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We've come a long way!

When your husband comes home from work "listen to him. You may have a dozen important things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first remember, his topics of conversation are more important than yours..."

When I read this excerpt from The good wife's guide, an article that appeared in Housekeeping Monthly on May 13, 1955, I could not help but chuckle at the thought that this worldly piece of advice was offered to woman less than half a decade ago. We have come a long way, have we not?

Someone recently asked me why Northern Ontario Business has taken the stance to profile and honour women - individuals who have contributed to the economic fabric of the North and initiated change within their communities - through the Influential Women of Northern Ontario Awards program. And why we do not run the same type of program to recognize male contributors to the economy. Surprisingly, the questioner was a woman.

Although at the moment I blurted out a brief synopsis of the program and its importance, I felt compelled to reflect further on the reasons why.

In the last century or more, influential women across the nation have taken an active position in initiating change, though many were ridiculed or beleaguered and sometimes imprisoned for the position they had adopted, the achievements of these women, the milestones they reached throughout history, only serve to strengthen the resolve of today's influential women.

Consider the case of Clara Brett Martin who, in 1897, became Canada's first lawyer and first women to practice law in the British Empire. At that time, the Law Society of Upper Canada rules barred women because of a regulation that stated only "persons" could be admitted. Yet she successfully lobbied for change to the regulations, despite adversity.

Consider other significant milestones: in 1916 activist Emily Murphy became Canada's first judge, in 1918 women obtained the right to vote in federal elections and in 1921 Agnes Macphail became Canada's first female minister of parliament and successfully campaigned for prison reform and the establishment of old age pensions and Bertha Wilson, who, in 1988, became the first woman Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. She was told by a professor, when she first applied to law school, to go home and take up knitting.

Although the challenges women face today are perhaps different from those at the turn of the century, women today are continuing the legacy left behind by their "forefathers" and are rising up to the challenge, either as business leaders, political entities or activists.

The IW program's intent is to celebrate the contributions of these women. The statistics clearly portray the true story; more women are embracing the opportunity to contribute to the wealth of the economy. In Canada, between 1981 and 1995, according to Industry Canada statistics, the number of women who become entrepreneurs during this time frame increased by 167 per cent, and those numbers are still growing. Aboriginal female-led business ownership increased by 400 per cent. These statistics are quite significant when compared to an increase in male-led businesses by 37 per cent.

As the IW awards draws near, reflect on the contributions of women in your community, and consider nominating one of these influential women for future award programs. The message is penetrating the northern region. It is evident in the number of nominations we receive annually and evident in the number of attendees at the awards who gather to honour these women, where in the City of Greater Sudbury we saw the numbers triple last year.

We encourage you to attend the IW luncheon and meet the inspiring influential women in our region.

The IW awards luncheon takes place May 28 in Thunder Bay at the Valhalla Inn and May 30 in Sault Ste. Marie at Algoma's Water Tower Inn. For registration and ticket information log on to www.influentialwomen.ca or contact Lana Tremblay at 1-800-757-2766, ext. 306.

Northern Ontario Business takes great pride in bringing the IW awards program to the North and we look forward to bringing you the Northern Ontario Business Awards, which will be held in North Bay on Oct. 10.

Sari Huhtala is the managing editor at Northern Ontario Business.
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Title Annotation:Influential Women of Northern Ontario Awards
Author:Huhtala, Sari
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1CONT
Date:May 1, 2002
Words:711
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