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‘We have to foster future generations of young women leaders now’

10 aspiring Concordia entrepreneurs get inspiration and ideas at C2 Montréal
June 26, 2019
Student delegates had behind-the-scenes access to the forward-thinking business event, which featured high-profile speakers like Spike Lee, and Sophie Grégoire Trudeau.
Student delegates had behind-the-scenes access to the forward-thinking business event, which featured high-profile speakers like Spike Lee, and Sophie Grégoire Trudeau.

The C2 Montréal Commerce + Creativity Conference takes place annually in May with thousands of attendees from more than 50 countries. Alongside high-profile speakers like Spike Lee and, the list of attendees at this year’s event included 10 aspiring female entrepreneurs from Concordia.

The John Molson School of Business (JMSB) partnered with C2 Montréal and URBANA Marketing to grant 10 women full and exclusive access to the forward-thinking business event.

The Women Entrepreneurship (WE) Initiative is the brainchild of Ana Marinescu (MBA 09), a JMSB lecturer and president of URBANA. The selected student delegates produced digital content to document their behind-the-scenes C2 experience.

“I would have loved to have had access to this kind of environment and mentorship when I was their age,” says Anne-Marie Croteau, dean of JMSB.

“It has been a pleasure and an honour to meet these young women full of hope and motivation to do their best.”

Making space for women in entrepreneurship is a major priority for C2 and the event featured a number of female speakers, including Alicia Tillman, Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) of SAP; Martine Rothblatt, CEO of United Therapeutics; and Bozoma Saint John, CMO of William Morris Endeavor.

“We have a plethora of women leaders. The more diverse voices you have at the table, the more solutions you can find,” says Julia Cyboran, VP of marketing and audience at C2.

“The responsibility is on all of us. We have to foster future generations of young women leaders now, making those hiring decisions and having those voices be heard.”

One speaker who strongly echoed this message was Sophie Grégoire Trudeau.

“This country could be a leader and an example to the world. We are going to need to unite, to show who we are and to stand proudly for more inclusivity,” she told conference attendees.

“We can no longer distort the truth — we can only face it. Introspection and perspective in a fast-paced world are true gifts. We need to continue to expand whatever we do.”

The WE Initiative complements a number of other innovative Concordia projects oriented toward entrepreneurship, including the District 3 Innovation Center.

“This is a grassroots initiative where peer groups of smart, engaged and ambitious young business women are brought together to share inspirational moments,” says Jane Somerville, programs director at D3.

“It’s exactly the type of activity that has the potential to create real change at the individual level for women’s economic empowerment.”

The 10 delegates blogged about their experiences and produced videos of their time at the conference.

Leadership is not about the self, it’s about the collective. It’s about exuding purpose in whatever you’re doing

Nadeen Rayan

Translation Studies
Faculty of Arts and Science

As Cirque du Soleil'’s Guy Laliberté put it, “leaders are disciplined, honest, confident and action-oriented.” What I found fascinating was when he continued to say that, as a leader, he doesn’t define his success, he just does what is required. When I first heard this, I realized that to have impact within your own industry you have to yield results and lead by example.

One of the most amazing journeys that I was introduced to was the électrON expedition that was powered by Hydro-Québec. The ultra-marathoner, Caroline Côté, led by example and took up the challenge of travelling 2,000 kilometres in under 80 days to explore Quebec’s immense power grid.

Seeing her on this journey brought me so much inspiration and gave me courage to pursue the things that I believe in and want others to see. Leadership therefore is not about the self, it’s about the collective. It’s about exuding purpose in whatever you’re doing.

Funmi Ajike

John Molson School of Business

Being a part of the story and delegation that is the WE Initiative was unique and memorable. It not only granted me access to a world of creatives doing business differently, but to game-changing women entrepreneurs at the forefront.

We sat down and chatted with the likes of Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, Sophie Boulanger and Anne-Marie Croteau amongst umpteen other women either building their entrepreneurial empires or living entrepreneurially in their respective field of work.

By far the highlight of the initiative, besides the impressive women we met, was meeting and experiencing C2 hand-in-hand with my fellow delegation members. It was both encouraging and refreshing to be in a group of like-minded young women with shared aspirations and dreams.

It’s great to see people putting their focus on how to use technology to help create more equal and safe places

Seynabou Ndiaye

Mathematics and Statistics
Faculty of Arts and Science /
Computer Applications
Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science

I was pleasantly surprised to find sustainability and social impact were core common subjects in almost all of the science and technology workshops. I learned about how blockchain could be used to facilitate donations to underdeveloped countries and help NGOs better manage their donations and measure their impact.

RBC shared how they would fund tech projects that aimed to preserve water quality. I attended the Deloitte presentation on how social experimentation can lead to solutions to the widening income gap between the poor and the rich or unequal access to education for marginalized people.

