Lessons I Learned From My Toddler

Lessons I Learned From My Toddler

As I was sitting next to my toddler’s bed the other night, waiting for her to decide that she is done playing with my hair and ready to go to sleep, I realized that for someone who is not even two yet, there are a lot of things she has to teach. I am not talking about the obvious ones that children at any age will teach you:

It’s not diamonds, it’s coffee that is a girl’s best friend.

Sleep is overrated.

Your house will never be clean again. Deal with it.

The lessons I am talking about are the kinds of lessons you only start thinking about when you’re trapped in a dark room with nothing to do but wait for your child to go to sleep. I’m talking about the deep stuff.

1. Celebrate Your Successes

“I peed in the potty!!!” Both my husband and I rush up the stairs, opening the champagne bottle on our way, confetti in hand, and there she is, beaming as if the Wiggles had entered the building. “I peed in the potty,” she continues to yell and proudly points to the tiny puddle in her Froggy Potty. We are now jumping up and down in excitement, we yell down to our only semi-interested teenager to share the good news, we exchange high fives and praises. “SHE PEED IN THE POTTY!!!! Good job, sweetie, that’s amazing! Oh my gosh, you are going to help us empty the potty and flush, too? What a good helper!” My daughter will probably still need months until she’s actually housebroken. Until then, we will celebrate each and every day, about three times a day.

Because of this, on occasion, when I came out of the washroom, she waits outside the door for me (creepy, right!) and exclaims to everyone else in the house: “Mommy peed in the potty!!” “Yes I did, baby-girl! High five!”

So my question is: when and why do we stop doing that? What happens from here to there? Even with our teenagers the best I can manage most of the time is something along the lines of: “Oh, so you do know where the dishwasher is, good news!”

This year’s Niagara Leadership Summit for Women was all about owning our strengths. My toddler reminds me every day that we probably started out that way; that most or at least some of us started out with someone cheering us on. We, too, used to stand tall, proud of every accomplishment, no matter how small. If we all stayed a little bit more in that mindset of both, owning our own strengths and celebrating those of the people around us, I am convinced this world would be a better place.

2. No Means No

“Do you want some milk, sweetie?” “No.” It’s 7:30pm, this is what is next in her night routine. At around this time, every day, she has her milk. She loves it. “Mom has some warm milk for you, would you like some?” “No, Mama.” She is just saying ‘no’ because that’s the first thing they learn when they move from the infant to the toddler room, the word NO becomes a tool, a weapon, the ultimate crisis communication plan. Surely, she’s just saying it to be funny. “Here is your milk, sweetheart,” I say, coming at her with her favourite evening beverage. Armageddon is what follows. And I don’t mean the Bruce Willis kind. She flings herself onto the ground, within seconds there is a screaming and kicking mess where there was a peaceful child only moments ago. “NOOOOOO! NO MILK!!!!!” It is dawning on me that she may not have been joking after all. That kid does not want milk.

When I go over those lovely moments in my head at the end of the day, I find myself asking again: When, and more importantly, WHY do we stop doing that? Why don’t I start kicking and screaming when the boss adds something to my already overflowing plate? When do we start making up excuses instead of yelling: “NO! I DON’T WANT TO GO OUT FOR DINNER TONIGHT, I WANT TO EAT ICE CREAM AND BINGE WATCH GREY’S ANATOMY.” What do we as parents, teachers, role models, faith communities, as society do to our children that might make this very same girl think one day that she can’t say no when her soccer coach corners her in the change room?

no means no

Take it from my toddler, no means no. It is not always easy, especially for us as women, but practice it. Get better at it, one NO at a time. No, I cannot attend this meeting today. No, I cannot contribute to the bake sale. No, I don’t want to watch Sharknado tonight. No, not tomorrow either. And please! Don’t make excuses, don’t feel like you have to offer an explanation. The story didn’t go: And then the toddler said “no, mommy, I am still very full from dinner, I would rather skip the milk tonight.” She said NO. Period.

