Tag Archives: leadership

The Perfect Gift

We are bombarded by advertisements, displays, salespeople, and online ads of ‘the perfect gift.’

It’s all a bit much, isn’t it?

Or do you love the hustle and bustle of the season? Worrying what to get and how you’re going to find the time to even get it?

Do you love the sleepless nights filled with dreams of recipes that fail, presents that are returned, and family that doesn’t make it home for the holiday?

Do we lose something, in this commercialized version of Christmas, or do we gain what we wait for all year, to be with our families, months of planning, all over in hours of endless preparations and a few minute meal.

Is this, what Christmas was meant to be? Is this, what Christmas felt like when you were a child? Is it filled with excitement and wonder and magic and awe of the beauty that surrounds you in the lights and the giant trees, and the bigger than life presents that Santa brought for you? Is this, what Christmas still feels like to you, today?

Or can we agree, maybe, that as we’ve grown older, our families bigger, and our hearts maybe a tiny bit smaller, (I mean, how often do you really see the neighbors anyway, they don’t need a gift from you)…can we agree that maybe, as the old saying goes, “Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

Perhaps, the Grinch was on to something.

I’ve always been in awe of the true meaning of Christmas. Whatever your belief may be, Christmas is filled with hope and majestic wonder. Just look into the eyes of a child, or a loved one. I dare you not to smile.

Joy. Laughter. Love. Excitement. Extravagance. Tradition. Closeness. Giving.

Just a few of the words that describe Christmas for me.

But if I’m honest, I’ve lost some of the magic, too.

It’s easy to do. I think that in our fast paced, need it now, have to get the best of the best, world, we forget that the true meaning of Christmas is love. That the true spirit of Christmas is in giving, but not just giving because we have to for the many reasons that we’ve been lead to believe, but giving because it comes from our heart. Giving that means something to us, from deep within us, because it gives us joy.

Stressing over what to get everyone and spending more money than we have does not bring us joy, let’s be real here.

Joy is in the little moments of putting up the tree with our family, baking with the kids, getting that gift off the top of our niece’s or nephew’s Christmas list because we can afford it, and we know how happy they will be playing with that toy, with us. It is in the moments of, regardless of a Christmas tree with presents under it, or food on the table, we are surrounded by people who love us, exactly as we are.

Christmas is a time of togetherness.

This looks different for everyone. This could look like family and friends or neighbors and community. It could look like many presents and a table full of food or no presents and an empty belly. Or any combination of these.

There is one ingredient that can’t be taken away, despite our outside circumstances, and that ingredient is love.

We all have it, and we can all give it. We all want it and we can certainly all use it.

It might take a little humility and vulnerability, I know. It might take biting your tongue, and loving them anyway, despite what they’ve done. It might take a phone call that you’ve not made in a long time or a visit you’ve been dreading all year.

But if we can try to remember, even if just for a moment, that the perfect gift is love. That the reason for the season is hope. For a better tomorrow, for a better me, and a better you. For a better world, one that remembers love.

If we can try to all be gracious givers this holiday season. To only give what we have, with love and joy. To be peaceful and patient, with kindness that comes from a heart filled with love.

Love doesn’t look like what we bring, it looks like showing up for someone. Our families, friends, and perfect strangers.

The things just simply don’t matter when you are surrounded by people you love, or at least like, somewhat. Try to like them a little more this year.

May the true joy of Christmas surround you this holiday season ❤️

There is something that has challenged me these past couple of years. I like to give, to family and friends, but sometimes I look around and I see that my family and friends are quite blessed. So, I look for ways to give outside of the usual presents, sometimes at the expense of gifts for friends and family, and sometimes extra, depending on my own financial circumstance.

I’ve challenged myself, and I’d like to challenge you, as well.

There are many organizations in our region. The YWCA is of course one of them. These organizations need items on an ongoing basis. I know this can look like a lot of work and maybe even complicated, I know it did for me at first. Even overwhelming. But over time I’ve learned a thing or two.

