The three women participating in March 9th’s International Women’s Week discussion panel could hardly have been more different from one another. Entitled “Women in the Workforce: Is it Really 2016?”, the event brought together three unique career women; Jennifer Ho, a product manager at L’Oreal’s Montreal office; Nicole Antoine, co-founder of the activism group “Four Brown Girls” and prominent women’s rights and black rights activist; and Lindsay Hollinger, who balances a career as a portfolio manager at Jarislowski Fraser with her role as a mother raising two small children.
The panel may have been diverse on the surface, but the three women proved to be united in a number of ways. Speaking to an audience composed in nearly equal parts of young men and women, they expressed dissatisfaction with the current state of women in the workplace, optimism for a brighter future, and their common refusal to become victims on their paths to success.
While they were reluctant to share details with the audience, all three women confessed to having been victims of inappropriate comments in their place of work. Unfortunately, as Hollinger explained to one audience member, “You have to pick your battles,” especially in a “boys’ club” like Jarislowski Fraser. The mother of two was perhaps the most insightful member of the panel, offering a sobering glimpse into the life of a full-time working mother. Some difficulties are understandable and inevitable; “I’m always the last one to pick my son up from daycare,” she explains, revealing the scarcity of time she has to spend with her children. Other struggles are less understandable; Hollinger recounts having to hide her pregnancies from her coworkers, since having children is not good for one’s career (unless, of course, you’re a good family man). She also related the importance of having outside support, whether it is from a husband, a mentor, or a close family member.
Thanks to the diversity of the panel, the subjects of race and culture were dovetailed into the discussion as well. “I’m actually a first-generation Canadian,” Jennifer Ho tells the audience. “Both of my parents are from Taiwan.” She cites Taiwan as being “behind in equality,” such that, in her experience overseas, women are often neglected in conversations with large groups of men. Nicole Antoine, herself a member of the black women’s rights group “Four Brown Girls”, asserted that civil and women’s rights have always gone hand in hand, often having similar goals as well as significant crossover between supporters. She expressed sorrow at the “fractured” state of the black community, as well as a desire to combat the stigma black women face in the workplace.
Beyond all their grievances, the three women seemed indignant – not seeing themselves as victims. The presentation may have begun with some very discouraging statistics; the figure of only 4% of CEOs being women, and the highly controversial and hotly contested “73.1 cents for every dollar a man earns” statistic, but each member of the panel remained defiantly optimistic. Perhaps Ho put it most eloquently when she said, “Your success is the best revenge.”
Written By: Ian Down
Photo By: Sarvi
Originally Published: March 2016