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Claiming Spaces encourages women leaders

Inspiring Women Among Us (IWAU) has completed a ‘Toward Parity’ demonstration project, called Claiming Spaces, designed to encourage and retain women leaders.

It was launched online and can be found at www.iwau.ca/claimingspaces.

The suite of online resources called Claiming Spaces, which the IWAU  plans to grow in future years, results from a new project partnership between the City of Prince George and Inspiring Women Among Us, with funding from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM).  Twenty such demonstration projects were funded, from across Canada, via a competitive granting process (IWAU added matching funds).  Funding compensated two UNBC graduate students: PhD (NRES) student Penina Harding, and MNRES (Geography) student Annie Pumphrey, and allowed for the production of a unique set of online resources.

The FCM’s Toward Parity Framework in Action is designed to fund community/municipality projects to encourage and retain women leaders. The call for participation fit well with IWAU goals and objectives, and City of Prince George interest in diverse leadership.  Originally, the plan was to host five or six youth-directed in-person workshops.  These would be voluntary “à la carte” engagement/training/active workshops that combined social and informal aspects with training opportunities.  Centered on access to leaders in our region, skills building, training, and networking—the idea was to create a new sense of community via workshops designed to showcase and build upon local leadership. IWAU was preparing to collaborate with UNBC recruitment and School District 57 to recruit for the program when they experienced a “year of interruptions” via job action at UNBC, followed by COVID-19 restrictions and impacts.

With patience and understanding from the FCM, project collaborators Coun. Garth Frizzell, who was just elected president of FCM, and Dyra Pridham, IWAU shifted gears and re-conceptualized the project as one of accessible, unique online resources designed with members  of underrepresented groups in mind.  Largely thanks to the skills and knowledge of students Penina Harding and Annie Pumphrey, they recently launched the web-based resource linked to a new IWAU webpage.

The Claiming Spaces resource page features generous and candid interviews with known political entities like Prince George city councillors Susan Scott and Cori Ramsay, as well as Fort St. John Mayor Lori Ackerman.  It amplifies voices of key Indigenous youth leaders in various sectors, like Dallas George and Sarah Dixon (Esk’etmc student and community leaders), Taya Jardine (an Indigenous, female, queer student leader at UBC Okanagan), and Gerald Bent (a two-spirit, status Indian, and member of the Lytton Indian Band who is a Correctional Programs Officee in Vancouver and a post-secondary educator).  Well-known local activists Theresa (Tess) Healy (Adjunct Professor at UNBC, Vice President of the Public Health Association of BC) and Wendy Young (Speech Language Pathologist, and artist), also contributed video interviews about leadership and the LGBTQ++ community.  They were among the initial advocates who successfully fought for LGBTQ++ rights to marry in BC (and Canada).  Project student researcher Penina Harding (PhD student, former NUGSS President at UNBC, and an Indigenous leader in various regards) is featured in two videos as well, one on leadership and intuition, and another on navigating post-secondary education.  Other themes addressed in the series of videos are: research; student advocacy; identity; leadership, conservations, and work-life balance; municipal government; community support and giving back; mentoring; worth ethic; resiliency; volunteerism; and leadership skills.

The series of 16 original videos is meant to be shared, to start conversations, to encourage members of under-represented groups to recognize their leadership experiences, skills, and potential, and to encourage people—particularly youth, to engage with leadership.  The videos also showcase inspirational leaders among us, and some of their unconventional trajectories.  These videos are complemented by information about Claiming Spaces, IWAU, FCM’s additional resources and programs, and lists of resources that might inspire or foster leadership (podcasts; books; weblinks; organizations; articles).

This new Claiming Spaces resource is free and accessible to all with an Internet connection and access to a computer (they fully acknowledge that not everyone is fortunate enough to have both of those; hope that access through a publicly-funded facility is possible in cases with limited access). They hope that the reach of these resources will extend within and beyond the traditional, unceded territory of the Lheidli T’enneh, from which they were organized and edited.  We are grateful to have had great support from both the City of Prince George and FCM in producing these new resources.

There will be a viewing party of Claiming Spaces videos and featuring contributing participants during IWAU 2020, on Tuesday, Nov. 24, at 5:30 p.m.  IWAU 2020 will be an all-online/remote series of events this year, and will run from Nov. 18-25.  The guiding theme this year fits well with an election year and recent calls for greater action to ensure equity in decision-making—it is Sharing Power Now! Diversifying Leadership.  Watch for related updates starting soon.

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