What are the YWCA Women of Distinction Awards?
The YWCA Women of Distinction Awards honour extraordinary women leaders whose outstanding achievements contribute to the well-being and future of Metro Vancouver. This annual celebration also highlights the YWCA programs and services that help improve the lives of thousands of women and their families in our community.
What made you want to be this year’s event chair?
The awards are the most important annual fundraising event for the YWCA, a non-profit organization that has worked tirelessly to achieve women’s equality since 1897. I have been a passionate advocate for women’s advancement my entire career, so when they invited me to chair the event, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to support their efforts and give back.
Additionally, Copperleaf is a proud sponsor of this year’s event. We are delighted to support the YWCA and all of the important work they do, while also celebrating the accomplishments of local women who have achieved excellence and leadership in a variety of industries.
Why do you feel it’s important to support fellow women leaders?
I was a finalist in 2015 in the Entrepreneurship category and felt truly honoured to be recognized among so many amazing women across such a wide variety of sectors, from the arts to education to environmental sustainability to non-profit, etc. It was really inspiring and highlighted to me the importance of taking the time to celebrate and recognize people and their achievements, and by doing so, we can also learn from each other.
I agree with James Baldwin, the late American writer and civil rights activist, who said “people are formed by what they see”. The more we can raise the visibility of women leaders and support diversity in leadership, the more we will inspire young women to follow their dreams and drive positive change in our communities and the world around us.
How can organizations improve gender diversity, especially in leadership positions?
Having worked extensively in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) industry, I’ve witnessed the gender gap firsthand throughout my career. I believe creating an open and inclusive company culture where women feel confident to flourish and pursue management roles is crucial to improving female leadership representation. Establishing a mentorship program can also be incredibly helpful for young women to seek guidance on leadership, career development, and technical skills. And lastly, what gets measured, gets done. So, creating diversity and inclusion goals for the company, prioritizing initiatives, and then tracking progress over time will help to improve diversity and build a stronger workplace.
How can people volunteer or get involved with the YWCA Women of Distinction Awards?
While the YWCA usually has over 100 volunteers at the awards gala, this year’s event will be virtual due to COVID-19 restrictions. The YWCA has two volunteer committees that assist throughout the year, the Nominations Committee and the Auction Committee. The Nominations Committee meets every 2 to 3 weeks from July to January to brainstorm and identify women who would make great nominees. The Auction Committee works from December to June to secure donations from local businesses for the silent and live auction. Because this year’s event is virtual, the auction will be the main revenue generator over ticket sales, so donations are more important than ever.
If you are interested in donating or volunteering, please reach out to Jena Fair.
Watch Judi’s speech to this year’s nominees, originally aired at the YWCA’s Announcing the Nominees Celebration: