By Pioneer staff
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In order to celebrate International Women’s Day, we, the pioneer team, have decided to reach some leading and inspiring women in our community to ask them some questions relating to this day of celebration and perspective.

Cassidy Gray is a member of the Canadian National Ski Team’s NextGen Program. She loves to do anything in the mountains from skiing, biking, and hiking. I also love to do CrossFit as part of my training and also because it is very fun! 

Photo of Cassidy Gray by GEPA

Clara Reinhardt has lived in Radium Hot Springs since 2005 after moving around Western Canada for 25 years. Her husband and she were not typical as they had no ties or connection to the Valley other than it reminded them of where they started their lives together in the Yukon in 1979! After two terms as Councillor, Reinhardt is in her second four-year term as Mayor. After “bending the learning curve”, she took on new challenges as Vice-Chair of RDEK for two years, current Chair of the Ktunaxa Kinbasket Local Government Treaty Advisory Committee, President of Association of Kootenay Boundary Local Governments and a variety of Committee appointments. She loves being outside recreating and working in all seasons except rainy, when she moves inside to read, do Jigsaw and Crossword puzzles, and stay connected with friends and family across the world.

Submitted photo of Clara Reinhardt

Courtney Hoffos is an athlete on the Canadian Ski Cross Team as well as a business student at the University of Calgary. She grew up in Windermere and always loved being involved in sports.

Photo of Courtney Hoffos by GEPA

Born in England and immigrating in 1967 to Canada at the age of five with her parents and four siblings, Susan Clovechok was raised to believe in herself, work hard and work smart. Clovechock has held leadership positions with national corporations and nonprofit organizations across Canada. Clovechock’s career has focused on sales, marketing, leadership development and work process improvement always with supporting people to succeed as her primary motivation. Prior to being elected in 2018 as RDEK Area F Director, she was the executive director for the Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce, a position that she left to give her full attention to serving the people of RDEK Area F. At the age of 50, Clovechock married the love of her life, Doug Clovechok. She is the proud step Mom to three amazing young adults and is very blessed to have six grandchildren. Cooking, walking with their dog Charlie, skiing and learning to grow a vegetable garden and hanging out with Doug are all among the many things that Susan loves to do besides her work, which she is very passionate about.

Submitted photo of Susan Clovechok

Monica Fisher was born and raised in Invermere, as was her mother. Her parents are Ken and Debra Fisher. Her grandparents are Bernice and Murray Fisher and Streak and Evelyn McGilvery. She is the sister to Shawna Weaver and Scott Fisher and a proud Metis woman. She is the proud wife of Bert Bodry and bonus mom to three beautiful young women. Fisher is currently the President of the Columbia Valley Metis Chartered Community, which is a volunteer position and one that she is honored to hold. She is also one of two Aboriginal Education Support Workers at David Thompson Secondary. She would have never thought she would end up working in the place she struggled in so much. That said, she also wants to be the person at the school that she needed to be successful (Aileen McMaster & Maria McKay). Her goal is to emulate them in this role.

Submitted photo of Monica Fisher

Rhiannon Tutty is a Financial Advisor with Sun Life Financial and owns and operates Tutty Financial after taking over the business from her father, who happily retired six years ago. Prior to joining Sun Life, she ran her own successful bookkeeping business for 12 years. Today she considers herself a financial coach and an integral part of her client’s wealth team, helping them put strategies in place to reach their goals. In her years as an advisor, Tutty has earned numerous awards, including three-time membership to the Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT), which is the pinnacle of achievement for an advisor in the financial services industry. Tutty is the proud mother of four, and she and her husband Colin have chosen Invermere as the base for their family to live in and give back to. They enjoy all the Valley has to offer, especially cycling around our amazing mountains. She totally believes in the small-town mindset here in the Columbia Valley and is committed to volunteering within our community which she has been doing for many years.

Submitted photo of Rhiannon Tutty

Christina Lustenberger was born and raised in Invermere. She grew up on the slopes of Panorama Mountain Resort, skiing fast and carving turns with the Windermere valley ski club. Lustenberger ski raced for the Canadian alpine ski team achieving top ten in the World Cup and competing in the 2006 Torino Olympics. After retiring from ski racing, she found her true passion and started to pursue backcountry skiing. Lustenberger now live in Revelstoke B.C., working as a professional skier and ski guide!

Submitted photo of Christina Lustenberger

Who are the women who inspire you? Why?

Gray: I have been very fortunate to have a lot of empowering women to look up to. It ranges from a lot of my sports idols like Lindsey Vonn to my current teammates, my coaches and teachers, and of course my family that is very well populated with inspiring women. The most inspiring things that all these women do it promote authenticity and encourage you to be yourself and celebrate who you are.

