by Linita E. Mathew

    I Am a Woman, and I Am a Leader

    “We realize the importance of our voices only when we are silenced.” –Malala Yousafzai

    She raised her hand slowly and her voice even slower to reply “I Am Malala”. The young girl had no idea that her entire life was about to change from one response. It all happened so quickly, and before anyone could react, she lay unconscious on the floor of the school bus. The next thing she knew, her eyes were opening slowly to see the walls of her hospital room; she had awoken. Her lungs filled with air as she took a deep breath. She inhaled every second with gratitude. She was conscious, she was alive and she was reborn. It was here, in the stillness of her quiet solitude, of knowing that they attempted to silence her, that she decided to speak the loudest. It was in her greatest moment of silence that she, Malala, became a leader.

    Malala Yousafzai was born in Mingora, Pakistan on July 12th, 1997. Her unique vision of the dreams she had for her country were rapidly changing as the Taliban had forced its way into the city. Even though women were discouraged from attending school, Malala’s father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, breathed life into his daughter through a bewilderment of the power of knowledge. Her father raised her to stand equal to her male counterparts, building a confidence and self-esteem within her that other women around her may have lacked. She attended her father’s school and became passionately thirsty for knowledge. So much so that when she was told that she could no longer attend school, Malala raised her voice to fight for every woman’s natural right to an educated life. Tragically, our heroine met with her villain one fateful day on October 9th, 2012. A gunman entered her school bus and shot her in the head. Miraculously, she survived and this young girl’s rapid revolution erupted. Women everywhere stood together to fight the injustice at hand. In her Canadian interview with Anna Maria Tremonti, Malala spoke that: “they wanted to silence one Malala, but instead now, thousands and millions of Malalas are speaking.” Malala not only displays the charisma of what one woman can accomplish, she represents the innate power that has been silenced in all women and the ability to bring it to the forefront and make an impressionable difference in the world today.

    Her true impression became even more evident in the fall of 2014 when Malala was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her role in advocating for both women and children’s rights. Not only did she become the world’s youngest recipient of the prestigious prize, it was her second nomination in two years. Apart from this milestone, she has also been awarded Pakistan’s National Youth Peace Prize and the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. Her 16th birthday was held in high regard as she delivered an astounding speech at the Youth Takeover of the United Nations. And, last year she released her autobiography “I Am Malala: The Girl who Stood up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban,” which was well received by critics alike. Malala Yousafzai is a prime example of one woman who faced glaring adversity, stared at it straight in the eyes, and won.

    The adversity that women face does not only exist on the other side of the world, it exists in every country for diverse reasons. Women are facing their own challenges in a variety of fields and opportunities simply because, well, they are women. And, unfortunately, the oil and gas industry is no exception. “In Canada’s mining and oil and gas industry, women make up 19 percent of the labour force, 12 percent of senior executives, six percent of board directors, and just one percent of presidents and CEO’s.” Even though women are very capable of senior positions, the represented numbers are altogether way too low. The current representation of women can also inhibit future women from applying for higher positions because they may not acknowledge the potential they can bring to their field and colleagues. However, “Researchers found that women increased the group’s overall intelligence because female participants displayed more “social sensitivity,” which meant groups collaborated and shared ideas more, thus getting better results.”

    The percentage of presidents and chief executive officers is extremely low. Low representation can be caused by intimidation, a lack of confidence, or minimal opportunity to move up the ladder in comparison to male counterparts. Yet, “A study done in 2012, Leadership: Women Do it Better than Men by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman, clearly demonstrated that women excelled in 15 of the 16 characteristics required to be an excelling leader.” A diverse workforce is essential now more than ever, and if women become a higher contributing factor to excellence, we must move forward in that direction. Canada is currently behind other competitors who are building more diverse workforces. Educating, encouraging and supporting female workers in the industry will only prove to benefit our economy. “The mining and exploration sector is projected to experience a severe labour shortage by 2017, with a potential hiring need of 60,000 in the next decade. Labour force diversity will be essential to meet this labour shortage and retention will be essential as the competition for skilled labour increases.”

    It is in this time of our stillness and quiet solitude, that Canadian women must also defy those who are trying to silence her. It is important to stand together, speak up and rise up and bring to the forefront the leaders we know are within.

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