Tag Archives: Women’s Leadership

Youth are Leading

I’ve struggled writing this piece. In fact, I started it about five times. Each time, my intro sounded lame. Then I would try a different approach. And then that would feel disingenuous or half-cocked, or again, lame. Realizing I wasn’t going to whip this off, I decided to examine why the subject of youth leadership was difficult for me to write about. The only thing I could come up with was that I wasn’t as in tune with youth as I thought I was. It’s like I suddenly realized I was kind of, well, old-er-ish. Or if not that, I realized that I’d turned the corner from “everyone is my contemporary or older”, to “my god, the young folk have taken over…and it is a good thing indeed.”

Following Breadcrumbs of the Young

I think I first realized this when I began following Instagram profiles of young people (I feel at times that I should be using the term “youngins” to point to my ignorance, and I also feel that I should put a disclaimer in here: I’m not quite sure if “profiles” is the right term…Instagram sites? Feeds? See how I am just reinforcing my old-er-ish status here?) What I mean to say is, I followed quite a few young people before realizing that they were young people. I followed because I was interested in what they had to say, the way I follow my contemporaries, or older writers, performers, and politicians because I was and am interested in what they have to say. I was following these feminist profiles/feeds, that had lovely, thoughtful, and brilliant posts. As is the way with social media, these profiles lead me to follow others. Before I knew it, I was reading, and feeling a wee bit like a creeper, the feed of a 15-year-old who is, quite frankly, my new role model. And the thing is, she is exceptional, but seemingly not so much beyond her contemporaries. Believe me, my natural suspicion made me try to find some fault (beyond her obvious class and race privilege, but crikey, she’s even aware and acknowledges those!) She’s part of a clever cohort of young leaders who are bringing their brands of feminist leadership to the fore. I feel this way about pretty much every young woman I know and meet nowadays.

A New, New Wave

By the way, the 15-year-old that I follow is actress Rowan Blanchard. But, I didn’t know she was an actress until I Googled her name for this piece (or 15 for that matter, although I knew she was young). I’d been reading her posts for a few years before learning she was a Disney star. Seriously. A Disney kid. A few weeks ago, she posted this on her definition of feminism (it isn’t her writing, but she borrowed it): “These days, I feel as though feminism must interrogate gender itself with an awareness of its myriad social intersections. What does it mean to be a woman, and why? Who gets to decide what a woman is? If one woman is different from another woman, then what unites them as women? White, cis gender women have an institutional history as so-called feminists—but their liberation has proven tenuous, irrelevant, or violent to millions of other women. When experience can vary so radically from woman to woman, is there any point in pursuing a single definition of feminism?”

Wow.

Dullard History

When I was 15, I’m pretty sure I had what could be described as a somewhat protofeminist consciousness, to coin a term for my own semi-conscious mind and circumstances. I had an insular Catholic upbringing, in a parish community with the most infamous sexual predator priest in 20th Century southwestern Ontario. I think those circumstances and others helped me follow the breadcrumbs to full-on feminism. But it took me years of epiphanies and banging my head against the wall to learn what Rowan Blanchard knows already. Earlier this month, she posted a photo of her holding a #girlpossible campaign poster that said: “Equality is possible when…we recognize our privileges and use them to help other people.”

Okay, minor aside here, the #girlpossible campaign is a Barneys NY, department store nod to the United Nations International Day of the Girl. And yes, Barneys is a place where those dripping with privilege do their conspicuous consumption (confession: I may have purchased a Le Labo body cream at Barneys at some point in my life) but hey, the campaign is a lot more of something than nothing. And Rowan’s post was a world more self-aware than some of the other posts ( the “Anything is possible when you…map a plan to achieve your goals” post, or billionaire daughter and entrepreneur Hannah Bronfman’s contribution: “Anything is possible when…you work hard enough.” Sigh, she means well.) I think awareness is one of the most impressive things about many young feminist leaders today. Most have a firm understanding of intersectionality and an equally firm commitment to using their positions and privilege to change the world and level the playing field.

