Women’s leadership networking a great idea

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More than 200 women turned out recently to the John D. Bradley Centre for the second Chatham-Kent Women’s Leadership Network event with panelists, a guest speaker and time for networking. Hosted by 519 Events and Promotion and Chatham-Kent Economic Development, the event is growing in size and popularity.

As a journalist, lots of events come across my desk that pique my interest as not only a reporter, but as a mom or business owner as well.

When I saw that Morena McDonald of 519 Events and Promotions was involved in the Chatham-Kent Women’s Leadership Network night, I was intrigued and wanted to attend the first one held in May at the Sons of Kent in Chatham.

I couldn’t get to that one, but recently attended the second event hosted by McDonald and Chatham-Kent Economic Development. I was very glad I did.

My sister, Jane, and I headed out to the John D. Bradley Centre, where it was held to accommodate the expected larger crowd that confirmed attendance. The first event in May had 140 people crowd into Sons of Kent, and with 200 people coming to the next one, a bigger venue was needed.

More than 200 women filled the allocated space at the Bradley Centre to hear panel speakers Melissa Harrigan, Kate Peach, Sharon Campbell Rayment, Summer Sands-Macbeth and Maureen Geddes answer questions, and Karen Ewald speak on financial planning for women.

To say I love this idea is an understatement. As a woman, there are times when you really just want to talk to other women about issues and leave some of the “there, there” head-patting men far behind.

We joke around the office that I should change my name to “Bruce’s wife”, because that is sometimes how I am addressed, and while I have to laugh to myself, it does grate a bit. There are even times I make a call and the caller asks for Bruce when they get back to us. Those are the times I understand why some government offices are referred to as “men’s clubs.”

I am a person, with my own name and identity, my own circle of supporters and issues that I support. To be able to hear other women talk about their struggles and issues as female entrepreneurs – the job/family/life balance and toxic workplaces for instance – and network with other women in interesting and exciting jobs was a great night out.

The panel also answered the questions asked at the gut level as well; not saying what they thought was proper or expected, but real, visceral responses that had you nodding your head in solidarity. That was unexpected and very welcome.

I was happy to see a lot of faces in the crowd I had never seen before as well. Women in business sometimes feel they have to be tougher, or more hard-nosed to compete with men and their wages, but we don’t. We can be ourselves – a nurturer or intellectual or full-steam-ahead type person – and still do a great job as a leader or role model.

That doesn’t mean we have to take nonsense from anyone. It just means we will do our job, do it well, and still go home and take care of our families and maintain solid relationships with friends.

Does some of that suffer sometimes? Sure, but we pick back up and move forward with new enthusiasm and determination to succeed.

So, kudos to Morena, Andrew Tompsett and the team at C-K Economic Development and the women speakers who were generous with their time and thoughts. I’m sure the event will continue to grow and I, for one, will be encouraging young women to attend as well and learn from the talented, educated and innovative women in this community.

Inclusive, educational and real, the Network event is sure to be something women in business can look forward to and learn from.

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