Author Paulina Cameron’s Canada 150 Women: Conversations With Leaders, Champions, and Luminaries
The road to gender equality has certainly seen progress, but there are still bumps that need to be ironed out.
Author and entrepreneur Paulina Cameron re-discovered this after interviewing 150 extraordinary Canadian women for her book Canada 150 Women: Conversations With Leaders, Champions, and Luminaries.
“There’s a little bit of a flavour of disappointment in the air,” Cameron says. “It’s something that many women feel is lacking and behind. There have been so many studies that have data that’s quite disappointing in terms of gender pay gap or women CEOs.”
It’s one of the reasons Cameron created her book that features Q&As with notable Canadian women, such as past astronaut and current Governor General, Julie Payette, Green Party leader Elizabeth May, and filmmaker Deepa Mehta.
“I wanted to celebrate some of the women we have here in Canada,” Cameron says. “I want women and young girls to see all of the different opportunities that they can achieve here.”
While the book includes interviews with well-known Canadian women, it truly shines in highlighting everyday women throughout the community. Readers can flip through the book expecting interviews with architects, divers, community support workers, educators, lawyers—the list goes on.
“A vague reason why this was created was to change the notion of who we see as a leader,” Cameron says. “These luminaries are in our communities doing beneficial work.”
Deciding which subjects to interview was a task in itself. At one point, Cameron had a spreadsheet of 1,800 names and worked with her team to compress it down to 150.
“We as a team looked at everything from Order of Canada, to Provincial order nominations, to top 100 lists and smaller community awards,” Cameron says. “We also talked to women leaders in their fields and asked them who they looked up to as well. We focused on women who are exceeding in their field and show exemplary qualities.”
By doing this, Cameron was able to speak with many women who have achieved a variety of accomplishments in their lifetime.
One woman she remembers fondly is Susan Eaton, a geoscientist and journalist who lead an all-female snorkeling expedition through the Northwest Passage.
Another was with Kim Campbell, the only female Prime Minister of Canada. She offers a powerful message saying, “The cost of liberty is eternal vigilance. Canadian women need to understand and defend their rights. They have to be players. The biggest risk in a country like Canada is complacency.”
“There’s also a woman in the book named Caroline Codsi who actually interviewed Hillary Clinton when she was here in Vancouver,” Cameron adds. “She said, ‘When we legislate we find women. When we don’t legislate we find excuses.’ That quote has stuck with me since.”
Like Codsi, many of the interviewees believe women are still underrepresented and face prejudice in the workplace and society.
“In North America, there are more CEOs with the name John then there are for any name for women,” Cameron says. “Only 12 percent of venture capital goes towards female entrepreneurs in Canada. This means that woman businesses are not getting the capital they need to grow.”
This is not just a problem for women, but for all humanity. She believes society has to make a shift and that there are many ways to do so.
“It’s companies and governmental leaders that hold the power, but we need to change that cultural understanding around women,” Cameron says. “Companies need to make sure they have equal gender pay by doing annual reviews and having internal regulations against that. Governments have to make sure they are appointing women in governmental roles.”
Since the book’s release, Cameron is already seeing the improvement.
“I’ve had a lot of male leaders say they want to buy the book for women in their companies,” she says. “It’s so they can show their support and champion them.”