Poverty has many faces in our region. Causes are no longer just national organizations that we click a button on the webpage and donate our annual allotment of donation money, though this is of course a great way to give back. When we look around our cities, we see the faces of people that have come upon hard times. I know that you see them.

But if you’re like me, you might like to know that you’re truly making a difference, and may have no idea who to give to.

Can I challenge you to make it meaningful? To you, and maybe even your family?

We can give to an organization or organizations that mean something to us, whether past or present.

For example, though I’ve never used the services of the YWCA, it has meaning to me because there are many times that I have been in a place where I’ve thought of an emergency shelter as an option. To give back one year, I learned that they have a list of needs on their website and I donated formula and diapers. I had no idea this was an item that was needed. I didn’t think about it simply because I don’t have children.

I was challenged once to put one thing that I didn’t need in a box each day for 30 days. I can’t even tell you how much joy it gave me to bring a box of items that I loved, but really didn’t need, to a local thrift shop. Thrift shops give back in big and meaningful ways to the community, and the world. They even gave me a gift in return, a punch card with a discount for the next time I shopped there. I craft, thrift stores are gold mines for items to craft with.

When I was in high school, our grade 9 French class decided to give a family Christmas. This meant buying all the gifts and food for the family’s Christmas. There are a few organizations that do this. I will never forget this experience.

There are many people in need of winter items, hats, scarves, mittens, that you can buy at the dollar store, or donate from home, as well as gently used coats and boots. This is a great way to teach kids to give.

I have been blessed to be a part of a motel ministry that provides food, clothing, and support to those living in the many residential motels in our region. I had no idea that many of our motels are no longer for tourists. The people who live there need everything. Stop by, take a look.

Books can be donated to many organizations, if you happen to like to read, and wanted to pick up a few extra for someone else.

And of course, there are the beautiful red kettles, of an organization that works tirelessly to combat many things, but hunger certainly being an important one of them.

The more I learn about what the organizations in our region do on a daily basis, the more inspired I am to give, based on what has direct meaning to me, or what might be an immediate need in our region right now, such as shelter and a warm meal during the cold months.

If you can’t give money, give time, and vice versa. Be creative. There is something that you have that someone else needs, whether it is time, talent, or treasure.

There are people in need all around us.

Have a wonderfully blessed holiday season.

Celebrate Men

International Men's Day (IMD) was on November 19th this year. "Objectives of International Men's Day include a focus on men's and boy's health, improving gender relations, promoting gender equality, and highlighting positive male role models. It is an occasion for men to celebrate their achievements and contributions, in particular their contributions to community, family, marriage, and child care while highlighting the discrimination against them." IMD recognizes the importance of men's mental health, addressing the suicide rate of men, and speaking to the crucial discussion of men's homelessness and poverty. The YW operates a 15-bed Men's Emergency Shelter for men and their children. We think it is important to celebrate them and their successes as well.

By: April

What if the very things that we dislike about men, are the very things that make them men?

Men fix things, or try to, even when we don’t ask.

Men step up and are good at things like being a dad when we ask, though often we don’t have to.

Men are logical sometimes before they are emotional, which makes them good at solving immediate problems, turning off their emotion for a time and having emotion later. Whether this is good or bad, right or wrong, they do it and they are good at it.

Sometimes they suffer for it. Sometimes they lose their life over it. Sometimes they become heroes because of it.

This month we look at Movember, which brings awareness to health issues specific to men. We look at International Men’s Day, the theme being Celebrate Men.

I have thought a lot about what to write. I even asked Facebook.

I had different ideas, thoughts about many things, but one thing stuck.

Men are beautiful.

Men are beautiful, and this is the absolute last thing they want to hear.

They are a kind of beauty that we forget about.

They are strong, but when they are weak and vulnerable, it brings tears to our eyes.

They are told their whole lives. Be strong. Toughen up. Get it done. Well.

As women, we expect men to be strong, because who doesn’t want a man with muscle that can make us feel protected, but then we want men to be loving and caring, at the very same time that we call their emotions, weakness.

If there was one thing that we could do this month, I think it would be this.

To the beautiful men of this world, you don’t have to be strong. Be weak, we understand.

