Choose to Challenge, because from challenge comes change

Updated: Mar 9




Happy International Women’s Day (IWD)! Social Root Consulting is a women owned and run consulting agency and we are dedicated in operating from a feminist intersectional lens. We are grateful to be able to collaborate with so many amazing women and allies in the communities that we work in. This year, we are following up with last year’s IWD panelists Josie Osborne, Teresa Ryder, Michele Mateus, and Manpreet Dhillon to hear their reflections on 2020 and their thoughts about this year’s IWD theme Choose to Challenge.


To check out last year's panel discussion, click here.



Josie Osborne



Josie was elected as the Member of the Legislative Assembly in 2020 and is currently the Minister of Municipal Affairs.

1) What has been your proudest moment/accomplishment in 2020?

In 2020, I made the decision to run for provincial office, and was elected Member of the Legislative Assembly in my riding of Mid Island-Pacific Rim on October 24. A month later, I was thrilled to be appointed by the Premier as Minister of Municipal Affairs. It is an incredible privilege to serve as MLA, and having the trust and confidence invested in me to further serve as a cabinet Minister is a responsibility I am honoured to step up to.

2) What has been the most challenging moment for you in 2020?

There’s no doubt that leading a community as mayor during a pandemic has been one of the challenging experiences of my life – let alone just in 2020. March 13 was the day I woke up with a sinking yet somehow relieving feeling of acceptance of what we all hoped to avoid – that the Covid-19 pandemic was truly here and was going to fundamentally change our lives. With that acceptance came the pivot to what responsible leadership required. On March 18, I met with a group of community and business leaders and uttered the words, “We need to ask visitors to stay home, and not come to Tofino.” It was almost inconceivable for a town so reliant on tourism to ask visitors to postpone their trips, yet we knew in our heart of hearts it was the best action to take to protect the health of our community members. Those were very hard days.

3) This year's International Women's Day theme is #ChoosetoChallenge. Given this year's theme, what message would you like to share with people who are advocating for women's equality?

Growing up, I didn't see politics in my future - in fact, I chose a career as a biologist. But other people urged me to consider running for elected office, because they saw skills and abilities that I didn't necessarily see in myself. Even the decision to move from local government to provincial office came from others encouraging me and telling me I was ready and completely capable. #ChooseToChallenge is not just about women challenging themselves - but for all of us, regardless of gender, to support, encourage and urge women in our lives to challenge themselves, then to support them as they do it. And in the world of politics, #ChooseToChallenge is not just about challenging the status quo - but also challenging women to get engaged in all aspects of political decision-making so we can do something about the status quo. Achieving gender equity in political institutions is how we will change the system itself, eliminating the systemic and structural biases that currently exist.


Teresa Ryder



Teresa is of Musqueam descent, born in the Lower Mainland and raised on Vancouver Island. She is currently the Director of Business at the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada(ITAC).


1) What has been your proudest moment/accomplishment in 2020?

Professionally, this was without a doubt one of the most challenging years but with challenge comes opportunity! My team delivered a $16M relief program to support Indigenous tourism operators in maintaining or adapting their tourism experiences through the COVID-19 pandemic. The result was relief for 680 businesses - 33% of them owned by Indigenous women - to help them manage through a truly trying time in the industry. At the end of the intake, I didn't know if I wanted to laugh or cry, but being in the trenches with the rest of my team to deliver was one of the biggest accomplishments of my career.

Personally, this past year has been a year of great change for me. A normal year would mean an insane travel schedule, touching down in various cities (sometimes even my home to give my fiance and my dog a kiss) before jetting on to the next city. This year has allowed me to focus on my overall health - adding yoga, eating better and having a better balance (most of the time) has been a great accomplishment for me.

2) What has been the most challenging moment for you in 2020?

I don't think that I could sum this up to a particular moment - but for me, I realized how challenging it is not to have in-person connecting to the people and community I care about. I am usually a super busy person, out there connecting, hugging and laughing amongst friends and colleagues. This year has really made me aware of how much in-person interaction is what I need to be successful. I am a huge family person, and not being able to see those closest to me has hurt - however we have found ways to share laughs as a family through FaceTime, virtual cook-offs and games nights to connect. My dog, Harlow, probably disagrees that I need to be more social (we are now fully co-dependent) and the next challenge will be weaning her off my side when we go back to "normal."

3) This year's International Women's Day theme is #ChoosetoChallenge. Given this year's theme, what message would you like to share with people who are advocating for women's equality?

As an Indigenous woman, I feel this theme is so relevant to the conversations happening globally through movements, social media and commitment to a better future. Choose to challenge invites us to open our eyes and make sure that the tables we sit at, the teams we work with and the organizations to make sure we are finding ways to balance the decision making through many lenses. For me, advocacy and awareness of this imbalance is so important for all to understand. This year, I was able to take in a presentation that focused on women in the workplace during COVID-19 and I was struck by the statistic that women are overwhelmingly outpacing men in leaving jobs during the pandemic to support the needs of their households (including children and elders). I hope that we don't lose footing in the fight for gender equality as a result of COVID-19 and that strategies for recognizing gender imbalance become a part of organizational practice as we normalize post COVID.



Michele Mateus


Photo credit: Vivian Klein


Michele is an award winning professional photographer, whose work is centred around human connection.


1) What has been your proudest moment/accomplishment in 2020?


Launching a new brand to my business focused on Intimate & Empowering portraits for women! While building a sub brand to my main business was a dream, and it did come true, doing it during a pandemic for sure created hurdles but I am pleased to say the hurdles did not stop me!


2) What has been the most challenging moment for you in 2020?


Moment, I would say MOMENTS plural! Trying to run a business, home school, keep my home together and have me time which is something I REALLY need. We all need time to renergize, regroup, and sometimes even rethink. For me this time alone is necessary. While that might seem ironic as we are all tired of time alone, the difference is that with the collective anxiety and well people home all the time it is hard to carve out the mental time alone to truly shut things out and just be. For me that was challenging.


3) This year's International Women's Day theme is #ChoosetoChallenge. Given this year's theme, what message would you like to share with people who are advocating for women's equality?

I would say that we need to advocate more that women should feel safe to express themselves how they want to. There is so much shaming that happens to women, from their body shapes and sizes to the clothes they choose to wear to their body hair! There is endless criticism of women and I would love us to stop and celebrate each and every woman.



Manpreet Dhillon



Manpreet is the Founder the CEO of VEZA Strategy. Her work centres around creating spaces for equal opportunities for women of culturally diverse backgrounds.


1) What has been your proudest moment/accomplishment in 2020?

My proudest moment in 2020 was being named #15 worldwide on the EmPower Future Minority Leaders. It was a surprise to be named so high out of 100. What made this recognition more valuable was that I had stood up for something I believed in and was recognized for speaking my truth.


2) What has been the most challenging moment for you in 2020?

The challenging moment the abundance of time to self which meant deep reflection as to what is important to me. I was privileged with having a growing business and the capacity to help others through the change whereas I almost felt guilty that I actually welcomed this year as I needed to heal from minor brain injury. I was given the space and time to do exactly that.


3) This year's International Women's Day theme is Choose to Challenge. Given this year's theme, what message would you like to share with women and men who are advocating for women's equality?

We hear it all the time however the best thing each of us can do is champion each other by supporting women to new positions and putting their name forward to new opportunities.




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