Conestoga, in partnership with the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University, hosted the 2019 annual conference of the Senior Women Academic Administrators of Canada (SWAAC). The conference, held April 25 to 27, explored the theme of "Making brave spaces: The importance of allyship in the institution" and welcomed approximately 150 delegates from across the country.
“How do we summarize all of the wonderful things we’ve taken away with us over the last few days?” asked Trish Weigel-Green, Conestoga’s associate vice-president, Student Affairs, during her closing remarks. “This is what I take away: be brave. Raise your hand. Use your voice. Grab the mic. Be an ally. Remove obstacles for others, so that they can raise their hands, use their voices and grab the mic.”
Weigel-Green’s comments followed an applied keynote from Shari Graydon, founder, Informed Opinions -- an organization that works to ensure diverse women’s perspectives and priorities are equitably integrated into Canadian society.
Graydon reminded conference attendees that although women constitute more than 60 percent of university graduates and hold senior positions in many industries, their perspectives still remain seriously underrepresented in the media and public discourse.
“The ripples you create by speaking up are incalculable,” said Graydon as she encouraged attendees to share their experiences and expertise. “Whenever someone offers you a chance to amplify your voice, you have an impact on more people.”
Conference programming also included an Indigenous leadership panel, and a provost’s panel featuring Conestoga’s Dr. Barbara Kelly, vice-president, Academic, Student Affairs and Human Resources.
Elizabeth Nyamayaro, senior advisor to under-secretary-general and executive director, UN Women, and global head of the HeForShe initiative, delivered the opening keynote address.
Nyamayaro shared her experiences of growing up in a Zambian village ridden with HIV and famine, and her goal -- and the challenges involved in reaching it -- to work for the United Nations after being helped by UN aid workers in her own community.
“If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re probably not big enough,” she said to conference attendees.
SWAAC was founded in 1987 to provide a forum and a collective voice for those who identify as women in senior administrative ranks in Canadian universities, colleges, and technical institutes.
The annual conference offers a venue for aspiring female academics and women in senior leadership positions to come together to develop and enhance their leadership capabilities, offer mentorship to future leaders and connect with each other.