Denise Donlon: Still A Firebrand For Social Change
This year's Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award-winner's acceptance speech was both inspirational and a game-changing moment for women in music. Her words and the arc of her career earned her a heartfelt standing ovation from everyone in the audience Saturday night.
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"There have been some challenges for sure - and heaven knows I’ve had a few - but how lucky are we? To be in an industry where we get to work with incredible Canadian talent every day.
"Canada is truly an Arts Nation. Our country is known around the world for our artists.
"It’s wonderful to see the brilliant Diana Krall and trailblazer Sarah McLachlan, Bublé and Adams, kd and Celine (hope you’re feeling better) and Rush and the BNLs in the house! and so many more globally celebrated.
"I feel so blessed to have worked closely with our dearly departed Leonard Cohen and with Gord Downie at Waterkeeper. It’s especially thrilling to see the latest wave of talent - Drake, The Weeknd, Alessia Cara, Tegan and Sara, Tanya Tagaq and more represent a Canada so powerfully diverse.
"Canadian artists truly punch above their weight. The world needs more Canadian voices, and I know that their successes have been supported by many of you right here in this room.
"The storm we’ve weathered has been disruptive, but now that the recording industry is finally recovering, there is tremendous opportunity to grow this business and support our artists in a bold new way, and I don’t just mean closing the value gap.
"You may have heard today we had a feisty gathering with about 300 women in our industry. We talked about barriers to success and sexual harassment. We talked about power and perseverance. We saw some sad numbers on female representation in every business - at the executive level, on boards, and in politics. Frankly - the numbers are a market fail. And it’s not limited to women - Inclusion rider? Bring it on!
"If I told you there was a magic bullet that would be a game changer for business, that would accelerate innovation, increase your bottom line, and enhance your brand; you’d want that right? Well, it’s not new software, it’s a hiring practice.
"We are world leaders when it comes to artistic talent. Let’s be leaders in gender equality and inclusivity too. It’s not just the right thing to do, it’s good business, and there’s a mountain of evidence to support that. A recent McKinsey report says that gender balance could bring an extra $150 Billion to Canada’s economy in a few short years. And btw: The idea that there are no ‘qualified women candidates’ is just wrong.
"There are hundreds of extraordinary women in this very room tonight – smart, creative, focused warrior women. Look around you! –They’re game changers, and there they are. We did some work today, so Gentlemen, now it’s your turn. I would ask all the men who pledge to champion women – STAND UP! To the all the men who promise to support and mentor women – STAND UP! There they are ladies – your allies in the march to gender equality.
"Let us all wholeheartedly embrace diversity, respect, and inclusion in our hearts and our deeds. And not only will Canadians continue to win, but we will also truly thrive.
"Thank you again. Have an awesome night."
– Excerpted from Denise Donlon's acceptance speech on receiving the Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award Saturday evening at Rogers Convention Centre in Vancouver.