Reinhardt: There are many! First would be my mother, who lost her father in WW2 and worked for farm families as her widowed mother couldn’t support her four daughters. When my Oma decided to immigrate to Alberta from Germany, Mom, with no English, 16 years-old, had to go to work so that her sisters could go to school. She married, raised four children, taught herself English, later in life learned to type and took accounting courses so that she could again work to help Dad to support us so that we could live on a farm. The most amazing thing is that she never lost her sense of humor and joy in life. She is now a spry octogenarian and not taking care of anyone but herself for the first time in her life! Another person who comes to mind is a former manager (and close friend) who taught me critical thinking. She is creative, has vision, is thoughtful and brilliant, and yet, grounded. She was one of the first colleagues who called me out when I hadn’t done my homework! Some were intimidated by her, but I thrived on the challenge. Why?

Hoffos: There are a lot of women who have inspired me at different points in my life, but someone that always stood out to me was Christina Lustenburger because of her true passion for skiing as well as coming from the Valley. I admire how she can do what she loves for a living and she is able to do it because she made it happen for herself.

Clovechok: I am inspired by women who define success in their own terms. Some of those women include: My mother, who as a 35-year-old wife and mother of five left her family, friends, and successful business that she and my Dad owned to immigrate to Canada so that her kids could have greater opportunities. She was fearless, smart, articulate, hardworking, and fiercely committed to her family and our success. My dear friend Steffany Hanlen, the first non-athletic coach to be certified as an Olympic coach in the 2006 Torino Olympics, always tells me the truth and challenges me to live my life to my highest potential. My granddaughters inspire me! I want to demonstrate to them that as women, we can do anything that we set our hearts and minds to and still stay true to ourselves.

Fisher: My grandmother, Evelyn McGilvery and my mother, Debra Fisher. They are proud Aboriginal women who are independent, strong, and passionate. They live life by their morals and values and do what is right.

Tutty: Women helping women is a passion of mine. Therefore, I am inspired by others that feel the same way. Regardless of the topic – only someone who has walked in your shoes can really understand your journey. Although men can empathize and support you, I truly believe that there is amazing power in women supporting women because we understand each other.

Lustenburger: Hilaree Nelson professional ski mountaineer and TNF teammate. She’s one of the most badass skiers in the world. 

Are there any assumptions about women that you would like to change? 

Gray: I want every woman to know that no one thing should empower her. Find what you love and do it unapologetically. There are no rules to what should empower you, so whether it be sports, makeup, acting, art, fitness, or anything else, don’t feel like you need to fit in any sort of mold that people give you. Our differences are what should be embraced and celebrated.

Reinhardt: I think that the main thing I struggle with is the assumption that all women think alike. If there is a token woman on a team, she will speak for us all. This is ridiculous! As if one man could speak for all men or one Indigenous person could speak for all First Nations. In 1974, the RCMP hired the first female Mounties after 100 years of believing that this was a male profession. Interestingly, around 2006 the RCMP Veterans initiated a program to recognize the “Unpaid Second Man” which celebrated the wives of Mounties who had supported their husbands for decades, in northern and remote locations where the men worked alone and there was no backup. Well before there were official female Mounties, these wives searched prisoners, answered phones and radios, guarded prisoners, took complaints etc. Due to our posting in Old Crow, YT, I am one of the younger recipients of this award and one of two in the Columbia Valley, along with Trudy Veres of Edgewater.

Hoffos: Men may be built bigger, stronger or faster, but women have just as much work ethic. Something that always stuck with me is that no one else can tell YOU how hard YOU work, no matter what your gender or situation is.

Clovechok: Women are the fairer sex –the origins of this phase were intended to be complimentary, but overtime, its original meaning has been lost, and the translation became not about our appeal but suggested we are the “weaker sex”. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are weak men and there are weak women. Our chromosomes do not determine our strength, intelligence or ability. 

Fisher: When I was younger, I really struggled with my identity because I did not fit a “stereotype” of what women are “supposed to be”. I was a bit of a tomboy growing up. I was friends with “the boys” and people made assumptions about me based on my looks and activities without really knowing who I was. It is an unfair assumption that woman should be people pleasers or have to conform to make someone else happy. We as women are powerful, strong and can choose to do anything that makes us happy. If someone does not like it, I feel they can move on. Build your community around you with like-minded individuals that build you up. As long as you are not breaking the law, hurting anyone and doing what is right, you do you.

Tutty: I find it unbelievably frustrating every time I watch, read or listen to an interview with a woman who is a CEO, or a business owner, or accomplished in her field that they always ask the question: How do you find work-life balance? For some reason, this question is rarely asked to the male counterpart. The fact that this is still something that is pushed on women as part of their agenda and responsibility is ridiculous.

