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YW Calgary hosts webinar for International Women’s Day

By Enobong Ukpong, March 14 2022—

March 8 marked International Women’s Day, and YW Calgary, the largest women’s organization in Calgary, celebrated the occasion by hosting a virtual forum called The Walrus Leadership Forum: Fuelling the She-covery. The forum focused on the difficulties women have faced during the pandemic, and the efforts being made to ensure a post-pandemic recovery.

Sue Tommy, CEO of YW Calgary, spoke about how the organization is addressing the increase in gender-based violence since the COVID-19 restrictions, otherwise known as the “shadow pandemic.”

Tommy said that mental health supports will continue to be a growing area of focus, and mentioned that it was something YW Calgary has been involved in already. She mentioned the YW Calgary’s Mindfulicity program, which focuses on microaggressions and how to deal with conflict in the workplace. Tommy also mentioned that last year YW Calgary saw an increase in demand, and that this harsh reality is why YW Calgary needed to get in front of this issue. 

“In terms of numbers, we had over 600 counseling sessions last year with women and men who came to us, more than 2,000 calls from women who were seeking support, we also had to turn away over 2,200 women from our domestic violence shelter,” she said.

Next, the forum discussed the affordable childcare legislation that the government of Alberta recently passed, which would provide parents childcare for $10 a day, and how that is going to impact families. 

“What is so critically important is that we are going to be developing and nurturing and preparing our people for the future,” said Margaret Norrie McCain, chair of the Wallace McCain Foundation. “And that’s why it’s going to be sustainable, because it has value not just to women, not just to children, but to the whole society.” 

McCain described the legislation as a “historic event” that has been equated by many people to be as important to our health and wellbeing as universal healthcare.

The forum also discussed the cultural norms and barriers that prevented fathers from taking parental leave, and how workplaces should approach parental leave for all genders.

“I think one of the most important mechanics that especially corporate Canada can utilize is actually encouraging paternity leave for men in the workplace,” said Alicia Dubois, founder and principal of Nish Synergies Advisory Group. “That action in and of itself really signals a support for women and the advancement of women in the workforce.”

Dubois goes further to say that it wasn’t enough to just offer paternity leave, but it should be viewed as a positive thing, to be celebrated when someone takes it.

Jake Stika, executive director and co-founder of Next Gen Men, talked about how creating a healthier society for men also creates a healthier society for women. 

“If we’re going to talk about gender inequality, the system that we’re up against here is patriarchy. And there’s so many ways that the patriarchy harms men and boys,” said Stika. “And so there’s just so much for [men] to gain to show up to these conversations, not just on International Women’s Day, but the other 364 days of the year as well.”

Leena Yousefi, CEO of YLAW, talked about the initiatives that made YLAW the fastest growing women-led law firm on the West Coast.

“One way that I’m trying to bring gender inequality to the workplace is to not accept leave as a concept,” said Yousefi. “I don’t like expecting a woman to immediately turn off her career, stay at home full-time, and within six months or a year be expected to leave that child and be working 10 to 12 hours a day. That’s a huge shock to the system, not just to the child but to the woman.”

Yousefi said that YLaw designs its workplace and programs to make the transition back to their careers easier, emphasizing flexibility and empathy.

Overall, the forum ended on a positive note as the speakers expressed hope for the future of gender equality in Canada.

More information about YW Calgary can be found on their website.

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