It’s great to see people putting their focus on how to use technology to help create more equal and safe places on this planet. As someone with a tech background, I believe it’s the duty of engineers, programmers and scientists to make sure we work on technologies that will not increase inequalities or rid people of their privacy and freedom.

Maria Stawnichy

Applied Human Sciences
Faculty of Arts and Science

I attended a workshop on the topic of women in tech. It was highly interactive and the goal was to identify key moments in the lives of young girls and women that either push them toward or away from STEM careers and what we can do to make the field more inclusive.

We discussed the importance of supporting girls from a young age. For instance, girls may be at a significant disadvantage in the STEM skills by the time they enter the first grade. We determined that it is important to ensure that every child, regardless of gender, has access to a wide array of toys that stimulate development across a variety of skill areas.

The group also discussed the importance of having diverse female role models, not only to demonstrate to young girls that they are capable of any career path they choose but to also encourage young boys to respect women in all walks of life. A woman who worked for GE shared insights on its “Women in Tech” program, which creates opportunities for women leaders at GE to connect with middle school students through classroom visits and field trips.

Conscious consumers need more durable, sustainable products that put the survival of our planet first

Phoebe Chang

Applied Human Sciences
Faculty of Arts and Science

I had the opportunity to participate in a master class entitled Adopting a Circular Mindset. I was fascinated to learn that, by 2030, Ikea is aiming to transform its business into an entirely circular one. In traditional consumerism, raw materials are transformed into a product, which is then purchased by the consumer who then disposes of it once is has served its purpose. The product usually ends up in a landfill.

A circular economy, however, would instead entail four loops: reusing the product, refurbishing the product, remanufacturing the product or recycling the materials that can no longer be used.

As an environmentalist, I can only hope that Ikea, being the international household brand that it is, is able to help convince the average consumer that adopting a circular economy is the only way forward. What conscious consumers need are fewer poorly designed, waste-inducing products, and more durable, sustainable ones that put the survival of our planet first.

Paula Rueda

Innovation, Technology and Society
Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science

My favourite session was called Are Climate Solutions Creative Solutions?

It completely shifted my view on how I understood and perceived the production of coffee. I went from looking at it from a consumerist perspective to one that can build ties, hope and meaningful connections to the world. I started seeing things with new eyes. As Rena Effendi displayed her beautiful pictures of visiting coffee farming regions in Colombia, Zimbabwe and Ethiopia, I was truly and utterly moved by the resilience of these human beings and the hope, love and contribution they bring through their cultivation of coffee.

The story of Fernando, a coffee cultivator in Colombia, touched me the most. As a compatriot I accompany him in his pain, joy and hope for a better tomorrow. Colombians such as Fernando suffered the most pain, hardship and loss due to the conflict with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. In this turmoil of confusion, frustration, mixed with survival and resilience, Fernando was able to find refuge in making coffee.

For Fernando, coffee is not a drink he needs to feel energized in the morning nor is it a product he needs to fill his pantry. For him, coffee is his reason for living — a legacy — where he is able to cultivate a better tomorrow for his family and himself.

The Blue Man Group are experts on human connection

Berothie Cazeau

Human Resource Management
John Molson School of Business

One fun and collaborative activity I got to partake in was a workshop about self-awareness facilitated by the Blue Man Group performance artists. The concept was to see the world through their creative lenses in order to overcome our own perceived limitations.

The workshop started with the Blue Man Group performers switching certain people to different tables. I found myself in uncharted territory because I wasn’t with people I knew anymore. However, by the end of the session, I was grateful for the switch that had happened due to the stimulating conversations that transpired amongst the new people I met.

We worked in teams to answer one question that the team picked together. Ours was “how do I stay confident in any situation?” We realized that based on our discussions and the speaker’s talk, even when we’re not good at everything, being aware of one’s strengths and weaknesses can help tremendously. Knowing what you’re good at and vice versa allows one to take ownership in a situation or step back when appropriate and delegate.

Kelly McManus

Business Technology Management
John Molson School of Business

The Blue Man Group are experts on human connection. I went into this workshop not knowing what to expect. It became clear when we started doing an activity of archetypes that the way to connect with people is through simple awareness. Knowledge is power, right? It only makes sense that the more you know and the more aware you are, the more you can truly connect.

Everyone brings their own perspective to a situation through the six archetypes: Hero, Scientist, Group Member, Innocent, Trickster and Shaman. I was determined to be a Group Member: organized, supportive and collaborative. It was interesting to see how different people with different archetypes reacted when working in the group. The activity let us get a bird’s-eye view of what was happening in our group and let us learn how each one of us works and connects, rather than focusing on what we are doing.

I learned that we need to take a second away from our phones and work to just look around. Being present and aware of our surroundings will help us connect more with each other — and who knows what that may lead to!

Find out more about Concordia’s
John Molson School of Business.


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