in the Comox Valley,” said Lu. “We are a community of many great and strong women that have inspired me. Throughout history, there has been a huge change in women’s role in society. It was not until the past 100 years where women’s role in society was actually recognized.”
40 Knots Winery co-owner Brenda Hetman-Craig says self-confidence will help more women be successful.
“On International Women’s Day I would like to offer encouragement to women everywhere,” said Hetman-Craig. “Know that you’re valued and that your dreams can come true. I hope that you’ll always believe in yourself.”
Baird is inspired to see more young women continue to push and solve issues that come their way and says even one supporter can make all the difference.
“There’s always a solution and you’re going to see bullies of all kinds and you need to address it. Ignoring it doesn’t help it, it doesn’t make it go away,” she said. “It’s a hard thing to do but if you have the support of even one other person who knows what you’re going through, that’s a tremendous difference.”