3. Feel The Feels

When our toddler is angry, she gives it her all. When she did not want that milk, she did not try to be polite about it. She didn’t force it down to then complain to her older sister later about the time I forced her to drink the milk. She just unleashed the anger. In the same way, there is no holding her back in her excitement over jumping around in a puddle. When she is sad, she lets herself sob and cry until she can’t catch her breath anymore. When she is happy, she giggles and snorts and laughs without thinking twice about it. She doesn’t need mindfulness training, this is just how she came out. This is a human before a lifetime of being shushed and distracted and shaped into what we have decided is right and proper and appropriate. One of my favourite chapters of  the book Tuesdays With Morrie is the one where he speaks about emotions.

“Turn on the faucet. Wash yourself with the emotion. It won’t hurt you. It will only help. If you let the fear inside, if you pull it on like a familiar shirt, then you can say to yourself, “All right, it’s just fear, I don’t have to let it control me. I see it for what it is”.”

Be scared, be happy, be nervous, be sad… be what you please but be it all the way.

emotions

Franziska Emslie is the YW’s Community and Public Relations Coordinator

Women find strength in numbers

Niagara Leadership Summit for Women another sold-out event

NEWS Oct 28, 2018 by Julie Jocsak  The St. Catharines Standard

The message was one of support, inclusivity and confidence at this year’s Niagara Leadership Summit for Women.

The event, now in its fifth year, was hosted by the YWCA and held at Brock University on Saturday,

The theme was Make Your Move. Together.

Speakers and workshops dealt with issues of self-confidence, how to get involved and raising your voice. For example, Paralympian Jessica Lewis gave a workshop on how to not be limited by your limitations.
“It’s really to inspire women of different backgrounds, whether it’s business, whether you’re a parent, whether you’re a student, whatever you do, to feel a part of the community in a meaningful way and to feel valued and that you’re skills and whatever it is that you bring to the table is important in making change — and we all can be leaders in our everyday lives,” said summit founder and organizer Julie Rorison.

Kim Karin Milan, a Toronto-based writer, was keynote speaker.

“I really wanted to talk to women and girls about the ways we can support each other and help amplify women’s leadership and wanting to make leadership models that are not just about one particular kind of woman or girl but also for women and girls of different levels, racial background. Something that is really authentic and diverse,” said Milan.

She also talked about creating spaces for those leaders to find themselves and grow.

Social media is big contributor to women’s and girls’ challenges in our culture today, Milan said. Often, they feel enormous pressure to create a beautiful, successful life on social media. Facing pressure to look and act a certain way, own the right things and rack up ‘likes,’ all the while facing judgment from others.

When a space is created where women and girls can get out from behind the screen and face each other, talk and learn about each other, those pretences often fall away, she added.

“Once you get them together in spaces like this where there is no other distraction they are able to really recognize that they do care about each other — we are not all being judged based on what we look like we are also being judged for our character,” said Milan.

“Girls need to feel valuable for who they are and that they are intelligent, important and they don’t have to pick either beautiful or smart, or tough or intelligent. You be can all of those things at the same time.”

Milan said it is important to reach out in smaller towns, where there may not be as much support and opportunities for young girls and women to meet and network.

The summit has sold out every year. This demonstrates to Rorison the need and want for it.

“What we hear from people is that they feel re-energized. There’s been a lot of negative media, a lot of tough stuff happening and when we can come together and release that and focus on what we can do to work together it really re-energizes people,” she said.

“We keep getting this amazing feedback and selling out, we gotta keep going, we have work to do.”

Julie.Jocsak@niagaradailies.com

905-225-1631 | @JJ_Standard

https://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/news-story/8992662-women-find-strength-in-numbers/

 

The Next Chapter Of Leadership In Niagara

It was about this time five years ago, I was feeling stale, stuck and uninspired. The onset of fall, cool weather and shorter days can get the best of us. I was a recent graduate and young professional, seeking inspiration and a meaningful way to get involved and make a change in my community. I was feeling like Niagara has so much potential, so much opportunity I and wanted to find a way to make change. So I got this idea to start a feminist leadership conference. It would be a great way to inspire people, to get together and figure out what we needed to do to help make Niagara a better place for women and girls – for everyone.  We would get together and burn our bras, cast some spells and voila! Problems solved! Mission accomplished. Equality – check!

