Born in Nanaimo, B.C, Gillian Smith is the Vice President of McGill University’s Debate Union and Minister of Archives of the British Columbia Youth Parliament. She is the recipient of the highly esteemed J.W McConnell Scholarship and studies Canadian and Indigenous Studies at McGill University. Following her graduation, Gillian hopes to work in policy making and spur change at both federal and international levels.
Who are your role models and mentors?
There are so many inspirational women out there, however my two biggest role models are my mom and American politician and activist, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez. My mom has had a tremendous impact on my life and my career aspirations. She is selfless, passionate, and continues to support me as I pursue post-secondary education across the country. I also look up to Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, who persists despite various challenges, to fight for social, economic, and racial justice in the United States.
What is the best book you’ve read this year?
I recently reread ‘Turning Parliament Inside Out: Practical Ideas for Reforming Canada’s Democracy’ by Michael Chong, Scott Simmons, and Kennedy Stewart. It is a compelling read that was written as a collaboration between MP’s from all of Canada’s major political parties and focuses on how reforms can be made within the parliamentary system to restore Canadians’ faith in politics and reassure voters that their voices will be heard.
What would be your advice for women who are building careers?
Focus on your path and intuition. Many people will try to dissuade you, perhaps they will attack your aspirations or goals, but you have to be strong enough to ignore what they say and do things your own way. Build your career on what you want, not what others want for you. Moreover, work hard at what you do and the rewards will come.
What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership?
Affordable childcare. So many women are unable to return to the workforce or miss out on opportunities for leadership roles as they simply cannot afford childcare. We, as a nation, need to address this barrier and implement steadfast solutions so that more women can continue advancing in their careers.
What do you think is the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind you?
While it is not a specific challenge for just women, climate change is an impending problem that we are as a global community are facing today. Climate change is now affecting every country on this planet. Weather patterns are changing, sea levels are rising, and natural disasters such as tornadoes and wildfires are becoming more and more extreme. Collective action from all countries is now required. There must be an unprecedented effort from all sectors of society so that the next generation will not feel climate change’s dire effects.
By: Jasmine Pathak