Queen's Gazette | Queen's University

Search form

Queen’s marks International Women’s Day

This year’s celebrations and reflections are being marked through art and powerful discussions.

In recognition of International Women’s Day 2018, which is Thursday, March 8, the Queen’s Gazette has gathered reflections from a variety of members of the Queen’s community about what the day means to them.

Jennifer Li (Artsci’17), AMS President

Jennifer Li
Jennifer Li (Artsci'17), AMS President. (Supplied Photo)

"To me, International Women's Day is a time to celebrate the achievements of women and acknowledge ways to achieve gender parity. When I first got involved in student leadership at Queen's, I was very fortunate to have several female mentors and role models. They made it easy to envision myself serving in similar roles and forged a path for me to follow. We know that women doubt themselves more than men, which is why I think it's so important to invite other women to get involved at Queen's and encourage them to stay involved.

Even as AMS President, I have been asked if I am the Vice President because I am the only female on my team, or criticized for exhibiting traits that would be considered essential for a leader if I were male. These types of incidents make it even more intimidating for women to step up but, if given the chance, we are capable of greatness.

If you look around Queen's there are so many strong, inspiring and resilient women. Just imagine what they could accomplish if we continue to commit to helping them achieve their ambitions. Whether it's through advocacy work, a conversation with a friend, or a political campaign, I think we all have a role to play in ensuring that the women around us are supported and treated equally."

International Women's Day Events
● On International Women’s Day, the Isabel is hosting a special panel discussion from 11 am to 2 pm. The panel is a part of VOICES: A Multimedia Exhibition that is part of the Isabel’s Human Rights Festival.

● Also playing at The Isabel on March 8 – The Judge. This documentary “provides a rare insight into Shari’a law, an often-misunderstood legal framework for Muslims, told through the eyes of the first woman judge to be appointed to a religious court in the Middle East.”

● The Agnes Etherington Art Centre is currently hosting a number of gender-centred exhibitions including The Powers of Women: Female Fortitude in European Art, and Log Cabin: A Canadian Quilt which examines traditional gender roles in the creation of domestic space.

● On March 7, the Agnes presented a woman like that, a film about female artist Artemisia Gentileschi, at the Film Screening Room in The Isabel.

● The Queen’s Feminist Legal Scholars annual conference, which was held March 2 and 3, was themed around “(Re)Production: Inequalities of Gender, Racialization, and Class.” Learn more about this year’s conference.

● In the community, The City of Kingston is lighting up City Hall in purple for International Women's Day.

Carole Morrison, Director, Ban Righ Centre

“International Women’s Day is an important day when we publicly acknowledge that much work remains to be done to achieve gender equality in Canada and around the world.

My role is to help women to pursue their educational goals so that they can go into every boardroom, operating theatre, university classroom, and community, and make contributions in their chosen fields. I am confident that the participation of women improves and strengthens any organization. The Ban Righ Centre provides very practical support informed by the social and political realities that women face.”

To learn more about the work of the Ban Righ Centre, visit banrighcentre.queensu.ca.

Karen Yeates (Meds'97), Associate Professor, Department of Medicine

“As someone who does research in low income countries into women's reproductive health, cervical cancer screening access, and maternal health, I think the recent focus on women's rights in society – equal pay for equal work, access to reproductive health rights, as well as safe 'harassment-free' workplaces – are positive. I hope that the sea change we are seeing in high income countries will translate into other positive outcomes and priorities for the poorest women in our world.

The work of #MeToo is important, and yet, at the same time there is a woman dying each hour from childbirth in low-income countries due to lack of access to family planning and lack of access to safe delivery. Traditionally, women's health and maternal health has been prioritized by governments to improve the lives of women in low-income countries. Most recently, some major funders of foreign aid, such as the US, are reducing their funding or restricting how it can be used where reproductive health and family planning are concerned, and these decisions are already, in less than one year, having a massive impact on women in the poorest countries of the world.

