A major summit on the status of women and what can be done to ensure greater gender equality is underway in Montreal.

The Sommet des Femmes comes just a few days after Lise Thériault, the Quebec minister responsible for the status of women, said she believes in equal rights for men and women — but rejected the label of being a feminist.

"If this minister became a minister, it's because of all the struggles that women have felt so far," Yolande Geadah, an award-winning author and researcher.

Thériault's comment was surprising to many, including summit organizer and former student leader Martine Desjardins.

"It's a shame to see that some women today are still afraid of that label and the word 'feminist,'" Desjardins told Radio-Canada.

'There is still a long way to go'

The sense that things still need improvement is part of the reason for the summit, which includes workshops and speeches on everything from racism to entrepreneurship. 

Allison Christians is a McGill University associate professor in law who is presenting at the beginning of the conference Wednesday night.

She said there needs to be more women in the political arena. 

"Women are underrepresented in a lot of different areas, and one of them is the decisions that we make about what we're going to do as a society," Christians said.

Geadeh says she dreams that one day women will have a greater place in society.

"There is still a long way to go."