This October, in celebration of Women’s History Month, we pay tribute to all the girls and women who have and continue to forge new paths ahead. 2022 marks the 30th anniversary of Women’s History Month in Canada. On October 11 this year, we also commemorate the 10th anniversary of the International Day of the Girl Child [1].

The theme for this year’s Women’s History Month is ‘She Did, So Now I Can’, in recognition of the Canadian women trailblazers whose inspiring stories are examples for all of us to live by [2]. Their ground-breaking wins tell all girls and women that they too can build on this legacy of advocating for gender equality.

Indeed, women have been making huge strides forward in all walks of life, ranging from STEM and politics to arts and human rights, and beyond [3]. At this opportune time, let’s take a moment to honour these women and their achievements. Here’s a snapshot of a few of the innumerable women who make us proud.

10 Canadian Women Who Made History

Viola Desmond

Viola Desmond was a Nova Scotia businesswoman and civil rights crusader. In 1946, Desmond inadvertently sat in a “whites only” section on the bus. When ordered to leave, she refused and was forcefully arrested, fined and jailed for the night. Her courageous act laid bare the realities of racism in Canada. Desmond devoted her life to fighting racism and injustice. She was issued a posthumous pardon by the Nova Scotia government in 2010 and in 2016 became the first Canadian woman to be depicted on a Canadian banknote.

Mary Two-Axe Early

Mary Two-Axe Early was a courageous Mohawk woman from Kahnawà:ke, Quebec, who demanded changes to the Indian Act to protect the treaty rights of Indigenous women. Two-Axe Early campaigned for changes to this Act for 20 years. In 1985, Canada’s Parliament finally passed legislation that restored the right to live, own land or be buried on reserve to thousands of Indigenous women and their children. For her tireless efforts, Two-Axe Early received a Governor General’s Award in Commemoration of the Persons Case.

Emily Carr

Emily Carr was a Canadian painter and writer whose legacy includes breathtaking, iconic images of the Indigenous cultures and landscapes of Canada’s northwest. During her lifetime, Carr received little recognition for her art. While often deeply discouraged, she persisted. Near her life’s end, Carr’s paintings gained widespread popularity. But it wasn’t until after her death that the impact of her art was truly recognized.

Lucy Maud Montgomery

Lucy Maud Montgomery was an acclaimed writer of Anne of Green Gables. Published in 1908, the book broke sales records and was an immediate critical success. The still-popular book has sold over 50 million copies worldwide and been translated into 36 languages. It has been adapted to film, stage and radio, as well as a number of television miniseries.

Jean Augustine

Jean Augustine made history as the first Black Woman elected to Canada’s Parliament, serving from 1993-2006. Her legislative successes include both the historic Black History Month Motion, and the “Famous Five” Motion to honor women’s suffrage. From 2007 to 2015, she was Ontario’s first-ever Fairness Commissioner. She is a member of the Order of Canada and Commander of the Order of the British Empire and holds honorary doctorates from the universities of McGill, Toronto, York, Windsor, Waterloo, Guelph, and Trent.

Kim Campbell

Kim Campbell is a lawyer, diplomat, writer and politician who in 1993 became Canada’s first – and only – woman prime minister. She is among the world’s pre-eminent minds in law, political science and international relations and currently works in academia to advance social change, both internationally and in Canada. An eloquent speaker, she addresses issues such as gender, leadership, democratization, and climate change. Campbell holds leadership positions in several global organizations and has been awarded numerous honorary degrees and distinctions, including the Order of Canada.

Dr. Theresa Tam

Dr. Theresa Tam, named Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer in 2017, she became the first woman to hold the job. As the federal government’s lead health professional, Dr. Tam provides advice and support to the Minister of Health and the President of the Public Health Agency of Canada. Dr. Tam has long championed the reduction of health disparities so that everyone in Canada has a chance to lead healthy lives, physically and mentally. She is an advocate for health equity and a leader in Canada’s efforts to address the ongoing opioid crisis.

Muriel Stanley Venne

Muriel Stanley Venne is an Indigenous rights advocate and founder of the Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women. In her distinguished career spanning over four decades, Venne has fought to overcome obstacles to equality for Indigenous women, children and families. She has served on numerous boards, including the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation (now Indspire), and is a lifetime member of the Canadian Native Friendship Centre. Venne has been recognized with many awards and distinctions, including a National Aboriginal Achievement Award for Justice and Human Rights, an Indspire Award, and the Order of Canada.

Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood is a renowned novelist, poet, literary critic, essayist and activist. In 1966, Atwood won the Governor General’s Award for The Circle Game, her second book of poetry. Her novel, The Handmaid’s Tale won the 1985 Governor General’s Literary Award and has been adapted into a film, an opera, and a television series. She has received numerous Canadian and international awards and distinctions, including the Order of Canada.

Alice Munro

Alice Munro is an internationally celebrated short story writer. The world-famous author of hundreds of short stories, Munro has received three Governor General’s Awards, two Giller Prizes and the Man Booker International Prize. She made history in 2013 by becoming the first Canadian woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Continuing the Legacy – What can you contribute?

As these and other women inspire us, this Women’s History Month let’s renew our commitment to doing our part to make ours a more just and inclusive society. Here are some ways you can do this:

Register for the upcoming Diversity and Inclusion Certificate Program: This program covers key performance indicators when it comes to D&I and equips HR professionals to create a more diverse & inclusive environment [4].

Sign up for this on-demand webinar on Unconscious Bias: Eliminating Racism, Sexism, Homophobia and other Discrimination: This webinar explores racism, sexism, homophobia and other forms of discrimination in the workplace and examines key terms, strategies and tools for improvement [5].

Read the Joint HRPA & Diversio Report on Key Insights on Diversity and Inclusion: This report identifies opportunities and gaps for implementing D&I programs in Ontario’s businesses, backs these findings with data, and proposes specific solutions that can be actioned immediately [6].