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This article was published 16/1/2015 (944 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
There was a celebratory atmosphere in the large main-floor meeting room at the RBC Convention Centre Winnipeg on Thursday, with close to 600 women in attendance at the inaugural (and likely annual) SheDay event.
They had come to hear success stories from about a dozen Winnipeg women talking about networking, working their way through the leadership system and understanding the value of personal brands.
It's not as if those 600 women were going to leave the convention centre to storm the barricades to the city's corporate boardrooms. But if these things could be measured, it might be discovered that every organization in the city whose female staffers took in the event became better off.
There are so many women now in so many different leadership positions up and down the organizational charts that there was clearly a pent-up demand for such an event.
Marina James, one of the organizers of the event and the CEO of Economic Development Winnipeg, said they could have sold 2,000 tickets. She said her focus is workforce development, but the possibility the event may spawn subsequent grassroots activities was not lost on her.
"If that happens I think it's great," she said. "What we wanted to do was to make a tipping point annual event. I think we have achieved that and I think it will grow."
Anita Wortzman, president and CEO of Acumen Corporate Development, was arguably the most accomplished of the day's presenters.
The former tax lawyer and senior corporate development executive at Assante Wealth Management said the role of women in the professional world is changing.
"When I first started practising law women were not expected to develop new business for the firm, they were the ones doing the work," she said. "Times have changed."
Wortzman said when she is hiring for her strategic business consulting business, she regularly sees women who are top candidates for the jobs.
"They are our first choice for jobs a lot of the time," she said. "We do not think we need this many men or this many women but the women are really rising to the top now. The barriers (for women) are more limited now. As long as they (women) believe they can do it, they can get it done."
The idea behind the event was to provide a balance against professional development conferences that cater to women in the senior executive suite that cost as much as $1,000 per day.
With the help of big-time sponsors including RBC, MTS and Great-West Life, tickets were $39 including lunch and a professional photo for all the attendees' digital files.
"In 25 years, chances are we will not have the need to push women in leadership," said Barbara Bowes, one the presenters and a longtime advocate for women in business.
"But right now, lots of women don't see themselves in leadership. They don't recognize that there is leadership at every level of an organization. You do not have to be a boss to be a leader."
With women outnumbering men in some professional faculties and amassing educational and training credentials to match their male counterparts, the reasons for workplace imbalance start to fall away.
Helen Halliday, the longtime manager of the Winnipeg Delta hotel, aptly captured the spirit of the day.
"This is so necessary," she said. "Because everyone needs a great role model and a good example and you have to take time out to make sure that happens. I brought a group of our emerging leaders, our future stars, to hear and listen and do something for a day that they do not normally do."
While women who have children have challenges men never have to face, several of the high-achieving presenters gave sincere shout-outs to the support they've received from understanding husbands and family members.
Denise Zaporzan, a finance executive who runs a strategic leadership practice, told of how after more than 10 years in senior finance positions with a company, she was told the time had come where she had to make a choice between family and career.
She chose her family and while Zaporzan's might be a stark example of that classic challenge for women in the workplace, there was plenty of discussion at SheDay about discovering options that allow women to avoid that "either/or" scenario.