Dear Young Women, Dare to be Bold

As a young woman, I’ve been privileged to grow up in a hardworking immigrant home with two loving parents. My father, especially, stood by my ambitious childhood dreams and continuously championed me to implement them into reality. And so, I always believed that anything was possible with enough hard work, compassion, and a bit of luck.

But at some point in my journey, through the inter-sectional implications of being Chinese Canadian and the effects of being socialized into Western gender norms, I began to doubt myself. Instead of focusing on the question of whether I could do something, I began to get caught up on whether I should.

In the aftermath of an unexpected health event, I was inspired to pursue a degree that I truly loved. As I made the switch from STEM into the humanities, I was met with comments that I had made the “right” decision because as a girl I shouldn’t have to work that hard because guys were better suited for those fields. But it wasn’t just comments like these that made me question my abilities. When I consistently outranked my peers academically and won national and regional awards for community work I was involved in, I was empowered. Yet at the same time, I found myself characterized as too ambitious and intimidating by my peers, who asked if my desires to achieve would scare off potential partners or damage my marriage one day. Each of these comments carried expectations about how I should perform my role as a young woman.

Today is International Day of the Girl, and as we commemorate the great strides for and accomplishments by young women and girls around the world, I also want to recognize the empowering movement towards gender equality that propels me forward and helps me recognize all the people that challenge me to be the best version of myself. However, there is still so much to be done. Despite Canada being a world leader in progressive change and promoting gender equity, Canada still has the eighth largest gender wage gap compared to 43 other countries. And according to a 2018 study, in BC, women hold only 22% of executive management positions within the Top 50 biggest revenue-generating companies. I recently had the opportunity to step into the role of President of Loblaw Companies Limited through Plan International’s Girls Belong Here program, which generates awareness of the need for more women in leadership positions. This phenomenal and life-changing day not only reaffirmed my views of my potential but also demonstrated that girls and young women can -and should — achieve positions of power.

We all have the ability to enact meaningful change in our lives through our attitudes and our behaviours. Seemingly small actions can create a ripple effect. For us to move forward sustainably and equitably, it will be up to all of us to play a part in advancing gender equality. For those that do not identify as young women, I encourage you to continue to acknowledge and amplify the contributions of the girls and women in your life, and to continue to advocate and create space for their voices to be heard. For young women, I want you to know that it takes a lot of courage to stand up for yourself and what you believe in — but do not doubt that you are valuable, your ideas are worth it, and your potential matters. We provide so much value to our homes, our classrooms, our communities, and our world. Continue to tackle each step of your journey with that belief. Dare to be bold and never forget that.

Cecilia Pang is a fourth year Political Science and Economics student at the University of British Columbia. She has already been named an Arbor Scholar at the University of Toronto, one of Canada’s Top 20 Under 20, Surrey’s Top 25 Under 25, and a Service Above Self Surrey Youth Leader. She is presently a Student Economist and Policy Analyst with the federal government, where she builds on research strategy and market analysis for the BC economy. Previously, she also supported workforce priorities for the government’s four identified equity groups.

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Cecilia Pang

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Writing and policy enthusiast — Wesbrook Scholar @UBC, Founder & Art2Heart Foundation. Dedicated to civic engagement and empowering youth.