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.

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The 4th annual Leadership Summit is breaking barriers for women in leadership

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The 4th annual Leadership Summit is breaking barriers
for women in leadership

Sept. 25, 2017 – The fourth annual Niagara Leadership Summit for Women is breaking barriers and celebrating women and girls in leadership on Saturday, Oct. 28 at Brock University.

Hosted by YWCA Niagara Region in partnership with Brock University, the Leadership Summit is a day designed for women, girls and allies to inspire each other, build community connections and celebrate women’s leadership in Niagara. The theme of this year’s Summit is “breaking barriers.” The program includes workshops, discussions and a keynote address to help identify and break barriers for women and girls in leadership. Registration is open at www.niagaralsw.ca and tickets will sell quickly for only $20.

Elisabeth Zimmermann, Executive Director of the YWCA Niagara Region spoke about the importance of the Leadership Summit to 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 Elisabeth Zimmermann, Executive Director of the YWCA Niagara Region. “The Leadership Summit celebrates and empowers women and girls to recognize their roles as leaders and reach their full potential.”

The day will begin with a keynote address by Ashley Callingbull, an international motivational speaker, actress and First Nations rights activist.

“We are very excited to host Ashley Callingbull – a young woman who is breaking barriers through her leadership and activism every day,” said Julie Rorison, chair of the planning committee. “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.”

For the full line up of local leaders involved in this year’s Leadership Summit and to register visit www.niagaralsw.ca. Follow along on Twitter @NiagaraLSW and Facebook.com/NiagaraLSW for more news and updates about the conference.

About the Leadership Summit and the YWCA Niagara Region

Organized by a team of community leaders, the Leadership Summit is an initiative of YWCA Niagara Region. The YW is committed to social change through supporting women living in poverty by providing shelter, food and assistance to homeless women and their families in the Niagara region. 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.

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For media inquiries, please contact Arienne Good:
Phone: 905 988 3528 ext. 3246
E-Mail: agood@ywcaniagararegion.ca

Niagara Leadership Summit for Women highlights importance of leadership, activism and advocacy

The recent Niagara Leadership Summit for Women brought a crowd of 300 together on a Saturday afternoon to talk about women’s leadership and open the conversation surrounding women’s issues in Niagara. The theme of the day was Innovating Leadership and highlighted the fact that there are leaders all around us (including ourselves) who make a difference every day.

Through many structured talks sought to connect, engage and inspire women leaders, and many impromptu opportunities to connect with fellow attendees, the mostly female crowd discussed leadership from several perspectives. Issue-specific workshops tackled everything from Strategic Culture Shaping and work/life balance & being an intentional leader to open sharing of data in Niagara, tips for caregivers, masculinity, women in motorsports, activism and advocacy, women and leadership through an indigenous perspective and leadership through financial independence.

Here are my five takeaways from the day:

1)    Shared, open dialogue presents opportunity for understanding

By sharing our experiences and making an effort to understand one another’s views,

from keynote speaker Shirley Cheechoo’s story of her family’s life and struggles as members of the Cree Nation to the interactive and enlightening Speak Out: Become an Advocate in our Community workshop and Greg Miller’s Power Talk on Fatherhood and Feminism, we explored the importance and necessity of diverse perspectives in defining what feminism and leadership look like in the 21st century.

Cheechoo, an award winning artist, actor and filmmaker recognized for her work in the Indigenous community over 40 years, encouraged us not to fear failure, to ask for help, and to “think big, choose what you want to do, and just do it.”

As 19-year-old Allison Ives highlighted, we’re all learning alongside one another. Ives offered an honest, insightful and humourous view of her experience as a young woman leader. She encouraged us to bring our authentic selves to every situation and lend our unique talents to helping each other.

Conversely, said Cheechoo, “the least effective strategy is anger…you are creators, the rock and the birth of our nation.”

2)    Everyone has value. Treat them accordingly.

In her talk that incorporated soft skills and stories from her experiences at Sunday school, Anne Miner encouraged aspiring leaders to apply our soft skills to achieve our goals, lift each other up and bring our personal brilliance to the table. She reminded us of the power of the platinum rule in leadership: that we should treat others the way they would like to be treated.

