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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.

 

Start Somewhere

Originally Posted: YWCA Niagara Region Blog

Niagara Leadership Summit for Women

Sana Shah (Brock University)

On Saturday October 28th, YWCA Niagara Region hosted the fourth Annual Niagara Leadership Summit for Women. Since October is Women’s History Month, it seemed to be fitting to end the month on such a positive note. It was great to see a few men present in the crowd, who supported women’s rights and ability to lead in a rather male dominated community. I hope to see more men in the future at the summit because gender inequality does not only concern women; it is a larger problem concerning the Canadian community as a whole.

Ashley Callingbull was the keynote speaker for the summit, who became the first First Nations and Canadian woman to win the Mrs. Universe title in 2015. She is devoted to supporting the community. She shared with the audience her struggling childhood, and how she as a First Nations woman has to work extra hard to make achievements. Shining light on this issue, she further explained how she experienced racism from a young age. She brought attention to cases of missing and murdered indigenous women. However, most importantly she reminded the crowd that you can do anything you want to do, and be anything you want to be, and that the only person holding you down is yourself. So let us hold on to that and try to change the gender divide one-step at a time.

Once Ashley wrapped up her address, we had an opportunity to attend a workshop from a choice four, which included; Leadership in parenting, Women in politics, Breaking barriers in mental health, and Business and entrepreneurship.

I attended the Women in politics workshop, which focused greatly on the Niagara region. It was led by Elizabeth Zimmerman, Mishka Balsom, Debbie Zimmerman, Joyce Morroco, Carol Stewart-Kirkby, and Shirley Cordiner. We discussed as a group about Niagara’s democratic deficit in women’s representation in local politics. There is a link between low female voter turnout and low female representation in politics. After the workshop we took a short break and had a choice of attending another workshop from the following options; Aboriginal community justice, Conquering barriers to success, Decolonizing language, Disability leadership, Fair trade, Race and racism, Self-care for caregivers, Success in a male dominated industry, Women in STEM, and Volunteerism

I chose to attend the workshop on Aboriginal Justice, let by Celeste Smith. She spoke about the over-representation of Aboriginal youth as incarcerated individuals, regardless of Aboriginal people making up only 4% of the Canadian population. Smith is the director of Three Fires Community Justice Program, which is a diversion program that provides healing for Aboriginal youth and adults charged with criminal offence. It focuses on the community taking responsibility of the individuals that is at fault. The program begins with the belief that everyone is worth something.

Based on the two workshops I attended, I only wish I could have attended all of them, as they were quite insightful. The summit came to a closing with a discussion panel about women in politics; with a focus on voting, and closing remarks from Elisabeth Zimmerman (Executive Director of YWCA Niagara Region).

This summit was a Call to Action, a call to show up, take action and support one another. In order to make a large impact we need to start small, we need to start somewhere. Even the women’s rights movement started with only a handful of likeminded people who eventually got women the status of being ‘people’ in Canada and the right to vote. It may not be as bad as back then, but we are still far from being on the same playing field and having the same representation. As I end this piece, I encourage, just like most of the presenters at the summit, to save the date OCTOBER 22ND 2018 to go out and vote in the municipal elections. Have your voice heard. We can do anything we want; we just need to start somewhere.

Niagara’s Leaders Rise Up – The Standard

By Damian Goulbourne, special to Postmedia News

It feels like so many people in Niagara are again rising up.

Our region has a storied past of courageous leaders who rose up to make a difference in the lives of their neighbours, friends and family.

Harriet Tubman is part of Niagara’s story and we should be immensely proud of her efforts to protect and rescue those who escaped slavery. The Underground Railroad was built by the sacrifices of many who came before her but she was the conductor. It is written that Tubman told Benjamin Drew in St. Catharines in 1855, “I grew up like a neglected weed — ignorant of liberty, having no experience of it. Then I was not happy or contented.”

Niagara was seen as a gateway to freedom and the Freedom Trail ended at the British Methodist Episcopal Church/Salem Chapel in Fort Erie. Thousands of people escaped persecution on the trail and the citizens and leaders of the day stepped forward to support their cause.

This past weekend the fourth annual Niagara Leadership Summit for Women was organized by the YWCA, and it was reported that the theme for the summit was breaking barriers. Three-hundred strong rose up to attend, exercised their liberty and explored how together they can make a difference in Niagara.

Social media over the weekend was inspirational as photos and quotes from the summit where shared, re-tweeted and reflected upon. I have learned that various issues were explored with action to be taken economically, socially and politically.

READ MORE

“My Culture Saved My Life” – The Standard

Originally Posted: Sunday, October 29, 2017 7:28:34 EDT PM The Standard

Love and live fearlessly. Those are the words that Ashley Callingbull has said to herself since she was a child.

 

Callingbull, actress, model, motivational speaker and First Nations activist, was the keynote speaker at the fourth annual Niagara Leadership Summit for Women.

As a Cree First Nations woman who was the first First Nations woman to win the title of Miss Universe, she used her crown to bring attention to the struggles and injustices facing First Nations peoples. She also has a lengthy resume of charity work, has also appeared on the Gemini-winning TV show Blackstone and participated (and came third) with her dad Joel in The Amazing Race Canada last year.