Tell us your logical reasons and your illogical emotions, maybe we have some insight.

You don’t have to be afraid of how you feel, or what the outcome of your emotions might be, we love emotions.

We are sorry that we forget that you are human, not superhuman. But you’re still allowed to be our Superman, sometimes.

We love you, just as you are, beautiful and strong, all at once.

You are just as necessary to everything in this world; love, family..and we are sorry that we make you feel that everything you’ve been taught from the beginning, that you must provide for your family, is the very thing we shame you for the minute you come home.

In honor of men this month and every month, may we look to you for your knowledge, wisdom, strength; and may we recognize that love and care looks different to men than women.

May we seek to understand the things that the men in our lives do for us each day instead of wondering why they don’t do it the way we want them to.

May we recognize their heart, that their kindness often looks like doing things for us, when all we want is a hug. Or someone to listen.

May we honor their effort, may we acknowledge that maybe sometimes they need us to do things for them to.

May we recognize their emotions not as weakness but as beautiful strength.

May we be gentle in telling them what we need from them, knowing what we know now.

May we thank them for everything that they are, today, tomorrow, and always.

May we recognize that it takes both men and women, exactly as they are, growing each day, to make the world better.

 

Women in the Canadian Armed Forces

By: Valerie Chalmers

Throughout Canadian history women have actively participated in war from the home front to the front lines. The percentage of women in the Canadian Armed Forces (Regular Force and Primary Reserve combined), the Royal Canadian Air Force, and the Canadian Army range between 12.4% and 18.4%. Women enrollment in the CAF sits below 20% for a variety of reasons. The CAF have implemented a variety of initiatives for employment equity and earlier this year the Canadian Armed Forces launched a program to give women the opportunity to learn about military life before they decide to join.

“War has impacted Canadian women’s lives in different ways, depending on their geographical location, and their racial and economic status. Pre-20th-century conflicts had great impact on women in Canada — Aboriginal women in particular — whose communities could be dispossessed and devastated by colonial militaries. Women were interned in Canada during wartime — that is, detained and confined — because their background could be traced to enemy states.” – The Canadian Encyclopedia

Canadian women have had a consistent presence throughout the various wars our country has been involved in. During both the First and Second World Wars women organized home defence, trained in rifle shooting and military drill. In 1941, 50,000 women enlisted in the air force, army and navy. Throughout different divisions they were trained for clerical, administrative and support roles as well as cooks, nurses and seamstresses. Women’s involvement expanded when they began to work as parachute riggers, laboratory assistants, drivers and within the electrical and mechanical trades. Women also worked to maintain our home economy by volunteering inside and outside of the country, producing and conserving food, raising funds for hospitals, ambulances, hostels and aircrafts. Women have made considerable contributions to Canada’s military efforts, despite this it wasn’t until 1989 where all military positions were opened to women.

Continue reading

Start Somewhere

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.

As we go on

I thought I would hop on the graduation theme this month, as I am surrounded by graduates right now because I work at Niagara College. As I am writing this, convocation is taking place right now down the hall (congratulations, graduates!).


I myself remember graduating university and then college, mostly because they both were on my birthday so it was extra special! I also remember being extremely sweaty because graduations never seem to have air conditioning. Add to that wearing a heavy gown and having a thousand people squished into a room, it gets pretty sticky. I also remember being so full of hope for my future when I first graduated university: thinking, “Man! I am so excited to get an awesome job in the real world and make money and move out and show everyone that I have a university degree!” Then I remember shortly after the actual graduation writing up my resume and literally having nothing to put on it besides that I completed a university degree. Now, that was clearly my fault for not getting involved enough, being proactive and doing more, but honestly I had no real world experience to throw in there. Luckily I didn’t worry too much because I had decided to go college for my post-grad, another year of not having to worry about adulating! A year later, when I graduated college, I knew that I still had a long road ahead of me to find a job in my chosen industry. I didn’t have any high expectations of getting my dream job, making a lot of money, or even having weekends off. I knew that I was going to graduate again and still work at my retail job for minimum wage. I knew that in my free time I would search for jobs like a mad woman, constantly update and work on my cover letter and resume, and be extremely poor while living with my parents (no shame, people!).

