Women in business, academics, come together to share skills

On Monday, March 5, the University of Ottawa Alumni network hosted a Women in Leadership Summit to kick off International Women’s Week.

The goal of the summit was to learn how and why we should empower women in areas of business, academics, and beyond, and included a keynote address by Danièle Henkel, a businesswoman who has created  a wellness company in Quebec .

“I personally liked the tone of it and the sense of hopefulness I was left (with) when the summit was done,” said Habon Maxamud, a second-year accounting student who attended the summit. “A lot of ideas such as ‘stop being superwomen’ were discussed.”

Henkel’s speech addressed the issues that women often feel like they have to do so much in order to be successful. She called this “being superwomen,” emphasizing that you don’t need to do many things, but rather a few things very well.

“I personally found that last point incredibly resonating,” Maxamud said. “I feel that usually as women we think we should be doing it all. And having a few slips is not acceptable, (Henkel) said it and made me feel safe and okay with the idea that I don’t have to do 40 different things to feel accomplished.”

Zaineb Al-Faesly, a fourth-year civil engineering student, attended the pre-event on Saturday, March 3, along with prominent women leaders in Ottawa from Shopify, ElementAl, and other large companies.

“I think it is beyond important for myself to attend events like this,” she said. “In reality, civil engineering and data science do not have much overlap, however, learning about different things, things that are outside your realm of studies is crucial to your growth.”

According to Al-Faesly, “while it is important to be knowledgeable in your field and pursue further education to specialize in your domain, learning outside of your comfort zone is where some of the best inventions come from. That is where the spark is ignited.”

Other presenters included Solmaz Shahalizadeh, director of Data, Merchant Services Algorithms at Shopfiy, and Negar Rostamzadeh, research scientist at ElementAl, Iranian women who are working in the field of data science.

“They mentioned to me that women are very underrepresented in this field and as foreign women it is even more difficult,” said Al-Faesly. “Regardless of that, I was extremely impressed by their tenacity. They are both very intelligent ladies who look beyond the limitations that exist and are climbing the ladder in their field, which I found very inspiring. They don’t look at the walls, they just hammer their way through.”