10 powerful conversations

MRU celebrates International Women’s Day 2021

An illustration of a woman speaking into a megaphone.

The International Women’s Day theme this year is Choose to Challenge.

In celebration of International Women’s Day (IWD), Mount Royal University’s Faculty of Business and Communication Studies in partnership with the Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub (WEKH), have co-ordinated a week-long online celebration beginning on Monday, March 8. Driven by the national WEKH mandate, MRU’s regional hub works to support Alberta's women entrepreneurs through providing information, resources and connections.

To honour women in leadership and the important work being done to support gender equality, the IWD organizing committee sat down with 10 remarkable women leaders and will be releasing eight pre-recorded conversations including videos hosted on MRU’s YouTube channel and podcasts produced by the WEKH.

“The women featured at this year’s event are phenomenal. Each one is engaged in work that impacts the lives of women, each in their own way,” says Dr. Rachael Pettigrew, PhD, assistant professor in general management at MRU and event committee lead.

“It is so important to celebrate women in business and develop the leadership skills of future female business leaders.”

These leaders include: Kylie Woods, alumna and founder of Chic Geek; Dr. Susan Prentice, PhD, professor of government at the University of Manitoba; Jennifer Hargreaves, founder of tellent; Dr. Pallavi Banerjee, PhD, associate professor in sociology at University of Calgary; Nabihah Atallah, Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia; Anna Murphy, Ward 8 city council candidate; Kendra Kincade, Elevate Aviation; Jane N. Fedoretz, executive vice-president, People, Talent and Transformation, TransAlta; Kerry O’Reilly Wilks, executive vice-president, Legal, Commercial and External Affairs, TransAlta, and Amanda Sanregret, senior advisor, Indigenous Relations & Stakeholder Engagement with TransAlta.

“This year the committee has done an exceptional job recruiting amazing women to highlight and join in conversation,” Pettigrew says. “We are thrilled to share pre-recorded fireside chats with remarkable women doing amazing work to support or advocate for women.”

Pettigrew studies topics related to gender in the workplace and organizational culture and has been involved with IWD at MRU for the past three years. She believes it is particularly important for students to see and hear from women industry leaders so that they might see something of themselves in them and begin to dream even bigger, and credits Dr. Elizabeth Evans, PhD, interim provost and vice-president, Academic, for spurring the initial MRU IWD event.

“This year more than ever, International Women's Day deserves special attention for the contributions of women during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Evans says. “Women have been particularly impacted by the loss of employment and the focus on child care and home education. Our students are no exception as they have shown resilience through exceptional social, economic and educational disruption in their lives.

“I invite our MRU community and partners in acknowledging the role of women as leaders for the journey ahead beyond the pandemic. The 2021 IWD programming, while virtual, is rich in learning and sharing.”

The IWD committee, which also includes Anita Kemp, program lead for the Alberta chapter of the WEKH, and Megan Wallz, a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) student, chose to include pre-recorded conversations to allow flexibility for those to watch at a time that suits their schedule.

The IWD theme this year is Choose to Challenge, and according to Kemp, the women participating are exemplifying this subject matter.

“Through their hard work and persistence, they are challenging the status quo to create a more gender-equal world,” Kemp says. “We aimed to capture their stories and share their achievements. To do this, we hosted a series of conversations with women entrepreneurs who are building organizations focused on closing the gender gap for women in diverse industries.”

As a fifth-year BBA student, Wallz was able to provide the student perspective for the virtual planning process. She even had the unique opportunity to co-host one of the podcast interviews with Dr. Amanda Williams, PhD, of the School of Communication Studies, an experience Wallz says she will never forget.

Though this year’s event may look a little different, Wallz says with confidence that she believes it might just be the best one yet.

"The thing I am looking forward to most for the 2021 International Women’s Day event is the feedback from listeners and the conversations that will arise as a result. This year's event is well-rounded, with a special emphasis on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women. The creativity and outside-the-box thinking that occurred during the planning process was truly inspiring and something I feel honoured to have been a part of,” Wallz says.

Pettigrew is grateful for the commitment of students, staff, faculty and community members, as well as that of the speakers who provided their time, to put the event together — and make it wonderful — during the pandemic.

“I hope that our events can make the transition into the workforce smoother for students and recent alumni navigating their early careers,” Pettigrew says, and also that she hopes to continue to lead in an effort to fill a gap at the business school for initiatives that support women business students.

“The long-term goal would be to develop a student society for women in leadership or women in business as many other business schools have,” she says.

The pre-recorded conversations are available for whenever participants want to engage with the material on the MRU IWD website. Listen to or watch the fireside chats with powerful women to hear them share their perspectives, relate their journeys, talk about their work and discuss lessons learned.

March 4, 2021 — Jonathan Anderson

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