DON’T WORRY THOUGH, it all worked out. Six months later I did get a job in the field I went to school for and made decent money and eventually moved out. I was a real independent lady, but still extremely poor (thanks student loans!). I totally didn’t expect my life to turn out the way it did. Things change a lot after your graduate. I think most of the people I know went through a similar experience; and we are always willing to tell the younger generation that they are screwed when it comes to life after graduation. So I decided to ask a few friends of mine these questions:
“What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were graduating college/university?”
“What’s the most important piece of advice you would give to a new grad”

Here are some answers:
“I wish I knew about all of the services that were offered to me while I was in school and as an alumni, and almost all of them were FREE to me as a student. I really needed help get you career ready – having someone edit my resume, cover letter and help me with interview prep! I wish I knew about the Graduate Alumni Peer mentoring program to get me connected with someone working in my field of study. I would tell new grads to stay in touch with their college/university and connect with your peers. It’s very interesting to see where everyone ends up and how you can leverage your relationships. Network network network – it’s important to always be expanding your professional network. And, always carry business cards on you!”

“Don’t give up! Not everyone gets their dream job right out of school but keep trying. Continue to gain experience however you can whether it be through volunteering or working part-time in the field you want to be in. Sometimes you have to start at the bottom and work your butt off to get to the top but it’ll all be worth it in the end. Good luck!”

“Life doesn’t happen quickly, you can’t immediately get whatever you want just because you graduated. While you are in school you are always trying to pass the course to move on to the next one, or to finish the year so you can graduate, and it’s always go go go. Take your time in the workforce to try to learn as much as you possibly can because education never stops.”

“Man… that a university degree isn’t the golden ticket to getting your dream job. It’s a huge financial and personal commitment, so make sure you look at all your options and the consequences for your choice. Take the time to really look into your program/degree: What you can do with it? What opportunities are there in this field for me after I graduate? What post-graduate programs are available to me for career growth and success?”
“Life is way tougher than I thought! I would have went back to school instead of starting a job right away after my first graduation. Now I’m used to the money and a certain way of life, and it seems impossible for me to go back to being a full-time student. Everything is very competitive, and for every job there are hundreds of applicants; so the more you have that makes you stand out, the better. Another thing I wish I knew was to stand up for myself! In the work place and in life. Don’t get in the habit of thinking it’s a one time thing, because it usually never is. People get used to treating you a certain way, and everyone deserves to be treated with respect.”
“If you can’t find employment in your field volunteer wherever you can to gain more experience and make connections. You are still figuring out your life, live it, don’t let the pressure of what you think you “should” be at this point in your life stress you out. You are going to stress about plenty in your life don’t add to it, know your goal and keep going but also remember it is ok to change your goal as go.”

“Learn how to make a budget. Visit a financial advisor, and be smart with your money. Once you graduate, pay off as much of your students loans as you can. Paying that off should be your first priority.”

I hope that some of you are graduating or coming close to graduating, and are reading this right now. It’s easy to be naïve, young and get caught up in the moment when you are in post-secondary. The decisions you make during this time have consequences, and I think it’s easy to say that most of the answers I have collected have a common theme: life isn’t easy. Dream jobs don’t fall in your lap. You have to work hard, go above and beyond and keep fighting to have the things you want. Don’t wait until it’s too late to get your post-grad life in order, you need to start planning. Take the advice of those who have been through it; do as much as you can to make yourself stand on in this ever so competitive job market. Volunteer, get involved and make a difference. Be smart with your money, and your time. Research and ask questions.

I promise we aren’t all cynical and poor graduates. Best of luck to you all!

Volunteer Spotlight: Katie

We met Katie Ritchie for the first time when we were planning our first Coldest Night of the Year fundraiser. That year, it was mostly speaking to her on the phone and having a chance to get to know her a bit when she and her children participated in the walk.

