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