Using Power to Change

I don’t remember this being a big thing when I was young. It’s likely that I was just oblivious and unaware. There were probably more of the smaller gestures of solidarity and leadership that made it possible to live life and not be suffocated. I thought about this recently while working on a children’s book on Jazz Jennings, the young transgender activist and reality television star. Holy crikey, here is a young person who has their head on straight (and loving, decent family supports). Her main focus for coming out in public was to help other trans kids who don’t have her supports and privilege. But she and Rowan are high profile examples. I’m also impressed by the young feminists who surround me who make the quieter gestures. They too are leaders, and they are in every community. They act as Big Sisters (or Little Sisters who teach far more than they learn), they join community groups with an intent to do something for someone else, they start school fundraisers, and they read books and spread ideas about feminist activism through small everyday gestures. They wow me, educate me, and make me proud.

 

Getting to Know You

“We want women leaders today as never before. Leaders who are not afraid to be called names and who are willing to go out and fight. I think women can save civilization.”
-Emily Murphy, 1931

Today our Bloggers answer questions about women we look up to; in our families, in our community, or internationally. Bloggers were asked to answer three of the following questions:

1. What is the definition of a strong woman to you?
2. Who are your women role models, and why?
3. Do you consider yourself a feminist?
4. In your opinion, what are the qualities a woman must possess to be a good leader?
5. Favourite actress or songstress and why?
6. If you could impart words of wisdom to the next generation of young women that would encourage them to support each other – what would you say?
7. Finish this sentence. My wish for a young girl growing up in society today would be for her to _______________________.

Stephanie

YW blog photo (3)What is the definition of a strong woman to you?

I think a strong woman is a woman who knows who she is and does not change for any thing or any body. She is confident in herself and her thoughts. She is always willing to learn. She knows her worth and sees the importance of encouraging her female peers to see theirs.

What makes a woman a good leader?

I believe that all women are leaders. However, I think the best leaders are those women who are aware of their identity and are always willing to learn from their surroundings.

My wish for a young girl growing up in society today would be for her to:

Know who she is, accept change and grow, listen to the advice of strong women around you.

Ellen

What is the definition of a strong woman to you?

What a tricky question because strength can mean so many things. Most of the women I would characterize as strong have a few things in common: they do what they have to do to survive and get through life; they can make difficult decisions and challenge themselves, and they are flexible— admitting that they don’t know everything. I don’t think that strong women are unafraid. I think they use their fear as a challenge, or an inevitability (like jumping into cold water) but that they are adaptable and get on with things.

Do you consider yourself a feminist?BarbaraKruger-All-Violence-is-an-Illustration-of-a-Pathetic-Stereotype-1991

Yes, definitely. No question. I believe in equality and in resisting (and thus seeking to change) the dominant discourses that reinforce social, political, and economic inequality. I believe in challenging oppression and confronting privilege—the most difficult of course, being my own privilege. But equality isn’t a simple concept. What it means and how it is achieved is a point of argument among everyone who believes in it. It makes me sad to hear women, particularly young women, rejecting feminism or seeing it as no longer relevant. It also makes me sad to hear men rejecting (or belittling) feminism as if it isn’t something that improves everyone’s lives. I mean, wouldn’t it be simpler to say you just don’t care about equality and that you benefit from not caring? I think some people assume feminism to be monolithic and that there is only “one” feminism ( like Sauron’s “one ring to rule them all”). Some women are practicing feminism in their daily lives but yet won’t identify themselves as feminists. I see feminism as a spectrum, much like the political spectrum or a gender spectrum. I may not agree with all the tenets of one particular feminist theory, but I would never reject feminism as a whole or believe that feminism isn’t relevant.

In your opinion, what are the qualities a woman must possess to be a good leader?

