Women are often under-represented in many fields, especially in leadership roles, and this fact is no different at the University of Saskatchewan. In response to this deficit, the U of S Students’ Union has created the first ever Women in Leadership week.
From Jan. 16 to 19, the USSU and several student groups on campus, including Women in Legislature, will host events dedicated to celebrating female leaders and encouraging gender equality in leadership roles. A different theme each day will represent areas where leadership is possible: empower, advocate, inspire and impact.
MacKenzie Stewart, fourth-year political studies student and executive director external of WiL, speaks about what the Women in Leadership week entails.
“It is a week dedicated to highlighting the achievements and accomplishments of women in the Saskatoon community and area, as well as showcasing different options for women who are in university. It is a good way to explore the different aspects of leadership that women can be part of and are traditionally under-represented in,” Stewart said.
Some of the events that students will be able to attend include a breakfast on Jan. 16, an activism workshop on Jan. 17 and an art show on Jan. 18. On the last day, there will be a gala and networking event. Details for all of the events, as well as sign-up information, can be found on the USSU website.
Renata Huyghebaert, USSU vice-president student affairs, was part of the decision to start Women in Leadership week, which was inspired by a commission on women in leadership that took place last year due to the lack of female leadership in the USSU.
“We just want to encourage women, especially students on campus, to get involved in leadership positions in campus student groups and in the wider community,” Huyghebaert said. “We’re trying to set a precedent because this is something that the USSU feels is very important, and it’s something that we’re very interested in carrying on in the future.”
Stewart outlined the objectives of the events that will take place throughout the week.
“Our main goal is raising awareness on how women can be leaders in their community, and also to showcasing the women who have worked really hard and have dedicated their lives to being leaders, because oftentimes women don’t get enough recognition,” Stewart said.
According to Huyghebaert, women are under-represented in both business and political leadership, and this is one of the main reasons why she feels it is important to have events like these.
“We have a very high number of female Canadians who are educated — it’s around 60 per cent women who are graduating from master of business administration programs. However, it is something between 10 and 15 per cent women on corporate boards in Canada. So there is still a very large gap, so that’s why we still think this is important,” Huyghebaert said.
While the event highlights traditional leadership roles, Stewart explains that it also focuses on the various forms that leadership can take.
“Leadership can happen in different ways — through art, through activism, through mental health — not just the traditional politics and business route,” Stewart said.
One way that U of S students can become leaders in their community is through the many student groups available on campus. For example, WiL helps to inspire women to participate in politics by hosting events throughout the year that focus on women’s experiences in politics and works to build awareness of the under-representation of women in politics.
Huyghebaert believes that a strong connection with other students on campus is where leadership can begin, and that is one of the goals of the Women in Leadership events.
“I think it’s extremely important to encourage and empower other people to do great things,” Huyghebaert said. “I wasn’t really involved in the university community for a few years and once I was exposed to positive role models and was inspired by those role models, it really encouraged me to get involved in student life … and gave me the skills and the experience to pursue larger goals in my professional career.”
Graphic: Lesia Karalash / Graphics Editor