Leadership Summit for Women 2017!

Noel and Jen attended the Leadership Summit for Women. Here’s what each of us thought of it!

Keynote Speaker

Jen: Professor Maja was such a great keynote speaker. I’m not going to lie. When I first read her biography, which said “She is an apology-hater, confidence-builder and recovering make-up addict. She also hates the word humble,” I felt personally attacked, because, like any other Canadian, I apologize way too much (like when someone bumps into me, and I say sorry), and I always thought that it was a good thing to be humble. Because of this, I went into the conference with a somewhat negative view of her, but when she spoke, that immediately changed everything.

Maya spoke about how women weren’t confident enough. Citing some studies, she explained that we apologize too much compared to men. This comparison made me realize my own misconceptions when reading her bio and thinking that she was too “aggressive” and “overconfident”… If a man had the exact same biography, I admittedly would have considered him as “assertive” and “confident”. I couldn’t believe that I had that double standard in my head, even if it was unconscious!

It was just so empowering to be reminded that as women, we should, like men, be confident, take chances, and not be sorry!

Noel: Professor Maja Jovanovic, the keynote speaker, made me think about how women and trans folks are never told to be bold. We’re expected to be small and not take up space; when we do take up space,  we feel obligated to apologize (especially women and trans folks who have other intersecting marginalized identities).

I feel like confidence is something I still struggle with, especially as a marginalized person (even though I’m much more confident than I used to be), because I often feel like I don’t deserve to take up space or that I don’t have opportunities to because of systemic barriers. It was amazing to be around so many empowered individuals who are unapologetic and doing what they’re passionate about while challenging systems that attempt to put up barriers. It reminded me that I also have the capacity to do what I’m passionate about as well.


Jen: The panelists were very diverse, with women in a wide range of career paths and also at different stages of their career, as well as representation for different races. I liked how one of the panelists was also a Mac student, so we could relate to her since were are at similar stages in life.

I especially liked how the panelists talked about failure. I think that as university students, we go through such a huge transition period with so much uncertainty and change. Most of us have gone through, or will at some point go through huge challenges and even failure. Coming from high school and being surrounded by supportive friends and family, it may be a new experience to deal with failure and these challenges alone, so I thought that it was so important that the panelists talked about how it was normal to fail, and that it was an opportunity that we could learn and grow from.

I remember the first time I failed. I think I cried for an entire week. Back then, I was so used to being successful at everything I did (I was only in high school, and still so young and full of hope!). It was good that I had failed so early on in life, because I was able to learn from that, and now I realize that failure isn’t a big deal. Failure is just a small bump in the road. It was so nice to know that all these panelists were on the same boat as I was, and that I wasn’t the only one who struggled!

Noel: I thought the panel was really insightful, as they had women from the Hamilton community who are passionate and involved in a variety of careers and causes. I particularly resonated when they talked about mentors. It made me think about how my own mentor impacted me. She made me feel like I had worth and my perspective mattered. I finally had self confidence for the first time; she taught me to own who I am and be unapologetic. Thanks to her I’m doing so many things I never imagined I’d do. Women Mentors are so important to our growth and learning as people.

I also appreciated that they discussed failure, as I feel there often isn’t enough conversation about failure, especially in universities. Failure is something that I still really worry about, even though it’s something that I experienced with quite often growing up. I’m fortunate that I became friends with a bunch of upper year students in first year who spoke to me about the failure they experienced; I learned that failure doesn’t mean it’s all over or not possible to reach your goal. It  just might take some time or you might need to find another way to get there – a “small bump in the road” like Jen was saying! It’s not as scary as it used to be at least.


Jen: I thought the workshops were good. One workshop that stood out to me was one about giving and receiving feedback. The facilitators for this workshop were from the YWCA, and they were amazing speakers. I personally wish they could have spoken more on women in particular (there was only a few minutes where they talked about women and how assertive women were considered “aggressive”). I would have liked if it focused more on problems that women faced in giving and receiving feedback. It was still a great experience to attend and learn.

Noel: I also thought the workshops were good. I really liked a workshop that our very own SSC Staff, Elizabeth, did on being a woman in STEM. Even though I’m not in STEM, I’m passionate about multimedia and have considered a future career with it. Her workshop really resonated with me; I appreciated the diverse perspectives that made our discussion so engaging; I also loved that we talked about media representation of women in STEM, as well as women of colour, queer women, etc. – it was really cool!

BONUS: Food:

Jen: I thought the event would be catered by Paradise Catering, but instead, we were blessed with At the Table, which is a catering company initiative by the YWCA. Great food and a great cause, I love it! Also, their vegan, gluten-free double chocolate cookies were AMAZING.

Noel: I also thought the event would be catered by Paradise catering, and I agree with Jen! I heard of At the Table prior to Leadership Summit for Women – it’s an incredible program by the YWCA of Hamilton, providing training opportunities and experiences for women and girls to gain skills, as well as create community building among women in the Hamilton community. They also use local ingredients, meaning they are supporting our community in a number of ways. If you’d like to learn more about it, click here!

Final Thoughts:

Jen: LSW 2017 was an amazing experience. I think it was great to have a leadership conference meant for women, because it was a safe space for us to grow and develop as leaders, and focus on issues that we specifically faced. I definitely plan on going again next year! If you’re a man, I still encourage you to go, because it’s a great learning opportunity for you as well, and a great way to gain a new perspective on leadership and working with women.

Noel: I second that, Jen! I loved that so many of the speakers and workshop facilitators are involved the Hamilton Community and working to create change in our community in a variety of ways! It’s a great way to get advice from people working in your field, and learn more about what’s going on in our community – to ‘pop the bubble’! I went to LSW last year and glad I went again – there’s something new to learn and take from every year!