Jennifer Winter

Assistant Professor and Associate Director of the Energy and Environmental Policy Area at The School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary

Guest blogger for Tony Kay

Part of UK in Canada

22nd December 2015 Calgary, Canada

My Experience at the Week of Women UK

Jennifer at the Women of the Future Summit in London on 27 October

I was very excited and honoured to be nominated by the British Consulate-General in Calgary to represent Canada at the Week of Women in London. The week-long event in October 2015 was organized by the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Women of the Future and Wilton Park, and brought together current and future leaders from the UK and around the globe.

To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect – I’ve been to women’s events before, and they’re ranged from cliché to boring and uninformative. And, it also irks me that society is still at a point where we still see the need for women’s organizations; despite Justin Trudeau’s quip about equality in the federal cabinet “because it’s 2015,” I think the fact that women-in-leadership or women’s groups are so prevalent speaks to how far we have yet to go.

Despite my reservations, I thoroughly enjoyed my time in London, and found it to be a very valuable and rewarding experience. I met many talented and high-achieving women, and have found myself part of an international network of female leaders.

The week was jam-packed, with a combination of networking and professional development opportunities. First, there was a networking event in the crypts of London’s Guildhall, where Dr. Christine Ridgen, London’s first female Sheriff, welcomed us on behalf of the City of London. The next morning, the international delegates opened the London Stock Exchange. We were welcomed by CEO Xavier Rolet and Andrea Leadsom, Minister of State for Energy.

London Stock Exchange welcomes Women of the Future delegates.

Following the Stock Exchange opening was the Women of the Future Summit. It featured a series of panels and speeches from successful women (and a few men), giving insight on their experiences, challenges and path to success. I was particularly inspired by Judith McKenna (COO of Wal-Mart) and Miriam Gonzalez Durantez (founder of the Inspiring Women campaign). Both spoke on the challenges of leadership and how to be an effective leader.

I should also mention Pinky Lilani, the founder and Chairman of Women of the Future, who has boundless energy and enthusiasm for helping others. Pinky’s unofficial motto, which she mentioned several times over the course of the week, is: “You have not lived a perfect day unless you have done something for someone who can never repay you” (attributed to Ruth Smeltzer). This motto is not surprising, given that the theme of the Summit was collaboration, and all that Pinky did to make the week memorable.

After the Summit was the Women of the Future Awards banquet; there were 14 categories, ranging from science to arts and culture. We were particularly lucky to be present to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the awards. Pinky described the recipients as “women who have faced every challenge imaginable and still made their mark… through kindness and collaboration these women have shattered many ceilings, letting in the light for others.” The breadth and depth of talent featured in the awards was truly impressive.

Jennifer with Canadian Chevening Scholars (L to R) Karen Morton, and Rani Suleman
Jennifer with Canadian Chevening Scholars Karen Morton (left), and Rani Suleman (middle)

The next day, the international delegates attended a strategy session the Foreign & Commonwealth Office to discuss how to break down barriers to female economic and political participation. The day opened with a speech from Maria Miller, Chair of the Women and Equalities Select Committee, then featured a panel discussion with Vicki Treadwell (British High Commissioner to Malaysia), Mako Abashidze (Director, British Georgian Chamber of Commerce) and Josie Stevens (Campaign Manager for “This Girl Can). The delegates then joined breakout groups to discuss our hard and soft barriers to participation, and solutions for breaking down barriers and better enabling women in leadership positions. A key take-away for me in the solutions we brainstormed is the importance of mentoring as a way to support and build up the capabilities of new leaders. One way to do this is to expand Women of the Future beyond the UK – and we have a good starting place, given the number of international delegates in attendance.

The final event of the week was afternoon tea at Buckingham Palace for the international delegates. What an experience! During tea (for anyone who is curious, it was Twinings), members of the Royal Household circulated among the delegates. I had the opportunity to meet several interesting people, including a press secretary (it turns out, the most common requests are about the Queen’s corgis).

The week was very busy, and also incredibly interesting and rewarding. I intend to continue to build and maintain the network and relationships I developed in London, and take the lessons from the days to heart. I would like to thank the Consulate in Calgary for the nomination and support, and for recognizing me as a leader who could benefit from the opportunity.

2 comments on “My Experience at the Week of Women UK

  1. What a fantastic opportunity and from your candid write up an event well worth attending. I look forward to seeing how it is rolled out internationally and to Canada in particular.

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Tony Kay has served as British Consul General in Calgary since June 2012.

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