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Central Alberta women gather to recognize International Women’s Day

She is … Leadership Event attracts crowd
Shazma Charania, president of ZS Holdings, was the keynote speaker at the She is … Leadership Event, held March 8, 2023 at Holiday Inn & Suites South Red Deer Hotel. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)

International Women’s Day was an opportunity to celebrate women’s achievements in central Alberta, but also recognize the challenges that still exist.

According to keynote speaker Shazma Charania at She is … Leadership Event, a 2021 study showed that two thirds of women do not feel confident in their jobs and 62 per cent said they do not believe they are intelligent.

“Compared to men, women don’t consider themselves as ready for promotions. They don’t feel confident when they’re taking that exam, and they generally underestimate their ability,” said Charania, president of ZS Holdings with hotel properties across Alberta.

She said a growing body of evidence shows success correlates just as closely with confidence as it does with competence so it’s no wonder that women are still woefully under represented at the highest levels despite the progress that’s been made.

“Women today are facing a particular crisis — a vast confidence gap that separates males and females.”

But Charania said with some effort, confidence can grow and she encouraged the crowd of about 180 women, and a few men at the conference, to help women acheive their goals.

“We have a role to play not only for ourselves but for the next generation, and my hope today is that we leave inspired and have the ability to influence and help turn these numbers and statistics around,” said Charania at the day-long event held at Holiday Inn & Suites South Red Deer Hotel on Wednesday.


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She is attendee Gloria Beck, Parkland Garden Centre owner, agreed it’s up to women to keep mentoring and encouraging younger women.

She said horticulture was a man’s industry when she started, but she went on to become the first female president of the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association.

“I had a board of 22 men and me,” said Beck, who went on to become the first North American and first female president of the International Garden Centre Association.

“I realized later on I was breaking a path for more women to follow which they did,” said Beck, who was also the first female president of the Downtown Rotary Club.

Alicia Rose, of Silverback Steam and Heating Rentals, said her industry is still very much male dominated, but she provides a fresh touch that appeals to her commercial customers.

She said during the worst of the pandemic she noticed more women coming out of their shells to figure out how to make money at home or outside the home.

“I think that women really jumped on that opportunity,” said Rose, who was pleased to see so many women attend Wednesday’s event.


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Amanda Oscar, office manager at Donna Purcell QC Law and ambassador at Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre, said her two teenage daughters are considering careers in mostly male-dominated fields and it’s important to celebrate women and all their attributes.

“Women are just as creative and empowering as men can be. We just need to break through that mold,” said Oscar who was excited to hear the She is speakers.

Former Red Deer MLA Mary Anne Jablonski said she attended the event to celebrate the great contributions women make to their families, communities, country and world.

She said discrimination still happens, but men are far more enlightened nowadays.

“I still think some of the issues are there, but it’s getting better,” Jablonski said.

Patricia Arango, executive director of Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre, said International Women’s Day is basically about equality and respect.

“You are different than me. However we are human beings. We are human beings and we have equal rights. That’s the way I see it,” Arango said.

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Singer and song writer Randi Boulton performed and shared her journey at the She is … Leadership Event, held March 8, 2023 at Holiday Inn & Suites South Red Deer Hotel. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)