It’s Women’s History Month — a time to look back and celebrate the struggles and successes of the women who have come before us, and to remember the first women to stand up and make a change.
As the minister of tourism, arts and culture, I think that’s especially true in fields where women are in the public eye, such as film, the arts or sport.
Women like Hannah Maynard. An early expert in experimental photography, she was the first professional female photographer in British Columbia. In the mid-1800s, Maynard ran a thriving photography studio in Victoria and took mug shots as the city’s official police photographer. But it’s her innovative, surreal montage self-portraits and hand-cut collages of children that made her renowned.
Women like Barbara Howard. Recognized as an elite athlete in high school, she broke the British Empire record for the 100-yard dash at only 17 years old. She competed for Canada at the 1938 British Empire Games in Sydney, Australia, making Howard the first Black female Canadian athlete to compete internationally. She also went on to be the first woman of colour to work for the Vancouver School Board.
Or women like Kathleen Shannon. A prolific film director and producer, Shannon has more than 80 films to her credit, including two Academy Award nominated films. At 21, she began at the National Film Board as an editor and went on to direct short films. Shannon was a strong advocate for women filmmakers when she founded Studio D in 1974 at the National Film Board of Canada. She was the first executive producer of a government-funded film studio dedicated to women in the world.
We often think of these exceptional trailblazers as historical figures, as women from past centuries. But we still live in a time of firsts.
Take Vancouver’s Michelle Grady. This year, she became executive vice-president of Sony Pictures Imageworks, making her the first woman to run the visual effects and animation production company. With 26 years in the visual effects and post-production industry in Vancouver under her belt, Grady has overseen production on dozens of films, including the Academy Award winning Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
Then there’s rugby player Kelly McCallum. Just this year, she became the first ever female rugby player inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame. A two-time veteran of the Women’s Rugby World Cup, McCallum amassed an impressive 30 caps for the Canadian team and won the 1994 national championship with Team BC.
Or my cabinet colleague Melanie Mark, who became the first female First Nations MLA when she won her seat in Vancouver-Mt. Pleasant in a 2016 byelection. And now as the Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training, she also is the first First Nations person to ever serve in B.C.’s cabinet.
Women are still breaking down barriers and carving new paths today. That’s why yesterday, I held a roundtable discussion with women in B.C. who have made an impact in their field. We talked about opportunities to better support gender equity. We talked about the differences in experience based on socio-economic status, sexual orientation and culture. We talked about how to drive leadership development in sectors like film, arts and culture, and sport and tourism.
What I heard was hope. Hope that for the next generation, it won’t be exceptional to run a video-game company, or be an elite athlete, or run for public office. It will be the norm.
Our government is committed to this vision. For this reason, Premier John Horgan appointed Mitzi Dean as Parliamentary Secretary for Gender Equity to help ensure people of all genders and gender expressions are treated fairly. We have made important strides, but there is still work to do — within government and in partnership with lead agencies.
This Women’s History Month, I’m reminded we still live in a time of firsts, but I look forward to the day I hear “first” for the last time.
Women’s History Month: https://cfc-swc.gc.ca/commemoration/whm-mhf/index-en.html
Read about the Government of British Columbia’s work to advance gender equity: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/gender-equity