I have great hopes that this philosophy of one country controlling the reproductive health rights of women in other countries of the world will end, but is unlikely to occur unless other countries, such as Canada and in the European Union, begin to fill that funding 'void' and apply pressure for critical policy change on the strings attached to funding.”


Dr. Yeates discusses a project where smartphones were used to provide mentorship to nurses in Tanzania, thereby improving women's health.

Grace Steed (Con.Ed’19), Logistics Director for Queen’s Female Leadership in Politics (QFLIP)

Grace Steed
Grace Steed (Con.Ed'19). (Supplied Photo)

“To me, International Women’s Day represents an occasion to celebrate the accomplishments of women excelling in a variety of fields which were once closed to them, based on their gender. It is a day to honour the courage and sacrifices of the many way-pavers that came before us, as well as to recognize the work that remains to be done, in order to allow for the contributions of women to be valued in all areas of society.

Within the framework of the Queen’s Female Leadership in Politics’ conference, this occasion serves as a reminder of the importance of empowering women to mobilize and become activists in their own communities, in order to achieve gender parity in the spheres of government and civil service. I look forward to the day that I will be able to celebrate International Women’s Day under a female prime minister!

In my opinion, Malala Yousafzai summarizes the purpose of this day succinctly, saying “I raise up my voice - not so I can shout but so that those without a voice can be heard. We cannot succeed when half of us are held back.”’

Jan Allen, Director of the Agnes Etherington Art Centre

Five members of the Agnes Etherington Art Centre team, including Director Jan Allen (second from right), pose in the "Powers of Women" exhibit. (University Communications)
Five members of the Agnes Etherington Art Centre team, including Director Jan Allen (second from right), pose in the "Powers of Women" exhibit. (University Communications)

“International Women’s Day is a moment to take measure of equity for women in our community and around the globe. It’s a time when women’s voices are raised, and – most importantly – raised together. This year, #MeToo’s spectacular and proliferating calling out of systemic sexual misconduct signals women’s refusal to suffer such humiliation and manipulation in silence. Denying impunity to abusers is only one more step toward equity, yet it feels like a thrilling breakthrough. 

Recognizing womens’ achievements is the other side of this occasion. The Agnes Etherington Art Centre, founded by a visionary woman, has a long and distinguished history of championing art by women. We celebrate their creative work and forms of expression, and, at the same time, present exhibitions that speak back to stereotypes and gender binaries. Our three major shows this winter confront these issues in explicit and surprising ways. For me, the informed receptivity of the current generation of students to these issues is truly inspiring.”

The Agnes Etherington Art Centre is currently hosting a number of gender-centred exhibitions including The Powers of Women: Female Fortitude in European Art.

Alexandra da Silva (Artsci’20), incoming Rector

Alex da Silva
Alex da Silva (Artsci'20), incoming Rector. (Supplied Photo)

“International Women's Day is about a number of things – recognizing and appreciating the work that has already been done, acknowledging the projects that are ongoing, and identifying where we need to go in the future. Each of these areas holds equal importance, as we cannot expect to justly move forward in the area of gender equality without having first properly acknowledged the work that was done by those who came before us.

In the future, I hope we can take a more intersectional approach to feminism. We need to really acknowledge that feminism has been predominantly focused on the middle-class white woman and push to work on the gaps which exist as the result of that.

It means really working to understand why the accomplishments of women like Dr. Donna May Kimmaliardjuk are so spectacularly important, considering struggles which are specific to the transgender female community, and advocating for feminism to represent the equity which it is meant to be founded on.”


The theme for this year's International Women's Day in Canada is #MyFeminism. For more information on the day, please visit the federal government's website.

The theme for International Women's Day is #PressforProgress. Learn more at internationalwomensday.com.


Additionally, Athletics and Recreation has launched a new campaign to support female varsity student-athletes. Visit gogaelsgo.com/womenintricolour to learn more.