"Just because you wander doesn't mean you are lost"
The first ever Women as Career Coaches event was presented by HIEC, in partnership with the Ontario Women's Directorate Partners for Change Initiative, on March 30, 2005. The following is a testimonial from Ella Myers, a Grade 12 Student from Lester B. Pearson High School, a young woman who attended.
When I told my mother that there was going to be a conference held for students about Women as Career Coaches she said, "I wish there'd been something like that in my day. They told us all to be secretaries." I laughed at my mother's we-walked-uphill-both-ways-to-school story. Then I began to think. The opportunities that are being offered to young women now-a-days, and the support given to pursue any career we choose, are tremendous. When I applied to university I picked whatever course I wanted. The thought that maybe I shouldn't go into a particular program because of my gender never crossed my mind.
To young people, anything over five years in the past seems like ancient history, but if we talk to our mothers, feminism didn't begin all that long ago. My mother also remembered a time when she got a B on a grade eleven math test. Being a perfectionist, she was mortified and asked her teacher, a man, if she could please rewrite the test. His answer to my mother's request to better her understanding? Why bother, you don't need math to raise babies.
The sexism that was rampant through the schools and workforce of merely twenty-five years ago has made a turn for the better. Now everyone is encouraged to strive for the career, and the life, that they want.
On Wednesday, March 30, I had the opportunity, along with young women from all over Halton, to participate in an event that encouraged us to follow our dreams. The event, which was organized by the Halton Industry Education Council, brought female students together with women employed in a wide range of careers. We heard stories about getting into careers that ranged from a carpenter, to a comedian, to a senior, who along with working as a nurse, raised two sets of twins born within eleven months of each other. These women shared all the paths that they had traveled along and the many twists and turns which finally led them to their dream job.
Along with hearing from these speakers, each table of eight had four students and four career coaches. Throughout the evening we got to know these women. They shared with us their unique experiences that finally led them to their current careers. At the end of the evening, Karyn Gordon spoke. She was articulate, engaging and very educated. She has a Bachelors in Psychology, a Masters in Counseling and a Doctorate in Marriage and Family Therapy. With her dynamic oratory skills and fantastic visual presentation, she talked about low self-esteem in an easy-to-listen-to and entertaining way. I don't think anyone left the room feeling like they'd been preached at. I think everybody saw themselves and their friends in the light of the attitudes and levels of self-esteem that Ms. Gordon discussed.
The overall message of the evening was balance. Find a job you love and a lifestyle that makes you happy. Every girl was given a stone with balance inscribed upon it in Chinese symbols. Along with the stone was a card that read, "Just because you wander doesn't mean you're lost."
I didn't leave the evening feeling like I could only become a secretary, but I also didn't leave feeling that I was being pushed into the traditional male trades in order to compensate for the lack of women in those fields. The evening wasn't about women flooding the workforce and kicking men out. It was about being proud of your skills and aware of your dreams. It doesn't matter what anatomy you have. We all have the same right to as good a career as the next guy, ...oops. I mean, girl.