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Women in Leadership conference a 'template for others to follow'

While women make up 51 per cent of the population in Canada, only 30 per cent are represented in elected roles.

Former Ontario Deputy Premier and Health Minister Christine Elliott delivered the Keynote address Saturday at a unique event.

“Is there anything like this anywhere else in Ontario? Nothing that I've heard of. So I think you may be the pilot, the template for others to follow,” she said.

The Women in Leadership conference held in south London brought together influential women leaders to inspire more to take up the cause.

“We're here to encourage women to look at themselves as leaders and possibly consider taking that next step,” said former St. Thomas Councillor and Founder of the Jean Collective Helen Cole. “So, we have quite a bit of work to do. What I learned is that women often think they don't know enough or they don't feel confident enough. So I'm hoping to change that.”

Lucan Mayor and Middlesex County Warden Cathy Burghardt-Jesson said taking that first step toward elected office is the most difficult.

“I think women put up their own barriers. They always say they always find a reason not to, ‘Well, I can't because I'm doing this. I have, you know, responsibilities with my children, with the parents that I'm having to look after, with my job.’”

Burghardt-Jesson understands the pressures of not only getting into politics, but serving for a long period of time. She has also seen why it is important to have that representation.

“It's all about diversity at the governance table or at any table that is doing things in your community. We have to make sure that there are voices that represent your community,” said Burghardt-Jesson. “So women need to be represented. Those of color need to be represented. Those of different faiths need to be represented. And so we're going to start by trying to encourage women to do that.”

Saturday's event kicks off the Collective's 2023 program, with a weekly series beginning on Oct. 3, and workshops for those interested in how to work towards elected office starting in the new year. Top Stories

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