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Inspiration. Empowerment. Persistence. Those are just a few of the words to describe what our team notices when looking at the Women’s Track of the Employment Readiness Program for self-identified women. The Women’s Track launched with a pilot program in February 2020, and was just starting to pick up pace when it was forced to pause between March and August 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since its return, our team has noted that the last six months have been exciting, even though changes have had to be made to the program. Smaller workshops, fewer people in a truck at one time, and limited outreach due to social distancing protocols are just a few of the adjustments. While these barriers have made it difficult to spread the word about the Women’s Track, there continues to be great interest from the community.

When discussing her experience with the Women’s Track, one of our WT supervisors expressed her excitement and awe for the growth and confidence that one particular associate had achieved in the last few months. She recalls that when the associate began the program, she was quiet and shy due to a traumatic experience that kept her away from work for three years. The associate often waited for instructions on what to do next, and Holly could tell that just being in the MP warehouse was overwhelming for her at times. However, over the past few months, the associate has started to take ownership of the space and interacts with her and the team much more confidently. She has also noticed that being on a women’s only team has helped the associate feel more empowered to do things on her own. She says that the opportunity to instill that independence and drive in the team is one of the most rewarding aspects of her work with the Women’s Track.

Jess, Momentum Coordinator, echoes these sentiments:

“It’s exciting what can happen when women feel safe and supported. They more freely open up about their feelings, their strengths and their challenges. Nurturing new relationships in a way that feels comfortable to us, in a venue where we create the framework, and a private space that empowers us results in learning and required behavioral shifts happening easier and faster. Also, it means that participants are surrounded by women who experience the same obstacles to achieving success at the highest levels of their goals. This commonality allows for honest feedback, new perspectives, and ties that extend beyond the ‘classroom’ and beyond the length of the program. Women-only spaces make a difference. It is not that men cannot provide this support, but sometimes a male-free environment is more conducive for growth. I have seen this since day one of the workshop.”

Jess and the team have found that some women are skeptical about the program until they learn more about how it provides comfort and empowerment for women working in a male-dominated space. The Women’s Track provides an opportunity to feel more comfortable trying new things, taking the lead, and finding community and support with other women. 

In October 2020, Jess hosted a Women’s Summit as a way to bring the team together to participate in some personal and professional development. Focusing on self-care and communication, the summit provided a safe space for the participants to learn from each other while still following applicable COVID-19 safety protocols. It also helped them reflect on their own practices, and share how they can apply what they’ve learned in the Women’s Track to their personal lives and workplace environments. According to Holly, the Women’s Summit “came out of a collective recognition that there is something special about being all together as women, where further learning can happen.”

Whether it’s watching the participants gain confidence while out on the job, supporting women in reaching their goals through coaching sessions, or witnessing the camaraderie between the women who are a part of the Women’s Track, Jess and the team are honoured to work with the associates in the Women’s Track. Looking forward, they are hoping to expand the Women’s Track into the full extent of MP’s social enterprises, MP Maintenance and MP Neighbours. Whatever happens, they have already made a difference in the lives of several women, and it will be exciting to see what they continue to do in the future.

International Women's Day is an incredible way to celebrate the accomplishments of the women in our lives and all around the world. When women are given educational and work opportunities, they thrive, and so do the people and communities around them which is why programs, like our Women's Track, are crucial. In a world where gender bias and inequity continue to exist, we #ChooseToChallenge the status quo. We are committed to helping create a more inclusive world, not just for cisgender women but for trans, non-binary and gender diverse communities as well. We are so proud of the women who are currently in our program, all those who have graduated and moved on to do great things, and all the women to come. Happy International Women's Day! 

If you are interested in supporting, joining, or learning more about the Women's Track, please get in touch with Jess at jess@mission-possible.ca.