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:


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.



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 



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


For the full line up of speakers and workshops visit  We also invite you to connect with us on 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

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