The Suffragette Effect: Bonnie “the Trailblazer” Butlin

A few weeks ago I uncovered in the digital-depths of Netflix, the Walt Disney classic, Mary Poppins.

Although I’ve seen the film dozens of times, I noticed something in this specific viewing that I hadn’t before. A dose of, what some would call, feminism. It was encompassed in the short tune sung by Mrs. Winifred Banks in the first few minutes of the film.

One line particularly resonated with me, “Our daughters’ daughters will adore us, and they’ll sing in grateful chorus. Well, done Sister Suffragette!”

This leads me to the focus of this article: Bonnie Butlin.

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This dynamic individual has perhaps without intention, become a role model for women like myself.

Bonnie is a Canadian professional in the security field who is currently a board member for The Vimy Report, as well as the International Coordinator for Women in Security and Resilience Alliance (WISECRA), and the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Security Partner’s Forum (SPF). Just this year, she added to her list of achievements the honor of being the first Canadian female security professional to receive Professional Security Magazine’s – 2015 Women in Security Award (Security Manager Category).

Despite the danger of sounding sentimental, I must admit that to me Bonnie is the “Sister Suffragette” of yesteryear, climbing over and destroying the gender-plagued barriers to success in the security field, so that women, like myself, can finally say with confidence, “If she can do it, so can I.” Bonnie has exemplified the progress for women that has been building with each new generation for over a hundred years – and this is evident in her multiple achievements.

The “Year of Bonnie.” 

Bonnie has received many international awards and recognitions since 2013. That year she was named to Security Magazine’s “Most Influential People in Security,” and in 2014 she was inducted into the Homeland Security and Emergency Management Hall of Fame.

Grant Lecky, the Co-Founder at Security Partner’s Forum, has rightly dubbed 2015 as “The Year of Bonnie.”

This year she was named to Vanguard Magazine’s “People in Defense,” she won the CSO Magazine’s Compass Award, was a recipient of Professional Security Magazine’s – 2015 Women in Security Award in the Security Manager Category, and recently was announced as a finalist for the prestigious 2015 Executive Women’s Forum Women of Influence Award in the category of Private Solutions Provider.

Allow that to sink in for a moment.

Bonnie has already been recognized five times since 2013, and she shows no signs of slowing down to polish the awards on her wall.

This is not surprising, however, as each award and recognition she receives implies hours of enduring and exhausting work. Just one look at Bonnie’s academic and professional contributions, and you will see why she is known as the “Trailblazer” in the security field. Besides winning several scholarships and high profile internship positions during her academic career, such as the Sigmond Shore Memorial Scholarship in Intelligence and Security Studies (2006/07), Bonnie has also published several studies, articles and analytical reports. She has been invited to speak at multiple conferences and events, particularly focused on cyber security and surveillance: a sector of security that women, according to groups like the National Cyber Security Institute (NCI), are largely absent from.

The Future – Where do women fit?

There is a need for more women to enter all aspects of the security field: from United Nations Peacekeepers, where women today constitute only 4% of the participants, to Information Security Professionals, where women constitute only 11%. Given that in 2014, according to the World Bank, women made up 49.6% of the world’s population, it seems ridiculous that the percentage of women in all aspects of the security field remains alarmingly low.

Thankfully, at no point in history has the ability for women to be “trailblazers” in the field of security been so achievable, spearheaded by initiatives like the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) which reaffirmed women’s right to participate equally in peace and security. Bonnie encompasses this fact, as well as the dreams for women that many of the 19th and 20th century Suffragettes were fighting for. Women’s access to the voting booth was, as Susan B. Anthony stated, the pivotal right.” Ultimately, it gave women like myself, and Bonnie, the opportunity to seek success in fields and activities that had historically been restricted to men.

No doubt, the daughters of today and tomorrow will thank Bonnie and other women like her, for giving us dreams to chase, grounded in their real achievements. As women, we still have a long way to go, but if you have ever questioned your ability to achieve great things, either in the security field or another, just remember this name: Bonnie Butlin, and stay tuned for her next achievement.

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Cast off the shackles of yesterday, shoulder to shoulder into the fray. Our daughters’ daughters will adore us. And they’ll sing in grateful chorus. Well, done Sister Suffragette.

About Victoria Heath

Victoria is a former Program Editor for Women in Security at the NATO Association of Canada. She graduated from Virginia Tech in 2013 with a BA, honours degree in History and Political Science with a focus on the Middle East and women's rights. She was a member of AmeriCorps from 2013-2014 working at Great Oaks Charter School in Newark, NJ as a tutor and advisor for high-risk students. Her interests in security, women's rights and defense issues originate from her family's background in the U.S. military and growing up abroad in the Middle East. She has done previous research in U.S. Foreign Policy and Congressional affairs at Project Vote Smart, as well as research in women's health and refugee issues for the Lutheran World Federation in Kakuma, Kenya. She is also the creator of the Migration and Policy Coalition at the University of Toronto and the Co-Chair of the MGA Crisis Simulation 2016. She is currently pursuing her MGA at the Munk School of Global Affairs and is expected to graduate in 2016. You can connect with her @victoria_heath7 on Twitter or send her an email at victoria.heath@mail.utoronto.ca