“Press for Progress” brunch celebrates International Women’s Day



By Ron Giofu


International Women’s Day was celebrated locally on the weekend with a strong contingent from Amherstburg helping to “press for progress” as it relates to gender equality.

The brunch, actually entitled “Press for Progress,” was held at Ambassador Golf Club in LaSalle Sunday afternoon with a large crowd attending to hear from guest speakers and panellists. The Essex County International Women’s Day organizing committee saw a number of Amherstburg people involved with a portion of the proceeds being earmarked for the Belle Vue Conservancy.

“International Women’s Day is annually held March 8 to celebrate women’s achievements throughout history and across nations,” said committee co-chair Pat Simone. “This year’s theme is ‘Press for Progress.’ International Woman’s Day is not country, group or organization specific. The day belongs to all groups collectively everywhere. So together, let’s keep pressing for progress and celebrating women in a positive way.”

St. Clair College president Patti France, the first female to hold that position, was the master of ceremonies and said she is also the first St. Clair graduate to ascend to the college’s presidency. She believes it not only shows what a St. Clair College education can accomplish, but what women can accomplish as well.

Guest speaker Laurie Tannous speaks at the “Press for Progress” International Women’s Day brunch at Ambassador Golf Course Sunday
morning at Ambassador Golf Club in LaSalle.

Considerations of gender are becoming less relevant in the employment world, she added, with the focus shifting to skill-set and ability.

Laurie Tannous, vice president of government and industry relations at Farrow, said she was “blessed” to have parents “who let me do what I wanted to do.” Tannous, also an immigration lawyer, said she became angered when watching a television program depicting an era when women had to ask permission to do such things as go to the bank.

Tannous believed men and women should work together for the progress of all, adding that there is no boundary a woman can’t overcome. She said people have to set examples for their sons and daughters as they “are watching us.”

Tannous also joined committee member Michael Akpata, author and journalism professor Veronique Mandal, Jodi Goslin from Oxley Estate Winery and EnWin Utilities CEO Helga Reidel on a panel where they fielded a number of questions that were either written by the committee or by those in attendance.

Akpata believed that when like-minded people work together, they can make progress for all people. When women progress, so can people of colour, those with disabilities and other members of society.

Anthony Leardi moderates a panel during the “Press for Progress” International Women’s Day brunch March 4 at Ambassador Golf Club in LaSalle. On the panel were Michael Akpata, Laurie Tannous, Helga Reidel, Jody Goslin and Veronique Mandal.

“I believe in rights and equality for all,” said Akpata. “We’re all in a rowboat on the same little blue marble together. Your success will be everyone’s success. We succeed together or we fail together.”

Mandal encouraged women not to be afraid of change and believed International Women’s Day was a chance to reflect on the fact not every woman has the freedoms that women do in Canada.

“Let us spend a second or two to think about those who can’t be like us today,” said Mandal.

Mandal added she tries to use kindness to help both men and women with Tannous advising women to “know your worth and keep pushing” in times of adversity.

“You have to believe in yourself and know you can do it,” said Tannous.

Reidel advised people to be prepared to work hard and that working hard gets people noticed.

“Whether you are a man or a woman, hard work gets noticed,” said Reidel. “Nothing gets handed to you because you’re a man or a woman.”

Guest speaker Patti France addresses the “Press for Progress” brunch. France is the first female president of St. Clair College.

Men should care about International Women’s Day because of the messages they can convey to sons and grandsons, added Reidel with Mandal agreeing that messages can be shared with future generations.

Goslin pointed out that roles have changed to where it is more acceptable when a mother goes out to work. She commented that women can create a central nervous system inside of them and that “without women, men wouldn’t be here.”

Asked by moderator Anthony Leardi about whether the “Me Too” movement could actually lead to less women being hired out of fear of harassment complaints, Akpata rejected that as he believed no CEO would turn down a qualified woman and negatively impact his bottom line.

Akpata said the “Me Too” movement has outed “boorish” and “piggish” behaviour by men in the workplace and has opened up the discussion on such behaviour.

Carolyn Davies represented the Belle Vue Conservancy and remarked that “I’m sure Margaret and Catherine Reynolds would be absolutely delighted” with International Women’s Day. The Reynolds family built the historic Amherstburg mansion 200 years ago. Davies said Belle Vue was designated a national historic site in 1959, received provincial recognition in 1984 and municipal recognition in 1988.

For more information about the Belle Vue Conservancy, visit www.bellevueconservancy.com or donate at www.amherstburg.ca/donate.

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