On November 21, Lerners will host its third annual Women’s Symposium. Anticipation is building as the date nears. We are honoured to host Danielle Robitaille, a partner at Henein Hutchison, as our keynote speaker. Since its inception, the Symposium has provided a forum for women in London to come together – to share insights, strategies and stories from the trenches; the trenches only women know about; the experiences only we can understand.
Lerners has always been a leader in working to gain widespread recognition of the harmful impact of systemic discrimination and the need to take concrete, proactive steps to eradicate it. This ethos permeates our culture. We respect women. We invest in women. We promote women. We put women in positions of power and influence. We pay women what they deserve. We support parental leaves. We sponsor each other. We support each other.
Another woman is on my mind this evening. My grandmother. An immigrant from Lebanon, she arrived in London in the 1950s. Within a few years, she was widowed with two young children. A “homemaker” for most of her life, she had to rely on the goodwill of others. She was profoundly grateful to this City for the warm welcome she received, for the hand that was extended when she needed it, and for the opportunities it offered her children and grandchildren.
It was no secret to me, even as a child, that she had struggled profoundly. The holidays were particularly hard, she would say to me in Arabic. She always wanted to give her children more. She would save all year so she could afford a tree, a special meal, a gift or two. Every year, as the holiday season approaches, I think a lot about my grandmother. Yet this year more than ever before, I’m haunted by a persistent thought: how lonely she must have been. How isolated she must have felt.
This year, in honour of women like my grandmother, the Lerners Women’s Symposium has teamed up with the Shoebox Project to give back to women in our community in need. The Shoebox Project collects and distributes gift-filled Shoeboxes to women impacted by homelessness. Shoeboxes are filled with items valued at $50 that can enhance self-esteem and reduce feelings of isolation for women in need. At the Symposium, we will be collecting funds to donate to this incredible, women-centred organization. The holidays can be a particularly difficult time for women who are struggling; they often experience feelings of isolation and loneliness. The gift of a Shoebox – filled with items that women in shelters often cannot afford for themselves – provides an important reminder: you are not alone, you are not forgotten, you are a valued member of our community, you are special. We are in the trenches with you.