Katie and Laura at CNOY 2017

This year, when Phelps Homes made a three-year commitment to be our Presenting Sponsor (a first for Coldest Night of the Year community), Katie enthusiastically joined our Organizing Committee. With her help, we were able to arrange a couple more community launch events and garner more community support throughout West Niagara.

For the second year in a row, Katie also captained the Phelps Homes team, which raised nearly $5,000 toward our $60,000 goal.

Katie and the Phelps Team

 Volunteers like Katie make our work so much easier. Thank you, Katie, for all you’ve done to help grow Coldest Night of the Year – West Niagara toward continued success.

Spotlight: Teresa

This week for Volunteer Appreciation Month, the YWCA would like to spotlight Teresa Butson. Teresa has joined the YWCA in October of 2016 after have moving to St. Catharines following her retirement. While looking for more opportunities to help the community, Teresa explained that the YWCA seemed to jump up at her.  Why did she choose the YWCA you ask? 

“I wanted to find a place to volunteer somewhere that allowed me to help others but also helped me grow as a person and as part of the community. It is important to me that I feel like I am contributing every day, even just a little. Because I am able to accomplish all of these things at the YWCA, it is truly gratifying.”

When asked what her favourite volunteer experience has been with the YWCA, Teresa revealed that she could not pick just one experience. “The YWCA provides a very warm, welcoming, and family-like environment,” Teresa explains, “it’s nice to see the friendliness between staff, volunteers, you can tell everyone that is here, wants to be. For this reason I can’t pick just one experience to call my favourite, every day here is a good day.”

Volunteerism promotes lots of excellent values. The most valuable takeaway Teresa has learned through volunteering has been that; “You must be willing to give and take in order for your experience to be mutually rewarding.” Teresa wishes to continue to learn about the YWCA, how it supports the community and what more she can do in order to support them.

Although Teresa has said she does not feel as though she needs anything special or formal in regards to feeling appreciated, she delights in watching the process of women and families becoming independent and “learning to stand on their own two feet”. When speaking of new potential volunteers, Teresa believes it is important to have an open mind in terms of learning about others, how they live, and their stories. She also mentions that it is okay to ask questions as we should not assume that we will always have the answer. Lastly, we asked Teresa how she feels women should be empowering one another. With a warm smile, said

“I believe that it is all of our responsibility to share knowledge with each other.Even more so at my age, in having experience in different areas of my life, I believe I have a duty to share my stories and help support those who need it. By doing this, I, along with others can help to build a happy and healthy community.”

Thanks Teresa for all you do, every week! ~ YW Staff

My Identity Defines My Feminism

Slavica

When we hear about feminism in the media, it seems to be this homogenous idea for all women, that represents all women but what pop culture understands as feminism is only a small portion of the vast varieties of FEMINISMS. Yes feminisms, plural not singular. The movement in its inception was only represented by white, upper middle class, heterosexual, cisgender women. Black women, lesbian women, immigrants, indigenous, poor, disabled, trans, none of these women were talked about or represented and as the second wave approached feminism started to redefine itself by these women who felt they needed a voice of their own.

By the time the third wave had hit, we had defined feminism through the
concept of intersectionality. Intersectionality looks at how a person’s various identities can affect their experiences. For example, how would ones class and race affect their experiences of the world? If for example you were poor and white, your skin colour would give you privilege. Simple truth is, you wouldn’t have to worry about being followed around in a store in fear that you might steal something because rationally we know stealing is about an individual’s choice. But we make it a race problem because we associate certain qualities like criminality to different groups of people. In this way we disempower certain people based on the categories of identity they inhabit.

To me, history plays a key role in understanding feminism because if the structures of the past were really gone than it would be history but they’re not. To say something is in the past like slavery is to deny the structure of oppression has just transformed to something more subtle like when racist ideologies within a society link criminality to race. That’s why the argument that feminism is not needed anymore because women have achieved rights means nothing. Patriarchy has just transformed the way it oppresses women, regardless of the rights we won.

