'We feel that we really have to prove ourselves' as women in non-traditional roles, says Sen. Diane Griffin

·3 min read
'When I started out it was definitely a male-dominated organization to do conservation,' says P.E.I. Sen. Diane Griffin, one of the guests for the P.E.I. Business Women's Association's International Women's Day event Monday. (Krystalle Ramlakhan/CBC - image credit)
'When I started out it was definitely a male-dominated organization to do conservation,' says P.E.I. Sen. Diane Griffin, one of the guests for the P.E.I. Business Women's Association's International Women's Day event Monday. (Krystalle Ramlakhan/CBC - image credit)

Sen. Diane Griffin will be one of the guest speakers at the P.E.I. Business Women's Association's International Women's Day event Monday, and will reflect on her groundbreaking career in land conservation and politics.

The association is hosting the virtual event to celebrate International Women's Day, an annual opportunity to celebrate women's achievements and consider ways to achieve gender equality, and this year's theme globally is "choosing to challenge."

Griffin served in several high-profile roles dedicated to land conservation in her career, including director of the Island Nature Trust and P.E.I. program director for the Nature Conservancy of Canada. She was also a deputy minister of Fisheries and Environment in P.E.I. — all in a time when few women were in these roles.

"At one point it was a man's game, primarily," said Griffin in an interview with Island Morning host Mitch Cormier.

"A lot of land conservation efforts came out of the anglers and hunters organizations and from groups like Ducks Unlimited, so those were primarily male-oriented organizations. But things changed in the early 1970s as more women went into biology and got university teaching positions and got into management."

'We've come a long way'

Griffin said it was an exciting time to be a woman heading up any organization.

"At the time you've got to realize, we had no women in the P.E.I. Legislature," Griffin said, and only one woman in the federal cabinet.

I don't think they have it easier, I just think it's different. — Sen. Diane Griffin

"We've come a long way from that."

Women are now a major part of heading up conservation efforts, she noted. She has gone on to hire many "fabulous" women, she said.

Griffin gives a lot of credit to her mentors, Ian MacQuarrie and Daryl Guignon, who were female-positive. Being the eldest of eight children also helped, since she was "used to being the boss," she said.

When women are among the first in anything, Griffin said, "They have to be prepared to work hard. We feel we have to really prove ourselves."

'I'm very proud of them'

"There's still work to be done to achieve equity," in public service roles such as politics, Griffin said.

Sweta Daboo, the head of the P.E.I. Coalition for Women in Government, is the other guest speaker for the Monday event.

"I think we need their vision and energy and enthusiasm," Griffin said of Daboo and young women like her at the beginning of their careers.

"Those of us who came along in my time stood on the shoulders of our sisters before us — somebody had to be the first."

She said women today need to keep building on successes of the past, and she is excited to see that happening with this generation of young women.

"I don't think they have it easier, I just think it's different. I think they're going to really make their mark and I'm very proud of them."

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