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WWIL Conference 2019: Breakthrough Recap

WWIL Conference 2019: Breakthrough Recap

Written by Holly Dunne, President 2017-2019

The 2018-2019 WWIL Executive Team knew it wouldn’t be easy, but wanted desperately to elevate the experience of the Western Women in Leadership Annual Conference in 2019. From months of hard work and incredible effort by the entire group, WWIL Conference 2019: Breakthrough was born. The theme of the event was resilience, and the conference focused on the emergence and success of women leaders in the face of adversity.

For the first time since the inaugural Annual Conference, WWIL moved the event off-campus to the beautiful grounds of Sunningdale Golf & Country Club. Attendees were bussed from Western’s campus to the facility, and were greeted with a continental breakfast as they settled in.

Jenna Goodhand, Life Coach and founder of The Hive, brought infectious energy to her opening keynote speech. Jenna advised Breakthrough’s attendees to own their confidence and strive to believe in their own abilities so that others may see their potential.

A fantastic group of representatives from Breakthrough’s title sponsor, BMO, took the floor shortly after to introduce the morning’s interactive activity: a mini pitch competition. The team explained the importance of personal value propositions, with a few pointed call-backs to MOMENTUM’s personal branding keynote address. Conference attendees were invited to put together an “elevator-style” pitch for themselves. Delegates pitched to the attendees seated at their table, and voted to choose the best representative to compete in the Prop Off, judged by the BMO reps. The Prop Off was a fun way to put Jenna’s earlier advice about owning one’s voice to use. Winners were announced, and the room moved into a short networking break.

WWIL welcomed Carolyn Lawrence, Inclusion Leader at Deloitte Global & Canada, to address the crowd as the day’s second keynote. Carolyn shared a list of “items for success” to guide women in the workplace through breaking down barriers, balancing priorities, and, all the while, enjoying the ride.

Mid-day, Sunningdale’s catering team laid out a spectacular lunch spread for Breakthrough delegates and guests to enjoy over conversation with fellow Mustangs, visiting students from other schools, speakers, and corporate representatives.


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Next on the agenda came the She Can Too panel, stacked with incredible women from diverse backgrounds. WWIL was honoured to host: Barb Nicholson, Regional VP Financial Planning at BMO Financial Group; Bonnie Schmidt, Founder and President of Let’s Talk Science; Sienna Jae Taylor, Community Engagement Manager at Pillar Nonprofit Network; Chika Stacy Oriuwa, Medical Student at the University of Toronto; and Calita Kennedy, Integration Transformation Business Development Executive at IBM. These women spoke about the barriers and challenges they had faced and overcome in their careers, and discussed effective strategies to forge a path for oneself as a young professional woman.

Seeking to include some of UWO’s own, WWIL invited representatives from Propel Entrepreneurship, an on-campus startup incubator, to host the afternoon’s interactive workshop. Conference guests were led through the process of creating a business plan, and benefitted from working together with tablemates to understand the role of collaboration in entrepreneurship.

Following another short networking session, Breakthrough’s final keynote took the floor to finish the day. Gillian Mandich, PhD in Health Science and Happiness Expert, shared the science behind being happy, and her tips for how to achieve happiness in and outside of the workplace. Gilian’s talk was the perfect way to close.

Without the support of BMO and the unwavering efforts of the 2018-2019 WWIL Executive Team, WWIL Conference 2019: Breakthrough could not have been the success it was. With a sold-out venue hosting more than 150 attendees, incredible speakers and guests, and lasting connections forged throughout the day, WWIL is proud to have provided UWO’s students with such a fantastic opportunity.


Written by Holly Dunne, WWIL President 2017-2019

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