International Women’s Day has brought the accomplishments of women throughout history out of the woodwork and has helped inspire women in our community to do great things, bringing us one step closer to equality.
The Town of LaSalle is not exempt from showcasing its strong female leadership roles, a fact that LaSalle’s first female Deputy Mayor, Crystal Meloche is very proud of.
Meloche said when she ran for council in 2010, she had a new perspective to bring to the table, not just as a woman but as a mother, giving a voice to the people who weren’t previously recognized.
“I don’t want to think that I got where I am today just because I’m a woman, I got here because residents trusted my experience and knowledge and I worked hard to get here,” said Meloche. “I think it’s important to have female representation in the community, just like it’s important to have young and old representation. Women have a unique understanding of issues that other women face with raising families, what people in the public think women should and shouldn’t do.”
Meloche said one of the main issues she has faced as a modern-day working woman was others telling her she needed to spend less time at work and more time with her family, that she is a part of a boys club by being on LaSalle’s Town Council.
“I wanted my daughters to see something different,” said Meloche. “I wanted them to know that they could have it all and make a huge positive change while still being there for your family … I think it’s important to be able to show young women, I hope it awakens something in them that makes them want to reach for something that they never thought they could do or maybe they always saw that role as a male role … There are still areas where women need to fight for equality but we’re getting there, if each generation of leading women push the ball a little further forward, we can get to a point where bias and lack of gender equality will be a thing of the past.”
International Women’s Day has been an opportunity since 1911, to celebrate and acknowledge women around the world for their achievements in society.
One such accomplishment to be noted, was that of Phebe Sudlow, the first-ever female Principal of a school. She was given the position in Davenport 1860, though she was paid significantly less than male Principals, she went on to make history again when she became the first female Superintendent of public schools in American history 14 years later.
Though times have certainly changed for female Principals now, the possibility of becoming a lead role in education wouldn’t have been accessible to women without someone taking the steps to become the first – an idea, Sacred Heart Catholic Elementary School Principal Tara Clarke said is something she wants young women to aspire to with anything they put their mind to.
“I think it’s important for young girls to see women in positions of leadership, as well as boys so it sets a new status quo,” said Clarke. “Each and every day we try to find out what our students are passionate about and then the sky is the limit. Use the resources around you to learn as much as you can, set goals and don’t let anyone stop you from achieving those goals, all it takes is confidence. We want girls to see the possibilities. Our mission as women was to make it into leadership and with leadership comes the responsibility to ensure those opportunities continue for the young ladies of today.”
Sacred Heart Catholic Elementary School and LaSalle Public School are the only schools in LaSalle that currently have both a female Principal and a Female Vice-Principal.
LPS Principal Sandra Neudorf and Vice-Principal Amy Bondy agreed with Clarke’s statement on the importance of young women seeing female leadership. Bondy and Neudorf said they are both so different as individuals, they feel they’re able to cover more ground with their students by embracing one another’s differences and using them to their advantage.
“It doesn’t matter what we look like, or how we speak, it doesn’t matter what we wear, our goal and passion is the same and we have the same vision for our school which makes us a great team,” said Bondy. “As a whole, we need to think about how we as women can support one another and not bring each other down because of our differences. Nobody should tell you how to feel or how to act, stay passionate about the things you care about and be who you want to be, not who people tell you you should be.”
Neudorf agreed with her co-worker, underlining how important it is for young women to ignore what society deems as ‘the perfect woman.’
“Young women need to stay true to themselves,” said Neudorf. “Ignore the limits put out there by other people and social media. You need to find the value in your imperfections, not in what other people think of them. Sometimes you’re going to be the only one standing for something, and you have to learn that’s okay because that’s how you create new things.”
This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is ‘Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow,’ a theme Meloche believes is fitting for some of the hurdles modern women deal with every day. One quote that best encompasses the importance of Women’s Day was said by Canadian Politician, Rosemary Brown,”We must open the doors and we must see to it they remain open so that others can pass through.”