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Your Chair in Your Community- March

March 5, 2021

Change has been forced upon us by the pandemic and it continues to push us to adjust our path. The idea for this blog titled, Your Chair in Your Community, came from the fact that in a typical year members that go to events, get to connect with our board chair personally and since we don’t have in-person events, Shreeraj wanted to connect in a different way. We hope this blog will give you an inside look at the work Shreeraj is doing each month to better serve you– the Winnipeg business community. 

Shreeraj Patel reflects on what International Women’s Day means to him and how we can continue to recognize the women and girls in our community. 

“I Am – In Recognition of International Women’s Day”

March 8th is International Women’s Day. This is a day where we celebrate the notable accomplishments of women and girls around the globe. It can also be an important and sometimes somber reminder of how far we still need to go.

This year’s global theme is #ChoosetoChallenge. But this can’t be seen as an empty slogan and these words can’t stand on their own. It requires real action and measured observable progress. It invites us to renew and broaden the conversation and not simply repeat the same conversation year after year.

Shreeraj Patel, Jessica Dumas and Liz Choi in front of the Tuniigusiia sculpture at the Qaumajuq building.

Perhaps what matters more can be found in what follows this bold call out – the next few words and then the next few words after that. Those words should answer the question of who (me or others), how (sponsorship, mentorship, advocacy), how often (every day, every week) and why (for mothers, sisters, daughters, our economy, the next generation). These words will frame our progress and better ensure we aren’t having that same conversation year after year.

Equally as important to what follows these words is what precedes them. There is strength in the words “I will.” But our capacity for change can find its greatest power when “I will” becomes “I am.”     

How will you?

Here’s what we know to be true. Women’s participation in the labour force has historically proven to be a critical boost to economic well-being. Women on boards has shown time and again to advance the overall performance of companies. Recognizing that, women fully participating in our economy and labour force will be key to Canada’s recovery in the year ahead.

Consider this– data and insights are showing that women have carried a disproportionate share of the impact of the pandemic through the lens of employment. For example, female participation in the labour force has fallen from a historic high to a three-decade low. 

We have an opportunity to fuel a robust recovery driven by an intentional focus on empowering women.

And so how do we all enable women to confidently re-enter the workforce? 

The pandemic has forced us to recognize pre existing societal inequities that the disruption caused by COVID has amplified. A recent report I was reading by the UN stated:

 “Everything we do during and after the COVID-19 crisis must aim to build more equal, inclusive and sustainable economies and societies. This is perhaps the clearest lesson emerging from the pandemic. This includes gender-responsive economic and social policies and placing women’s economic lives at the heart of the pandemic response and recovery plans.”

We all play a role in raising awareness against bias – and taking meaningful actions towards inclusion, belonging, and equity each and every day. Celebrating the accomplishments of women in our community is incredibly important. This facilitates role models for all of us while introducing us to new approaches to the problems before us. 

But in addition to looking back, we must always be looking and moving forward.

We need to create more arenas and forums across diverse industries and sectors where women can lead while sharing their talents, diverse perspectives, and unlimited capacity for achievement. We need to be hyper aware of advocating for opportunities to help others step through the door through sponsorship, mentorship, and advocacy. 

 I’m so proud of ecosystems such as the Chamber’s Reimagine WPG campaign; specifically the many resilient and agile women entrepreneurs whose extraordinary work has been highlighted and celebrated.

 We need to recognize that we are all key holders and have the responsibility to choose to change. 

While I am listening and I am learning, I am without hesitation choosing to change. 

 How are you making that choice this International Women’s Day?

-Board Chair, Shreeraj Patel

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