When it comes to leadership at the national and provincial level, women still quite often fall short of the leadership positions.
Canada has only had one female Prime Ministership, that of Kim Campbell. B.C. has only had two female Premiers. Federally, not including interim leaders, the Tories have never had a female leader beside Campbell, The Liberals have never had a female leader and the NDP have had one, Alexa McDonough.
If you’re a little girl looking for examples of female leadership in Canada, there are relatively few positives to look to. There was a brief moment with a good chunk of female premiers but we’re back down to one. Furthermore, Campbells’ reign was short-lived, losing in a landslide. The premiership of Rita Johnston in B.C. was also particularly short-lived ending in a sound defeat. That’s not to say that there’s none, but it’s certainly a sparser field than it should be.
If you’re looking for a positive from the COVID-19 pandemic, British Columbians are absolutely willing to follow a female leader. In B.C. COVID-19 cases have been on a fairly sharp downward trajectory under the leadership of Dr. Bonnie Henry. It’s, notably, the first time the position has been held by a woman.
Not only are cases on a downward trajectory, but she’s done it without shutting down the province in its entirety, unlike some countries, and despite being right beside Washington state, which had an early outbreak, and frequent travellers to China, where the outbreak began.
Furthermore, while rhetoric against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier John Horgan is slowly starting to ramp up, criticism of Henry remains relatively muted, though of course, there are always some outliers.
It’s a remarkable achievement especially for someone who not only faced an extremely challenging situation but, in all likelihood, doesn’t have nearly as much media training and experience as the aforementioned career politicians.
Down the line, it wouldn’t be at all surprising if, in the next few years, there’s an increase in female enrollment for medical professions or even overall enrollment. If so Henry’s leadership, as well as that of Dr. Theresa Tam as the first female public health officer of Canada and chief medical officers in other provinces like Dr. Deena Hinshaw in Alberta, Dr. Jennifer Russell in New Brunswick to name but a few, undoubtedly played a factor.
Either way Henry deserves a big “thank you” from British Columbians.