For her first speaking engagement as Minerva’s new CEO, Jen Schaeffers recently sat on a panel at Hycroft called ‘Women Working Together: A Vancouver Women’s Group Symposium’. The questions posed to the panel were profound — peering into the state of modern feminism and the role of women’s groups, moving forward.
Q: With everyone from Beyoncé to Justin Trudeau announcing they are feminists, feminism has experienced a sort of resurgence over the past few years. However it wasn’t very long ago that many journalists and academics claimed that our society was entering a “post-feminist” age. Have these topics had any impact on your group in particular?
Jen: In fact, it is these topics – the “noise” in the conversation surrounding feminism – that motivated us to create the Face of Leadership™ Score Card. It’s a ranking of the 50 top-grossing businesses in BC, and how they’re faring in terms of women in leadership – women CEOs, women in the c-suite, women on boards, and Aboriginal women in decision-making roles.
We wanted to present the facts, clearly and irrefutably, proving that we are nowhere near a post-feminist age. The Score Card results – which are dismal – are our ‘evidence’. Very little has changed in the leadership landscape in the last two decades, and we’re looking at another 75 years before we achieve gender parity in BC. And a great deal longer than that for Aboriginal women.
That’s why a full 50% of our work is focused on Aboriginal women and youth. Because Trudeau’s equally divided cabinet was a step in the right direction, and a good one – but we’ll see what transpires to improve the lives of women, especially those in Indigenous communities.
For the women we’re working to support, their lives depend on changing the injustice they face. Their experiences are real, and are happening now. You can’t be ‘post’ something that is so ultimately present.
Q: Do you think that women’s groups and organizations in general will remain relevant in years to come?
Women’s groups and organizations like Minerva will continue to be relevant because we’re up against a media that can erase women’s lived experience. Groups that take into account race and class, even more so – because it’s easy for a few high-profile successes to change public opinion.
But the facts don’t lie. And the conversation is part of the zeitgeist now, more than ever. So it will be about more than labeling oneself a feminist – the next decade is about taking action to eradicate unconscious bias and the inequality it perpetrates.