March 8th, 2018 marked International Women’s Day, and this year’s theme is #PressForProgress.
This theme was chosen to highlight the need continually fuel movements such as #MeToo #TimesUp, and to be persistent in pushing for gender parity.
Women in Sault Ste. Marie from all walks of life were eager to show their passion for gender equality and female empowerment, share their stories, advocate and support victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse, and celebrate the progress made by inspiring local women in business and community development.
From the Women in Business Breakfast event put on by the Chamber of Commerce (COC), to the Women in Crisis (WIC) Luncheon at the Bushplane Museum, to the Lady Boss Mixer at Gore St. Cafe, there was no shortage of events to attend.
I was buzzing around from event to event from 7am to 9pm, meeting all kinds of amazing women and networking with a plethora of unique people all united under the same cause – progress.
The panel discussion that took place during breakfast, moderated by Sault College’s Public Relations and Event Management Postgraduate Program Coordinator, Natasha Colak, covered all kinds of different challenges that women in business face.
These leaders in our community talked about challenging the status quo, standing together as women, and what inspires them.
They covered achieving dreams and aspirations while finding a work-life balance, and the local resources available for support and leadership development.
Particularly memorable was Katherine MacRae’s explanation of how she became an inspiring advocate gender equality.
She said, “It never occurred to me as a young woman that doors would be slammed in my face for being a woman, which the National Defence Department did to me in the 80’s. So, I took it to the Supreme Court. As a result of that case, there are positions for women in National Defence that there never was before.”
Upon heading to the Bushplane event, I was lucky enough to get to know MacRae a little better. She invited me to take a seat at her table, where I got the chance to network and interact with women who were – like me – passionate about advocating for gender parity.
The speaker, Dr. Patricia Zehr, talked about the need for equal pay and how we have to continue the fight to bring women into more predominantly male fields and positions.
She told the crowd, “when I graduated high school, medicine wasn’t even on the table.”
She became a nurse and learned a lot, coming to the realization that she too could be a doctor.
But this did not come easy for women. She was a victim of sexual harassment in her surgical rotation by someone who was supposed to be a mentor.
This shaped the kind of doctor; an advocate for patients, and woman, that she became, encouraging women to speak up against those who have wronged them – even if they are in a position of authority.
My day ended at Gore St. Cafe, with a unique and intriguing group of women who came together to simply chat.
Katie Blunt, organizer of the Lady Bosses Mixer, said, “I wanted to do this event because being a leader is defined by who you are on the inside, success doesn’t always look like 30+ years of experience. so I asked some women who have inspired me personally to come and share their stories.”
In an intimate setting, I got to know the women around the room and how some of them have overcome adversity in different ways, shapes, and forms throughout their lives.
Some have struggled with self-doubt being in a male-dominated field of work while others struggled being a single mom in the Sault.
Some faced trauma and difficulties in their lives that have shaped them to be strong, fierce women, mothers, and friends.
The one thing all of these women had in common was a passion to better the community around them, and show the kind of power and resiliency that women and girls do have.
As an attendee at all three functions, and an advocate for women’s rights and the fight against violence against women and sexual assault, I felt empowered by the fact that one thing all the events had in common was that there were very few vacant chairs available.
Between the three different celebrations, about 400 women total took part, from so many different backgrounds and walks of life.
As a woman in business, I feel empowered and excited to see what the future holds for us if we can continue to walk together and #PressForProgress.