Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland stands during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, Sept. 28, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland stands during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, Sept. 28, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

FORESTRY INK: Will more women in prominent positions change the power structure?

Columnist Jim Hilton writes about women and politics

Jim Hilton

Observer Contributor

2020 has been a year of unexpected changes. In the forest industry, we saw some of the highest lumber prices ever in spite of economic collapse in many sectors due to the pandemic. A recent announcement by the premier about his new cabinet saw Katrine Conroy as the first woman appointed as minister of forests, lands, natural resource operations and rural development. Eleven women hold positions in the 20-member cabinet. Some other notable women already in senior forest positions in B.C. were Diane Nicholls, who become the province’s newest chief forester in 2016, and Susan Yurkovich who took on the position of president and CEO of the B.C. Council of Forest Industries.

There were some political firsts south of the border, namely Kamala Harris, the senator from California, became first Black vice-presidential nominee and the first South Asian American nominee on a presidential ticket.

Some firsts in Canadian politics saw Liberal MP Chrystia Freeland, who served as the minister of international trade and and of foreign affairs before being promoted to the second-highest post in the government and later as finance minister by Justin Trudeau.

Some other firsts were in the federal and B.C. Green Party. After stepping down as federal party leader, Elizabeth May was replaced by Annamie Paul, who is a Canadian politician, activist and lawyer. She is the first Black Canadian and first Jewish woman to be elected leader of a federal party in Canada. In B.C., Sonia Furstenau was elected as leader on Sept. 14, 2020, and a month later won a seat in the 2020 general election.

With many important positions now occupied by women, what can we expect to change in the political, scientific and business world, as well as in the home? Elizabeth Lesser, author of Cassandra Speaks, believes that if women’s voices had been equally heard and respected throughout history, humankind would have followed different principles of exercising power that value caretaking, compassion and communication over aggression and violence.

She starts by reviewing history written predominantly from the perspective of men that show the emphasis on holding power at all costs through fear and deception, arrogance, attack and annihilation of those who get in the way. In one table, she contrasts the old story of power with doing power differently. For example: 1. Strong/ weak hierarchy model replaced with a partnership model. 2. Authoritarian replaced with interactive. 3. Collaborates competitively replaced with collaborates connectively. 4. Values individualism, fortitude and action replaced with values relationships, empathy and communication. 5. Witholds praise and encouragement replaced with generous with praise and encouragement. 6. Denies one’s own mistakes and vulnerability replaced with transparent about mistakes and vulnerability 7. Dominates, interrupts, overrides replaced with listens, processes and includes. Does the recent debate between Trump and Biden come to mind with the last two comparisons?

In a section called “in praise of fathers,” the author gives some examples where she describes how “women are not going to be equal outside the home until men are equal in it.” Although she grew up in a male authoritarian home, she provides some examples where men have done a great job of raising a family on their own and how she admires some young fathers who are helping out in the home and being good role models for their sons and daughters.

Jim Hilton is a professional agrologist and forester who has lived and worked in the Cariboo Chilcotin for the past 40 years. Now retired, Hilton still volunteers his skills with local community forests organizations.

READ MORE: FORESTRY INK: Responsible use of herbicides

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