Panelists discuss triumphs and challenges of women in Canadian society

By: Deqa Ahmed
In celebration of International Women’s Day, a panel of women met in the River Building at Carleton University March 7 to discuss the triumphs and challenges of women in Canadian society.

By: DEQA AHMED

Panelists and audience members arrive for the "Looking Back; Moving Forward" panel on March 7, International Women's Day. Photo by Deqa Ahmed

Panelists and audience members arrive for the “Looking Back; Moving Forward” panel on March 7, International Women’s Day. Photo by Deqa Ahmed

In celebration of International Women’s Day, a panel of women met in the River Building at Carleton University March 7 to discuss the triumphs and challenges of women in Canadian society.

The panel, titled “Looking Back; Moving Forward,” included moderator Mary McGuire, a professor at the school of journalism and communication, and panelists Maureen McTeer, Monia Mazigh and Caroline Andrew.

McTeer, a lawyer and professor, expressed the challenges she faced as a young woman entering law school at a time when the institution was densely populated with men.

“There had to be some pretty fundamental changes in the hierarchy of the law school to allow more than eight girls,” said McTeer. She said the field of law has changed dramatically since she entered law school in 1973.

“Now of course we know that half, if not more, of all graduating classes from law are women,” said McTeer. “That is a pretty fundamental change.”

The rise in female in enrolment in law schools is slowly being reflected in the representation of women in the law profession, she said.

“We don’t have parity in terms of the court, but we have three very strong women who serve as justices of the Supreme Court of Canada,” said McTeer.

Mazigh is well known for her efforts to secure freedom for her husband Maher Arar from a Syrian prison. She is an author and human rights advocate. Mazigh discussed the challenges she faced working in finance as a Muslim woman.

“Finance is a world of men,” said Mazigh. “For me, being a woman was challenge; being a Muslim woman was a second challenge.”

Panelists discussed some of the challenges and successes women have experienced in Canadian society since they were young women themselves. Photo by Deqa Ahmed

Panelists discussed some of the challenges and successes women have experienced in Canadian society since they were young women themselves. Photo by Deqa Ahmed

Mazigh explained that the veil she wears as part of her religion is a blatant reminder to others of her faith. She said this faith clashed with finance, as finance itself was a religion to her colleagues.

“I was not representative of that ideology,” said Mazigh.

Caroline Andrew, director of the University of Ottawa’s Centre on Governance, praised the discipline of women’s studies as a major accomplishment.

“I think there really has been an enormous accomplishment of creating a discipline in the universities,” said Andrew. “It isn’t very often that whole new disciplines are created.”

The panel of women agreed upon the positive progression of the role of women in Canadian society. Moving forward, the panel also agreed there is still enormous work to be done to ensure complete equality between genders.

In order to accomplish equality, the panel agreed that the institutions governing Canadians need to be more representative of society as a whole.

“Sooner or later we’re going to have to accept as our goal that the institution by which we are governed reflects the modern face of Canada,” said McTeer.

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