I want to tell you about a woman I know, who shall be called Alma (not her real name). She is a lawyer from the Philippines with large dreams and a large heart. She came to Canada very young and already a lawyer. She saw how she could never be a lawyer here unless she went to law school in Canada; she did that, and passed the bar. Meantime, she did pro bono work at free legal clinics and saw the plight of many immigrant nurses and teachers working hard as caregivers and care aides; engineers and doctors working hard as taxi drivers and clerks, their dreams of prosperous lives in Canada dashed.
What a waste, she thought. She served on the board of a newcomer support agency and became a mentor for other immigrant lawyers to connect them with the legal profession, helping them to become lawyers. She provided free legal advice to caregivers on how to hurdle seemingly insurmountable rules to bring their families to Canada.
Alma looks around the "paradise" called Canada, herself a lawyer working in a tribunal, her child in a good school, a bright future. But the future is not bright for everyone. In her heart, Alma asks: Why should it not be bright for everyone who has skills and puts in a decent effort?
There needs to be a change, and she knows she wants to be part of that change. She believes non-profit agencies do their best, but if policies were changed, the root of the problem could be addressed. She believes there is work to be done through elected office, perhaps at the federal level. Or the provincial. She is not sure. She is a little afraid, and excited about the surely challenging work. She is concerned about how political life might affect her family life. Can she handle the cloak-and-dagger competitiveness? The gruelling campaigns? She has watched female politicians -- how do they do it?
Minerva Foundation's Women Leading the Way program was designed for women like Alma, with a driving passion for positive change in communities. The program will give her practical leadership skills in 10 areas to take her to the next level in her leadership journey. The program will expose her to real-life political environment and decision-making, involve her in a political leadership project.
In this case, she can choose to become involved in a project with the office of a member of Parliament to identify the needs of diverse cultural communities in the riding, examine them and propose practical solutions. With a team, she will talk with community members through focus groups, surveys and consultations, conduct research and propose solutions. She will work with political mentors, shadow them, learn from them.
She will have a year's journey to learn: the first half through classroom work/webinars with prominent leaders, and the second half through working on the community project.
I am excited about this new advanced leadership program for women because it's exactly what women need now to break through and make deep, positive changes to communities. I believe women have great capacity to lead. It is natural to them, being mothers and caretakers of families.
In this time of complexity, we need collaborators who can bring diverse people together and find common ground and move societies forward. We need these values in all sectors of our society where key decisions are made, whether in political, business or social service environments. And we need women who will lead the way for a better world, women like Alma.
Women Leading the Way is a unique hands-on development program that encourages women to move to the next level in their leadership journey. The goal is to increase women's participation in leadership roles and their ability to effect change in political, business or social sectors throughout B.C.
Applications for the program are open until Oct. 8. There is room for 25 seats in the first cohort starting in January 2011. For more information contact: 604-683-7635 ext. 228 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Eleanor Guerrero-Campbell is executive director of the Minerva Foundation for B.C. Women.