YWCA Hamilton: Voices

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We’ve Come A Long Way Baby – But We Still Have A Long Way To Go!

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May 8, 2012 – It’s the day before YWCA Hamilton’s Women of Distinction Awards – a tradition that began in Hamilton in 1975. This year 60 outstanding women have been nominated, each of whom have made important contributions to our community. After all this time, you may wonder why do we still feel the need to loudly proclaim the achievements of women?

Because We’re Not There Yet.

A quick search of women in today’s news reveals that we still have a long way to go. The Toronto Star today reports that women mechanics face Mad Men moments at work. “I’ve had colleagues say they want to have sex with me,” said mechanic Jennifer Ferrari. Mechanic Tara Parsons is just thankful that a women’s change room has finally been built.

Also in today’s paper is developments in the Missing Women’s Inquiry – an inquiry that family members lobbied a decade for and which continues to exclude many women’s and aboriginal advocacy groups from the review process. According to Canadian government statistics, young Indigenous women are five times more likely than other same age women to die as the result of violence. For weeks the Inquiry has been hearing testimonies about police being indifferent, insensitive and brushing off families members who tried to report their loved ones missing. As noted by the 1991 Manitoba Justice Inquiry, racist and sexist stereotypes put women at increased risk.

As evident by the Missing Women’s Inquiry, women continue to be labeled by the same dangerous stereotypes that existed 20 years later. In recognizing the important contributions made by women we work to break down age old stereotypes and begin to depict women in a strong, positive light.

Because We Need Role Models.

Another compelling reason for making women leaders visible and recognized in our community is to give young women the positive role models they need to see possibilities for themselves. Women and girls continue to be sexualized by pop culture and portrayed in the media as victims rather than leaders. Researchers have identified a phenomena called “The Role Model Effect”.  When women leaders are represented in local government, research shows that girls automatically begin to set higher goals for themselves and the gender gap in teen education goals disappears. Women of Distinction Awards identifies positive female leaders in our community for young women to look up too.

Because We Need Inspiration

You cannot be what you in yourself cannot see. Research shows that when women see confidence, leadership and achievement in other women, they envision themselves with those qualities and begin to believe that success is attainable.  In celebrating the achievements of all 60 Women of Distinction nominees,  we share their powerful stories inspiring other women to  succeed.

Because We Do Succeed

Since adding female mechanics to the crew, manager Quaison Parris says foul language has decreased and veteran mechanic Manny Neves says the atmosphere is friendlier (Toronto Star). This finding is not unique to the auto shop. A vast body of research shows that when women attain leadership positions they implement fresh perspectives and much needed change that ripples through the workplace.

In finance, women are challenging age-old thinking that has led to many of today’s economic troubles.  Investors like Halla Tomasdottir are applying feminine values to financial services – making investments based not just on profits, but social and environmental benefits. As a result, counties are finding financial sustainability.

In business, women bring much desired leadership skills as we move away from a manufacturing-based economy that once favored the size and strength of men to a service and information based economy that favors traditional female skills such as strong communications, empathy and teamwork.

In politics, studies show women make legislatures more productive and decrease corruption, fewer closed door meetings take place, more public consultation occurs, governments become more responsive to equity-seeking groups, and there is greater priority given to social policy and gender issues.

Because There Is A Long Way To Go

For all the reasons stated above, we continue to hold Women of Distinction Awards and celebrate the important contributions made by women in the Hamilton community because we still have a long way to go….

References:

Women mechanics face Mad Men moments at work, May 8, 2012, Toronto Starhttp://www.thestar.com/news/article/1174650–column-women-mechanics-face-mad-men-moments-at-work-porter?bn=1

Peer Leadership – Power of Role Models: http://guide.womenwin.org/operations/peer-leadership/the-power-of-role-models

Missing Women Inquiry: ‘Improvement and change’ in place, said police. The Province (May 8, 2012):http://www.theprovince.com/news/Missing+Women+Inquiry+Improvement+change+place+said+police/6582065/story.html

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