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Executive Council
January 17, 2013

The following are speaking notes delivered today by the Honourable Charlene Johnson, Minister Responsible for the Status of Women, at the Ovations Forum in St. John’s:

Please check against delivery

Thank you for the introduction, Linda.

I am honoured to take part in Ovations today.

As I look around the room, I can’t help but wonder what some of the early trailblazers for women’s rights in this province would say if they could be here with us today?

Let’s do a quick poll of the room – How many of you know who was the first woman to be elected to the national House of Assembly in Newfoundland in 1930? [poll question – choose from list of women – Julia Salter Earle, Fannie McNeil, Lady Helena Squires or Dorothy Wyatt]

Now for the answer: in 1925, Julia Salter Earle and Fannie McNeil became some of the first women to run for elected office.

Dorothy Wyatt was the first female mayor of St. John’s. Lady Helena Squires, however, is the correct answer as she was the first woman elected to the Newfoundland legislature in 1930.

They would surely marvel to see hundreds of people coming together to celebrate how far we have come as women, share our successes, and also reignite the drive to keep pushing and making progress to advance the status of women in this province.

It is a remarkable time to be a woman in Newfoundland and Labrador! Women are achieving milestones and firsts in all sectors of our society.

We have women in this province who are leaders in policing, justice, education, business, industry, government and community. Many of whom are here today.

To assist women entering non-traditional roles we have advanced requirements such as women’s employment plans for resource development projects, such as the Gender Equity and Diversity Program in the Hebron Benefits Agreement being the first of its kind for an offshore development not just in Newfoundland and Labrador or Canada, but in the world.

Because of this, Newfoundland and Labrador is seen as an international leader for advancing women in non-traditional occupations.

I’m so pleased to see that many of the companies we work with as government are sponsors and supporters of Ovations. Thank you. This speaks to our shared commitment to advancing women not only into non-traditional areas of employment but also to increasing their presence in leadership positions within these organizations. We need your continued support in order to achieve this goal because, as we know and you will hear about today – organizations that are inclusive of women and have women in leadership positions are more successful.

We have come a long way and should be proud of what we have all individually or collectively have accomplished; however, there are still hurdles to overcome.

Although we have our first female Premier, Kathy Dunderdale, only 17 per cent of MHAs in this province are women. We need to work to address this so that those in decision-making positions fully represent the people they serve.

Municipal elections are coming up this year and I encourage all women to consider putting themselves forward for these important roles and all other leadership positions in our province.

We are now at a time where women in leadership positions have become a new segment of our society which needs to be recognized and supported by organizations and in our community.

Not only does a woman herself take responsibility for pursuing leadership positions, it is also the responsibility of the organization and its leader to ensure that these opportunities for women exist.

As a government, and certainly for Premier Dunderdale, this is a priority. Under her leadership, the number of women in deputy minister positions within government has increased from just 15 per cent in 2010 to 47 per cent today.

Today’s forum is about starting that journey of supporting women in leadership. On this journey we need to hold on to what we have gained but we also need to keep pushing through those glass ceilings, moving across those sticky floors, advancing new policies, research, best practices, programs, language, special measures and recognition that ensures women get access to the leadership opportunities and positions that they deserve.

This afternoon, you will hear from a diverse cross-section of women who are leaders in our province. I guarantee you that their stories, insights and remarks will leave you inspired to pick up the torch and work to do more to advance women.

I hope you will also think about how you can make a positive change for women in your community, at home, or at your place of work. I want you to come away from Ovations with a different view of the world and the lived realities of women in our communities.

I hope you learn a lot this afternoon and enjoy the celebration and entertainment this evening at dinner.

Thank you!

2013 01 17                     1:45 p.m.

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