This understanding of the importance of history in feminism came from me trying to learn about my own historical and cultural identity. Personally, I never felt I fit into the stereotypical Serbian identity but I couldn’t throw away my heritage. I enjoyed having a unique culture but I was also assimilated within the Canadian context. Never fully Serbian or Canadian where ever I went. However, recently I have accepted that I am both a Canadian citizen and a Serbian Immigrant and I don’t have to choose either identity. Both pieces makeup the whole that is my existence.

Unfortunately, with the rise of nationalism and colonial ideologies of the “white nation”, time has shown that nothing is ever truly in the past, it just changes form. As Trumps America is resembling Hitler’s Nazi Germany in the 21st century context of globalization and capitalism, more and more. We need feminism more and more. We need people to understand that tearing others apart and oppressing them because of their differences won’t make a country great. Instead, it will tear itself apart.

IWD Q & A

I am very lucky to have so many strong, amazing and empowering female friends. We have had many discussions about how we don’t really feel affected by gender inequality because we grew up feeling equal to men and we have always been very independent. I have one amazing friend, Kelsey, who ended up becoming a tool and die maker, and is one of the only women not in an administrative role at the company she works for. She’s been featured in newspapers and magazines about her success in the field, and is a role model for other women to start a career in the trades. Our friend group always jokes about her success and badassness (that’s a word), and her ability to do, well, anything. She had graduated 2 different programs with honours and awards by the time most of us had graduated university. When we were talking about International Women’s Day/Month at the last Blogger’s Meeting, I immediately knew I wanted to interview her about her journey in the tool and dye field.
Amazingly, she had been asked to instantly fly down to South Carolina to do some work at another factory. She was working non-stop down there and still found the time to answer these questions for me, so thank you!

D: So what the heck do you do for a living?

K: I am a red seal certified tool and die maker, I work for a company that builds the dies for many different companies such as Ford, GM, BMW, Mercedes etc. I work as a lead hand delegating jobs, fixing issues with the dies, making sure we meet the customers’ timelines, and provide a die that will make a dimensionally and cosmetically correct car part. My company often builds dies that produce more complicated parts and the ones consumers actually see, such as the body side, tailgate, and doors. Tool and die is a hard trade to describe to people, but there’s my attempt explaining it in one sentence.

Abandoned Conveyor Belt by darkday

 

D: Well you did a pretty good job at explaining it, in my opinion. Did you always want to be a tool and die maker, or what did you want to be when you grew up, as a child?

K: I remember as a child saying I wanted to be a veterinarian, often a popular choice with kids who like cats and dogs but I never obsessed over a certain career.

D: So what did you do after high school?

K: In high school I used the co-op placement to work at a bakery, and that experience helped me decide to go to George Brown College for Baking and Pastries Arts. I remember in grade 11, really having no idea what I wanted to do but knowing university wasn’t right for me, so I picked baking as a career path.

D: [Sidenote: Kelsey then became the friend we would force to make cakes for us when we had a party or holiday coming up.] So what made you want to change careers?

K: I found the culinary trade relies heavily on your passion for the work, and often the desire to open your own business. I enjoyed baking but you work long days, often really early mornings, and you have to work holidays. I never really got a chance to enjoy my time off, or get time off to begin with. I knew I would never open my own bakery and I felt the job would never allow me to be financially independent. All the job postings I was seeing for bakers were often lower paying with no benefits. I knew that wasn’t what I wanted.

D: Okay, so you decided you wanted to do something different. What made you think of a tool and die worker?

K: I decided I didn’t want a career as a pastry chef, but I also didn’t know what I should do instead. My father works in the trades as an insulator and said he thought I would make a good millwright. That made me start looking into millwrights and possible schooling options. I discovered the Centre for Skilled Trades and Development in Burlington. They offered a Millwright/Tool and Die Pre-Apprenticeship Program affiliated with a company that would hire you depending on how the training goes. The program was also only 6 months, which was great because I wouldn’t have to take a long break from working full time. Based on the schooling, I decided I would become a tool and die maker (not a millwright) and was hired as an apprentice. I continued my training for 3 more years by going to Sheridan College one day a week while continuing to work. It was great because I wasn’t racking up any student debt (my tuition was only $400 a year) and received government grants from companies supporting the skilled trades.

