In 2017 I joined G(irls)20’s Girls on Boards program. As a Queen’s University Commerce student, with a background in tech-based start-ups, I hoped to one day leverage my background in finance and experience with tech to make investing more accessible for people of any economic status. Through Girls on Boards I was placed with Oikocredit Canada, where I have begun achieving that goal. Earlier this month, I was given the incredible opportunity to attend both the Youth and Women’s Forums in Toronto – where I got to learn more about women & economic equality. The Youth Forum was organized by WE Charity with the mission to mobilize Canadian youth and to create action and bring youthful voices to the G7 Summit. The Women’s Forum for the Economy & Society is a leading platform aimed at amplifying women’s voices and perspectives on global issues.
The energy at the Youth Forum was contagious. This was a room full of young people who will not wait decades for their voices to finally be recognized — rather, they will speak loudly enough to achieve results now.
Beyond the policy focuses at the Youth Forum — digital disruption, climate change, gender equality and mental health – were two central themes: inclusion and empowerment. Champions for change often spend so much time fighting for a seat at the table, that they forget the people they are fighting for should also be at the table. Larissa Crawford, an activist and speaker for Indigenous rights, spoke to the importance of inclusion, especially including Indigenous peoples in the creation of public policy toward reconciliation. Speaking on empowerment, Roxanne Joyal Kielburger contrasted what it means to give a hand up or a hand out and emphasized that in order for lasting to change to occur, we need to be focusing not only on the flow of money to the world’s most marginalized groups but also on creating a supportive ecosystem where those people can empower themselves, their economies and communities for generations to come.
“we need to be focusing not only on the flow of money to the world’s most marginalized groups but also on creating a supportive ecosystem where those people can empower themselves, their economies and communities for generations to come.”
The conversations and themes that permeated the Youth Forum were amplified at the Women’s Forum. The theme of inclusion resurfaced at the Women’s Forum as several discussions took place on how both the public and private sectors, men, women, LGBTQ+, young and old could rally together to unlock the potential of women leaders and by doing so, unlock the potential of our economy. For example, a panel analyzed data privacy through a gender lens, making me realize the undeniable importance of having women included in the tech sector. Inclusion goes hand in hand with diversity, and I was surprised by the diversity of peoples at the Women’s Forum, from different countries of origin to careers, experiences and perspectives. A personal highlight for me was the panel on deepening the impact of mainstream investments, as I am a firm believer that financial inclusion and working to close the expanding gap between the world’s richest and poorest people will be key to a healthier global economy that leaves no one behind. The panel discussed the emerging trends toward socially responsible investing and how we as consumers can encourage this trend by voting with our dollars to determine which organizations will succeed and which will not.
After the three days were over, I felt inspired, excited, and curious. Attending both forums exposed me to ideas and information that I had never before considered. The forums also gave me a new outlook on adversity. After hearing from such strong women, one thing became abundantly clear. None of these women let challenge or adversity stop them from achieving their goals. I saw through the women I met at both the Youth and Women’s Forum, that adversity coupled with a positive mindset forces the strong to become stronger.
“adversity coupled with a positive mindset forces the strong to become stronger.”
Finally, I cannot express how fortunate I feel to be given the opportunity to take part in the conversation during the Women’s and Youth Forum with both women and men whom I not only deeply admire but strive to emulate. I also feel deeply thankful to be living in Canada at this very time where my voice and the voice of other women is being supported rather than shut down. Finally, I am grateful for the G(irls)20 team, for investing their time, effort and energy on a group of eighteen young women. On behalf of the Future Board Members, thank you! It is only through G(irls)20’s support and hard work that are we closer to the glass ceilings we will now attempt to shatter.
By: Rachel Gonsalves, Young Director