What do you like the most about being a woman?

Gray: I love the community it comes with. There is a lot that can be said about Girl Power.

Reinhardt: I love being a Mother. I think I came late to the realization as I had three children by the time I was 23, my husband worked shift work and travelled for work, and I was left alone often enough in small remote communities that I wasn’t sure I was having fun. Now that I am a grandmother, I recognize how blessed I was to have been home with my children. It was also fortunate that I was raised rural and thrived on being a homemaker!

Hoffos: Something I like about being a woman is how complex and resilient we are. I enjoy the ‘girly’ aspects like expressing myself with fashion or makeup, but I also love to push myself in the gym and embrace the grind. Being a woman in sport, I feel like I am already breaking social norms and feel empowered by that. 

Clovechok: So many reasons! Many of the shoes, and I love I am genetically disposed to being a multi-tasker, I cry when I get angry, which is way better than punching someone. 

Fisher: We are life-givers (if we can or choose). I cannot, but I choose. I have three smart, strong and amazing bonus daughters, I assist in raising my niece, I am a foster parent, and I work at the high school. I may not give life, but I contribute to it. I feel we are connected to all things; our “cycle” is a ceremony, which happens every 28 days (ish), we synchronize with other women, we are connected to the moon cycle and the universe. I love that we can nurture many, care for and build people up while still maintaining our own personal power. 

Tutty: Interesting you ask for this! It was actually a topic at our dinner table a few weeks ago – what do you appreciate about being your gender? I like the combination that I am able to maintain. That I am the Mom- and all the hugs and love that comes with that, combined with an ability to be strong and I do not mean strength of body, but rather the fact that I can multitask, running a successful business, helping with homework and working hard, without loosing the softer feminine side. I like that contradiction we get to be.

Lustenberger: Being underrated and totally blowing that assumption up!  

What barriers have you faced, as a woman, in becoming successful in your field?

Gray: There is a lot of judgment around body image, which is something most athletes struggle with as young girls.

Reinhardt: Honestly, very few. I did learn about 20 years ago that a male who was doing the same job as me, with less seniority, was making more. That didn’t sit well, especially when a female Manager told me that he had to support himself while I had a husband working as well. Although I was very angry, I loved my job and carried on. Running for office, I had a great support group of friends and neighbors of all ages and genders. I am also fortunate that I married a 1980’s man who thought being a parent included childcare, cooking, cleaning etc. This made it much easier to follow some of my interests while the children were younger.

Clovechok: There is no question that I have faced sexual harassment and the “old boy network”, fear of me showing up my male colleagues and women competing with other women rather than being supportive of each other.

Fisher: Balancing societal expectations and my own expectations. Going against the grain and doing things my own way. Not only am I a woman, I also have learning disabilities, ADHD, and I am Aboriginal. All of these are things I am proud of, but society could view them as a barrier. My “struggles” are what make me successful; I know what it takes to work hard and overcome hardships and low expectations and that gives me drive. I have worked in many different fields and have been successful in them, but my work has not been without difficulties. I have heard things like “I can’t take direction from a woman” or “you can’t do that” which has been difficult, but it motivates me to prove people wrong and show others a different way. 

Tutty: I have not faced barriers per se, and actually feel that being a woman is an asset to what I do. With my own strengths being in analytics and numbers, I am able to communicate with my male clients in a way they can find value in what I am saying. By combining that with my understanding of the emotional connection that women have to finance, I am able to also provide knowledge in a way that also honours what is important to us.

Lustenberger: I haven’t had to face many barriers just because I’m a female. Maybe I have, but as a young girl growing up ski racing, I always compared myself against the boys. I never felt like I was at a disadvantage just because I was a girl. So from a young age, I didn’t put myself into a female only box, and I have always thought that the mountains didn’t know gender.

How did you overcome these barriers?

Gray: For body image, I had a lot of very strong and beautiful women to look up to that inspired me to believe that there is no “one way” a woman should look.

Clovechok: I chose not to accept them as barriers and fall victim to them. When faced with sexual harassment, I chose a different path which every time worked out to be the best decision for me long-term. When faced with the old boys’ club, I stood strong and made my voice heard by using my intellect, critical thinking skills, and integrity, and when other women were unkind and unfair, I leaned in to support them. I believe that all our experiences, negative or positive, serve to create the life we want to live and the life we’re meant to live.

Fisher: Just keep swimming. I say the serenity prayer often. I keep kindness at the forefront of the things I do and I lean on my husband, parents and amazing community.  

