Discussion at the 2015 Women's Symposium
Women's Initiative

Women's Initiative

Edmonton Women Celebrate Leadership and Community

Women's Sympoisum 2015
An amazing turnout of over 300 people for the 2015 Women’s Symposium.

October 3, 2015 was an important day for Women’s Initiative Edmonton. More than 300 people came together for the third Women’s Symposium, exploring the themes of leadership and community. WAVE and the Women’s Initiative put on the event to connect with many women’s voices in our community, and we were thrilled to welcome women and men from diverse communities to talk about the impact of women’s issues equality in their work and their lives.

The morning began with opening remarks from Women’s Initiative sponsor, Councillor Bev Esslinger. Councillor Esslinger shared her raw, moving story about the path she took as a leader – as a mom, as a professional, and as a citizen – which lead to her current role as a member of City Council. Her speech was inspirational and powerful, and we felt very honored to hear such a very personal story.

Mayor Don Iveson is also a huge supporter of the Women’s Initiative, and he spoke on the importance of women leaders and women’s voices in decision making. He acknowledged some of the brilliant women in his life – like Linda Cochrane, acting City Manager and taxi driver whisperer. He spoke of her strong leadership abilities and strategic mind. He mentioned Julianna Charchun, the Mayor’s chief of staff, calling her “one of the best political strategist around.” And finally, and the Mayor brought up Sarah Chan, his wife, First Citizen, piano instructor, and active community volunteer. He stressed how being surrounded by strong, smart women has contributed to his success.

When WAVE and the Women’s Initiative were planning the symposium, we had a desire to create meaningful opportunities for women to provide input, as well as to network, connect and access the knowledge and experience of the attendees of the symposium. To achieve that, we asked for feedback regarding four key policy areas the Women’s Initiative and City of Edmonton are working on. It’s not often you have several hundred women in a room to provide guidance on the work we are doing! We heard feedback on Childcare/ Early Learning, Transit Safety, the Gender-based Violence Reduction Strategy, and the End Poverty Edmonton Strategy and Recommendations. We are in the process compiling this information to share back with what we heard reports. It’s exciting to know that this feedback will help inform future work in those areas.

One of the most significant ways we’re currently reaching out to women is through our social media platforms (@equalityyeg on Twitter, and Women’s Initiative Edmonton on Facebook). During the lunch hour, our social media mavens, Marliss Weber and Randy Brososky, walked us through how to be great social advocates in the online sphere. We want to encourage everyone to join our conversations – by being present and modeling good behaviour online, you can actually create change in others. Our communities are lively and growing – if you haven’t followed us yet, be sure to check us out!

In the afternoon we held four breakout sessions. In Politics 101, we heard from Chris Henderson and Karen Sevcik, and they shared what it takes to run for office and gave us the inside scoop on what happens during a campaign. We heard from Amber Dion, Philomina Okeke-Ihejirika, and Cristina Stasia on the intersectional gender lens which included personal stories of the speakers’ experiences of gender within their cultures. This session also had a powerful challenge for women to work together to address multiple impacts of oppression including racism and colonialism. In the Leadership and Community panel discussion, Rachelle Venne, Mary-Jane McLaughlin, Navneet Khinda, and Sonia Bitar told their personal stories and shared insights on becoming leaders and working within a variety of communities and taking on opportunities as they presented themselves. Women were encouraged to become involved wherever they can. The Leadership and Career Advancement Session was well attended as many attendees are looking for more opportunities professionally. Judy-Lynn Archer, Jerri Cairns, and Darcie Roach shared advice on how to advance, write a strong resume, and the impact of imposter syndrome on women.

Following the afternoon sessions we went back to the ballroom and heard from Sandra Woitas and her humorous thoughts on leadership. Some key messages included: everyone is and can be a leader, chose to be helpful and to make a difference in small or bigger ways within your neighbourhood, community and Edmonton.

The symposium was great success and exceeded our expectations. A huge thanks to all the speakers and many volunteers for making it happen. Ultimately, this tweet encapsulates how we felt about what turned out to be an amazing day. We came away inspired, refreshed and excited about the work we have to do.

We had a great day with everyone and are excited to continue to work with Edmontonians to make this city a great place for women and girls.

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1 thought on “Edmonton Women Celebrate Leadership and Community”

  1. Thanks for this summary of the highlights of a very empowering and engaging day! I like having not only the summary, but photos and the voices of those who tweeted about the event too.

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