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.”


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