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Women in leadership

A Q and A with Dr. Wanda Thomas Bernard

Teaching and Learning

By Jennifer Batten

Dr. Wanda Thomas Bernard, highly regarded social worker, educator, researcher, community activist, advocate of social change and a member of the Senate of Canada, will give a virtual keynote address at Memorial as part of International Women’s Day celebrations.

Dr. Thomas Bernard spoke to the Gazette about her work and how Memorial can address the challenges faced by women in leadership.

JB: Why is International Women’s Day (IWD) important to you?

WB: It is important that we pause to celebrate International Women’s Day, as it is an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the reality that gender equality is not yet achieved in the world.

It is an important time for me to highlight the importance of intersectionality in the fight for women’s rights and a reminder that we must continue to think globally, but to act locally.

JB: Why is it important for people to participate and listen to discussions like this one on IWD?

WB: If we are not part of the solution, then we remain a part of the problem. Even our silence makes us complicit.

“We must make things better for future generations.”

Engaging in the discussions is an important part of the change strategy, but more important is the commitment to act; the commitment to do something to make a difference and to leave an imprint.

JB: As an accomplished woman in leadership, what challenges did you face in becoming a woman in leadership?

WB: As a woman of African descent in leadership, I faced the double jeopardy of race and gender oppression.

From the challenges of not having my voice heard, to actual abuse, I believe that I faced multiple challenges and barriers.

And although I was “allowed” to break through some of the glass ceilings, I also faced concrete ceilings, and active undermining of my scholarship and leadership.

In fact, it is nothing short of a miracle that I survived and thrived, but it feels good to reflect on my journey now and to see that some of those barriers have been removed for present generations of women academic leaders.

We must make things better for future generations.

JB: What is the role of universities in eliminating barriers for women in leadership?

WB: Universities have a huge role to play.

It is such a privilege to work in academia, and those of us who are here, must use our privilege to eliminate the barriers for women in leadership.

Look at the policies and practices and dismantle those oppressive systems that help to keep women out of leadership roles.

“When we shine the spotlight on our own institutions, what do we see?”

Further, we can do a paradigm shift with regards to what we privilege in the academy, to see the difference that makes.

I will be sharing an example of a paradigm shift that I believe could make a difference in the academy, but readers will have to attend the session to learn about this new idea!

JB: What can people expect from your keynote address and what will be the main takeaway?

WB: In my keynote address I will be speaking specifically about some of the challenges, barriers and opportunities that we have in the academy, as we work collectively to address the inequity in academic spaces.

I want to inspire and encourage women to use their unique platforms to make the best use of the opportunities we have to address gender inequality in the academy.

When we shine the spotlight on our own institutions, what do we see?

Where are the opportunities for change and what must we do to lead the change we want to see?

Event details

Join Dr. Thomas and guests for Creating and Sustaining Women in Leadership in recognition and celebration of International Women’s Day on Tuesday, March 8, from 10-11:30 a.m. NST.

Faculty, staff, students, alumni and members of the public are welcome to attend this free virtual event.

Register here.

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