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UofGH hosts its first Women in Business event

UofGH's Women in Business panel

In recognition of International Women’s Day, the University of Guelph-Humber hosted its first ever Women in Business event on campus. The day began with a job fair, which gave students the opportunity to speak with potential employers in a variety of industries, followed by two inspiring and informative panel discussions with diverse female leaders.

Melissa Patrizi, Career Coordinator at UofGH, says the idea for the Women in Business event came from conversations she had with UofGH’s employer partners. “It was definitely a direct response to what I was hearing from a lot of our employer partners, who were telling me they wanted to participate in unique programming, and women in business was one of their areas of focus,” she says. “We had multiple existing partners saying ‘if you did this we would come’ so that’s how I started to develop it.”

Patrizi says the response from partners interested in participating was so overwhelming, she added a second panel. “I was pleasantly surprised by the response I got, by how many partners wanted to be on the panel,” she says. “It was a phenomenal opportunity to capture a wide spectrum of experience from the female lens. All of these women were in some leadership capacity, with a diversity of backgrounds and breadth of experience, which was great.”

Sharing stories, advice, and inspiration

The first panel was moderated by UofGH Women in Business Society President Brooklyn Weber and Vice-President Chinaza Nnolim. “The Women in Business Society participants did a great job,” says Patrizi. “I congratulate them on having that confidence and drive to participate. This event was a great opportunity to include our Societies, and if you’re going to be a student leader on campus, these are great ways to involve yourself more, and have more touchpoints on what’s going on around campus.”

Two panelists smile

The panel included Sou Choi, Human Resources Director at Tiffany & Co.; Erin Williamson from York Regional Police; Angela Johnston, Special Constable at the Toronto Transit Commission; Reena Bhuchar, Job Developer and Group Facilitator at Rexdale Women’s Centre; Angela Valentini, founder of Valentini Group, a boutique digital marketing agency; and Shawna Freitas, Senior Account and Staffing Manager at XMC.

The second panel, moderated by Patrizi, included Vasie Papadopoulos of RBH Inc.; Sarita Samaroo, principal lawyer and owner of SST Law Professional Corporation; Wendy Ford, Chief Financial Officer at Mancor Industries; Anne Lavrih, Newsroom Operations Lead and Today’s Parent Reporter for 680 News; Luisa Alvarez, Senior Coordinator of Festival Programming at the Toronto International Film Festival; Susan Wonch, Shift Supervisor/Sergeant with York Region Transit Enforcement and Security; and Anna Mancini, National Personal Training Director for Fitness on the Go.

The panelists shared a wide range of experiences with students, including the challenges they have faced in their fields, their career paths, and unique attributes they bring to their roles. They also discussed the importance of having mentors, and how they manage work-life balance.  “I wanted to make the panel an opportunity for people to tell their stories, and through their stories and experience, to inspire or guide or give advice to our students,” says Patrizi. “You never know what someone will say that triggers an inspiration in you. It’s that one person where you hear that one thing, where you think ‘that’s what I want to do’ or ‘that’s not what I want to do,’ so that was my goal.” 

Just the beginning

Patrizi says it’s an important time to promote women in business. “It’s a time in our culture where female empowerment and leadership is important, and we’ve seen that develop over time with things like International Women’s Day, and that’s how our event was aligned,” she says. “To be able to leverage the opportunity to speak to female leaders so directly from an experienced, professional lens was really powerful,” she says. 

She says she received extremely positive feedback from the participants, and that in spite of the event name, the Women in Business event was open to the entire UofGH and Humber communities. “It was called Women in Business, but encapsulated all students. The title was in recognition of International Women’s Day and the female leaders we had on the panel, and I hope all of our attendees—regardless of gender—got just as much out of it.”

Patrizi adds she hopes that the Women in Business event will be an annual occurrence at UofGH, and says “I hope that this event piqued some interest for students, and inspired them in some unique way they have never thought of before.”