Growing up at Enoch Cree Nation in Alberta, she had many struggles early on in her life and turned to her culture as a way of healing. She spoke about her story and her struggles to get where she is now.

“In all honesty it’s very difficult growing up a First Nations girl and it’s still really difficult for me to live life as a First Nations woman today,” said Callingbull. “I feel like I have to work extra hard to become the person that I want to be because we are so stereotyped and so judged on the colour of our skin, because of our background and because of where we come from, and it’s sad because I come from this country. We are the first peoples of this country and the fact that I have to work extra hard to be standing here and doing the things that I do, it shouldn’t be that way.”

Callingbull faced racism at school beginning on her first day when she was five years old, facing rocks and dirt being flung at her as she and the other First Nations children got off the bus as other children yelled racial insults at them. She also suffered from years of abuse at the hands of her mother’s boyfriend before her mother left him. A court case that followed saw Callingbull take the stand as a child and recount all of the physical and sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of her mother’s boyfriend and his brothers.

READ MORE

Leadership summit for women all about ‘Breaking Barriers’ – NTW

Originally Posted: Oct 25, 2017 by Scott Rosts  Niagara This Week – St. Catharines

NIAGARA — When Julie Rorison reflects on the theme of this year’s Niagara Leadership Summit for Women, she thinks about a future where more women are in engaged in leadership roles across Niagara, whether that be in business, in politics or elsewhere.

“Breaking Barriers” is the theme of the fourth-annual Niagara Leadership Summit for Women, set to take place on Saturday, Oct. 28 at Brock University from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Rorison, chair of the planning committee, said the focus is empowering women and girls to realize their full potential.

“It’s important we take the opportunity to recognize we have a platform where we can encourage women to get involved in all areas of public life, whether in business, in politics, or elsewhere,” she said. “It’s about creating more gender diversity and equal representation across all platforms.”

Rorison said engaging women is a key piece of the day, and that’s why they’ve organized a special panel to end the event with. Dubbed “Getting Women Involved,” Ruth Unrau will lead the panel featuring Robin McPherson, Tami Jeanneret and Clare Cameron.

“We want to amplify the voices in the room and continue the conversation beyond,” said Rorison.

Unrau is excited to lead the discussion at the event, which attracts hundreds of participants each year. “It’s about education, participation and taking action,” said Unrau. “We want more opportunities for women in leadership.”

A particular emphasis, Unrau said, will be put on next fall’s municipal election. With a year to go, she said she wants to create dialogue on everything from women stepping forward to be candidates, to voter turnout. Studying statistics for St. Catharines, virtually every age demographic has more men going to the polls than women, she said.

“It’s about having a voice in the election. It doesn’t have to be putting your name on the ballot. It’s about having a voice, getting involved and educating yourself,” said Unrau. “If we all get engaged at some level, then I think that’s really breaking barriers and making an impact.”

Beyond politics, she said, it’s also about encouraging participants to find their spark and to get involved in some way, whether it be political, charitable, or in other forms. “Find your passion, learn more about it and find a way in,” said Unrau. “There are so many ways to get engaged.”

Other panel discussion topics include entrepreneurship, mental health, parenting and politics, while workshop topics include Aboriginal community justice, conquering barriers to success, decolonizing language, disability leadership, fair trade, race and racism, self care for caregivers and more.

Niagara This Week – Registration Open

Registration open for Niagara Leadership Summit for Women

Fourth annual event takes place Oct. 28 at Brock University

NEWS Sep 26, 2017 Niagara This Week – St. Catharines

NIAGARA — “Breaking barriers” is the theme of the fourth annual Niagara Leadership Summit for Women.

From the keynote speaker to the workshops and discussions, the Saturday, Oct. 28 event, to be held at Brock University, will shine the spotlight on breaking barriers and celebrating women and girls in leadership. Registration opened up this week for the summit.

Hosted by YWCA Niagara Region in partnership with Brock University, the Niagara Leadership Summit for Women is a day designed for women, girls, and allies to inspire each other, build community connections, and celebrate women’s leadership in Niagara. The day consists of the keynote, to be conducted by First Nations right activist, actress, and international motivational speaker Ashley Callingbull, and workshops to help identify and break barriers for women and girls in leadership.

“We are looking forward to breaking more barriers for women and girls to recognize the leaders they are at home, at school, and in the community,” said Julie Rorison, chair of the planning committee, adding keynote speaker Callingbull is “a young woman who is breaking barriers through her leadership and activism every day”.

Panel discussions will cover topics including entrepreneurs, mental health, parenting, and politics, while workshops include Aboriginal community justice, conquering barriers to success, decolonizing language, disability leadership, fair trade, race and racism, self care for caregivers, STEM (science, technology, engineering, math), success in a male-dominated industry, and volunteerism.

YWCA Niagara Region executive director Elisabeth Zimmermann says the summit plays an important part in the YWCA’s role in the community.

“Part of the YW’s mission is to support and promote women to break through their own barriers in leadership and create positive change for themselves and our communities,” said Zimmermann. “The Leadership Summit celebrates and empowers women and girls to recognize their roles as leaders and reach their full potential.”

For the full lineup of local leaders involved in this year’s Leadership Summit, and to register, visit www.niagaralsw.ca. Tickets are $20.

You can also follow along on Twitter @NiagaraLSW and Facebook.com/NiagaraLSW for more news and updates about the conference.