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Association works to address gender imbalance

February 25, 2020 Kim Clement, ATA News Staff



March 8 is International Women’s Day, which celebrates women’s social, economic, cultural and political achievements, while also calling for a more gender-balanced world. 


Women are the majority group in education, yet they are not proportionally represented in leadership roles.

Why is it important for the Alberta Teachers’ Association to have a Women in Leadership Committee? 

“I am tempted to just simply state because it is 2020,” says committee chair Kathy Hoehn, who is a district representative on Provincial Executive Council.

Many teachers are familiar with the Alberta statistics: although women make up 74 per cent of the teaching profession, only 41 per cent of school administrators are women. In central offices, only 11 per cent of superintendents are women.

Women are underrepresented in leadership positions within the Alberta Teachers’ Association as well. For example, Provincial Executive Council is currently made up of 65 per cent men and 35 per cent women. Over the course of the ATA’s 101-year history, just 15 per cent of its presidents have been female.

The gender imbalance within its educational leadership positions is something the Association would like to see change, and a key part of the mandate of the Women in Leadership Committee is building networks of support for women to explore leadership in the teaching profession. 

The research informing the work of the Women in Leadership committee points to gendered norms and gender-based discrimination as contributing to the glass ceiling for women who wish to lead in politics, boardrooms, companies and educational institutions.

It’s important for the Association to lead the way in developing the leadership potential of 75 per cent of its members, Hoehn says. Research shows that organizations derive many benefits — related to their finances, productivity and creative problem solving, to name a few examples — when women have an equal voice around the decision-making table.

For the Association, having a Women in Leadership Committee will also engage members that were not otherwise engaged in the organization, as evidenced by the people who put their names forward to be part of the committee itself, Hoehn says.

She cites the following quote from Melinda Gates as to why the Women in Leadership Committee is important.

“For most of history, women haven’t had an equal say in the norms that shape a society, or an equal number of seats at the tables where decisions are made. We haven’t had an equal chance to determine what kind of world we live in.” ❚


About the Women in Leadership Committee

The ATA’s first committee on women in leadership was struck in 1975. The committee’s 1976 report on the role and status of women acknowledged that the role of women in society was changing, but named education as one sector that was slow to change.

From 1975 until the present, the ATA has had a number of committees devoted to women and other aspects of diversity.

In 2018 the Diversity, Equity, and Human Rights (DEHR) Committee struck a Women in Leadership subcommittee with a mandate to examine the experiences and obstacles affecting women in educational leadership. The subcommittee was the first Association group to administer a needs assessment survey to examine teachers’ perception of gender discrimination, barriers to leadership that women face, and the supports that the Association could provide to assist women who aspire to leadership positions. 

At last year’s Annual Representative Assembly, delegates accepted a resolution that the Association form a standing committee on women in leadership. The committee’s mandate includes reviewing ATA structures and practices to identify opportunities to promote and enhance gender equality and women’s participation in all aspects of employment and Association life.

Timeline of committees

1975/76 Committee on the Role and Status of Women
Committee on Stereotyping and Discriminatory Practices

1980/81 to 1986/87
Stereotyping and Discriminatory Practices Committee

1987/88 to 1991/92

Human Rights Committee
1989/90 Task Force on Women in Administration

1990/91 to 1997/98

Women in Education Committee
1998/99 to 1999/2000

Gender Equity in Education Committee

2000/01 to present

Diversity, Equity and Human Rights Committee
2019/20 to present

Women in Leadership Committee



Which woman or women 
inspired you to be a leader? 


Adriana LaGrange
Education minister
MLA for Red Deer-North

One of the women I admire most is a modern-day saint, St. Teresa of Calcutta [Mother Teresa]. While born into what appears to be a middle-class family in 1910, Anjezä Gonxhe Bojaxhiu (later to be known as Mother Teresa) lived an ordinary life. Her desire to serve God, become a nun and live out her vocation as a missionary led her on an extraordinary, adventurous life whereby, at the age of 19 (a novitiate of the Sisters of Loreto), she taught at a school near her convent in Darjeeling in the lower Himalayas.

Following her solemn vows in 1937, Sister Teresa taught at the Loreto Convent for nearly 20 years and was appointed headmistress in 1944. Although she enjoyed this work, she could not ignore the poverty and the cries of the poor in the slums of Calcutta. Thus, in 1946, Mother Teresa responded to an inner call to live among and help the poorest of the poor. 

