On November 17, I attended the WE FOR SHE Forum in Vancouver together with WCT BC Co-Chair Briana Sim. It was an exhilarating, and exhausting event, but now that I have had some time to digest my impressions, I would like to share a few highlights.
The WE FOR SHE Forum is an annual event that brings together women’s organizations, companies, business leaders, government representatives and young women to discuss how to advance gender equity. This year, the forum focused on different ways in which we can all step it up for gender equality. Organized by the Province of British Columbia, the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, and the Women’s Enterprise Centre, the event attracted more than 1,500 participants.
The event is unique in that it focuses on gender equity, attracts an impressive number of participants, and provides a forum for youth and business leaders to meet. Out of the 1,500 participants, about half were high school students from different schools across the province. The program was designed to provide something for everyone, ensuring the audience stayed active and engaged. Keynotes were mixed with short presentations and panel discussions, and there were additional activities during the breaks. There were also table discussions, allowing youth and business leaders to share experiences.
It is hard not to be in awe when you are in a room surrounded by 1,500 people who are all passionate about gender diversity, listening to the stories shared by some of Canada’s amazing women role models. Rebecca Duncan immediately set the mood in the morning when she said that it is “one heart, one mind”. There should be no “us and them”, it really is we for she. That was emphasized in the first panel discussion that talked about how we can activate men and boys.
The second panel discussion brought up another highly relevant topic: gender equity in pay and on boards. There is no doubt that women are still underrepresented on boards and in leadership positions, and male privilege is most certainly a real thing. However, there are other types of privileges too, and Kory Wilson, Executive Director of Indigenous Initiatives and Partnerships at BCIT, reminded us that we must recognize our own privilege.
The forum presented us with three calls for action: speak up, step up and act up. In her lunch keynote, Hon. Carol James reiterated this when she said “Stand up for what you believe in, and you can have an impact; you can lead change”. It was a good reminder that we all need to be part of the change we wish to see.
At the end of the day we were asked to take action and commit to change. My commitment is to speak up when I witness non-inclusive behaviour – what is yours?