Recently The Chief spoke with Squamish Chamber of Commerce executive director Louise Walker about her thoughts on local women in business; whether it’s changed over the years, and her personal experience.
What follows is an abridged and edited version of that conversation.
Q: Has the role of women changed when it comes to local business?
If we compare Squamish with the rest of B.C. and Canada, Squamish has a greater proportion of women who are in employment, which is interesting. When I looked at the census data in 2016, there were 69 per cent of Squamish women in the workforce and that compares to 56 per cent for B.C. and 57 per cent for Canada. Interestingly, the Squamish number hasn’t changed that much. In 2011, it was 68 per cent. That’s an indicator of Squamish being different.
Q: What do you think it is about Squamish?
We noticed in the data there’s a younger demographic in Squamish that’s well-educated. This probably contributes to more women being in the workforce. We also saw 14 per cent of women in Squamish are self- employed. That compares to 9 per cent Canada-wide. It applies to men as well. There are more men who are employed in Squamish than Canada as a whole. This is more of a Squamish trend and a Squamish value. Among women in Squamish, there’s a greater instance of post-secondary certificate, diplomas or degrees than in B.C. or Canada.
Q: Are women equal yet at the boardroom table?
I think it’s improving, but there’s a long way to go. If I speak to the Chamber specifically, we have a board of 11 directors, and seven of those are female. When it comes to the board table, everyone is equal, regardless of what business you’re representing.
But, I do recognize that’s not always the case in many organizations. Generally, in Squamish, there’s a real recognition and acceptance of female leaders. You just have to look to see what we’ve got. The executive director of Tourism Squamish - female. The District mayor - female. President of Squamish Terminals- female. There are so many female entrepreneurs. It’s a community where women are encouraged to grow. It comes down to the flexibility of life choices. Whether you want to be in the boardroom or work part-time, the opportunities are here. *
Q: How do you find the division of labour in your own life? What are the challenges?
I have a son at home. My husband does travel often, so life is busy. But he can work from home one or two days a week. It’s a bit of a battle, we both balance things out. That’s something that employers see across the board male and female: people being able to have flexibility with their working hours or to work at home. That is really important in today’s workforce.
As well, I think one of the biggest challenges that women face is the questioning and the doubt. To have children or not; Are you too assertive or not enough? There are questions women face that are unique. The key is that balance. What works for me doesn’t necessarily work for someone else.
*Please note, this article has been corrected since it was first posted. In noting women leaders, Walker said Squamish Terminals, not Power Mills as was previously quoted.