March 8, 2018 by Speakers' Spotlight
International Women’s Day 2018: Inspiring Today and Every Day
Today is International Women’s Day—a day for all of us to step back and reflect on the fights women faced and continue to face along so many battle lines. From voting rights, to labour equality, to the experiences of women in war-torn regions, it’s a daunting daily imbalance that persists between the sexes, and today is the day to celebrate victories, but also remember the massive gaps that remain.
Rarely does a day go by without a reminder of the mistreatment women experience in the workplace and beyond. Watching the fallout around #MeToo and Harvey Weinstein’s abuses this year has been eye-opening, but not entirely surprising—sexism and predatory behaviour plagues every industry. Progress ebbs and flows: one day France considers a law fining men 90 Euro for harassing women in public, and the next a Yale student walks free on rape charges by, among other things, attack his victim’s Halloween outfit for not looking modest enough. It can be discouraging, to see that society still operates within deeply patriarchal walls, but we continue to be inspired by the cracks that are forming. Every year we continue to build off the inspiring, incredible voices that contribute—each in their own unique ways—to improving life for women worldwide.
In solidarity with this year’s International Women’s Day we’re highlighting just a few of the women speakers who’ve inspired and continue to inspire us:
Adventurous and in her early 20s, Margaret Kemper married Canada’s Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau. She was constantly in the spotlight, but hidden in the darkness was her struggle with undiagnosed and untreated bi-polar disorder. Her very public battle with mental illness played out at a time when compassion and understanding of the way it could manifest itself were in short supply, but after Trudeau eventually found her way to a proper diagnosis and effective treatment, she made it her mission to raise awareness and shatter stigma around mental illness.
Vanity Fair recently profiled Trudeau, and it’s a must read.
By 28, Romanow had started her third company. She’s the youngest Dragon on CBC’s hit show The Dragon’s Den, ranked in WXN’s “100 Most Powerful in Canada” and listed as the only Canadian on Forbes’ “Millennial on a Mission” list. She thrives in a space where men dominate. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Canada does do better than many of its G7 peers when it comes to entrepreneurial gaps between men and women, but whether you look at risk perceptions, access to training, or earning gaps—women are at a disadvantage, so having Romanow as an inspiring voice of encouragement and a model of success only serves to open paths for future female entrepreneurs. Even her latest venture, Clearbanc, which helps make small business loans simpler, can open up financing avenues for women who might not have options elsewhere.
Watch this great interview Romanow gave to the Financial Post on the challenges of raising venture capital for more.
Ten years ago Amanda Lindhout was working as a freelance journalist when she was kidnapped on a dusty road in one of the most dangerous places on earth: Somalia. She spent 460 horrific days in captivity—managing to survived on her strategy, fortitude, and hope. In a testament to her strength she took what many would consider an unforgivable situation and found forgiveness. She opted to take her experiences and build goodwill; to share her experiences to raise awareness around women’s rights, and showcase the incredible results of converting pain into power.
Expanding the circle of strength in the Lindhout family, her mother Lorinda Stewart recently published a book, One Day Closer: A Mother’s Quest to Bring Her Kidnapped Daughter Home. Both Amanda and her mom appeared on CBC’s The Current to share their story—it’s a heart-wrenching listen.