Reflecting on the 2019 Women of Distinction on IWD

On the eve of International Women’s Day 2019, I found myself surrounded by some pretty amazing women.

Looking over a frozen Toronto from the 54th floor of the TD Tower, I joined more than 100 guests and colleagues to meet and hear from the nine women who will receive a YWCA Toronto Women of Distinction Award on May 23rd, 2019.

Gathering to hear the 2019 Women of Distinction introduced for the very first time, the sense of sisterhood and mutual admiration was palpable. Women, allies and Women of Distinction past and present stood together to cheer, encourage and honour one another. It was extremely humbling to be part of such an incredible gathering of leaders, pioneers and champions.

During a panel discussion, the 2019 Women of Distinction relayed the influences that galvanized them in their work towards gender equity. While their insights were all unique – shaped by their experiences as mothers, leaders, newcomers and survivors – a constant theme emerged: girls and women need other women as role models in order to succeed.

As I listened to these nine incredible feminists talk about their achievements and their hopes for the future, I thought about the women in my own life who inspire me. From my mum, who taught me to recognise inequity and challenge it with empathy and sensitivity, to the friends who are my community and my constant support. And, of course, my colleagues at YWCA Toronto, whose fierce determination to make the world a better place for women and girls encourages me every day.

This is what I learned from our Women of Distinction: that feminism is not standalone work. That without partnerships and networks and communities of women supporting women, the progress we have made would not have been possible. And that we need to continue promoting and motivating and lifting one another to ensure that our commitment to gender equity is renewed and strengthened year after year.

I hope you will join us as we honour our 2019 Women of Distinction on May 23rd, and that you, like me, will feel inspired by these wonderful women and by the vitality of our growing movement to transform the lives of women and girls.

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By Rachael Plant, Philanthropy Writer at YWCA Toronto