Initially she founded a school and then began tending to the poor, the hungry and the sick. Soon other young women were inspired to join her. In 1950, the Missionaries of Charity was formed with the mission to care for the most marginalized and the most vulnerable in society.  The needs dictated the responses, which led to the creation of hospices, leprosy outreach clinics, orphanages and schools. More than 600 mission schools and shelters in more than 120 countries are served by approximately 5,000 Sisters of Charity and 450 Brothers of Charity and many more lay volunteers.

Mother Teresa saw a need, she took a leap of faith, overcame tremendous obstacles, hardships, doubts and criticisms to do the right things for the right reasons. In so doing, many, many lives were positively influenced by the hope and love that this modern-day saint brought to everyone she encountered.

I believe we can all be challenged to be better versions of ourselves and heed the words of St. Mother Teresa: “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”

Sarah Hoffman
Education critic, Alberta NDP
MLA for Edmonton-Glenora

As we prepare for International Women’s Day, I’m reflecting on the powerful and intelligent women who have inspired me along my leadership journey. I’m a lifelong learner, so it won’t surprise many of you that one of the first women who supported me was my mom,  Sylvia Hoffman. Mom was my first teacher. She and I explored the world together. She was an elementary school teacher, and she regularly brought me into her classroom to “help” her prepare. I would organize the books, bundle classroom materials and practice sitting in a desk while raising my hand. Mom’s top priority was teaching kids to love school. She succeeded. 

My Grade 6 teacher, Bambi Horseman (Bradley), was the first teacher I remember who let us sit in groups. She trusted us to regulate our work and social time, and she created opportunities for students to mentor one another. This is the first time I really felt like I could be a leader in the classroom. She helped us think about how we could take information, synthesize it and turn it into something useful for our larger school and community. We were all student leaders.

The final woman I want to highlight is Rachel Notley. In 2010 it was Rachel who asked me to run for the board of Edmonton Public Schools. I was uneasy with the idea at first, thinking that I was best suited to work behind the scenes. But Rachel persisted. Then, in the lead up to the 2015 provincial election, Rachel asked me to run for Alberta’s NDP, and then asked me to join her cabinet. The opportunity to serve my community as an MLA has been one of the greatest privileges of my life.

There are great women all around us, but these are three of the exceptional women who inspired and supported me in developing my leadership potential.

Jenny Regal
ATA vice-president

Who inspired me on my leadership journey with the ATA? Lynn Nishimura, Bauni Mackay and Carol Henderson. This trio of formidable women were all presidents, two when I became more actively involved in my Association in the early 1990s, and the other when I was Calgary Public president.

Lynn was one of my first local presidents. I saw her at general meetings and, after I became a school representative, at our Calgary School Representative meetings. She was passionate, articulate and knowledgeable. She had an aura of authority and humour. I clearly remember the first time she called me by name. I was floored that the president of my local knew who I was. She encouraged me to get more involved. I did so, in fits and starts, over decades, and have not regretted a moment. 

Bauni was our provincial president when I first attended the Annual Representative Assembly (ARA). I looked up at the dais and saw this woman who commanded my attention. Like Lynn, she was passionate, articulate and knowledgeable. She was strong. She was our leader. I didn’t know her, but she made quite an impression on me. She inspired me. A woman could be provincial president.

Carol was a force of nature. I was first aware of her during ARA debates. Her humour and intelligence were evident. Who could forget the time when she, as chair, called herself out of order? She was our provincial president when I was first elected to Council. She impressed me with her quiet strength and wisdom. As past president, she proved time and again that she did not suffer fools lightly. She was ready to take on the world in support of public education. She knew how important it was to keep the awesome responsibility of good stewardship of all aspects of our Association in front of Council. 

Women are leaders. We own sets of skills that inspire others and get things done. Find women who inspire you and then take on the world!


Kathy Hoehn
ATA district representative – Calgary City
Women & Leadership Committee Chair

I grew up in rural Saskatchewan where roles were gendered. My father was not ordinary — he would cook, clean and mend his own clothing. My mother never commented on or questioned his actions. In this subtle way, I learned that roles do not have to be gendered. 