D: What was your very first day on the job like?

K: The first day was extremely over whelming! No amount of classroom training can prepare you for, what looks like, such a chaotic environment. A production plant is fast paced with many moving elements. I could feel that eyes were on me. To make things worse, I didn’t have a proper work uniform yet so I felt really self-conscious walking around in my jeans since they are more form fitting than regular uniform pants.

D: Were you scared at all to work in a mostly male-dominated industry?

K: I feel like scared is the wrong term. I think I was just as nervous as anyone would be starting a new job, regardless of gender. I had no idea if and how I would be accepted. I honestly believe the men I worked with were just as nervous and worried that they might say something wrong or inappropriate to me. For the first couple months, I don’t think I had a genuine conversation or joked around with any of my coworkers. The conversation was often super formal or just filler talk about the job. It definitely became easier to bond with my coworkers when I got a new job at a different company that had more employees closer to my age.

It sometimes feels like high school, except I somehow ended up in the boys’ locker room.

D: What are you most proud of during your time in the tool and die industry?

K: My current role as a lead hand has come with a lot of responsibility, stress, and a strong feeling of pride. I am one of very few female tool and die makers and it’s even rarer for one to take on a supervisor type position. It is the most stressful and challenging job I have ever had, and that just proves to me what a smart decision I made with this career path.

D: What are some funny or crazy stories that you can share with us?

K: I have been in a fair share of strange, awkward, and funny situations at work; most times it becomes a good story to tell my friends and sometimes it’s something that really pisses me off. I can share that the men’s washroom is covered with graffiti and inappropriate writing on the walls. When a co-worker told me about that I was so confused because they were all working adults, I just didn’t get it. There was also a time when a mystery person was drawing penises all over the factory, and it got so bad that management had to get involved and start checking security cameras. It was so embarrassingly unprofessional and they never figured out who it was.

I remember at the first place I worked, there was this one line worker that wouldn’t stop asking me out. The first time he asked me, I politely said “no sorry, I have a boyfriend.” But he would still always ask to take me out to dinner! I would walk a different way around the shop to avoid him because it was always such an uncomfortable conversation. Eventually he quit or was fired, so I didn’t have to worry about that anymore. Now, if anyone asks me out I just immediately shut it down. I have worked at my current company for so long everyone knows me and that I’m married and it’s not a situation I face anymore.

Boys Locker Room by Mari Gildea

Other than that type of thing, every now and then at the lunch table someone will be looking at their phone and they start laughing and pass the phone around to the other guys at the table. Then they stop and realize I am also at the table and they don’t know if they should pass the phone to me or not. I guess they don’t want to take the chance of potentially offending me. It sometimes feels like high school, except I somehow ended up in the boys’ locker room.

More recently, I found myself working down in the States fixing issues an assembly plant had with the dies we built them. The plant manager would go and talk to one of the guys who was down there working with me and asked him for timelines and the progress of the job. My co-worker paused and proceeded to point at me and say “I don’t know, go ask my boss.” Honestly, I find nothing really phases me any more. I really enjoy my job and the work environment. The job is awesome; not just the work and the financial benefits, but all the entertaining stories I get to tell my friends.

D: Tell me about one of your biggest accomplishments, or something you are most proud of.

K: I have had a lot of success in my career, (considering I have only been working in this industry for 6 years) and I am already a lead hand at my company. But, I am the proudest of the fact that I am able to inspire other woman to work in the trades, and breakdown the preconceived beliefs about women working in this industry. Volunteering with Skills Ontario and talking to high school girls about the many career options out there brings me great pride. I have had a couple different women tell me that my career story gave them motivation to pursue a future in the trades.

D: What does your husband think about your profession?

