To mark International Women’s Day, Canada’s first female prime minister, Kim Campbell, speaks on her experiences as a woman in the world of politics:

I grew up with the idea that both men and women can serve their country. Both my parents served in World War II; my mother was in the Canadian signal corps that tracked German submarines. I wanted to become the first female Secretary-General of the United Nations.

In high school I was elected the first female president of the student council, which made me realize that I could be involved in politics in other ways. Local government is a great way of cutting your teeth: you know your constituents and your decisions have an immediate impact. People yell at you, but you don’t need thick skin; you just need perspective.

After several years of local politics in B.C. I became Canada’s first female minister of justice and minister of defense. Maybe I have ADD, but the great thing about politics is that you have your head in many things. It’s almost like a university.

When I was running for the leadership of my party (the Progressive Conservative Party), it was high-stakes poker. Political reporters are some of the most conservative people I’ve met. I had two things against me: I wasn’t from a big city, and I was a woman. They treated me like, “We didn’t make you. Where did you come from?”

I’m the former chair of the Council of Women World Leaders, a group consisting of female current and former presidents and prime ministers. We created CWWL to keep female leaders visible. I was once on a panel with Bill Clinton. I said to everyone in the room: “I’ll give you $100 if you can name the 34 women who are or have been prime ministers or presidents.” Clinton tried, but even he could only name 17.

Female leaders are still seen as an anomaly. But we’re often excellent leaders, so I tell young women to go for it. Even though many things have changed, women still face challenges. But there are also many ways in which women are admired. When I was prime minister, old men would often come up to me and say: “You’ll be our Maggie Thatcher.”

There are sacrifices and compromises in politics, but they are in any job, whether you’re a man or a woman. And having a profession to return to helps.