Well, it didn’t quite work out that simply and it turns out that bonfires are not allowed on campus at Brock. However, on the eve of the 5th annual (!!!) Leadership Summit, I am very proud of what we’ve done so far as a movement to make change in our community. For starters, as we’re in elections again, we have seen a 50% increase in women’s representation over the last election in 2014. About 26% of local candidates this time were women – which is fantastic progress (but no, still not 50/50 representation). I know that the support and skills provided through the Leadership Summit are factors in that progress, by creating a community of support, skills development and networks for women to step forward and claim their space at the council tables.

We have seen new working groups and relationships amongst women in skilled trades and industry through networking, sharing and breaking new ground by working together.

We have marched in solidarity with women around the world when power brokers failed to meet our expectations and compromised our rights.

I am also very proud that we have created space for truth and reconciliation by working together with Indigenous communities and traditional leaders. I have heard from many friends that the Leadership Summit was the first time they ever learned anything about Indigenous culture, traditions or the historical traumas that have been whitewashed from our textbooks. Friends and family members whose eyes have been opened to other ways of seeing each other and understanding.

I have met some of the most inspirational people and young folks who are leading today – not waiting for tomorrow – to do amazing things that I never would have known about, were it not for this gathering space. I have learned so much from so many of you through art, music, and healing.

As we reach this milestone and this election, I’m really proud of how far we have come together. It is time for us to Make Our Move – Together – and chart our journey for the next chapter of leadership in Niagara.

There has been a lot of stuff happening in Niagara and all around us. The #MeToo movement has been exasperating and the 24/7 media coverage of the drama from south of the border transports us back to darker times. Sometimes just doing life is not easy. And that’s another reason why this day is so important to me. The Leadership Summit is a chance to feel reinvigorated and re-inspire each other by shining a light on the positive things that are happening around us and the amazing leaders we have to look up to.  It has become one of my favourite days of the year and best of all, I get to share it with hundreds of you.

NOTICE: No bras or humans were harmed in the making of this movement. Just stigmas, stereotypes and limiting beliefs 🙂

Julie Rorison, who first brought NLSW to Niagara and who is the Chair of the Planning Committee

 

A Feminist Business: Does it exist?

Are the principles of Feminism and Business mutually exclusive, or can they be woven into the fabric of a small business? Let’s dig into this important question:

To begin, we have to define Feminism. A dictionary would tell us something to the effect of: social + political + economic + legal equality for women and men. But we all know it’s so much more than that. We can’t refer only to sex while skipping the inclusion of race, sexuality, gender, location in the world, nature, culture, ETC. It’s layered and multiple and different depending on who’s speaking, and it’s HEAVY, as in you can’t just throw it around, put it on a cheerful t-shirt and call it a day. It’s always in flux.

For Cardea AuSet, a small, young, woman-owned business, we adopted a few principal strategies to ensure that we’re living our feminist values both personally and professionally. So how can a regular person try to incorporate feminist principles into their business? Here are two pillars that we use to guide our work:

INVEST IN YOUR COMMUNITY

This is a great place to start, and should reflect your capacity and giving ability. From the early stages of visioning our business, we’d talked so much about what organizations, groups, and causes we would want to support. Events and causes that celebrate women’s leadership, emphasize mental and spiritual wellness, provide family planning and reproductive choice, and raise funds for survivors of sexual violence are all worthy causes that create positive community impact. While start-ups and small businesses like ours don’t always have the financial capacity to give dollars, there are so many ways that giving can happen. Donations in-kind, advocacy, volunteering, or sharing a message on social media are all helpful and actionable steps that small businesses can take toward supporting an organization or cause, and giving back to the community that sustains them.

 

BE MINDFUL OF YOUR ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT

We’ve all witnessed the floating piles of garbage and trash that wash up on the beaches of countries around the world, and we’ve seen the impact of single-use plastics. As a business that produces a physical product, this challenges us to be extremely mindful of the format and style of our packaging. Our packaging is both reusable and recyclable: glass bottles + recyclable paper boxes. While this makes our shipments heavier and more fragile, it’s a very small price to pay for reduced plastic consumption in a world where everyone – and often the most vulnerable – bears the cost of environmental crisis. If you own a business that creates physical products, consider doing an annual assessment of your plastic use and waste management practices. What are you using for product and shipping packaging? Are you recycling? Are you properly disposing of hazardous goods? Is your office ordering takeout everyday and trashing the containers? We can all take small steps toward environmental sustainability.

