By Brenlee Coates (photo of Clare MacKay of The Forks North Portage)
Sure, there have been professional development seminars for women in town before. And there’s even a speech from a likely candidate for the upcoming American presidential race, Hillary Clinton, coming to inspire the same month as SHEday. But how often can you access such an event – and get lunch, snacks, and a corporate headshot – for $39?
“We wanted to create an affordable opportunity,” says Marina James, CEO of Economic Development Winnipeg, which founded the event debuting Jan.15. “Many of us have participated in women’s conferences that have come through Winnipeg over the years (and) most of them cost $900.
“We wanted to create an opportunity for entrepreneurs, pre-executive and executive women to hear from our powerful women and our powerful, topical speakers.”
That’s another point of pride for SHEday: the speakers are hyper-local – they’re all executives who’ve climbed to the peak of their careers right here in Winnipeg.
One such speaker, Barbara Bowes, is the president of her company, Legacy Bowes Group, and had the added challenge of entering the business world as a relative unknown with an education degree – something she said was completely dismissed in the corporate sphere.
A huge part of getting to where she is today was about making herself known – which is almost easier these days due to social media platforms, though it requires more discipline. “Wherever you go, whatever you do, you’re always marketing yourself,” says Bowes. “You’re on exhibit for the whole world to see.
“You have to be effective at self-marketing so you get to be known (and) gain a lot of respect.”
Bowes will share her tips for self-marketing with the crowd at SHEday, which is growing by the day. “We’re faced with having to increase the size already,” says James.
The original venue was outgrown shortly after the announcement was made about SHEday and it sold out expeditiously. Plans are already underway to continue with annual SHEday events, which will shift in focus from year to year, but remain affordable and relevant to a range of professional and pre-professional women.
While many things have changed since she started making her corporate climb 27 years ago, “a woman still has to work twice as hard,” says Bowes. Barbara Bowes’ expertise is in human resources, career development and executive search, so her advice will be extremely useful to women who want to get noticed for leadership roles.
Economic Development Winnipeg and Bowes have both grabbed on to the “lean in” concept, developed in the book of the same title by Sheryl Sandberg. As Bowes puts it, “I’ve always reached out to help others – other women in particular. Helping other people be successful has helped me become more successful.”
In other words, the more women empower each other and become top-of-mind in each other’s networks, the more everyone wins out.
Women still make up about one out of every six senior positions in the workforce, and boards of directors are lagging even further behind around 10 to 12 per cent, says James.
While Winnipeg is a leader in so many ways for available programming for women entrepreneurs, the city could embrace the lean in concept further, she says. “What we don’t exemplify is that lean in mentality: women supporting women.
“Still women are perceived as bossy – that’s really just leadership,” she points out.
Local speakers at SHEday include Clare MacKay of The Forks North Portage, David Baker, CEO of Think Shift, Denise Zaporzan of Denise Zaporzan & Associates, and Gail Stephens, interim president and CEO of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.
“Some of the issues we’ll touch on are not gender issues,” reminds James. “Being a good coworker, being a mentor… are genderless.
“I hope (attendees) feel supported, and then I hope they realize they need a plan.
“(The speakers) are women (and men) that have worked really hard to move their platform… they are Winnipeg icons.”
To inquire about tickets to hear these Winnipeg icons speak, visit http://www.economicdevelopmentwinnipeg.com and search SHEday.