Pictured, from left to right: a Terra participant and University of Alberta student; Terra staff member Gracia Hepburn; Terra staff member Holly Strang; a Braemar School student. 

The 2018 Women’s Symposium: Finding your Impact, Influence and Inspiration was a one day conference featuring a collection of diverse and powerful speakers who shared their stories and opinions concerning topics relevant to women. Gracia and I were able to attend the symposium with two of our participants.

The conference began with a beautiful display of Indigenous drumming, dancing and flute. This set the tone for the day and after the introduction was over, everyone rushed out to their sessions. We were each able to attend four break-out sessions.

Session One: Strengthening Indigenous Women’s Voices

This session featured three popular and successful indigenous women who shared how they express their story and help others through art, acting and TV/radio. It was inspiring to hear stories of how reaching out, even if you don’t think anyone is listening, can change the lives around you in ways you couldn’t begin to imagine. “Share your warmth and let everyone in the world thrive.”- Stephanie Harpe.

Session Two: Your Leadership, Your Legacy

Two women from Aspiring Women in Leadership and Legacy (A WiLL) spoke on the five principles of leadership: model the way, inspire a shared vision, change the process, enable others to act and encourage the heart. They asked, if you had our own personal business card, what would it say? This encouraged everyone to reflect on their role as an ‘everyday leader’ while also recognising how being a leader can be emotionally and physically draining. Re-framing your thinking so that you lead a positive and ‘full’ life rather than the negative ‘busy’ life can help you organise your priorities and think of your legacy as something you leave behind one hour, one day, one month or many years in your past.

Session Three: Steps to Youth Leadership

Three women from not-for-profit organizations shared how they found their inner leader and took questions on empowering young women to step-up as leaders. This was a particularly memorable session because the speaker from iHuman brought along a young mother to add her thoughts! They all emphasized building confidence and believing in young women. If you do this, they will begin to believe in themselves and see themselves as people who can change the world around them.

Session Four: Growing Women Leaders and the Experiences of Immigrant Women

This session focused on the ‘question and answer’ format so the audience could direct the conversation. This session was very full, demonstrating Edmonton’s diverse pool of women leaders. The two women who immigrated to Edmonton from India and Nigeria stressed the importance of understanding the ‘culture shock’ immigrant women often face when moving to Canada and how they need to be informed how our norms and politics function before they can be effective leaders. Both women are raising five children each and when asked how they juggle their leadership and family, they agreed on the answer, “just let it [life] flow.”

The day ended back together as a group. We had the immense privilege of listening to the artist and activist Nasra Adems speak and share two beautiful spoken word pieces. This was followed by the closing session with Crystal Bowen who shared her very personal story about being a female in the male-dominated world of construction. She left us with the message, “embrace the own non-conformist in your heart.”

All four of us appreciated the opportunity to attend this event and we walked away feeling empowered!

Submitted by Holly Strang