BASS: Baby, have we really come a long way?
I wrote a story once about a woman who had been hired as a plumber.
This was big news at the time — and that time was 1978.
The predominantly male newsroom where I was working offered up some truly sexist remarks about the assignment, but I thought it was a cool reality that a woman had bucked the trend and was willing to talk about it.
Note, however, that this happened 35 years ago, the same year the Canadian Human Rights Act came into effect and prohibited discrimination on the basis of gender in employment in the federal jurisdiction.
So, it could rightly be seen that a female plumber was newsworthy.
Now that it’s 2013, however, do we really need to celebrate a new female premier in the country?
That’s what the CBC did on the night Kathleen Wynne won the leadership of the Ontario Liberals.
It’s not like it’s a small group of politicians. Pauline Marois is head of Quebec. Alison Redford is the woman in charge of Alberta, who has been tussling with B.C. Premier Christy Clark the last several months about the environment.
Kathy Dunderdale is premier at the opposite end of the country, in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Eva Aariak is premier of Nunavut.
There were plenty of women at the head of the political table in years past, from Rita Johnson in 1991 to Kim Campbell, who made it to that big head spot when — for however short her term was — she was prime minister in 1993.
Sometimes I wonder if one of the reasons we celebrate the success of a woman is because we keep doing it.
Rather than actually doing what we told ourselves decades ago we wanted as women — to be accepted for who we are and what we can do — we marvel when we are accepted for who we are and what we can do.
There are times when we should say, “Wow. Look what just happened. Isn’t it wonderful?”
I think most people knew there would be a black president in the U.S. one day, but seeing it happen was remarkable and worth taking a moment to focus on what a social statement it was.
Do we need to do it if there’s another black president?
I don’t think so.
Do we need to do it should Hillary Clinton become the first female president? Of course we do, simply because she would be the first.
But, after that, let it go. It’s not novel. It’s what we wanted.
Years ago, in that same newsroom, I applied for a transfer to the editorial-writing area.
Things had changed; there had been a directive from the executive offices to fast-track women into higher positions.
I knew of it because my then-editor called me into his office, told me I had been identified as a female who could be promoted, but that I needed to start wearing more business attire.
Becoming head of the employees’ association likely stifled that part of the promotion curve, since other female colleagues were promoted into senior positions and I continued as a reporter and copy editor.
However, an opening occurred for an editorial writer/columnist and I was encouraged by others in the newsroom to apply.
That application was greeted by a written “no thanks,” but a verbal “You’re not a good enough feminist” explanation.
Apparently, being married and having children was enough to lose the label I thought my beliefs and actions had earned.
Back then, there was a need to define feminism and women’s success and, now, decades later, that need seems to continue to exist in some fronts.
The fact it became the driving point of the CBC coverage of Wynne’s election, however, is shameful. If anything, a newscast that features women in senior roles should realize there’s nothing strange about it.
Yes, there are still areas where women are behind. Take a look at the service industry, for one.
But let’s celebrate the victories there and recognize that, in so many more areas, it’s your ability that gets you ahead, rather than your business attire.