By: Elizabeth DiEmanuele
The Leadership Summit for Women is calling upon young leaders and students to celebrate why women make effective leaders. This year’s theme, “Because it’s 2016!” is inspired by Canada’s first gender-based cabinet and Justin Trudeau’s timely response to gender disparity in leadership and politics.
Falling in line with this desire for paving a path for women in leadership, the Student Success Centre sat down with the YWCA’s CEO, Denise Christopherson, and McMaster University Professor, Dr. Karen Bird. Denise and Karen are Hamilton leaders and intersectional community advocates spearheading “The Women & Diversity EXCLerator Project,” the first report of its kind to examine women’s representation in Hamilton and Halton’s leading organizations.
While the EXCLerator Project revealed that women were underrepresented in senior leadership positions across the board, Denise, Karen and others are using it as a foundation to inspire successful women to share their stories and young leaders to take part in social justice in a motivating, productive way.
As Karen shares, “Younger women are not always adequately aware of barriers at the early stages of their career; they aren’t always aware of the institutionalized issues they may come up against later in life.”
“Along with questions of corporate culture, young women should ask employers, ‘have they set goals for equality?’ and ‘What kind of goals?’” Denise continues.
“Asking good questions and doing your own research are both critical for informing career decisions,” says Gisela Oliveira, Manager of Careers and Employment at the Student Success Centre, “Are women represented in the leadership of the company proportionately to males? What policies do employers have to support working women? These are key to putting women on a level playing field.”
The Leadership Summit for Women presents a unique opportunity for women, trans* individuals, and allies from the greater Hamilton community to celebrate and discuss women’s leadership. Presented in partnership with McMaster University’s Student Success Centre, Mohawk College, and the YWCA, the conference is a free opportunity for students and community members to share stories, find mentors, engage in critical analysis, and motivate action.
“Celebrating women’s leadership is so important,” Denise says, “Women can’t be what they don’t see. Sharing success stories goes a long way – these stories help women see themselves in those roles and become part of a shared history of what women are doing in Hamilton and beyond.”
“To further our cause of gender equality, women from all walks of life need to come together to discuss justice for all. We don’t need to agree on all levels, but it’s important for us to meet – all voices and all experiences have something valuable to bring to the table,” Karen shares.
Denise and Karen will attend to present their work on the EXCLerator Project in a session titled, “Why We Need Women Leaders and Diversity.” In addition to this session, this year’s feature panel, “Blazing a Trail in Careers and Employment,” will discuss the importance of researching an employer’s concerted efforts to create leadership opportunities for women, particularly when women and underrepresented people are exploring professional pathways and making career choices. The conference will also host four leadership workshops, a community marketplace, and a lecture by Professor Maja Jovanovic titled, “Hey Ladies, Stop Apologizing.”
For those interested, The Leadership Summit for Women will take place on Saturday, November 12, 2016 at the David Braley Health Sciences Centre from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.