EDITORIAL: Women are leaders too

74

Women have been working harder, stronger, faster and smarter in business and politics for quite a long time.

When we wonder why women are absent from politics, boards of directors or leading Fortune 500 companies it certainly isn’t because they don’t show up.

Women often might choose to avoid going to high-level positions because they have experienced the types of roadblocks women face every day. There’s a real disconnect in how the qualities of leaders are seen in women as compared to men and this learned stereotype holds women back from even wanting to enter politics or climb the corporate ladder.

The most reliable way of seeing women as leader-like would be to expose people to more women in actual leadership positions and that’s an area where the city (and other municipalities in the territory) have been stepping up to the plate. With women representing four of the nine council members, including the mayor, Yellowknife is at least close to equal representation, at least when compared to the legislative assembly where only two of 19 MLAs are women.

Last fall’s municipal elections also saw voters in four of the six municipalities choose women to be their mayors. It’s worth noting too that even though only four of the 20 candidates for mayor and council in Yellowknife’s municipal election were women, all four won. All were very qualified but clearly being a female candidate in the election didn’t hurt.

Last week, women “Trailblazers” met for a day of talks, networking and to take in a variety of perspectives for International Women’s Day.

The event, held by the City of Yellowknife and Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce, showed potential by getting a group of brilliant women together to talk about leadership, politics and business and improve on gender diversity and find solutions to problems.

One oddity of the symposium was the inclusion of Mark Brand – dubbed one of North America’s foremost social entrepreneurs – as a keynote speaker. It seemed a strange choice, considering the focus of the event was on female entrepreneurs.

In any event, women have been quietly– and sometimes, not so quietly – making inroads in leadership roles for quite some time. To take women in leadership roles seriously means asking for female input, then implementing those suggestions. It means creating opportunities such as funding for business start-ups, election campaign workshops, which did have some success getting women to last fall’s municipal elections, or other such initiatives.

Still, there is obviously some way to go yet. As mentioned earlier, although women have been climbing the ranks of the territorial government bureaucracy for some time, the legislative assembly remains a bastion of male-dominated hegemony.

But if women want more control in this arena, more will have to participate. Of the 60 candidates who stood for election, only 10 were women.

To change these circumstances, society, and that includes women, will have to work harder to find women who might consider a leadership position and convince them to join the table.