The Saanich News asked Saanich South MLA and Agriculture Minister Lana Popham a series of questions about the keys to women’s success in the workplace and the world of politics.
Saanich News: What is your definition of success?
Popham: In politics, success is measured in different ways. For some it might be reaching the highest level of democratic representation like prime minister. For me, it’s getting home at the end of the day knowing that I have remained committed to my values regardless of what I’ve faced during the day.
Q: What is your suggestion for success?
In politics you need to have a reason for doing the job. You need to have an end goal. My suggestion for success is to make that goal something that gets you out of bed in the morning looking forward to your day. For me, it’s making headway on food security issues.
Q: What, if any obstacles, did you encounter as you sought to establish your professional career?
The biggest obstacle happens every four years…the election. Other than that, it’s one foot in front of the other.
Q: How important are mentors?
Mentors are critically important and I was very lucky to have the previous MLA for Saanich South guide me until I could fly on my own.
Q: Who mentored you during the early stages of your career?
Former MLA David Cubberly mentored me for my first term as MLA. I had never been elected to office, and had no previous political experience so he had his work cut out for him. I will always be grateful for his patience and advice.
Q: How do you balance your career with family?
Politics is especially difficult to balance with family. Families make a huge sacrifice as I’m not sure a balance can easily be found.
Q: While you currently hold public office, which private sector skills have you been able to transfer to your current position?
I was a farmer, vineyard manager and small business operator before becoming elected. This gave me a great understanding of the agricultural sector. My background in the agricultural world was like training wheels for being minister of agriculture.
Q: What is the most important advice that you would give women who are currently contemplating their respective career choices?
I was raised by parents who never let on that there would be challenges as a woman in the professional world. I had no idea that my gender could be received in a negative way when finding my own way. The book “Girls Can Be Anything” was a mainstay on my bookshelf and still is. I’ve lived my life believing it.
Q: What else needs to happen to empower women into politics?
The work will never end on the equality front but each time we have success as a society moving ahead it makes it easier for the next person. I’m the first female agriculture minister for British Columbia. The firsts are always the most difficult but the work must never let up so that more and more firsts will be in the rear-view mirror.