Empowering the Next Generation of Canadian Women


Sunday, September 30, 2007

May I just say that the weather here continues to be glorious! We are having our July in September. I can certainly deal with that. rideauhall1.jpg
Rideau Hall

Well. No rest for the wicked. Though I had a nice pancake breakfast with my family, it was into the frock again and off to the Governor General’s place to participate in a panel discussion entitled: Leading by Example: Empowering the Next Generation of Canadian Women. The women of the Penelope Circle were there, along with about half our cast, and Rae McKen and Veronica Tennant. There were about 120 women altogether, including many recipients of the Order of Canada, and many high power executives from business, law, politics, and the Arts. The main speakers were Zita Cobb (an amazing chick from the Rock!), Gail Asper (a family success story from Winnipeg), and Marie Chouinard (a woman whose heart speaks through her body), along with her Excellency, Michaëlle Jean. 

After the introductory speakers, we participated in round table discussions focussing on three questions: 

Is women’s excellence in the arts and in society sufficiently recognized?

How do women define success?

What can and should women do to lead the next generation?

Our key points were fed back to the group by a spokesperson from each table. Ms. Jean then responded with some closing remarks, completely off the cuff. This woman is a truly inspiring speaker, and such a gentle and kind person to meet and speak with. We should be sooooo proud that she is a representative of the the culture of this country to the world. No better, I think. 

It was a most impressive afternoon. There was a great deal of clout sitting in that room. And a great deal of interest in passing that clout on to another generation of empowered women. I was a little disappointed that though the focus was ostensibly on how philanthropy in the arts can lead our society forward in “ways of knowing beyond reason”, most of the feedback from the round tables was more general, and had steered itself toward success in the world of business and money. The curious exception to this trend were the two Francophone tables. We have so much to learn from Quebec artists and their place in the heart of their cultural and business success. Perhaps that is a quest for another afternoon at Rideau Hall. 

There were some amazing women who you just got a dribble of, that would have been so exciting to have a good yack with, but we didn’t finish the work at hand until 5pm. (Oh! Clare Cary, the wife of the British High Commissioner, was there. And I owe her an apology for spelling her name wrong last week. Sorry Clare! I told her at least I got her last name in; poor Warren Wills was just “Warren” for the longest time, if you’ll recall!) All of us Penelopiad girls were pooped. We stayed at the reception for a short time, and I took an abbreviated dash around the house to look at the amazing collection of Canadian art, including Riopelle, Colville, and Kurelek. Breathtaking. The “large dining room”. Nice. And the greenhouses! Wow. And once again… the toilets! Good toilets in these places, I’m telling you. Real linen hand towels at the Governor General’s, so she takes the prize. 


Greenhouses at Rideau Hall

It was half past six by the time I got back to my brother’s. He and Deb had kindly made dinner for me, and we had a great time chatting about my afternoon. It was great to immediately put our discussion into action by sharing the stories with my thirteen year old niece, Ainsleigh. She is a delight. She is a promise. She even understands when I start talking about artists creating the metaphors for our society’s story. She’s pretty impressive. 

“Don’t follow my example” says Penelope in the play. And this resonated with Zita Cobb.  Encourage young women to know what they know, and not to “be like” anyone but themselves. That is real success. That is real power. 


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