A feminist business doesn’t just come about by using certain language (although that can be important, too!) or posting an inspirational quote on Instagram; you need be specific in your tactics and application. If you’re unsure of where to start, consider the two pillars we use, and adapt them in a way that makes sense to you and your business. We’ve found that by simply asking some key questions around community and environmental impact, we were able to lay a feminist foundation within our small business. We hope you can do the same 🙂

Jennifer Bonato, NLSW Committee Member and Co-Founder of CardeaAuset 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

Niagara Leadership Summit for Women

Make your move. Together.

 

NIAGARA REGION, ON, October 17, 2018 –   There is no better time than the present for movement, for ownership, and for leadership.  This year, as we come together for our fifth annual Niagara Leadership Summit for Women on Saturday, October 27 we focus on moving forward.  We invite you to join us and Make your Move. Together.  Hosted in partnership with YWCA Niagara Region and Brock University, the Leadership Summit is a full day conference designed to inspire, motivate, build community connections and recognize women’s leadership in Niagara.

 

“We see women’s leadership every single day at the YW,” said Elisabeth Zimmermann, Executive Director of the YWCA Niagara Region. “We see strength, we see resilience, we see perseverance. This is an event that invites everyone in Niagara to come together and make a point of celebrating the many ways that women lead to make this community better.”

 

This year’s summit focuses on providing tools, resources and connections that will empower us to support one another and take steps forward towards our goals. Returning as key note speaker from the inaugural year, internationally acclaimed educator, writer & artist Kim Katrin Milan will kick off our day. Following that, local growth coach Ruth Unrau, will lead an interactive session focused on gaining confidence by leading with our strengths and #Owningit.

 

In the afternoon, a series of workshops that cover a variety of critical topics will provide us with an initial foundation in the areas we seek personal improvement in. You are invited to choose the workshop that best supports your current area of focus. Discussion topics include Self Discovery and Starting Fresh, Raising Awesome Humans, Effective Communication and Losing our Limiting Beliefs. Guest speakers come from all corners of the Niagara region and bring a diverse range of experiences and insights to share with participants.

 

“This is the fifth Niagara Leadership Summit for Women, and it has been incredible to watch this event grow over the years,” said Julie Rorison, chair of the planning committee. “We live in a time that is the time for action, for making a move. It’s a time of going beyond a tweet and a hashtag and creating real change. This event is about celebrating potential and celebrating each other. The goal is to walk away as change agents, to be a voice for women and equality in Niagara.”

 

An incredible lunch is included with your ticket and is often a time during the day where the greatest connections are made as women from throughout the region get to connect and network with one another. To increase accessibility for women with children, child minding is also offered on the day of the summit so be sure to register today. Tickets are now on sale for $25 per person and this event has historically sold out so be sure to get your ticket at www.niagaralsw.ca.

 

For the full line up of speakers and workshops visit www.niagaralsw.ca.  We also invite you to connect with us on Facebook.com/NiagaraLSW using #NiagaraLSW and on Twitter as @NiagaraLSW .   Stay connected on social media for more news and information about the conference.

 

Hosted by the YWCA Niagara Region. The YW provides shelter, food and assistance to homeless women and their families. We are committed to social change and work to create a community that supports women who are living in poverty and assists them through each step towards stability and independent living.  On any given night 150 women, children and families can be found sleeping under the roof of one of the housing programs offered by the YW.

 

For media inquiries, please contact Franziska Emslie at femslie@ywcaniagararegion.ca

If you are looking to interview a presenter, Ruth Unrau, who will put on the #OwningIt workshop is available.

What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?

When I worked at Women’s Executive Network (WXN), I managed Canada’s Most Powerful Women Top 100 program. The first thing we did was send a questionnaire to the nominees, who were executives, athletes, media personalities, professionals, politicians and entrepreneurs, asking them to answer several questions.

