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WNORTH Conference Writes a New Playbook for Women in Leadership

BCBusiness + WNorth WNORTH is back in full force, and CEO and co-founder Heather Odendaal couldn't be more excited. This year's theme is The New Leadership Playbook for an Inclusive Economy, which brings to light a ne

The WNORTH Conference is back, April 27th to 29th, bringing women together in Whistler and online to bridge the gender gap in leadership

WNORTH is back in full force, and CEO and co-founder Heather Odendaal couldn’t be more excited. This year’s theme is The New Leadership Playbook for an Inclusive Economy, which brings to light a new leadership model that has risen to the surface over the past three years.

“The world has evolved over the last few years, and it is more important than ever that business leaders lead from a human-centric place,” Odendaal says. “We have the responsibility to put forward a new leadership playbook that is inclusive, collaborative and purpose-driven.”

During the 2018 WNORTH Conference keynote, Halla Tommasdottir, B-Team’s CEO, urged that all leaders strive for a model of empathy, inclusivity and sustainability.  Odendaal was inspired by this message and says it ties in well with themes the conference has embraced for several years.

“The shift has been happening, but it is harder to change the behaviour of people who are already in power,” she says. “We are a training and development space for women taking on senior positions in the next 5 to 15 years. There is no better space and community of people in which to talk about this shift and affect change.”

The pandemic has highlighted the importance of leadership that values humanity as a requirement for a better future. Leaders like BC’s Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, New Zealand President Jacinda Ardern, and former United States President Barack Obama have exemplified this principle successfully on a global scale.

“Women often gravitate more inherently toward this, but it reaches a wider audience, beyond women, recognizing that other things are going on in the world that call for this type of leadership,” Odendaal says.

Long-term, the new playbook addresses categories that require action, including gender balance, standards in reporting, sustainability, racial equality and human rights—to name a few. But it is impossible to talk about development without first shifting the narrative around what development looks like.

The WNORTH Conference 2022 will support that shift with speakers who bring deep, impressionable stories to the stage and who embrace authenticity, vulnerability and connection.

“When I am looking for speakers, I don’t gravitate toward big names,” Odendaal says. “I am looking for the stories behind the people, and Hitha Palepu is a prime example of someone telling a new narrative and speaking her truth.”

Palepu, who will speak in person, is the CEO of Rhoshan Pharmaceuticals and author of “We’re Speaking: The Life Lessons of Kamala Harris”. In the book, she talks about the American vice-president as a trailblazer in transforming the narrative around what it takes to be a woman in leadership.  Her book shares authentic and transparent stories and research on Harris and other female leaders. She also shares her own story, reflecting the messiness of raising two feminist sons in New York while juggling speaking on politics and the news, investing, entrepreneurship, work-life balance and motherhood.

A featured virtual keynote is Emily Chang, CEO of McCann Worldgroup China and author of “The Spare Room,” which talks about the importance of leading with authentic purpose.

“Emily talks about social legacy as it relates to work and personal purpose,” Odendaal says. “People sometimes get wrapped up in feeling like they need to leave their jobs do meaningful work, but they forget they can find purpose in developing their social legacy outside of work.”

“The Spare Room” talks about how Chang has offered her guest room to people in need, and over the years, this has become her social purpose and a way to give back.

“This is important information in understanding The Great Resignation,” Odendaal says. “It is a message that resonates, especially for women in corporate positions.”

This year’s conference is a little different from past events, offering both in-person and virtual Conference Passes. The in-person attendance is limited to around 30% lower capacity than in previous years, mainly to focus on quality interaction.

The Conference offers high-level networking opportunities, using the beauty of the area surrounding Nita Lake Lodge. Connects Dinners across the resort on Thursday evening and Leadership Masterminds, intimate groups of six to facilitate leadership skills, will help participants create meaningful connections.

“Traditionally, we hold two full days of conference sessions,” Odendaal says. “Following the pandemic, we realize there is a certain number of learning opportunities we need to provide, but we also want to offer those true points of connection we are all seeking. Collectively, we have the power to catalyze change within our companies and beyond. Together in Whistler, we will share a vision that enacts true change tied to your personal and professional goals.”

Learn more about WNORTH online or connect on Facebook, InstagramTwitterLinkedIn and YouTube.

Claim 15 percent off conference tickets with the code BCBiz.