And so the year begins to close around 2018. A year of speaking out, a year of “me too” a year of trials and anger and a year of disruption in the way institutions run- from the government to global markets. The Leacross Foundation has believed in the economic independence of women and families, and we never expected to be at the leading edge of trying to get parity in gender equity. Yet everything we are doing screams empowerment for women, girls, and the voices who have never been heard before. My trips seems to have a theme of travelling to conferences that represented women in fields never imagined before. Women Build Nations in Seattle had over 2500 delegates fighting for the end of workplace harassment in the building trades.

The Canadian Apprenticeship Forum brought together over 500 Canadian representatives to talk about quotas and all the associations that are supporting women in trades. I personally have been to workshops offered through Informed Opinions dealing with unconscious bias.

The Canadian government has directed over $2 million for women’s issues, from reproductive rights to coding training in all stages of schooling. As President of Leacross, I am trying to stay calm and focused in this frenzied year of promises and corruption.

We have had some major successes. We continued support for phases 1-3 in Leacross Landing, a 16 home initiative with Habitat for Humanity in Orleans outside of Ottawa. 

We sent 5 more girls up to the Arctic with Students on Ice, increasing the number to over 60. There are plans to send more youth to the Antarctic perhaps in 2020.

We supported young musicians and artists with the NAC Summer Institute’s Young Artists Program, as well as writers for all ages by bringing in authors and illustrators to MASC’s Annual Young Writers Conference and Your Story Conference.

Most exciting is the expansion of our networking development. We started by bringing together all our women biomedical engineers who has internships through Leacross at the Ottawa Heart Institute. We are determined for these young women to get out and be role models for the next generation of aspiring young women scientists.

We’re also engaged with the new recruits at Rotman Business School. These women have completed, or are completing, their MBAs.

We also had opportunities to see some vibrant films dedicated to empowering women of all ages. The first was ”Sista in the Brotherhood” a film portraying women in the construction trades experiencing harassment on the job in the United States.

This was shown at the women build nations conference exposing how the workplace has deteriorated since the Trump administration came into power. The women, of all races, ages, culture, and orientation talked candidly about the overt distaste they experience on the job by coworkers every single day. The conference allowed them to discuss support systems to fight racism and gender harassment.

The second film dealt with FGM in Tanzania. The Canadian director and producer Giselle Portenier created a moving and hopeful film called
In the Name of your Daughter” about a shelter that supports young girls running away from their villages to avoid “the cutting season’ in December.

Leacross hopes to show this film across Canada to supportive audiences.

The next film was supported by NSERC in Ottawa called
The Woman Who Loves Giraffes“. An amazing woman named Ann Dagg was the foremost expert in giraffes in the 50s but she was denied tenure at the university she was teaching due to gender biases. It is amazing that her life has been recently honoured and this film again shows unconscious bias towards gender in the STEM fields.

Recently I was at the CSIH conference in Toronto supporting bright women working in the global health field. At the conference they brought in Helen Clark, the former prime minister of New Zealand and now head of UNDP ( United Nations development programs).

She presented her film called “My year with Helen” as she attempted to win the seat as the first female Secretary General of the UN. There’s no spoiler alert on this blog because she did not win, but her insight and brilliance shone in this film. Her parting words after the film was “the United Nations will be the most humiliated organization in over 80 years if they don’t elect a woman in the next round after Anterres.”

And so 2019 begins, with resounding cries for gender equity and understanding of diverse work forces.

Plans on the horizon for 2019:

  1. “Reading for the Love of It” – Toronto
  2. Future City – Supporting budding engineers in the Durham school system near Toronto.
  3. Handing over keys to the new homeowners at Leacross Landing with Habitat for Humanity Greater Ottawa
  4. Women Deliver in Vancouver
  5. 4th Annual Global Women Shelter Conference in Taipei in November

I am empowered by the amazing young women and girls who continue to fight stereotypes and prove to the world we are a force to be reckoned with.

Thank you from my heart for your courage and brilliance.

Roslyn Bern