Tutty: I will share an anecdote to answer this one. I was invited to a corporate event earlier in my career and the majority of my peers, regardless of whether they were women or men, introduced themselves to my husband on the assumption that HE was the advisor. There is a public perception of my industry that I do have to intentionally counter: I am not going to sit on the opposite side of the meeting and talk above you, tell you what to do, nor patronize you, or make you feel ignorant. I believe in working with my clients, listening to their goals, helping and teaching, rather than telling.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing women these days in your field?

Gray: It is really easy for people to discredit women’s accomplishments simply because they are women, which is tough because it overlooks all the work and time put into their accomplishments.

Reinhard: Lack of confidence, thinking that they have to work in the traditional “old school” ways. It is becoming clear that women are supporting each other to work our own way, which is often collaboratively and in a conciliatory fashion, is the path to the future.

Hoffos: There is a lack of demand for women’s sports compared to men’s. This has made a lot of us feel inferior, but with the support of teammates, coaches and other female athletes, we uplift each other. 

Clovechok: Politics is demanding of your time and energy, and you have to assume that every decision you make is scrutinized. I am very fortunate that I have had a career where I have often been the only woman at the table, and I learned early on that I needed to be compassionate, well informed, and support my decisions with facts. I always had to be prepared to defend my position with data, and as a result, I was able to obtain the respect and trust of my colleagues regardless of their gender. The degree of commitment required to be a good politician/policy maker/community leader can be daunting. And it is further challenged by the job insecurity; regardless of how hard you work or how much you care about your community, an election determines your success…at least in the eyes of the public.

Fisher: I feel that we have come a long way. Yes, there is still work to be done, but I think with our advancements comes issues regarding men’s identity. We as a society need to work on restoring balance and equality for ALL gender identities. In my employment, there have been issues in being taken seriously by both clients/students or their parents because of my gender, but I feel that this is changing for the better. I also have 25 years in the Food and Beverage Industry. There are serious issues with sexual harassment, sexual assault, being treated like a lesser person or even being stalked in that industry. Not to mention the fact that as a server, you have to mentally prepare yourself to go to work and deal with the harassment. As a woman in a leadership role, you are faced with staffing people who do not like to take direction from you as a woman, you are paid differently and honestly are treated like a sex trade worker by customers. I have been called terrible things because I have stood my ground, said no or stood up for myself. I have also had to worry for my safety during work and after. This is still a serious issue. My true thoughts on this are that if you hurt one woman, you hurt us all. We are all someone’s daughter, mother or sister. How would you feel if someone treated your mother the way we are treated? 

Tutty: I have not encountered issues in my field. But I would like to share why I am so passionate about working with my women clients. There are a number of financial concerns that women uniquely face, and we need strategies in place that provide solutions to these challenges. Namely, there is still a wage gap, regardless if it is gender-based. Statistically, women do not have as many working years, or are unable to progress in their career as far as their male counterpart-due to child rearing, often taking time away from work to be a caregiver and we also live longer. Adding to that, on average, women are often more conservative in their decisions. This results in women often having less financial resources, managing them conservatively, and needing them to last longer! I feel that education is key to empowering my female clients to understand what the best strategies are for them.

Lustenberger: Equal pay and getting gear that fits and is just as good. So many companies aren’t making performance gear in small sizes — the smaller the size, the lower the performance.

On Int. Women Day, what is the most important message you want to send out to women? 

Gray: Decide for yourself what empowers you and own it!

Reinhardt: Something that catches my attention pretty regularly is that our daughters and their friends take their options and opportunities for granted and aren’t really aware of how different things were even 20 years ago. I would challenge them to look at the past and continue to forge their own way into the future, knowing that their mothers and grandmothers didn’t have the same choices. There was a cigarette ad in the 70’s “You’ve come a long way, Baby!” which was promoting a longer, slimmer, cigarette designed for women. While that is thankfully no longer around, the line still speaks to me and comes up fairly often in conversations with women my age.

Hoffos: Confidence is a superpower.

Clovechok: There are many ways for you to make a difference in your community, choose the way that works best for you and aligns with your values. Choose your friends wisely, choose people who see your strengths and will support you to be wildly successful even if your success exceeds their own. Own who you are … you are amazing and can do whatever you set your heart and mind to especially when they are aligned. 

Fisher: To quote my beautiful mother: “Be Strong, Be Proud, Be You”. Hold your ground, remember we are powerful and can do anything. I am so proud to be a woman, and I am so proud to be independent, strong and successful. I am proud of how far we have come and where we are going. What we focus on grows, and all good things come with time.

Tutty: We need to stop self sabotaging and continue to lift each other up. Also, quit worrying about balance. Just be present wherever you are. Be the best at work when you are there and give your all when you are at home. Find something for yourself that does not feel like one more thing added to your never-ending to do list. And quit saying yes! Only say yes when you are giving your best yes, not because you think you should be able to do it all.

Lustenberger: Girl or boy, we all have to support each other.