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  • Barinder Rasode

Having conversations that matter

What happens when you have broken through the glass ceiling, only to hit another?

I regularly hear from women, young and old, that they feel conflicted by cultural expectations. As a South Asian woman, I'm all too familiar with the challenges and barriers that come with gender and race.

I'm taking strides to ensure we discuss the important relationship between gender, heritage and community. By having vital conversations and challenging the norm, we will create a better future for the next generation of leaders.

The goal of SheTalks, which I helped co-found just over a year ago, is to feature inspirational speakers from all backgrounds who share personal stories of leadership, transformation, innovation and succeeding in today's rapidly changing world. It's something I'm passionate about.

The glass ceiling is a metaphor for obstacles that discourage and limit women and minorities from accessing the upper levels of a male-dominated workforce. Most of us grew up in a culture where, to some extent, some valued men over women. This subculture manifests in expectations and defined roles. Many women feel like they live in two worlds – and often these worlds collide.

For example, women and girls are sometimes discouraged from entering politics, especially if they are mothers. Women are advised to keep their political life separate from their family life. I've never never believed that. Motherhood is powerful and should not stop females from entering politics.

In 2008, I made history as the first elected South Asian city councillor in the City of Surrey – a role I held for six years with a focus on domestic violence, families and crime prevention. Then in 2014, I ran my “One Tough Mother” mayoral campaign. Although North America has yet to elect a female South Asian mayor, I feel my running was an advancement – not just for women, but for South Asian women. Young change-makers need to see themselves reflected in their leaders.

My first and number one priority has always been my three children. I don't want my daughter to have to push through the double-glass ceiling and I have raised my sons to live their lives true to their values and treat women as equals. Part of being a strong mother means building a strong community in which my children can thrive. That means creating and ensuring the development of a community that is not only economically viable but one that is creating jobs and innovations for the future. I have the next generation in mind and want to create change.

I gage my success on how many people I have helped and believe that success is having a strong team of people by your side. I've made it my goal to elevate and promote those around me – and SheTalks provides the perfect platform to continue to do so.

Many of the current conversations about women seem to focus on ways they need to change themselves: their actions, appearance and behaviours. It projects an unhealthy messages that women are not good enough.

SheTalks is about creating a community in which women can come together in a positive environment and learn from one another. It's about real women sharing real stories. It's about about overcoming difficulties and celebrating successes.

We all have challenges but we conquer them in our own way. SheTalks allows diverse female voices and experiences to be heard. I want women and girls to dream big and know they can do anything, especially when they have the support of a strong community.

- Barinder Rasode is co-founder and chairwoman of SheTalks. She is also Director of Responsibility for Resource Works and a Fraser Health Authority board member.

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