Solidarity was the message at the 1000 Islands Gananoque Chamber of Commerce's second annual International Women's Day event Monday afternoon.
The event, held over Zoom due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was a two-part affair featuring many prominent local women with dozens of attendees.
The first half featured a keynote address by former federal minister Dr. Jane Philpott. Now the dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at Queen's University’s School of Medicine, Philpott's address touched on multiple topics related to women in the health-care workforce.
While gains are being made by women in the health-care field, with almost half of all doctors in Canada being women, Philpott said that is only part of the equation.
"While women end up getting into the field, they often don't rise to the leadership positions," said Philpott. She referenced how there are 17 medical schools across the country, but only four deans are women.
Philpott used most of her time to speak about the issues faced by minorities, particularly indigenous people, in Canada.
"Now that we as women are seeing ourselves more and more represented in the workforce, and medicine in particular, there are other groups that we have started to recognize as not well represented," she said.
Speaking on the systemic racism that is faced by minorities in the workforce, Philpott said under-representation is a main cause. An action table has been launched under Philpott at Queen's to deal with the problem.
The Equity, Diversity and Inclusion action table has its own office in Health Sciences at Queen's that works toward greater representation both with staff and students.
Bouncing off of a Queen's fund that is part of the action table, Philpott said that something people in the community could do to support people facing inequalities is a scholarship.
Philpott is perhaps best known to many for having resigned from the role of President of the Treasury Board, over her opposition to the government's handling of the SNC-Lavalin affair, in early March 2019. She was later expelled from the Liberal caucus, along with former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould.
Chamber executive director Amy Kirkland said at the event she was looking forward to speaking further with Philpott on fundraising for a possible scholarship.
"Perhaps have a big event annually because I think it would be definitely in our interests to help," said Kirkland.
Following Philpott's keynote, the afternoon moved to a forum made up of moderator and radio host Leanne Cater, and four women from Gananoque and the Township Leeds and the 1000 Islands.
Panellists were Terri Dawson, owner of the Green Gecko; Wendy Merkley, owner of Andress Boat Works; Gananoque firefighter Dawn Kirkby and Lisa Robichaud, owner of Nature's Tonic.
Some of the topics covered by the panellists were characteristics of success, the progression of women's rights and role models.
Something they discussed was how they had all various people they looked up to who helped in their career and life path.
"I have a melting pot of a lot of really great people I can look up to in my community and in my life," said Dawson.
When asked about the importance of International Women's Day, Robichaud said that it is important to include boys in conversations that they normally would not have been a part of in the past.
"It’s so important we talk about teaching our girls, but it's so important to teach our boys,” said Robichaud.
"As women, we can hold each other up and support each other, but if we're not educating young boys on how to treat us as equals and love and have compassion, there's a disconnect.”
Marshall Healey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times