Feminist movements have received a surge of recognition from mainstream media in response to Emma Watson’s He For She speech at the United Nations. Women’s roles in the professional world is one of the most recent conversation topic for McGill Women In Leadership (MWIL) club, which seeks to address these issues and change the way they affect young women’s goals.
“Our mission [is to] inspire young women to aim high in their career aspirations, regardless of the field they wish to enter,” explained Erica Pedersen, MWIL’s co-president.
MWIL, founded in 2012, was created to provide a space to empower young women in today’s society, but membership is open to everyone, regardless of faculty, gender, or identity. The club seeks to discuss and overcome the barriers that may hold women back from achieving their goals, particularly the pressures of a society that heavily values exterior beauty and passive personality traits.
“My biggest hope for [MWIL] would be that more girls would be aware of it and what it [stands] for,” said Paige Burla, VP Events of MWIL. “I think it’s such an important concept to get girls involved in.”
The club holds a variety of events throughout the year, with the goals of inciting discussion about female empowerment, connecting young women with opportunities within and beyond university, and collaborating with local charities—such as Artistri Sud, a Montreal-based organization that teaches entrepreneurship training for women around the world to create sustainable micro-enterprises.
MWIL organizes personal development events such as MWIL Talks, which are bi-weekly sessions where members can participate in informed dialogue about current events relating to feminism, as well as skill-development workshops.
“[These workshops] hone important professional skills and prepare our members for leaving university,” Pederson said.
Furthermore, members also have the opportunity to participate in excursions such as last year’s CBC tour and the TEDx Montreal Women Conference. Showcasing the successes of different women from multiple backgrounds can inspire young women, demonstrating that ambition and leadership are not traits limited to men.
MWIL’s larger events are centred on professional development with speaker series and panel discussions. Female guest speakers come in and provide valuable insight into different industries, with a focus on male-dominated fields. In 2015, MWIL will host its first conference, where a panel of six keynote speakers will give presentations. This is also a significant networking occasion that will aid in MWIL members’ entrance into the professional world.
“We hope that the opportunity to hear these incredible women’s stories will inform and inspire our members to follow in their footsteps and continue to equalize the gender disparity still present in many professions,” Pederson said. “[Eventually, this becomes a chain effect, and the next generations will have] more female role models in leadership positions.”
Although MWIL is still a relatively new club, its focus is on providing concrete opportunities.
Marielle Wall, U0 Arts student, suggests that expanding outside of business or sciences will attract more members.
“[Personally,] I would be looking […] more into women in [film and] women working in comedy, just because I have more of an interest in that area,” Wall said.
As a relatively new club with limited sources, MWIL is looking for ways to integrate the needs of McGill’s large and diverse female population and to empower all students in recognizing such needs.
“If one person’s life could be changed— or at least impacted postively—through […] the MWIL network, then we’ve succeeded,” Burla said.