5 ways to keep the spirit of International Women's Day going all year long.

Officially, International Women’s Day is being celebrated this year on March 8, 2019. The theme this year is #BalanceforBetter: a call-to-action for driving gender balance across the world, and encouraging people to make a difference.

We’ve come a long way in the past 100 years. Think about it: Only 80 years ago women were still not allowed to vote in provincial elections in all Canadian provinces. And yet, here we are today, a group of female business owners, entrepreneurs, CEOs and Founders, coming together to inspire others and support modern business women on their journeys.
Sascha Lafleur, Gem Conference, West of MainBut because we’ve come a long way, doesn’t mean we’ve arrived. How do we support women and encourage gender balance all year round, not just on one day? We asked some of the women participating in GEM Conference how they support women both in and outside of the business world to keep the spirit of International Women’s Day alive all year.
Here are our top-five tips:

Tip #1: Join a women’s group.

Whether it’s a weekly or monthly routine, joining a group allows you to find a supportive space, while also examining what it means to be a woman today, as mothers, sisters, daughters, wives, and as professionals. “From fostering meaningful connections with women around you, to embracing and holding a space of trust and love, intentionally setting up time for coming together alongside sisters to share our knowledge and feminine wisdom is powerful,” said Ana Tavares, Founder of Wmnhoodgroup, photographer, and GEM Conference event moderator. “It only enhances the strength and chain of connection between women and generations.”

Tip #2: Share your message, and help others share theirs too.

When you share your message you help inspire others to not only follow their dreams and stand up for what they believe in, but you provide an avenue for them to share their message, too. “I know my voice is meant to be heard,” said Mallory Rowan, Founder of LVD Fitness and GEM Conference speaker. “There is a great quote by Maya Angelou: ‘Each time a woman stands up for herself without knowing it, possibly without claiming it, she stands up for all women.’ I believe I live everyday knowing the messages I can bring to the table and the impact I can have, and I do not back down from bringing them forward. By putting this out honestly, I hope
to encourage others to do the same, even in aspects of their life that feel small or
insignificant to the bigger picture".
Andrea Collins, Founder of Mindful (Mostly) podcast + Peachpit media and GEM Conference Moderator, agees. Her Mindful (mostly) podcast connects her with women around the globe every week, coming together to share goals, fear, and laughter. “Our voices need to be heard!”, she says, and helps others get their voices out through her work as a podcast consultant.

Tip #3: Hire women!

While it’s important to join women’s focused groups, Bailey Parnell, CEO and Founder of Skillsamp and GEM Conference Speaker, adds it’s important to put your money and actions where your mouth is. “Consider things like who you’re hiring or sending opportunities to,” she says. “I try to remember this throughout the year. My graphic designer, writer, videographer, - they are all women, and women of colour at that.”

Tip #4: Be each other’s biggest supporters.

“I have a personal challenge to be the most encouraging person in every room I enter,” shares Ashley Beaudin, Founder of Imperfect Camp, and GEM Conference speaker. “I love how contagious encouragement is. Once you start, you just can’t stop! So I support women on the daily through encouragement - seeing beauty in everyone I meet and boldly speaking to it.”Sascha Lafleur (GEM Conference speaker and owner of West of Main) and  her team member Nicole Veenema, 
make it a priority to share other female designers’ work and achievements to breakdown the stigma that women should see each other as competition.
“Other women’s success should inspire, not fuel envy or jealousy,” they said. “We're not alone in our philosophy and we have an amazing community of talented female entrepreneurs that have helped mentor and shape our culture"
Amanda Cockburn, Founder of GEM Conference and Freewheeling Craft, agrees. “Too many times I have seen situations with women who cut each other down, and feel joy or relief when they see someone stumble.” It isn’t always easy, but if we can overcome resentment towards others who’ve put us down and send them love and light instead, it not only lifts them and those around them up, but frees us from negativity as well. “Empowered women empower other women,” says Amanda.

Tip #5: Remember there’s Heart behind the Hustle.

It can be easy to get wrapped up in the ‘work hard all the time’, ‘hustle hard’ mentality of entrepreneurship. But Nikki Gillingham, Founder of Blue Whale Communications, says it’s important to remember to take time to relax and recharge, especially for those who are still working full-time and building their dream job on the side. “You can’t pour from an empty cup, as the saying goes,” she says. “In order to be able to build other women up and support others, you need to take care of yourself first.” The women of West of Main agree. “We purposefully book time once a week to sit together as a team to talk about any issues we are facing and support each other with strategies and solutions. We also end work early on Fridays to have a drink together and with our partners, making a point to get to know each other's families on a personal level. We strongly feel that being real and vulnerable within the office empowers us to live and work wholeheartedly - having courage and feeling engaged all year round".

How do you encourage the spirit of International Women’s Day all year round? We’d love to hear your ideas and strategies, too! Share them in the comments or tag us on social media.
Tickets for GEM conference go on sale March 8th at 8am. You won't want to miss the early bird that runs March 8-10 to save up to 20% off your ticket.

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