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Women, Resilience, and Working Together for Change

Women, Resilience, and Working Together for Change

For the first time in the fifteen years that I have produced events, I endeavored to host an event without being there, in New York City. I called on my network, set a theme, chose a venue, and held my breath. Success would be the connection of women in a variety of industries, with the goal of reaching a leadership position, and a discussion with takeaways on how we can support more women on getting there.

With women still only representing 4.4% of CEO positions in S&P 500 companies, it’s evident that we still have some work to do and the only way we’re going to push the needle is to work together. That’s why I launched the upcoming WNORTH Conference in Whistler April 19-21 – to create a place where women could share their experiences, and together, make the path to the top easier for those aspiring to get there. The WNORTH Connect Dinner Series is a way for us to keep the “women on the rise” movement alive and well year round.

[Related: Why Organizations Thrive with Feminine Leadership]

Twenty women gathered at the New York WNORTH Connect Dinner, reports came back that the talks from hosts Jane Francisco (Good Housekeeping Editor) and Elizabeth Cronise McLaughlin (Gaia Project for Women’s Leadership Founder) sparked thoughtful and heartfelt conversations on how we, as leaders, can create positive change in our careers, and our communities. The inspiring discussion and feedback recently got me to thinking about three ways we can elevate women in 2017:

1. Take Action

Action helps us recover quickly from challenges, creates strong momentum for change, and opens us up to new opportunities. Most importantly, it drives us to come together, to communicate, and to collaborate.

Taking action can be supporting a coworker, providing mentorship or asking for that raise. Or it can be gathering your team or network together to brainstorm ideas and solutions to the challenges faced by women mid-career in your field or profession. Doing this, even in difficult circumstances, can inspire others to do the same and more importantly produce results that help further women in their aspirations.

2. Create a Support System

Traditional masculine models of leadership challenge us to compete rather than to lift each other up. With limited spots at the top, women have sometimes tore each other down to increase our own chances at advancement, which has made our work environments combative instead of creative.

I believe this is changing, but not in all industries. I encourage you to find a female in your company (peer or otherwise) that you can support and the next time there is an opportunity to sing her praises, do so. The Theory of Reciprocity needs to be practiced in order for women’s leadership to thrive. This way we create more opportunities for people to succeed, and everyone wins.

[Related: Women Leaders Are Changing the World]

3. Advocate for Change

Rather than assuming it has to be just as hard for the next woman as it was for us, you can use the position and influence you have to make the path easier for women to advance. This can include a work culture that offers a more balanced approach, such as flextime, paternity leave, daycare, and professional education opportunities. These types of changes are critical for women in mid to upper management and it is fundamental to keeping more females in the workforce during a challenging stage in their career.

In turn, these actions will support our own businesses by helping you retain great talent, and create a world in which a more diverse range of ideas are heard.

As I mentioned, I couldn’t be at the New York dinner in person due to just returning to full time work after my maternity leave, in this case I knew I could reach out to the women I’d met over the last few years. They know the importance of making these connections and opening doors to discussions and opportunities for those around them.

What this event made apparent is that WE are the catalyst. We have the power, and the obligation, to advocate for change. Let’s focus on blazing a better trail so that more women can rise to leadership positions. The result will be more talent for all of our companies, and a stronger economy for all of us.

[Related: Cool-Power Leadership: 4 Guidelines To Cultivate Yours]


Heather Odendaal is the founder of WNORTH, a boutique-style conference that happens annually in Whistler, British Columbia, Canada. It’s focused on providing a forum for women who are aiming for, or already on, a senior executive leadership track. Top female business leaders in corporate, public, and entrepreneurial sectors come together to enhance their leadership training, engage in high-level networking, and witness inspirational talks from global leaders. For more information on this year’s conference, happening April 19-21, 2017 visit

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