This question always brought out the most interesting answers from these very accomplished women. It’s engraved on the paperweight I have on my desk right in front of me, as a reminder:

What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?

It’s amazing how much you can learn about a person by reading their answer to this question. It requires you to put aside your fears. Put aside your inhibitions. Your self-doubt. It beckons you to spread your mental wings. To think beyond today, to colour outside the lines. To truly explore your essential wants and needs. Think about what would truly fulfill you.

This question invites your vulnerability and acknowledges the leap of faith you would have to make to achieve this. We know there’s no such guarantee in life. But I believe the point of this question is to ask you to examine whether you are fulfilled, what it would take to truly fulfill you and to expose the vulnerability in everything we attempt as humans. There are no guarantees. But without courage, there is no growth.

Truly thinking through the answer to this question can be life-changing. Perhaps it’s time to explore the gap between your reality and what you truly would like to do/be…

If you have the courage, share your answer to this question in the comments below. It will open you up to so many possibilities.

Cindy Goldrick, Senior Associate, Armstrong Strategy Group

A Long and Winding Road to a Fulfilling Career

My path to a successful and fulfilling career was strewn with sharp turns, long and short stops, steep climbs and smooth tracks interrupted by potholes, and total guesses as to which turn to take.  But along the way, the accumulated skills and knowledge I’ve gained have helped inform every decision I make and I’m a better person because of what I learned from every triumph and failure. I suspect this is true for everyone who strives every day to make a difference in their life, and the lives of others.

People I’ve mentored along the way, especially women, have asked me the secret to getting ahead, to building a solid career path. I have no secret sauce, no sure-fire solution. However, I can share a few of my guiding principles that have served me well over the last 35 years.

  1. Wishing won’t make it happen. Hard work lays the groundwork for success – have the right skills, do the right things, meet the right people and put yourself in the right place at the right time. I wanted to work in book publishing as an editor. I had an MA, I wrote and was published. But it was a closed world to a newcomer. I got a job in a bookstore that I parlayed into a position as manager and buyer and got to know industry insiders. But it took enrolling myself in a two-week intensive course, led by those same insiders, to get noticed and ultimately hired in the industry. Perseverance paid off. This has been the case in virtually every step of my career.
  2. If it’s meant to be, it will be. If it doesn’t happen, the place you land next is where you are meant to be on your journey. I’ve applied for jobs that I believed I was the most qualified candidate for that went to someone else, often a man, and later realized that the organization was toxic, or in trouble, and I was better off out of there. Another take on this is “The right thing happens at the right time for the right reason.”
  3. Let your reputation speak for itself. I do believe actions speak louder than words and leave the best impression. Be prepared, be on top of your game and add value no matter what you are doing. People truly do take note, and people talk. Volunteer work is one of the best ways to build and bolster your reputation with new groups – leading to exciting new opportunities. However, never be shy about letting people know what you know and what you can do – then show them!
  4. Never burn a bridge. Maintain a great relationship with everyone you’ve worked with or for, and make sure you check in with them periodically. Be available after you leave a job to help out when asked, and don’t forget to offer your help to whoever is taking over from you. Leave a job gracefully, even if you’ve been pushed out, ensuring you leave copious notes for your replacement to follow.
  5. Manage “down” more than you manage “up.” If you have direct reports, or report to someone, or both, make sure you treat the people who work for you, or alongside you, well – they are the ones who support you in your work, make you look good, and pick up the slack during difficult times. Plus, you never know where that person might go within the company or in the industry and they might be someone who can do you a favour, make a recommendation or even hire or fire you one day. This tip complements the previous one.
  6. Everything is a learning experience. Good or bad, remain open and take the lessons learned and apply that to your future actions. Add to your arsenal of skills, take classes, actively listen to others. Life-long learning is essential to your growth as a person and as a team member in any environment.
  7. Don’t be afraid to bring your unique creativity to what you do. I like to think out of the box, dream to find solutions and run on instinct a lot (especially when hiring.) Don’t put the creative brain aside because you think a job requires only analytic thinking.

