Why the New Book ‘Canada 150 Women’ Matters Now More Than Ever

Author Paulina Cameron profiles 150 inspiring Canadian women in her latest book.

As the Director of the B.C. and Yukon division of Futurpreneur Canada, and founder of Young Women in Business, Paulina Cameron is a well-accomplished woman in  her own right—so she knew exactly what qualities to look for when she started working on her new book, Canada 150 Women.With a growing awareness of gender dynamics and feminism finally part of the public conversation, it’s a timely opportunity for Canada to celebrate its women leaders. We sat down with Cameron to talk about gender imbalance, female influence and the changing of the tides.  Q: What made you decide to write this book about women?A: I used to work for Young Women in Business. Throughout the past 10 years I have seen the need to change the narrative about who we see in positions of leadership and power and to talk about women and celebrate what they do in their accomplishments and provide others with role models. I think Canada is very humble and kind and we don’t do enough to celebrate what we do have.Q: How do you define power?A: I define power as the ability to lead and to influence and to really do that from a place of values. Power is neither a good nor bad thing. It’s how and for what it’s used, and I think the leaders that I admire the most, and certainly the leaders in this book, really embody the kind of power that is focussed on making a difference in the world. Using their strengths and their opportunities to support others, standing up for what they know is right, and speaking up when they need to speak up.Q: In your opinion, why aren’t more women in positions of power?A: One of the biggest challenges is that we all hold biases either consciously or unconsciously. Recently, there have been studies that have revealed what kind of bias people have against women. Often those are inversely correlated with what biases we have around people in power. I’m sure you’re no stranger to the concept that while men are called assertive or thoughtful, women will be called mean or bitchy for the same behaviours. These are pervasive cultural challenges that women face on every level, and the end result is that we do have less women in positions of leadership  and power, not because women are choosing that themselves, but because they are facing this kind of bias against them. There’s also a lack of recognition by governmental corporate bodies that they need to do something different in order to move the dial. Right now the people who hold positions of power—such as capital, money and resources—have the influence and a large percentage of them are men. So, we also need men who are going to recognize that they need to put in place rules, regulations, mandates and quotas that will shift that so that we can get to a place of balance.Q: How did you select the women to interview for your book?A: I had four other women curators helping me to write. We began by looking at our firsts—for example, the first woman Prime Minister—then we looked at recipients of the Order of Canada, then the Top 100 Awards. We talked to women in specific fields and asked them who they considered as role models or who they were inspired by. We kept in mind diversity—age, background, heritage, geographical diversity, industry diversity. We were looking for women who were exceptional in their fields. The second criteria was what are these women doing to elevate and influence other women around them—either through their work environments or other organizations.Q: How does Vancouver stack up with powerful women compared to the rest of the country?A: Vancouver is amazing! We have a lot of women’s organizations here in B.C. and Vancouver but it’s incredible the powerful collaboration that happens here. To give you an example, we launched this book on November 17 at an event called, “We for She” organized by Web Alliance, which is a consortium of 30 womens groups and entrepreneurs in Vancouver. The event had 1,500 attendees and 800 of them were girls from Grades 10 to 12 from across B.C. The province sponsored the girls to be able to attend the conference and thanks to the generosity of four women featured in the book—Sue Paish, Monique Mercier, Tamara Vrooman and Sarah Lubik—each of those 800 girls received their own copy of the book. These young women were really touched by this gesture. They were coming up to us afterwards and saying, “I live in a rural community just outside of Quesnel. We were really hard hit by the fire this year, it’s been a pretty tough year but today was different. I am inspired by the women in this book.” It was a tremendously powerful day. I have found this type of collaboration to be unique to B.C.. There’s something magical that we have here.