YWCA awards celebrate accomplishments of local women

Posted May 8, 2013

Written by Beth Lyons

(This post originally appeared in the Times & Transcript on May 8th, 2013, and is shared with permission.)

Tomorrow night, YWCA Moncton will be celebrating its 7th annual Women of Distinction awards, honouring eight women from Southeastern New Brunswick who have made outstanding contributions to their communities.

Women of Distinction events are held annually by YWCAs across Canada. Award categories may vary from community to community, but all Women of Distinction events celebrate women for their accomplishments and for serving as role models for other women and girls. Women of Distinction events are often a YWCA’s most important fundraising event of the year. This is certainly the case for YWCA Moncton where funds raised through event sponsorship and ticket sales support community-based programs and services for women and their families.

A Women of Distinction event is more than an awards ceremony and fundraiser. It’s a statement, one that says women’s accomplishments are important and that progress toward women’s equality is being made.

This year, YWCA Moncton is honouring women who come from a broad variety of sectors, lived experiences, and interests: local businesswoman Betty Rubin Druckman, feminist activist Simone LeBlanc-Rainville, architect Dianne VanDommelen, fitness instructor Karen Arsenault, retired city councilor Kathryn Barnes, McGill Masters student Kaitlyn Enright, high school music teacher and band director Denise Albert-Lanteigne, and non-profit executive Annette Vautour.

Women of Distinction intentionally honours women who do not work directly on women’s issues, as well as women who do. This is important because it illustrates that a woman does not have to be a full-time activist or even an avowed feminist to create positive change for women in her community. Women can contribute to achieving gender-based equality in a multitude of ways, including community leadership, public service, or pursing work in a non-traditional field.

For instance, Ms. VanDommelen works within the architecture industry, which has traditionally been dominated by men (she is a co-director and principal architect within her firm, Architects4). Ms. Arsenault teaches fitness classes that don’t fixate on weight-loss or striving to meet an unrealistic body ideal but on healthy living. Ms. Albert-Lanteigne talks to her students about the double standards that are applied to young men and women in terms of dating and sexuality. Ms. Barnes entered municipal politics, where women are typically underrepresented. Ms. Rubin Druckman is a successful businesswoman whose generosity toward women and girls has made her a pillar of our community. Ms. Vautour has been a leader in the community sector on both a local and national scale, a shining example of leadership for young women. Ms. Enright is in a field and level of academic in which women are underrepresented. Together, these women are challenging the gender status quo through their education, career choices, and their actions within our community.

While it’s important to highlight how women can challenge gender inequality obliquely, events like Women of Distinction also celebrate women who have dedicated themselves to direct activism.

Ms. LeBlanc-Rainville is receiving YWCA Moncton’s 2013 Honorary Recognition award for her long-time feminist activism. Ms. LeBlanc-Rainville was the founding president of University of Moncton’ Committee for women’s professors in 1976. Thanks to this committee’s work, the Université de Moncton’s female professors and librarians were able to obtain the right to maternity leave and pay parity with their male colleagues. Simone is a member of numerous feminist and community organizations, and is particularly active with the Coalition for Pay Equity. Ms. LeBlanc-Rainville has recently released a biography on Acadian feminist Corinne Gallant and, in the past, co-authored a French-language text on gender-equality that was used in Francophone schools throughout Ontario and New Brunswick.

YWCA Moncton is making a statement in celebrating these outstanding women, and invites you to participate. The Women of Distinction awards gala takes place tomorrow night from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at the Community Peace Centre. Tickets for YWCA Moncton’s Women of Distinction awards gala are $50 and available at the YWCA’s office in the Community Peace Centre.

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