I’ve been lucky enough to work in some exciting fields and meet some of my idols (writers, directors, actors) and to work with amazing women who shared their knowledge and expertise with me and became my idols. I am grateful for the path that has brought me from small town to Toronto and now to St. Catharines, and I am excited to use my accumulated experience and knowledge to apply creative solutions on behalf of clients in my work as a consultant. Every day is an adventure, every day I learn something new.

Cindy Goldrick, Senior Associate, Armstrong Strategy Group

My Experience as a Woman

Today, we are sharing a post with you that was written by an incredible woman and YW supporter who would rather not share her name.
It’s a post about being a woman, it’s about growing, it’s about believing that you can.

Sometimes women’s greatest strengths are also their greatest weaknesses.

My story is personal; my experience is not universal. I acknowledge my privilege. White. Able-bodied. Cis-gendered. Well-spoken. But perhaps it will still resonate with others.

I was raised to do it all. Not intentionally – but as an oldest child, product of strong mother and abusive father. Divorced parents. Amazing support in childhood from mother, family, and especially female role models. There was no doubt in my mind that the future was female. That women could do anything. It seemed that the head of every household in my family was female. If it wasn’t – if there was a power imbalance not in our favour – it was righted and, once more, women came out on top.

It was never an externally applied expectation, but one ingrained on my heart from so early on.

“You can do anything you put your mind to.”

I have given it all in every arena of my life that has involved others. The term loyal to a fault fell on my shoulders, the phrase only discovered later. What fault is loving another? Providing? Offering friendship, advice, and all-consuming loyalty?

It is a tragic-flaw not to provide those things for yourself first.

“You can’t pour from an empty cup.”

One constant in my life has been the renewable resource of friendship and companionship of like-minded individuals. These have always been strong, brilliant women. Never ones to be intimidated by each other, but the ones that consistently strived to build that community. They built community that was intent on support, communion, love, building bridges, acknowledging strength and, of course, continual encouragement. There were shoulders to cry on, arms to be wrapped in, and the greatest of minds to mingle with.

“Surround yourself with the people that make you want to be the best version of yourself.”

The world is not always like that. Women are not always like that. The greatest lessons I’ve ever learned were from people who taught me what not to do, who not to be. Older women. Misogynistic women. Threatened and tired women. But while those trials felt soul-sucking and brutally difficult, the sharing, communion and strength of my community would always build me up again.

Sometimes it can feel like your only purpose in this world is to serve others. Especially as a woman. Even when you are taught strength, you are taught to give of yourself. And continue to give of yourself. Even when you refill your cup, is it just so you can continue to pour it into another’s?

“Find yourself before you find another.”

I have found life extremely difficult to navigate. Maybe I’m overthinking. I think we do a lot of that now that we don’t grow our own food, nor milk our own cows (mind the dairy allergies), nor build our own homes nor hunt nor gather.

I have felt a failure in my relationships. I swing between complete and utter independence and being utterly needy and withdrawn. I have pushed away when I meant to pull. I have so much anger that is hard not to turn inward. I have moved from providing for my family as a child, to providing in my relationships like my partner was a child. A result of my personal history and experience as a woman.

“Learn from your mistakes.”

I wanted to write a blog post. I wanted to heal myself. I love reading, writing, words. I love meaning. I love this moment in time when I am alive and focused and purposeful.

The great thing about purpose – that most people don’t tell you – is that you get to choose your own. There may be a divine spirit, a plan, mysterious forces at work. But you get to answer that question yourself. You choose your purpose; your purpose doesn’t choose you. You can look for signs. But in the end, it is one thing you decide for yourself and whether or not you will live it.

For the longest time, and still sometimes, it felt like my purpose was to help others. I’ll be in the driver’s seat until they’re ready to take over. Then I’ll move to the passenger seat. Pretty soon, I’m kicked out of the car. Hope you enjoyed the ride! You’re welcome! No thank yous in return. I felt empty. Hollow. Lack of personal purpose of my own.

It’s not the reality. We, as women, must ensure we name our purpose and put ourselves first.  I have so much brilliance and talent, and I love sharing it with others. I used to love the spotlight. Now I love being on a team with a shared cause even more. Women are amazing. Learning is exhilarating. I want to continue to learn and grow and love. Maybe that is my purpose? I still have not named it.

