April 24th, 2024

U of L hosts Women’s Day leadership conference

By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman - Lethbridge Herald on March 14, 2024.

Herald photo by Alejandra Pulido-Guzman Chamber CEO Cyndi Bester, Indigenous education consultant Annette Fox-Bruised Head and Flexahopper Plastics CEO Adriana Mercader were part of the International Women's Day conference on Wednesday at the University of Lethbridge Science Commons.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDapulido@lethbridgeherald.com

With the theme of Telling Our Stories: Embracing Excellence, the University of Lethbridge hosted the inaugural International Women’s Day Leadership Conference with an array of speakers.

The conference was set to foster welcoming spaces of belonging for all voices, as well as share in the possibility and celebration of excellence as women, trans, queer or two-spirit individuals. It offered those in attendance the opportunity to listen to two keynote speakers and four panelists.

Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce CEO Cyndi Bester spoke to media about being a panelist for the Wednesday event and explained this was the first of many.

“I have a strong commitment to this university and with it being the very first international women’s conference I feel privileged to be able to be among the fantastic women that are going to be speaking today,” said Bester.

She said the event shows a strong step in strength of the women are part of the university, the city and those who are attracted to both.

“We want Lethbridge, the university and the college and our business industry to be fully aware that we can house, and we can create so many opportunities for women, that it’s limitless,” said Bester.

 She said her talk revolves around her education, as bachelor of music and what having a degree could mean for someone.

“I put on my music coat today and I talk a lot about you don’t know what your degree is going do, or where is going to take you,” said Bester.

She said one thing she emphasizes in her talk is about how we might start somewhere, and we don’t know where that is going to take us, but everything we learn and everything we do along the way helps us grow.

“And then that helps give us perspective on how we can fit in, how we can help our communities and just be there for others,” said Bester.

Another panelist, CEO of Flexahopper Plastics Adriana Mercader said she was happy to be asked to take part of the panel for such an incredible event and since the panel was open to questions she was excited to see what the public wanted to talk about.

When asked about what she hopes people get out of the conference, no matter their gender, Mercader said she hoped people left feeling seen.

“I’m hoping when they walk out of this conference, if you’re a woman feeling that there’s a role and a big play for you to be part of and if you’re a man and you’re one of our advocates, also understanding the new world where we’re standing on and what women are doing nowadays,” said Mercader.

Representing the university, Executive director of equity, diversity and inclusion Martha Mathurin-Moe, who helped organized the event, said part of her portfolio is to create spaces to empower underrepresented voices.

“This year’s conference is really about creating that brave space to have for members and our speakers to be able to tell their stories in their own unique way, so organizing this event was just a key part of creating that space,” said Mathurin-Moe.

She said she was very excited to see the result of putting the event together after planning it for the last six months, not only because it provided the space for those voices to be heard, but also to be able to bring members of the community to the university.

“The university is really about creating a bridge from the community to our campus. I think sometimes our campus is seen as an unknown space to people and we’re wanting to create that bridge from the community so it’s the first of many to come,” said Mathurin-Moe.

She said the event offered many wonderful speakers and the goal is to grow it beyond the university campus and do it in the community as well.

When asked about the theme of sharing stories, Mathurin-Moe said it was important to do so and therefore it was important to provide a space to do it.

“I think telling our stories is really a critical piece because most times we find women and gender diverse people are usually afraid to tell their stories, or they try to make it smaller than it really is. I think it’s important to share the full gamut of our story,” said Mathurin-Moe.

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