Alex Beier, right, and an unidentified woman promote the Women in the North conference set for three communities later this spring.

Emily Plihal
Local Journalism
Initiative Reporter

Women in the North (WIN) conference is gearing up to provide a supportive, uplifting, and empowering experience to women this spring.

WIN Conference project coordinator Dani Wearden says this year there will be three conferences stretched over three weeks, so women throughout the north can attend in their community of choice.

The first conference is in Fairview on May 1 at the Dunvegan Inn, the second is in Manning on May 8 at the Battle River Agricultural Hall, and the third is in Peace River on May 15 at the Chateau Nova.

“I believe the WIN conferences are important for women to attend because they provide an opportunity for women to connect with one another and learn from each other,” says Wearden.

“They offer a space for them to come together, feel empowered, meet new people, listen to motivational speakers, and hear stories from passionate community members,” she adds.

“Each conference is geared towards making women feel welcomed, seen, and inspired, which I think we could all use every now and then.”

The conference was first created by Community Futures Peace Country (CFPC) in response to Western Diversification’s priority on women in business. The event is supported by the Governments of Canada and Alberta and various sponsors from across the region.

“It started in 2007 with a mandate to bring training, networking opportunities, motivation, and information to women in business and leadership positions,” explains Wearden.

“Every year since then, the organizing committee has strived to raise the bar and provide women a chance to invest in themselves.”

Each conference has strategically chosen guest speakers and keynote speakers to help provide women in business or leadership roles with insights, education, and strategies that can help them in their roles or businesses.

“Our keynote speakers are there to help motivate and educate, and often share ideas that attendees can apply to their lives and businesses,” says Wearden.

“Along with that, our Talk Show Guests share real life experiences that often make attendees feel connected and less alone in their industries or businesses. Plus, it’s a great place to network and many women make connections with others who they may collaborate with in the future,” she adds.

This year, WIN will feature three Talk Show Guests at each conference. In Peace River, organizers have Chelsea McKen, Casey Szmata, and Jellie Borger.

“We asked these three because they are very connected to their communities and are great examples of women who wanted to start something new,” says Wearden.

“Chelsea owns and runs her own vegetable farm, TC Ranch, Casey manages the Resource Centre for Suicide Prevention – Peace Country, and Jellie owns Wild and Co. Wellness, which offers equine-assisted interventions and multiple healing modalities.”

In Fairview, organizers have enlisted Carrie Wegreen, Jennifer Daniel, and Michelle Dacyk.

“These three were asked because of their involvement within their local communities and their innate ways to connect with others,” explains Wearden.

“Carrie co-owns the Fairview Health Collective with her sister, Christina, where she is an osteopathic practitioner, Jennifer is the Worsley Central School administrator, and Michelle owns Elements the Compass of Health Inc. where she offers traditional and alternative therapies.”

Manning will feature Jennifer McCracken, who owns and operates the Manning Veterinary Clinic, chosen because of her vulnerability and passion for raising awareness surrounding mental health in business. Sharon Henitiuk, is the housing accommoda- tions manager for the North Peace Housing Foundation. She was asked to speak because she is passionate about making a difference in her community and has supported WIN in the past.

Wearden says they are still looking to finalize the last speaker in Manning.

“The main features are the two keynote speakers, the catered lunch, the Talk Show, the gift bags everyone in attendance receives, and the amazing door prizes,” says Wearden.

“These conferences are for anybody, you don’t have to own a business or a side gig to get something out of them, they are perfect for those looking to feel good and who want to connect with women in their community.

They’re a great chance to hear from powerful speakers, enjoy some laughter and stories, and spend a couple hours being uplifted,” says Wearden.

The all-day event will run in each location from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Wearden says they will have fun and engaging days with a chance to be around like-minded people.

“Moving forward, our plan is to alternate locations each year because we had such a positive response from those in Valleyview and Spirit River last year and we would love to go back,” says Wearden, noting that WIN went from five venues last year to three this year.

“This year’s event is special because we’re offering two different keynote speakers that I think everyone in attendance will really enjoy.

“Plus, we decided to add some new and exciting things to our gift bags that I think everyone in attendance will greatly appreciate.”

Keynote speakers will be Kristen Cumming and Ariel Haubrich at all three conferences.

“Kristen will be providing a keynote session and workshop in the morning at each conference called ‘Belonging at Work’,” explains Wearden. “She will be focusing on concepts such as otherness, privilege, and allyship and will be highlighting how leaders can create more inclusion. Ariel will be our afternoon keynote speaker and she will be touching on how stress affects us and how we can best support and understand ourselves.”

Organizers for WIN include Wearden, Sherry Crawford, Vanessa Burns, and Judy Peppler from Community Futures Peace Country, as well as an advisory committee that consists of one person from each conference community. Manning’s Malerie Greshner, Peace River’s Charis Nepinak, Fair- view’s Christi Friesen, and Government of Canada’s Deanna Basarab all are assisting with the conference.

“I think these conferences continue to grow because those who attend love them and tell others their personal experiences about them,” says Wearden.

“Word of mouth travels fast and I think there’s always an exciting buzz before and after each conference. Plus, I think a lot of businesses are encouraging their employees to attend as it creates a great team bonding experience.”

Wearden says the group is always open to more support. If anyone would like to support the conference or donate an item as a door prize, contact Wearden by email at eventspc@alberta cf.com.

“This is my first year organizing this event and I am honestly so proud and excited for what’s to take place,” says Wearden.

“It’s a huge undertaking and a big event to orchestrate, but we have such a committed team who have helped me learn the ropes and I am so grateful for them. It’s been an amazing experience so far and I can’t wait to see it all come together.”