I think all good leaders are good listeners and can inspire people. I don’t mean leadership inspiration through the hack use of “coach phrases” but in letting the people you are leading know that you need them as much as they need you. In my life, the best leaders have been people who actually took the time to ask questions and get to know the people they were leading. With this information, they were able to call upon people they were leading as “experts” in times of need or when they need the force of a group to get something done. They make people feel inspired, important, and valuable and not like they are tools for the leader’s (life and monetary) goals. Good leaders don’t assume they know everything—they lead from the front and from the the back. 

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What is the definition of a strong woman to you?
I guess that answer is almost indefinable for me. Is she mentally/emotionally or physically strong? Is she the only woman in a sea of men- leading them as their Executive? Is she a stay at home mom, a working mom barely getting through each month, a single mom with a great job? Is she fearless or content to quietly live her life the way she likes it? Does she love her job, or work it just to pay the bills? Is she gracious and kind, or strong minded and not afraid to say no? Is she single and loving it or married and loving it—or hating it? Does she take what life throws at her and throw it back…or take the hit and keep on going? Is she a woman, living her life in whatever capacity that means to her? Then I guess any and all things that a woman goes through in life can be the thing I would use to define her as strong.

Favorite actress or songstress and why?

I would have to say Jennifer Lawrence is currently my favorite female actress. She laughs at herself, stands up for herself, and is a good role model for younger girls.

Finish this sentence: My wish for a young girl growing up in society today would be for her to:

Be kind to others, but above all—be kind to yourself. And listen to these words below:words

Niagara Leadership Summit for Women

The first ever Niagara Women’s Leadership Summit took place on Saturday, October 18th – Person’s Day, in fact! In case you missed it, our post today is a re-cap through pictures:

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Co-Chairs of the Planning Committee and two leaders in their own right, Julie Rorison and Jill Van Osch. Last year, Julie attended the Hamilton Leadership Summit for Women, and was so inspired that she brought it to St. Catharines.

Thank you Julie, we’re so glad you did!

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Early morning registrants were treated to a relaxing start to the day with a yoga session by Rachel Crane of The Soul Workshop.

Here’s a shot of Rachel leading the way:

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Registration was a breeze thanks to our wonderful volunteers!

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Jackie Labonte of the Fort Erie Native Friendship Centre started off the Summit with a traditional opening ceremony.

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Our first key note speaker of the day, Kim Katrin Milan spoke about the value of women, and women’s leadership in particular. She left us with a powerful message:

“Share Everything you Learn”

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Nicki Inch, Kim Katrin Milan, and Julie Rorison.

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Our incredible group of volunteers – a sea of Green!

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After a quick break for coffee we re-grouped for a panel discussion led by Carol Stewart-Kirkby. Our thoughtful panelists tackled some tough questions: What is leadership? But more importantly, What is Women’s Leadership?

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Thank you to our panelists (from left to right): Betty Ann Baker, Josephina Perez, Wendy Sturgeon, Carol Stewart-Kirby (moderator), Rachel Crane, Christine Hall, Nadine Wallace

lunch.

You can’t lead without a healthy lunch!

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The afternoon was workshop time! Delegates selected two of eight diverse workshops. Here, a group discusses Building Resilience in Women Leaders, led by Sherry Campbell.

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Sarah Pennisi and Frances Hallworth spoke about Networking for Social Impact.

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Have you worked in a male dominated field? These women have!

From left to right: Elizabeth Zimmerman (moderator), Cheri Burch of the Welland Fire Department, Stephanie Thompson of General Motors Powertrain, Christine Hall of Christine’s Dirtworx and Andrea Bone of Just Junk

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Over 200 delegates anxiously await the closing key note speaker, Wendy Southall – to this day, the longest-running Niagara Chief of Police.

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No words could do this woman justice. From her eloquence to her powerful story of resilience, she is the epitome of a woman leader. Thank you!

Twitter was set ablaze by the wonderful reactions of our speakers, volunteers, and most importantly, the over 200 delegates who attended the summit. Search the #NiagaraLSW hashtag for more pictures, quotes, and reactions from the day!