When we were first dating and I told him I was quitting the bakery to go back to school for a tool and die maker, he was confused. Mostly because he had no idea what a tool and die maker was, and secondly because he didn’t want me to stop making delicious cookies. Now that he gets what I do every day, he is really impressed and proud of what I have been able to accomplish. However, sometimes he can get frustrated with the amount of hours I work. There are times when I will work 10-12 hour days, 7 days a week and get home and immediately pass out on the couch. We have talked about balancing work and life, and how there will be times when I have to work those long days, or randomly go to the States for three weeks for a job. He knows how important my job is to me, and he’s the person I confide in when I had a bad day, when nothing goes right, and when I’m questioning my abilities. My career has also been beneficial to him: he doesn’t have to be the sole breadwinner in our household, and was able to take a lower paying position with better options for advancement because I could support us.

D: Thank you, Kelsey! You can add this blog post to your wall of newspaper and magazine articles about how amazing you are!

K: [Eye roll and laughs]

IWD Reflection

I had the privilege and pleasure of attending multiple International Women’s Day Events throughout the region. I wish I could have attended them all. I can’t even describe the empowerment I felt while being surrounded by incredible, strong, brave, bold, and passionate women.

One of the events I was able to go to was the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce’s Women In Niagara Council’s International Women’s Day event on March 3rd. Club Roma was filled with brilliant minds. Everywhere I looked, there was an outstanding woman that I wanted to know.

The keynote speaker was Teresa Cascioli. I was thrilled to be able to hear her speak. I was torn between typing out all of the impactful things she was saying so I could tweet them, or just soaking up the moment and letting her words really resonate with me. I did a mixture and I’m still not sure which one would have been the best option.

Teresa said, “Prior to selling my business no one listened.” It was as though Teresa’s voice didn’t matter because she had yet to have a great accomplishment. She then asked the important questions and you could hear the room nod in agreement: “Why do women have to say it more often? Why do we have to say it louder? Why do we have to prove ourselves?”

One of the most important and reoccurring messages throughout the event was you have to be impatient for results.

The WIN council also presented Rosemary Hale with the International Women’s Day Award. I was so excited to hear her speech, I couldn’t even consider recording any notes. I watched as Rosemary accepted the award with grace and honour. She inspired us all with talk about her past being the first female dean at Brock University. She is now retired and loving it as she has time to be a strong advocate for arts, volunteer at Hospice Niagara, and continuing to write. When she brought into focus her mentor Nora who said, “Life is drama. Every minute of our lives is drama…a slice of drama.” The idea that drama can be a good thing and not just with an arts background. Taking to the Be Bold For Change theme, Rosemary emphasized just how important it is to start demanding results, and start demanding change. To really do something about what you are passionate about in order to make a difference. “It’s about loving your bold, showing your bold.”

Broadband’s 25th Anniversary Performance of Women in Music Benefit Concert for the YWCA Niagara Region happened this past Sunday. The event is to celebrate International Women’s day focusing on Women in Music.
It was amazing! Listening to the inspirational songs including one about Nellie McClung. If you’re interested in catching a little taste of what the music was like, check it out 
here. The positive and empowering vibes from the band and the attendees was refreshing. Hearing reflections of the past made me want to do more research and spend time thinking about women in our history who really have made a difference for us.

Thursday was actually International Women’s Day. I attended the Be Bold For Change event which happened at Gwen’s Teas. Although I showed up late and missed networking with some other attendees, I really enjoyed the event. It was nice to see people have an outlet to write down how they would be bold for change and why they identify as feminists. Everyone brought their own thoughts, opinions, and reasons for being there. The discussion around politics was insightful. It just clarified all the more how important it is to involve women in politics. These discussions are exactly why we need more events, more meetings, more conversation around what women really can do.

All of these events opened my eyes to so many things. They made me really think. “It’s about showing your bold,” ran through my mind for days. That’s when I realize, being bold isn’t just about what is outlined on the International Women’s Day website (although those are great pledges), it’s about finding what works for you. I did make the pledge to celebrate women’s achievements because I think successes need to be acknowledged. I still stand by that pledge. Earlier this year, I also made a promise to have my voice heard in a blog post for the Practical Feminist after the Women’s March in January. But now, after all of these events, I pledge to find my bold and use it to help women.

 

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