Reflections on SHEday 2016

On January 15, SHEday 2016 took place at the RBC Convention Centre Winnipeg. This was our first year to be involved. After the success of last year’s inaugural event, I approached Economic Development Winnipeg (EDW) CEO Marina James, and lobbied her to include us as presenters for 2016. Marina was happy to have us on board and I’m so glad we decided to participate. Tickets for the event sold out in three days.

Preparing for the event was a mammoth effort on the part of our staff and that of EDW.  We didn’t hire professional event planners; the work was done as part of our regular work days (and nights). Conference logistics for 800 participants were handled ‘off the sides of the desks’ of these heroic individuals – an amazing feat of dexterity.

As an emcee — I shared that task with the founders — I was very focussed on the scenario, the script that told us exactly when to get on and off stage for speaking, thanking, gift giving and photo ops. Timing is everything in event management. The moments between these activities were mostly dedicated to preparation for the next jump up on stage and interacting with the VIPs at the table.

I was determined, though, to enjoy as much of the proceedings as I could in the intervals between scripted action. There were so many interesting speakers and so many good messages. I madly took notes on whatever paper was on hand. The back of my script was filled with inspiring comments, here a just a few that resonated with me:

“When women lead, barriers come down and opportunities open up.”
Marina James

“There is a link between health and wealth.”
Evelyn Jacks

“Women lead differently.”
Colleen Munroe – refreshing in her unique brand and style

“No struggle, no strength.”
“Good things can emerge from the manure of our mistakes.”
“It’s good to be uncomfortable, it’s good weight training for life.”
Dr. Moira Summers

“The quality of life is directly related to the questions we ask ourselves.”
“We’re not meant to be perfect, we’re meant to be whole.”
Theo Heineman

“The glass ceiling was meant to be broken from the top down.”
Heather Tulk

As the day progressed, common themes and patterns emerged:

  • A need for mentorship (being a mentor or a mentee);
  • Desire for authenticity;
  • Sharing of honest stories;
  • Encouragement to not give up;
  • The importance of understanding oneself without self-judgement;
  • Kindness.

The day went very quickly and was over far too soon. I can truly say that I’ve never experienced anything quite like this woman-oriented women-driven woman-focussed sharing event. It had a very special flavour and at the end of it all, I could see that many others felt similarly. While there was a wide continuum of participants in age, lifestyle, work roles, and ethnicity, there was a sense of having heard an important and encouraging message. Women are at the top of a cresting wave; we are being recognized and appreciated for the unique perspective we bring to work, business, and life. There is a greater sense of being valued for who we are and the positive effect we can have on communities, beginning with the family and reaching to national economies.

My very great thanks to the staff of Women’s Enterprise Centre of Manitoba and Economic Development Winnipeg for making this experience possible for so many people in a lovely setting with care for comfort, accessibility and safety.

I’m already looking forward to the great things we can contribute to SHEday 2017.

— Sandra Altner