Queen's Women in Leadership Conference: An Exceptionally Enriching Experience

100 delegates, 10 schools, 4 keynote speakers, 3 days, 1 enriching conference.

In the second weekend of November, I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the Queen’s Women in Leadership (Q.WIL) Conference at the Delta Waterfront Kingston Hotel amongst brilliant, like-minded individuals. The other delegates and I were able discuss the consequences of biases towards women and how to mitigate these cognitive limitations - but of even greater importance, we were able to explore how we could initiate action towards becoming transformational leaders to improve upon society as a whole for the future.

Looking back, I had initially thought that the conference would entail infuriated women showing their immense passion towards the notion of man-hating while promoting the idea of reversing the inequality issue in women’s favour. However, after the first speaker, I began to realize that my thought process was fueled by my unconscious misconceptions. Having only heard people criticize the feminist movement and the advancement of women, I had not realized what the concept of Feminism truly held. The Feminist movement is not solely about women, but rather about how we can initiate a positive and thriving society as a whole. The perspectives of the speakers and lessons that the conference encompassed were unbiased, as they merely aimed to address our societal problems so that we, as young leaders, have the ability to make positive change.

The speakers and workshops at the conference instilled a sense of ambition within myself alongside several other delegates. It was the words and ideas spoken that carried such a deep, yet notably transparent, meaning within them. I believe that everyone should understand the following key takeaways from the conference, because ultimately, rooting them into our lives can shape us into becoming the transformational and inclusive leaders that our society needs to thrive.

1. “This is not women’s problem, this is society’s problem.”

"What is the problem?" you might ask. The problem is that we have not yet reached an optimal, prosperous society in either workplace or social settings. The root cause is that we have not fully immersed ourselves in gender- (and culturally) diverse teams in all organizations/settings. Currently, it's going to take "267 years to achieve workplace equality." How can we change the forecast from "267 years" to "today"? We need to realize that a) gender diverse teams are an incredibly smart strategy, in business and in teams in general (i.e. more diverse = more effective decision-making = more $$$), b) 60% of women have university degrees (i.e. we have incredibly smart and talented women in our society), and c) “there are more CEOs by the name of John than all women in CEO roles put together” (i.e. we need more women in leadership positions, as we are not utilizing this talent!). So yes, this is society's problem!

2. “As long as you are human, you will be subject to biases.”

The speakers made a point that we all have deeply rooted biases that we need to learn to mitigate. For instance, different speakers pointed out: “We grow up drawing stick men,” “Take a walk through a park, and show me a statue that’s of a woman,” and, “Notice how the bluetooth devices are all women’s voices (i.e. 'Siri' and 'Alexa')? Is that our place in society: being told what to do?” We (including women!) are unconsciously feeding women’s stereotypical role in society, and women tend to impulsively adhere themselves to this role without even knowing it! Developing our self-awareness together can diminish these destructive biases.

3. “Diversity is a fact. Inclusion is a choice.”

Take it or leave it.

4. “Change is hard. It’s not the right thing to do, but the only thing to do.”

Actively choosing to include by challenging societal norms is obviously very difficult (no one wants their values and persona to be challenged). However, prosperity is driven by the ability to overcome our societal limitations and to initiate action that can challenge the dominant, yet extremely limiting, viewpoint. It’s time for us to become a part of the voice for change.

5. “We have been socialized to feel we have to be perfect.”

“Be prim and proper,” they say to young girls. How about, “Be risky and noisy”? I like the sound of that. The need to be perfect only holds us back more.

6. “Seek people who can challenge you.”

Find mentors and sponsors who can challenge you and provide feedback. The key is that you should not internalize criticism as negative, but rather as a positive learning experience and an opportunity to grow.

7. “Say yes to uncomfortable things.”

This alludes to the idea that “If you want something you’ve never had, then you’ve got to do something you’ve never done.”

8. “You cannot lead from the shadows.”

In one of the conference’s workshops, we had the opportunity to rate ourselves on various traits. I rated myself relatively strong in "having a clear focus of my dream," "self-awareness," "continuing to learn and grow," "cultivating trusting relationships," and "delivering results." Ironically, I rated myself extremely low in the quality of "finding my voice and owning it." How could I possess all these qualities and yet be continually holding myself back from sharing them? Surprisingly, almost 100% of the women in the workshop raised their hands when the speaker asked if we felt that we didn’t have a voice. Unfortunately, work ethic and achievement will go unnoticed if we do not share it.  We need to develop our voices so that we can thrive in both our careers and lives; otherwise, we will cease to have opportunities to grow.

9. “Don’t be afraid to fail. It opens up many doors.”

See next quote.

10. “It’s time to build your resiliency muscle.”

We are all inevitably going to fail at some point in our lives, so why not embrace it? The more situations we put ourselves in that can potentially cause us to fail, the more opportunities we will also have for extraordinary achievement.

11. “Dream the biggest dream you have and go for it.”

For any and all genders.

Q.WIL was an epic and an empowering conference. I hope this has inspired you - female, male, or any gender - to embrace these enriching lessons I learned from the conference, and I hope that you, too, can someday have the opportunity to attend Q.WIL. It is truly a life-changing experience. Overall, I hope that you and I - of any gender, of any race, of any culture - can thrive together to transform our society into something greater than it ever has been before.