The statement issued Friday by Winnipeg architect and Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce chair Johanna Hurme:
Yesterday at the State of the Province Address, the premier made some comments about my dress and shoes, along with thanking me for helping with his food. I don’t think his comments were ill-intended, nor was it all that significant of a moment for me personally. The unfortunate reality is that I would not be in the position that I am in today, as an architect and as a business owner, should I not have dealt with much worse situations than this in the past.
Having said that, the national attention that the incident has created since yesterday highlights a much bigger issue that I cannot ignore on behalf of all women, young girls and progressive men in the audience – and now across our country.
Prior to the comments in question, I had just finished a business-content-filled presentation on sprawl and the importance of dealing with the infrastructure deficit in our province. And while I believe the premier was attempting to acknowledge my presence in the room, he unfortunately chose to do so not based on my work or content of that presentation, but rather make a joke about the fact I was wearing tall shoes. This, combined with the fact that the event took place in front of nearly 1,200 business leaders of our province does require it to be called out and addressed.
Unfortunately, similar situations continue to be all too familiar for women in leadership positions across Canada.
I am currently travelling on business in Calgary attending to several of our on-going projects, and have simply not had a chance to comment sooner. When I finally sat down to do so, I received a call from Premier Pallister. I have shared my thoughts on the topic with the premier frankly, and as stated above. He has expressed his regrets.
While I believe we must hold our elected leadership to a high standard, I would like to move past this specific incident and focus on the bigger task. It warrants to be discussed, highlighted and eliminated from the business setting, and our society in general. In this effort, I am proud to lead the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce, an organization that supports gender equality, diversity and inclusivity on our board and in our membership.