“Imagine a gender-equal world. A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. A world that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated. Together we can forge women’s equality. Collectively we can all #BreakTheBias.”International Women’s Day

On March 8th, our Women United group hosted a free virtual panel featuring inspiring women throughout the Calgary area who are working to #BreakTheBias.

International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. Held every year on March 8th, it is also a day when we can come together to recognize the barriers and issues that continue to face women and look forward to what we can do to address them. The theme for IWD 2022 is #BreaktheBias.

We’re celebrating women leaders in our community who are making a difference in our community.

United Way of Calgary and Area President and CEO Karen Young believes in celebrating women and supporting women’s causes every day. “Women’s contributions are critical to an inclusive community—but bias can cloud these contributions unfairly. The pandemic has been disproportionately hard on women in our community and these issues aren’t new. They are systemic in nature and conditions that women face every day. Women need to be at the table because we know first-hand what needs to change. I am passionate about being an ally to women who need support by tackling tough issues like mental health, domestic violence, and poverty. These challenges are often barriers to a meaningful quality of life and need to be addressed by us all.”

Christine Gillespie, VP, Transportation, Distribution & Logistics at Nutrien, UWCA Volunteer

Christine Gillespie

I have been a long-term advocate for increasing equity, diversity and inclusion at my company. I’m a vocal advocate at the leadership table to influence policies that will help make gender balance the norm and not the exception in my industry. I take time to mentor and sponsor other women to better equip them to take on leadership positions. In each of the past two years, I’ve also offered mentoring sessions as a United Way auction fundraising item, which has been both fun and another way I can expand my impact.

In my philanthropy, where I can see a way for me to make a meaningful difference, I am investing my time and money to help remove those barriers.

Lastly, I believe sharing my own lived experience helps to break the bias. At 19, I was a young single mom with an uncertain future. Today I am an executive at one of Canada’s largest companies. That’s just one example. I hope that my story encourages others to not give up on the potential of people whose stories are full of detours (like my own).

We asked Christine what advice she would give to women to get started as a philanthropist:

Just start. Start within your means, both from a time and financial perspective. I love the saying – ‘you can have it all, just not all at once.’ As a working single mom, this speaks to me. We often see women taking on a lot, and at a certain point, it can feel unmanageable. The things I can take on today are entirely different now that my children are grown, and I’m in a different stage in life. But I think this also means that we don’t have to wait until our plates are completely clear to start. We can take small steps that we are comfortable with and feel good about that. Over time, we can grow our contributions as our capacity allows. I think we can also feel okay about shrinking our contributions at times when we are stretched thin, without guilt, knowing that we can expand again as our circumstances change.

I would also encourage women to find their voice in their philanthropy. I focus my contributions on causes that speak to my own story and causes that I’m passionate about. I then work to figure out how I can maximize my impact. An easy way to start finding your voice is by helping other women.

Aditi Loveridge, Founder of Pregnancy & Infant Loss Support Centre, Interim Board Chair, Skipping Stone

Aditi LoveridgeWe are creating a space that acknowledges how deeply impactful miscarriage, stillbirth, neonatal loss, infant loss, and infertility can be. Historically this has been an issue that is “pushed under the rug” or something “you get over.” But now, we are creating space for people to speak honestly and truly acknowledge the impacts of loss while receiving support to help move forward in their grief journey. It doesn’t make you weak; in fact, it makes you human. We break the bias that the impact from loss is short or subsequent pregnancies and births heal any wounds. The effects are lifelong and are carried along the parenting journey at every step of the way. The losses are not separate events that are left in the past. They are present in those trying to conceive, those carrying a pregnancy and those parenting a living child. We are talking about the actual journey and bringing this reality out from the shadows. The other bias we are breaking is who we picture experiencing loss. That picture is usually a straight, cisgender, white woman, but in reality, 1 in 4 people will experience loss. 1 in 6 will experience infertility. That includes people of all ethnic and cultural backgrounds, sexual orientations, and gender identities. Loss doesn’t discriminate.

Aditi’s organization provides crucial free supports for women and families going through a difficult loss. Here’s how she says we can also support people during this time:

  • Acknowledge their loss. Even when it feels uncomfortable, acknowledge it. This is powerful for families. You don’t have to have the perfect words.
  • Honour their pain. Be a safe person to talk to without judgement or ”quick fixes”. LISTEN. Be patient, everybody grieves at their own pace. Don’t minimize what or how they are feeling, simply sit with them in it.
  • Offer practical help. Offer to buy groceries, drop off a coffee, bring over supper, take the dog for a walk, offer to watch living children. Whatever you would offer a postpartum family, you can offer here as loss families are postpartum families. Practical help can be extremely powerful.
  • Say the baby’s name. If the family has named the baby, say their name. It won’t make them more sad. In fact, it will help them know their child is not forgotten.

Aurora Borin, Musician, Aurora Claire Music, 2SLGBTQ+ Advocate

Aurora BorinWomen have spent decades holding the weight of society’s expectation that we are stronger, more empathetic, more flexible, more patient, and more understanding. We’ve lived with being asked to do more to receive less. In 2022, #BreakingTheBias means being ok with our own humanity and celebrating the parts of ourselves that society would have us believe “aren’t good enough.” It means being believed, supported, and lifted up. It means, finally, that we are able to be simply human. To do this, #BreakingTheBias needs to stop being a “Women’s Issue” and start being a societal challenge.

We asked Aurora what it would mean for everyone to be an intersectional feminist:

If you’re starting down the path, the most important advice I can give you is to listen. Listen to other people’s stories and then, the hard part, accept them at face value. It seems that one of the great challenges of our time is remembering that other people experience life differently than we do. A person’s story is not just the facts of their life but also how they experience and interpret those events. We are the sums of our individual stories – including the parts we chose and the parts we did not. Our stories influence the actions we take and our outlook on life. If we listen and come to a greater understanding of the stories of others, we can better use our platforms for meaningful societal change.

Also joining us at the event is Raman Sawhney, Business Development, FRACMOD, UWCA Ambassador, Founder of Apar Initiative.

Raman SawhneyRaman leads Business Development at FRACMOD, an Oil & Gas Centre of Excellence that provides fully integrated reservoir studies for E&P companies. After graduating from Queen’s University with a degree in Chemical Engineering, she began her career with Bankers Petroleum as a Reservoir Engineer-In-Training where she supported the development and optimization of a mature Polymer Flood in Albania.  She later spent time in Management Consulting at PwC in their Operations practice. Raman is also the Founder & Executive Director of Apar Initiative, a non-profit organization that works with youth in Alberta to develop STEM & Leadership capabilities. She enjoys volunteering her time with local organizations, most recently including Young Women in Energy, United Way of Calgary and Area’s Ambassador team, and on the board of directors for the STEM Innovation Academy.

Moderating our panel will be Stephanie Pankratz, Partner, Audit at KPMG and United Way of Calgary and Area Board Vice-Chair.

Stephanie PankratzStephanie was previously chair of Women United before moving to her current board role. “Women United provides great opportunities to engage with the work that United Way is doing and better understand how key issues in our community, such as domestic violence, poverty, and mental health, have a disproportionate effect on women. In addition, as Vice-Chair of the Board, I have the opportunity to promote women’s equality, both through using my voice and experience in the governance of United Way as well as through the impact, the United Way has in our community.”

Listen to the full conversation below: