The inaugural Lakeland Women’s Conference was held on Saturday at the Centennial Centre in Bonnyville. The event’s theme “Everybody has a Story” was truly captured as women of all ages, professions, ethnics and eccentricities shared their experiences. Organizer, Diahann Polege-Aulotte says the event was everything they could’ve imagined and more.
Bev Bussom was the keynote speaker for the event, as one of Canada’s first female RCMP members, Bussom rose to the top of the force as Canada’s first female RCMP Commissioner. In the 1970s when she first entered the force she recalled how different it was for women, even describing her uniform as fashionable, rather than functional. “We had no pockets anywhere on the uniform, I guess they thought chest pockets were unfeminine,” Bussom smiles recalling her first uniform; which also included plans for the female officers to carry their side arm in a purse. Luckily, for her and the public, the RCMP changed their minds in the eleventh hour and gave the women gun belts; like the men.
The day included a variety of break-out sessions with topics ranging from the Career Mom, to Breaking Stereotypes, Challenges of a Home-Based Business, and Embracing the Grey. “It was really a great day,” Polege-Aulotte says the organizers were pleased with the speakers and everything they had to offer.
Over 200 women, including the volunteers and speakers, attended the event. “If we can get the funding, absolutely,” says Polege-Aulotte of making the Lakeland Women’s Conference an annual event, “we already have speakers in mind and topics picked and ready for next year. Funding is the biggest thing.” This year’s event was funded by the Status of Women’s Ministry, via the Alberta Government. Polege-Aulotte explains it’ll be sometime until they know if there will be the same grant available for next year or any other sources of funding. Until then, they hope to dream big and plan for the next Lakeland Women’s Conference.