There are many different types of people, including relaters, socializers, thinkers, and directors, and while these types can clash if not managed well, all of these perspectives are useful when heard, seen and valued for their insights.

A quick summary:

We need to approach situations with intention and share our leadership roles. Engage thinkers and reach a consensus within a timeframe. Relaters need to know what the objective is (they can also be frightened by directors, so remain cognizant of how you speak to them), while socializers are cheerleaders and will do well in roles that require them to promote and raise awareness of issues.

3)    Advocacy and activism can be loud and disruptive, quiet and calm, and everything in between

In their workshop on community advocacy and activism, presenters Laura Ip of YWCA Niagara Region and Nicole Davidson of TruBore Contracting Ltd. discussed different types of activism and advocacy, and how they translate into taking impactful action. Personal safety, empowering women and girls and rape culture were common themes.

Attendees learned that activism “does not have to be aggressive…activism can be quiet, calm and measured,” said Ip.

While the word “activism” immediately brings to mind protests, letter writing and media events for many, it can range from having kitchen table conversations with your children about sexual consent issues to large-scale activism such as the Truckers against Trafficking Campaign, which informs members of the trucking industry and other travelers of basic issues involved in human trafficking and how they can help save lives.

The upcoming 101 Men event was mentioned. Happening on November 18, it’s headed by Dr. Jackson Katz, an educator, author, filmmaker and internationally renowned gender violence activist whose TED talk, Violence against Women is a Men’s Issue, has gone viral.

4)    Follow your internal compass  

To lead with intention and drive impactful change, we have to be able to shut out external noise, tune into our own emotions and what our bodies are telling us, then act on that motivation, said Griffiths.

“We’re all good at doing. Where we need to focus on is how do we be intentional?” she asked, encouraging her audience to “listen, listen, listen. Listen to what’s inside of you.”

In doing so, we can commit to shedding victimhood, define our values, truly live them and purposefully decide to spend our time in a way that honours who we are.

“I could be the author of my own story. It is possible. Anything is possible. We don’t have to be a product of our stories – the stories we tell ourselves,” she said, adding that when we’re not living our values, our lives start to feel “out of control….(committing to work-life integration is) about taking back our power…the only way to be creative and do great work is to put yourself back in control.”

To demonstrate, we completed an exercise asking us to assess our existing work-life balance and how we could improve by using five strategies, including:

  •      Take five quiet minutes each day to breathe.
  •      Get clear on what’s important to you, whether it’s family, finances, volunteering, career or other areas.
  •      Do work you love.
  •      Use your time wisely – we all have 24 hours.
  •      Create a plan and take action.

During her workshop, Griffiths reminded us of how important it is to “take time for ourselves to refuel, re-energize and live that balanced life.”

And when we’re at work, it’s imperative to make sure we’re doing work we love. One of the most profound questions was, “What one thing, if you focused on it, would make the greatest difference in your life?”

5)    Fathers have an integral role to play in shaping their children’s views

We concluded the day with power talks Miller’s talk presented an illuminating look into life with his wife and young daughter. In an honest, candid account, he talked about his own gradual feminist awakening, the tension feminists often face, and his dream for his daughter to grow up in a world where gender would not be used to socially, politically and economically oppress women. Unfortunately, “she’ll live in a world that was created for men and by men.”

 

But he emphasized the important role he hopes to play in raising his daughter to be a confident patriarchy smasher. That job starts with the commitment to support her goals.

“It’s not my job to instill my thoughts and beliefs in her. It’s my job to support her,” he said, adding he understands the impact his actions and attitudes will have on her outlook. He pledged to “empower her to be bold…(and) consider as a person, first and always.”

His many takeaways for the audience included his commitments to his own family and advice to other fathers, such as modeling respect for women and gender equality in their relationships, while being aware of the sexism and harassment their daughters may experience. He also highlighted the importance of supporting our children’s rights to express their own opinions and challenge others on their sexist behaviour.

About the Authour: Allison Smith is a community-minded content developer and a member of Cowork Niagara’s board of directors.