Feb. 13, 2014

Schulich at Global Leadership Summit

Unleashing the potential of women

Womensphere participants tour the Lenfest Center for Sustainable Energy at Columbia University, and learn about ambient carbon capture from Senior Staff Associate Allen Wright.

Imagine sitting in a room with the co-founder of Indiegogo, one of the world’s biggest crowdfunding sites, a physicist who hosts a Discovery Channel show and 400 other strong, driven and influential leaders from around the globe. All around you are engineers researching cutting-edge technologies, award-winning film producers and CEOs of major business and media companies.

And they’re all women.

Brandi Chuchman and Rachael L’Orsa from the Schulich School of Engineering were among the crowd attending the Womensphere Emerging Leaders Global Summit in New York City in January.  

“All the women at the summit had passion, and a willingness to take risks to share their ideas with the world,” says Chuchman, the director of Schulich’s Cybermentor program, which matches girls with female scientists and engineers across Alberta using an online mentoring platform. “We all have something important to contribute—it’s a matter of finding what that impact looks like for you, and then being bold.”

Womensphere, a global social enterprise, launched five years ago to drive women’s leadership and innovation and unleash the potential of women to create a better world. It focuses on seven areas including Science and Exploration, Technology, Entrepreneurship and more.

“Success depends on how you measure it,” says L’Orsa, a graduate student in electrical engineering and founder of the Schulich Community Robotics Program. “If your version of success has you striving for the top of a competitive heap, then regardless of gender, you will need the plan, the passion, and the supporters to get you there.”

Here’s a snapshot of knowledge from the leaders at the summit that you can use to unleash your own potential:

  • Don’t be afraid of failure. Falling on your face is a forward movement.
  • Mentorship can overcome gender bias; lift other women as we climb.
  • Don’t think about the steps to reach the top. Instead, think about what you want to do when you get there.
  • Passion and purpose are more important than work-life balance.
  • If you want to change the system, you need to get inside the system first.
  • People are bombarded by messages. Cut through with storytelling – find the soul behind your story.
  • Cultural Intelligence is becoming crucial. Know the numbers, and experience the communities you want to understand.
  • Be clear about your networking intentions. Know what you want from connections.
  • Don’t ask if you are good enough – ask who you are, and what you have to offer.
  • Diversity isn’t just about equality. It’s about returns.