“You have to travel outside of this moment to find a problem.”

People always have a choice. We can be lousy. We can harm the environment. We can get caught up with selfies and self-absorption and the kind of shallow self-love that still seeks external validation. Or we can be purposeful. We can see that all our actions have a reaction that impacts our mental, physical, creative and spiritual health, and the ripple effect of those actions touches living things across the globe.

Don’t bear the weight of the world on your shoulders. You’re not responsible for anyone but yourself. Treating  yourself right, breaking old patterns – or just recognizing them – will bring you a new perspective, and perhaps purpose, that isn’t going to seek you out without your hard work. Be brave. Be bold. Be proud to be a woman. Find a community that helps you navigate the difficulties of this life, for there are so many.

Each year, I met so many amazing women at the Niagara Leadership Summit. I have also met so many amazing women walking the halls of the YWCA shelters. Women with varied stories, challenges, backgrounds. We were all different. And we were all the same.

“Claim. Illustrate. Analyze.”

I always struggled with the “so what” in my essays. This post is no different. I wanted to share a little of my story. I wanted to encourage others to name their purpose. Most of all, I want you to see the strength it takes to be a person in today’s world and encourage you to celebrate that with those women you love. Maybe you know them. Maybe you haven’t met them yet. There is a community waiting for you with open arms.

 

 

Hey Allies

Hey allies, Thanks for your support!

We’re pleased that the conversation about getting more women involved in local government has continued on past the Leadership Summit at the end of October. With two elections coming up next year, it’s a great opportunity to make change and see more women involved and elected. We’re even more pleased that new voices have joined the conversation and brought this to the attention of elected officials at council tables in Niagara.

As women, we know very well that the under-representation of women in local government is a problem and we are doing something about it. Thankfully, there are many women-led groups in Niagara, both formal and informally-organized, who have been working on this priority for some time now. Collectively, we appreciate your support and we invite you to work together with us to make it better. Male allies are an important part of the movement but male voices are not and should not be the primary ingredient.

As elected officials, citizens and advocates, here are some ways you can support and amplify the work we’re doing to get more women involved in politics and community leadership:

  • Be a mentor. If you’ve run for office, or held a position of leadership, share your learning and your experiences with someone new. As our friend Kim Milan would say, “Share everything you learn.”
  • Make connections and help to build networks by introducing women to people who might be interested in mentoring or chatting with them.
  • Connect with and share the latest news from women’s groups and organizations who are on the ground and doing this kind of important work, groups like Women In Niagara (WIN), the Niagara Women in Politics Group that presented at the Leadership Summit, or individuals you know.
  • Pass the mic! If you’ve got a public platform, share that with someone. Pass the mic or use your seat to give someone new the opportunity to participate in community conversations.
  • Look around and start asking questions.  When you’re at a meeting, a presentation, or on a board, look around and ask, where is the diversity? Do the attendees and participants represent my community? Are there women at the table? Does this group represent my community? And ask these questions out loud.
  • Avoid “manels” – all-male panels of “experts”. As recent media articles pointed out, there are plenty of qualified, dynamic and talented women in Niagara who would make a fantastic addition to panel discussions. If you’re organizing or participating in a forum, summit or conference in our community, demand balance and strive for parity within the speaker lineup, even if it means giving up your own seat to make way for a woman who brings a new face and a new voice to add to the conversation.
  • Get loud. Call out sexism when you see or experience it.
  • Recognize women in leadership of all varieties. Recognize leaders who may not be at the front of the line or on the podium, yet are doing great work in their communities.
  • Seek out and encourage diverse voices in community conversations.
  • Listen! You don’t have all of the answers, and don’t have to. Welcome input from all sides of an issue, and be open to hearing new voices.
  • When it comes to issues of gender equity, women are experts with lived experiences to learn from.
  • Show compassion through belief and acceptance for individuals who wish to share their lived experiences.
  • Be a good ally and compassionate leader by listening, showing your support, and being open to always learning.

We look forward to working together with all of the individuals, groups and allies to make real progress and get more women involved and elected in 2018, and future years.