Premier Kathy Dunderdale said she didn’t really know what a feminist was back in the 1970s, but she was one back then and she’s a feminist today.
Premier Kathy Dunderdale speaks at the Women in Mining Forum Wednesday at the St. John’s Convention Centre. — Photo by Rhonda Hayward/The Telegram
Speaking to young people at Wednesday’s Women in Mining forum in St. John’s, Dunderdale talked about her history in social justice work, and why she’s convinced the natural resources sector needs more women.
“I was a young feminist,” Dunderdale said. “I was always looking for balance and access, and I remember people saying to me, ‘You know, there are just some things that women can’t do.’”
When the Provincial Advisory Council on the Status of Women looked at employment for Hibernia construction, the results were disconcerting.
“It was the economic driver for the province — brought billions of dollars into the province — and it was one of the great job generators,” Dunderdale said.
“And we looked at it after the fact, and only four per cent of that labour force was comprised of women; in the high-paying jobs of trades and technology, we couldn’t measure. The numbers were so low, all we could tell you was (it was) less than one per cent.”
Later, when Dunderdale was natural resources minister and involved in negotiating the Hebron offshore development, she made sure there were stipulations about gender balance in the workforce, she says.
“All of that experience comes with you wherever you go, so when you get that social justice lens on you, you look at things in a very particular way,” she said.
“I never thought that I would ever be minister of natural resources, and certainly not part of the negotiating team for the fourth big project in our province.”
Dunderdale told reporters the province needs young people — both men and women — in the natural resources sector, because upcoming developments need all the workers they can get.
But especially for women, she said, high-paying jobs can be a means to independence and safety.
“Last week in this province there was a lot of talk about domestic violence, and that’s a good thing for all of us to be talking about,” Dunderdale said.
“This is something that I have worked at my whole life, and we all need to be engaged in that discussion. But one of the pivotal pieces of escaping a life of violence is having economic independence — being able to stand on your own two feet, (and) support yourself.”