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International Women’s Day marks how far we have come: Mayors, business leaders

Progression over years and reflecting on change is standing out for two Comox Valley business leaders and mayors for International Women’s Day this year.

Mayor Nicole Minions of Comox, mayor Vickey Brown of Cumberland, Comox Valley Women’s Business Network president Bobbie Norton and author and keynote speaker Monica Parkin say the day marks an opportunity to look back at how far we’ve come.

“When I think back to my grandmother, I remember my mom telling me how she went back and got her bachelor’s degree in her 80s,” said Parkin. “In her day and age, when she was a young person, she wanted to go to university, but you just didn’t educate girls back then, there wasn’t enough money.

“Now watching my daughter in her third year of university, seeing myself evolve having changed my career multiple times over my lifetime and knowing that I can do literally anything I want to do, women’s day is a culmination of that growth over time.”

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The comments are echoed by Minions and Brown, the second female mayors of both Comox and Cumberland, who add they are thinking about all the work done before them so they can work in government and other positions leading communities.

“It’s a day where I stop and reflect on how far the women’s movement has gone in the last hundred years,” said Minions. “It also makes me think of where there’s room for growth and improvement. We have a lot of women in leadership in the Comox Valley right now, which is exciting.”

For Norton, the day signifies connection, community and collaboration through business.

“There’s a lot of power when women connect together and to know that we are celebrated around the world, whether we are in business or women helping other women, I think that is pretty powerful for International Women’s Day,” said Norton.

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Examples of this include the Comox Valley Women’s Business Network, which has been running for nearly 36 years and serves as a place for networking and learning about other women’s businesses.

“We have meetings that run from September to June, and it’s a great place for networking and learning,” said Norton. “We strive to have some kind of networking activity or we have a speaker come in from a variety of programs.

“It’s nice to have other women that you can talk to and maybe there’s something that you’re going through or they’re struggling with, and you can ask the questions.”

Parkin adds the business landscape has become less cutthroat over the years and Brown says politically, there is much more representation of women in politics shown at a recent Local Government Leadership Academy meeting.

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“At this gathering it was probably at least 35 per cent women, and much younger people as well,” said Brown. “The demographic in local government is changing I think, and that’s also shifting in provincial and federal politics.”

Heading into the future, equality is on the minds of the businesswomen and mayors. Minions adds women naturally have different strengths and supports need to be in place to help other women get into politics.

The comments are echoed by Parkin, who adds women can sometimes find themselves trying to balance life, work and kids without much support.

“Often what I see is that women agents are battling with what I call the ‘motherhood penalty’, so they’re on a call, they’re working on a file, they’ve got a baby in one arm, their kids are running around in the background,” said Parkin.

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“Opening up more childcare spaces, providing more funding for childcare or even shared office spaces, those are all reducing barriers to success.”

Norton adds along with the supports, there needs to be a way to let women know that those supports are out there for them.

Passion appears to be the focus for the next generation, with both Parkin and Minions telling others to follow their path, with the mayors encouraging young women to find mentors and learn from them.

“Reach out if you ever want to talk,” said Brown. “I really encourage young women to step into those leadership roles, to be brave and to look for mentorship.

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“I think all of us that have got to position of leadership are very happy to share what we’ve learned along the way. I think it’s important to have especially young people represented in local government.”

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