A woman's work
More than ever, Northern women assume positions of power and control

Scott Crabbe
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Mar 13/00) - Dominance and power have always been man's role.

That's no longer the case, especially in the North, where women are taking on leadership roles. From Tulita to Tsiigehtchic, Trout Lake to Wrigley, Fort Liard to Enterprise, women are prominent community leaders.

"I see a lot of women moving forward," said Tulita Mayor Bertha Lennie.

"When I became mayor (four years ago) there were hardly any women in leadership rolls. Very few people believed that a woman could get into that role."

Eighteen women currently occupy full-time positions as senior administrative officer or band manager positions in local corporations and First Nations that administer municipal service contracts -- a remarkable 51 per cent of the jobs. It's a noticeable increase from five years ago.

"The first association of municipal administrators meeting I went to five years ago, I saw three women out of a total of 30 people, (10 per cent)" said Eleanor Young, senior administrative organizer for Holman.

"There's definitely been a marked increase if the total amount of woman is now at almost 52 per cent."

The presence of women in leadership positions is far more evident within a smaller community because of traditions that govern the roles of both men and women.

"It's always been more noticeable within a small community when a woman gets into an administrative role," Lennie said.

"Women (in the communities) have had to become a lot more assertive. We were raised in the old generation where we listened to what the man had to say."

Acceptance of these roles varies from each community and change with time.

"In the beginning, no one ever said, 'I don't think you should be here,' they just treated me like I didn't know what I was doing," Lennie said.

"I get a lot more respect now and I don't step on toes unless I absolutely have to."

Along with the change these women are bringing about within the communities, they are also acting as role models for younger generations.

"I try to encourage the girls to keep going in school," Young said. "While it's mostly the boys that get into carving and hunting, the opportunities in a small community are limited for girls if they drop out."

"If you want to see a lot of things get done in the community," Lennie said, "get a woman in there, they'll get in done."