South Delta has its fair share of influential women—from the mayor's office to local sports organizations.
The South Delta Leader caught up with a selection of them in the Sept. 16, 2011 edition.
Read about what motivates them, and what advice they have for women following in their foot steps in the feature Leading Ladies.
Women make up 50 per cent of the population, yet far less than half of the elected politicians in Canada are female.
Approximately one third of the 85 MLAs in the B.C. Legislature are female. And although a record number of women were sworn in as Members of Parliament after the last federal election, only about one quarter of the seats in the House of Commons are held by women.
In municipal governments across Canada, female councillors and mayors are still outnumbered by men. The same is true in many aboriginal communities, where leadership is male dominated.
But things are different in South Delta. Here, women are very present at all levels of government.
Female leaders in South Delta have experienced a number of "firsts." Tsawwassen First Nation Chief Kim Baird went down in history as the first non-MLA woman to address the provincial legislature when the British Columbia Treaty Legislation process was initiated.
In 1973, Delta Mayor Lois Jackson became the first woman elected to Delta Council. She is now the first woman to chair the Metro Vancouver board. And Kerry-Lynne Findlay is the first female MP to represent Delta-Richmond East since the riding was formed.
The South Delta Leader asked these high-profile women, and others, what it's like to be a woman in the political realm. All had far more to say than could be printed here—from their triumphs, to their personal challenges and motivation.
The following comments are just a few of their thoughts.
Kim Baird, Tsawwassen First Nation Chief
What does it mean to you to be a female chief?
I meet many people who are surprised that I am a chief because I am a woman. Many people underestimate me because of my age and gender—but I’ve learned to use that to my advantage. I am very aware that I am a role model to younger women, particularly aboriginal women—some have come up to me and say that they are running for office in their communities because of the example I have set.
What has been your proudest achievement in your current role as TFN Chief?
There have been many moments, but two come to mind. 1) was when my nephew picked me as his role-model for his high school class project, and 2) was the day my community ratified the treaty.
Vicki Huntington, MLA Delta South
Less than half the MLAs in Victoria are female. Do you see this changing?
The issue is really whether women choose to run: it is a seriously competitive business that requires a loyal support base, money, personal resilience, commitment, and tremendous time away from family and home. I personally could not do this job were it not for my absolute conviction that democracy is worth the fight.
What, if any, double standards do women face in the political arena?
Female characteristics and culture don’t do us many favours. The system still likes women to play the game like men: tough, unsmiling, silent. That’s what the inner circle still demands, even if it won’t admit it.
Heather King, Delta Councillor
Why did you decide to get involved in politics?
After serving the community as PAC chair and parent education coordinator for the District, I felt a great need to advocate for more resources for our special needs and “at risk” students. With some personal family experience as well as knowing many parents of special needs children in the community, I felt compelled to fight for more resources that would make tremendous differences in the success of these children.
Are women in politics subject to any double standards?
Women may be judged by appearance first and character and intellect second. Not always, but sometimes this has occurred. Thankfully, it is not difficult to break out of this stereotype once we speak intelligently on issues.
Kerry-Lynne Findlay, MP Delta-Richmond East
What does it mean to you be a woman in a position of political power?
To live a purposeful life and participate in legislative decision-making is an honour and a rewarding responsibility. It is the chance to make a difference, to participate and protect our country in a time of worldwide change. As the Prime Minister has said, if we work hard and we remain faithful to our commitments Canada’s best days lie ahead.
What would you say to encourage more women to run for federal government?
I would encourage all Canadians to become politically involved. I firmly believe that if everyone were actively engaged the country would be better for it.
Lois Jackson, Mayor of Delta
What would you say to encourage more women to run for government?
The challenge for women being elected rests at the Provincial and Federal levels. In part this is due, in my opinion, to the "party" system which does not particularly encourage women in those seats. Getting the nomination is very challenging for women in most ridings in B.C. and Canada. Also, raising campaign funds is usually more difficult for women.
What does it mean to be a woman in a position of power?
A lot of very hard work ... Accomplishing great things takes amongst other things, determination, collaboration, and team work, and putting your calendar at the disposal of others in order to get the job done.
Anne Peterson, Delta Councillor
What has been your proudest achievement as a councillor?
Organizing the Westham 100 celebration was, simply, a significant and successful achievement. Being able to gather members of the Heritage Advisory Commission with community members representing many organizations to work towards a common interest proved to me that heritage in Delta is more than a bricks and mortar concern.
What is your advice for women wishing to run for office?
The key factor for successful inclusion of women into the realm of politics is the quality and quantity of their community involvement. Women are most likely to succeed if they have a long and successful career in community-based organizations.
Contributing to the community
South Delta's leading ladies give of themselves to support community organizations
In South Delta, women aren't just well represented as politicians, but as community leaders too. From entrepreneurs to social activists, to champions of health care, sports, education, business and the arts, women are taking charge.
But for most of these leading ladies, dedicating themselves to bettering the community is no cause for commendation.
"I don’t see myself in a position of influence, but I hope I have inspired others to be involved in their community. I believe in giving back," said Carlene Lewall, director of marketing and fundraising at Delta Gymnastics Society. Lewall is up for Delta's Citizen of the Year Award as a result of her involvement with the Delta Sport Council, Delta Spirit of B.C. Committee, KidSport Delta and Operation Red Nose—a safe drive program.
She says her biggest contribution has been helping youth grow to be healthy, active, well-rounded young adults.
For Tsawwassen Rotary Club member Vickie Sangster, it's the brand new Rotary WaterWorks spray park at Diefenbaker Park.
"Not that it was solely my contribution by a long shot. I merely steered the ship, so to speak. That was a three-year undertaking, but worth every moment. When I drive by and see all those kids and families enjoying that new space, I just smile," she said.
Sangster says that in today's world there are so many positive and vocal female leaders, double standards between men and women are disappearing.
"Women are championing many a cause, politically, environmentally, socially. But women have always demonstrated the ability to affect change. It’s because we like to help. Well, I do, anyways," she said.
Nancy Macey, executive director of Delta Hospice Society, is proud of having been married over 40 years and raising two adult children who are responsible, caring and contributing members of society. She said her role in building a strong foundation for the hospice society has had an impact of the lives of many families, the most poignant outcome being the opening of the Harold & Veronica Centre for Supportive Care and the Irene Thomas Hospice.
"When the dying are respected, honoured and cared for by expert providers and families are included in this caring and thoughtful practice, we have achieved a great accomplishment for families in Delta," Macey said.
Ana Arciniega, executive director of the Tsawwassen Business Improvement Association, and her team are behind the successful Outdoor Movie Nights which draw hundreds of spectators into the town core.
She says many women are already involved in their community—through their children’s schools, sports and music programs, volunteering, church or arts groups—but they might not give themselves enough credit for the work they do.
"It is the sum of all of our actions put together that make our community what it is. I am the same as everyone else, except that it is more public so more people hear about it," she said.
(Clockwise from back left) Megan Anderson, owner of the Upstart Crow; Nancy Macey, executive director of Delta Hospice Society; Tsawwassen Rotary Club member Vickie Sangster; Ana Arciniega, executive director of the Tsawwassen BIA; and Carlene Lewall, of the Delta Gymnastics Society, are just a few of the female community leaders working toward the betterment of South Delta. Tyler Garnham photo