Women leading new global thinking and change

Bonita Zarillo. city counselor, Coquitlam. | Photo courtesy of Bonita Zarillo

The BC Women’s Economic Forum will take place in Surrey under the title Women Leading New Global Thinking & Change Nov. 16–17.

Based in New Delhi, India, WEF organizes conferences around the world, often gathering women from more than 50 different nations. In this context, The Source met two B.C. women who will attend WEF as guest speakers: Anita Huberman, CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade; and Bonita Zarillo, city counselor of Coquitlam.

WEF is part of ALL Ladies League, the largest global women’s chamber in the world. For Zarillo, such organizations are crucial because they enable “women to increase the size of their networks.” For Huberman too, conferences like WEF play an important role.

“They provide women and men opportunities to hear different perspectives, to learn from each other, to inspire each other, how to do better in the world, not only from a business perspective but a personal perspective. When you bring people together at such events, it is about collaboration, new ideas and new programs for people around the world,” she says.

Skilled workers needed

As a representative of the Surrey Board of Trade, Huberman will be holding a talk at WEF on education and skills. Businesses, she says, are having a hard time hiring people with the right skills.

“[There is] a necessity of focusing on ways to capture that, for women to have more opportunities and to be confident about doing so,” says Huberman.

According to Huberman, this will become even more relevant in the future, as the workforce is constantly changing, especially in the face of automation. The Surrey Board of Trade has been working together with local universities and manufacturers in B.C. so that needs on both sides can be matched in order to tackle this problem of skill shortage.

“We want to provide appropriate training programs, whether it is in welding, making machines, or aerospace and we had some success in that,” she says.

A focus on women and underrepresented groups

Anita Huberman, CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade | Photo courtesy of Surrey Board of Trade

In her talk at WEF, Zarillo will focus more on attitudes and behaviours that lead women to success.

“I want to share the experience of moving from business into local government and I do think we need more women’s voices at all levels of government. I hope I can inspire women to consider this as a career option,” she says.

Zarillo was appalled by the lack of diversity on her council and that inspired her to change things. Her role within the city council is to remind decision makers about the existence of people who are normally underrepresented, like women or people with disabilities.

“I am constantly putting a gender lens on initiatives and planning. It is interesting how easy it is to forget about it. […] It just takes somebody to mention it. It is not until somebody speaks out that people will start thinking about this issue and they will realize it is missing,” she says.

This year, WEF collaborated together with the Vancouver International South Asian Film Festival to celebrate stories from countries that are usually not represented by mainstream cinema like India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

“It is a wonderful idea to connect the art world with women and leadership. It widens the audience for WEF and I do think that there is a need to bring more people than just those interested in business and the economic forum together because there is also a component of leadership that is important in everyday life. I think it is a wonderful idea and I am looking forward to enjoying some of the films,” says Zarillo.

For more information, please visit www.wef.org or follow the conference live on weftv.org.