March 8, 2021Print | PDF
Dr. MacLatchy gave the keynote address at the fourth annual International Women's Day event hosted by Laurier and the International Women's Forum. The theme for the 2021 virtual event was Celebrating Women's Leadership and Resiliency Amidst a Global Pandemic.
Thank you, Jane Klugman for that introduction, and thank you to our panelists who have taken time out of their busy schedules to share their experiences and knowledge with us today.
It’s hard to believe that exactly a year ago we were gathered together in person – and without masks! -- at the Victoria Park Pavilion for this event.
Back then, it would have been difficult to predict we would be working in a predominantly virtual environment for 12 months and sharing this event in 2021 by one of the now-ubiquitous video platforms.
Despite the limitations the pandemic has imposed on us, we have found ways to connect, share our stories, and support each other.
The last year has not been easy, in how we have experienced and continue to experience this global health emergency. And it has been much harder on some than others.
We know for example, that women, and racialized women in particular, have been disproportionately impacted by job losses and increased workloads on the home front.
Since the pandemic began, the overall employment gap between racialized and non-racialized women has grown significantly, with unemployment rates for racialized women nearly double that of non-racialized women.
For women who haven’t dropped out of the workforce, many have had to care for children during school shutdowns and take on greater household responsibilities, or care for vulnerable family members while also managing their careers.
Many of us are struggling with loneliness and isolation, while others feel overwhelmed caring for children or other family.
So much of our current circumstances remains out of our control. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed. We are living in a time of much uncertainty and upheaval.
Resiliency doesn’t mean we won’t struggle. It doesn’t mean we won’t feel sad or angry. Resiliency comes from acknowledging that it is OK to fail, feel the pain of loss, and experience being overwhelmed and in over our heads. It is exposure to experiences that challenges us to be stronger.
It is important that we each learn our own healthy ways to cope with stressful situations and to build resiliency.
Sometimes that is self-care and prioritizing wellness. Sometimes that means helping others.
As president of Laurier, I have seen so many instances in the last 12 months where our university community has shown resiliency in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges.
Just a few examples:
Twenty-thousand students moving to almost 100% virtual classes, supported by thousands of faculty and staff, who themselves also transitioned to working primarily from home. Here I would like to show you a video of some of our students showing our faculty member Dr. Kim Dawson how grateful they were to her for her support.
Laurier’s essential workers showing up to our campuses every day to ensure critical operations continued.
The university donating a significant amount of personal protective equipment to frontline health care workers in both Waterloo and Brantford, and providing housing for front-line health care workers during the summer.
Our faculty, staff and students keeping their research and scholarly activities and community and media outreach active, including those working on COVID-related studies in areas as diverse as health sciences, psychology, international affairs, and economics.
Our ceremonies and events team – who helped organize this event today – packing almost 5,000 degrees and celebration boxes for graduates so that they felt special on convocation day.
Our office of Indigenous Initiatives, who at the beginning of the fall term, packed over 500 care boxes to send out to Indigenous students to support their transition to university.
And, in the last year, our university reaffirming our commitment to equity, diversity, inclusion, and Indigeneity, sparked by our shared grief and outrage at the tragic events of last summer. We continue our aspirations to foster a fully inclusive community, with action plans to examine and address systemic inequities at Laurier.
These are just a few of the ways that our Laurier community has come together and demonstrated a collective resiliency.
I am sure that everyone attending this event today can think of personal struggles they have persevered through in the last 12 months.
For myself, having my mom have a non-COVID-related health emergency during COVID, in Nova Scotia, added a significant challenge to my family this past year. My mom is one of most resilient people I know. I am so proud of her.
The loss of our beloved dog Finn in the fall added yet another difficult and tragic moment to a difficult year. Working from home every day had the benefit of being able to share a lot of time together during the year, yet magnified his absence when he was gone.
The house felt empty and quiet without him and our other dog, Guiney, was also acutely aware of Finn’s loss.
Before the holidays, after careful consideration and reflection, we decided we were ready to welcome another dog into our family.
Our new puppy, Keltie, has been a bright spot in a year of difficulty. Her insistence on many walks and outings has forced me to spend more time outdoors and live in the moment.
Keltie’s presence doesn’t lessen the pain of losing Finn, but it does bring joy to our lives in a different way.
I hope that in this year of difficulty, we can look back and recognize the moments of joy we have experienced and in those moments celebrate our own resiliency.
Today, I am looking forward to hearing from our panelists their experiences and their own stories of resiliency. Everyone here has disappointments and successes from the last year.
The fact that we are getting through each day is a victory that should be celebrated.
There are brighter days ahead. I am hopeful that we will emerge from this shared experience with greater empathy, compassion – and personal and collective resiliency.
Thank you all for attending this event today and I look forward to next year, when we can gather in person and celebrate.
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