When we moved to Alberta in 1997, I didn’t intend to take a full-time teaching position, as our four children were still quite young, but I was offered one and I accepted. My principal, a woman, provided the support and compassion necessary for a successful return to teaching. She encouraged a work–life balance. I appreciated her advice and the mentorship she provided. 

The political landscape in Alberta at the time pushed me into becoming a school representative. I wanted a voice in what was happening in education in the province. The support of my colleagues helped me find that voice. Alexandra Jurisic, president of the local, noticed that I was bringing issues, concerns and questions forward at meetings. She mentioned to a mutual colleague that I should consider an executive position. It was that encouragement that emboldened me to do so. A few years later, another local president, Wendy Beier, suggested I run for district representative. I didn’t. I felt my family would be too heavily impacted. It was my teacher colleagues Jen Arko and Monica Chung who finally convinced me that I could and should run for district representative. 

Without the encouragement of women, I would not have chosen a leadership path in the Alberta Teachers’ Association. I continue to find strength in the kind words and constant encouragement from an ever-growing network of women — the Nicoles, the Cathys, the Marys, the Suzannes, the Cindys, the Lisas, the Tashas, the Kelseys, the Heathers, the Marcies, the Allisons — I wish I could name them all.



She said; she said 

We asked our Facebook followers to tell us about women who have inspired them.

[Former ATA president] Carol Henderson is one of my favourite women of all time and a serious badass leader.

Nicole Mooney

My mother. She was forced to quit her formal education when she finished grade 8, but she never stopped learning. She read whenever she had a chance, right up until her health was such that she couldn’t do it anymore. She taught Sunday school at her local church all of her adult life; she mentored women who were younger than she was; she ran the local ladies benevolent group; she was an active committee member on an NGO; she raised five kids and pushed them all to get all the education they could. All five of us kids did post-secondary of one form or another: six post-secondary degrees and at least five post-secondary diplomas among us. She passed away three years ago and at her funeral so many people commented on how much they had learned from my mother.

Carolyn Dyck

My assistant principal, Amy Maclean, and my local ATA president, Kristel Fisher Laderoute. Both of these ladies are moms, administrators, coaches and university students. They work so hard to ensure that their schools are running well and work for the kids in their care. They balance many plates in the air, and I am in awe of how successful and supportive they both are. I am a better teacher to be able to work with both of these ladies.

Laurie Jean

Laurie Jean no matter what’s happening in your own life, you always take the time to support others. You are one of the most thoughtful people I know.

Amy Maclean

Laurie Jean [has inspired] me too. I wouldn’t even be a teacher if not for your encouragement.

Kristel Fisher Laderoute

My Aunty Lasha was an extraordinary teacher, and the anniversary of her passing is March 8. She always told me “she burnt her bra for me” so I always think of her on March 8, both for missing her and for how I hope I make her proud as a teacher.

Sarjenka Kuryliw

My daughter, Tara Szmul. She’s loved football for years, played in the WWCFL since 2013, and even though the team in Grande Prairie has folded, she tried out for Football Alberta to play in the Canadian championships being held this summer. She’s a mom, an EA for a young boy with severe cerebral palsy, and she’s my hero. 

She also tried out with bronchitis and a throat infection! We will know if she made the team any day now! (Update: she made it!)

Lori Karoly Szmul

My mom, Sharon Nicholson. She has always been the strongest, most compassionate woman I know. She raised my siblings and I on her own while working two jobs. If that wasn’t enough, she took in foster kids and turned their lives around. She taught me to be caring, thoughtful, strong and independent. I have her to thank for making me the successful woman I am today!

Amber Nicholson

When I worked with Shelley Magnusson on CAPEC (Communications, Advocacy and Public Education Committee), she showed me that she was a Boss Lady who was intelligent, articulate and opinionated! And she rocked every minute of it. And I needed that!

Shannon Rae Dube




Summit approaching

March 8, International Women’s Day, will mark the first day of the ATA’s inaugural Women in Leadership Summit, taking place at Barnett House in Edmonton.

Delegates who attend the two-day summit will hear from several keynote speakers, learn how to establish a Women in Leadership Committee in their local and enjoy several networking opportunities.

For registration information, contact: 
Lisa Everitt 
Kim Clement

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