We hope to see you next year!

Thank you to Breanne Burke for taking these fantastic photos!

Person’s Day 85th Anniversary: We Gotta Keep Kicking

It seems hard to believe, but when my grandmother was born, she wasn’t considered a person.

She was 32 years old before that distinction was legally acknowledged for her. Thirty-two years old. And it wasn’t just handed out, like a forgotten birthday card. It required a fight.

This year’s Person’s Day (October 18) murphy_bigmarks the 85th anniversary of the 1929 court decision that declared women “qualified persons” under the law. The Person’s Case, as the ruling came to be known, was launched by five Alberta women: Emily Murphy, Nellie McClung, Louise McKinney, Irene Parlby, and Henrietta Muir Edwards. It was an eight year battle that began after Murphy, the country’s first female magistrate and judge, ruled on a case and had her judgment questioned by a male lawyer who said that as she was not legally a person, she could not pass sentence. Wanting to clarify women’s status under the British North America Act (now the Constitution Act, 1867), and further her case for appointment to the Senate (in which only a legal person could serve) McClung and her compatriots asked the federal government to declare women as persons who could be considered for all areas of public office.

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More contemporary governments like to acknowledge the work of the Famous Five on the public manifestations of nationhood and national mythology: our stamps, money, and monuments.

When the government wouldn’t decide, the “Famous Five” as the women were later called, petitioned the Supreme Court to make a ruling. The court took the view that the drafters of the BNA Act didn’t consider women persons who could be appointed to the Senate. Not willing to accept that ruling, the Famous Five pushed the issue further and asked the prime minister to appeal the court ruling to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in Britain (the Supreme Court’s appeals court at that time). That court ruled that not only were women persons who could be appointed to the senate, but that the country’s constitution was not a rigid document but something that could change and reflect the times and culture of the country.

famous_5_smThe details of the Person’s Case are important. We shouldn’t forget that fact that personhood was a judgment made by a court and not something that the government of the day agreed upon. In that respect it was a victory not just for women’s rights, but also for the law. Emily Murphy was, it should be noted, a product of her time, and a woman of privilege. She was white, middle class, and well-educated. Still, she ultimately never got that Senate appointment. But she didn’t worry much about how her advocacy might harm her reputation or limit her prospects. As with many early feminists, she understood that just working hard and waiting for recognition was futile. Those who hold power don’t willingly give up, or even share, their power and privilege. If you want a piece of that pie, you have to fight for it, or reach out and take it. “ The world loves a peaceful man,” Murphy was reputed to have said. “But it gives way to a strenuous kicker.”

CIR_persons2That was true for Murphy and it is also true for feminists today at a time when equality has not yet been achieved. I’m not just making this up. The stats and facts bear this out. Canadian women still earn an average of 70 percent of what their male counterparts earn, And that’s a StatsCan figure. Canada ranks 20th in the World Economic Forum’s measure of gender equality — apparently below South Africa and Latvia. We were ranked #35 for wage equality and #41 for women in parliament. The Forum notes that human talent is the most important determinant for a country’s competitiveness and that reducing gender inequality enhances a country’s productivity and growth. You know what that means? It means that as a society we need to recognize that policies and programs that support women and children benefit us all. This includes good, affordable day care, poverty reduction programs, and a broader conception of what equality means. We can’t combat inequality from a gender-neutral standpoint. Women aren’t a special interest group. We make up more than 50 percent of the country’s population. Equality—be it economic, political, or social, it a right and not a gift. The Famous Five understood this. They did not let the government or the Supreme Court’s no-can-do attitude prevent them from asserting women’s rights to equality. They pushed for a clear definition of personhood within the constitution. They were strenuous kickers.

So yay for Person’s Day! Let’s celebrate it as a day of historical importance, but use it as another reminder to keep kicking. The struggle continues.

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