Learning to lead

By Wendy Maloff

Gender roles in the modern world are a far cry from those of cavemen and cavewomen. Perhaps men and women are closer to equality than ever before, or perhaps they are merely playing the same game on very different playing fields.

On Tue., Sept.25, and Wed., Sept. 26, approximately 120 women came to the University of Calgary to attend "Women In Business: Discovering the Leader Within," a conference hosted by the Faculty of Continuing Education.

"This conference theme was on developing leadership skills," said Director of Professional Programs in Business Jane Borland. "If you already are a leader, the conference helped to look at your potential to develop yourself."

The conference included presentations by keynote speakers Dr. Tom Keenan, Dean of the Faculty of Continuing Education and Tanis Helliwell, best-selling author and founder of the International Institute of Transformation. According to Borland, other presentations at the conference covered topics ranging from "breaking through the glass ceiling" to "Chinese medicine and women’s health." There was even the inclusion of a speech titled "Wake up Cinderella, The Ball is Over."

"One of the roles a conference like this plays is to open up people’s minds to ideas that they wouldn’t even think of engaging in, but that are in fact very useful to them," added Keenan.

Both Keenan and Borland offered insight into why the conference was specifically aimed at women.

"Some women don’t define their peers as being other women but rather other oil company presidents," said Keenan. "The women that came to this conference felt a certain self identification with women as peers. We try to serve everyone’s educational needs and that’s certainly one of them."

Dr. Keenan added that his presentation was not gender specific, but that through the conference women were able to find a sort of community.

Borland agreed and added a woman’s perspective.

"Balance in women’s lives tends not to happen too often, so you’re trying to juggle things between home and work, where traditionally men do not have that juggling issue," she said. "Men don’t deal with the same kinds of conflicts as women do, or the same kinds of pressures."

"Discovering the Leader Within" was the 12th annual Women in Business conference. It was originally conceived by a secretaries’ association, but now caters to women in any business position from supervisors to management to support staff.

"Technology has changed a lot of things, as well as the way women are moving," said Borland. "A lot more women are going to be entrepreneurial too, so leadership is a key quality that they’ll need regardless of what they do."

Dr. Keenan agreed.

"Leadership and learning are inextricably linked," he pointed out. "The only way to be a good leader is if you’re always learning and encouraging other people to learn. Our whole faculty is about life-long learning for people."

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