Reimagining Work Culture: Women’s Empowerment and Female Leadership in the Spotlight

Event attendance is an important facet to career building. Conferences in particular lend a unique opportunity to gain knowledge from leaders and visionaries. Absorb all that you can from the speakers, and take time to network with attendees too. The conference is your icebreaker and silent acknowledgement that there is an alignment already. Use that mutual interest to drive the conversation and dig deeper to fulfill your overall goal for attending.

I spent a day at the Leaders and Icons Conference held into Toronto, which promised to “take [me] on an educational journey, highlighting lessons from those at the forefront of business, politics and innovation.” Through conversation and engagement, it quickly became clear that major topics encompassing women’s empowerment and female leadership have transcended to all industries and sectors. Memorable takeaways were shared by speakers Peter Aceto, Joanne Lipman, and Vicki Saunders.

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Peter Aceto former President and CEO of Tangerine shared the insight and experience of a leader. He spoke of transformative leadership through three areas of thinking in business that need to be transformed: leadership, innovation, and diversity. His focus on diversity stressed the importance of ethnic representation, and female leadership. Presenting statistics and models showcasing the high return that is seen when a female is given leadership opportunity. His talk not only provided tangible evidence but also spoke to the social importance of this change in culture that is seen as long overdue in the business sector. 

Joanne Lipman, author of That’s What She Said: What Men Need to Know About Working Together and former Editor-in-Chief of USA Today, was interviewed by gender equity advocate Caroline Codsi. Lipman spoke passionately through her experience and stories shared by other females colleagues in the industry, of the difficulties and barriers of being a female in business. For those interested in reading her book, she presented topics that provide women with skills to navigate in the workforce. It is written as a solution-based tool and expresses the importance that change needs to come from the top. She emphasized that women are already doing plenty to receive recognition, and now it is up to the men to step up. 

Vicki Saunders’ message resonates. She is founder of SheEO, an international non-profit organization that empowers women entrepreneurs and innovators. Her non-profit can be described as a form of ‘radical generosity’ whereby women copower each other by contributing to a pooled fund that is later distributed to start-up companies and female business owners. Saunders expressed that “women are not a niche” and drove home the importance of recognition. SheEO directly contributes to women entrepreneurs of today, while ensuring that the pooled fund is accessible to future generations. SheEO provides mentorship programs, coaching, and other skill development programs. These services are provided not so that others can run your business for you, but to provide women with the tools to be a successful as possible on their own terms.

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After a wonderful day of engaging with the guest speakers, panelists, and those in attendance it was clear that the strive for alternative leadership methods and gender equity is at the forefront of conversation across all industries. Every speaker recommended a diverse work culture that is supportive, motivating, and encouraging of risk-taking -- all of which are similar values, long-term visions, and targeted goals that YWiB Toronto has in place for the community.