A conference at the University of Calgary this week aims to help female students navigate the workforce in mostly male-dominated professions.

Women in Work is a four-day event that brings students together with business leaders so that they can discuss the importance of gender equality at work and learn from women who have made it in their careers.

Arlene Dickinson, CEO of Venture Communications, opened the first day with a keynote address.

Dickinson said women today are still being told told they don't belong in STEM areas, or that they aren't as qualified as the male candidates vying for the same opportunities.

"The challenge really is being able to push through that, and not let gender bias diminish you in any way, but actually stand up and just continue to show up and be strong at what you do," she said.

Dickinson said she didn't have the opportunity to be surrounded by entrepreneurial women when she was first starting out in business, so she wanted to seize this opportunity. 

"I just wanna give back. I wanna help share what I learned, in the hope that it's gonna make a difference to somebody."

Organizer Lauren Remple hopes the panel discussions, round-tables and daily workshops — including one titled "Don't Be Afraid to Be Bossy" — will inspire students as they network with professionals in their field of study. 

"Kind of a cheeky title, but encouraging women to be more straightforward and clear in the business world," Remple said.

This is the first Women in Work conference. Remple hopes in later years, women will attend from all over western Canada.

The conference coincides with International Women's Day on Wednesday, but Dickinson said men need to pay attention too.

"It takes a strong man to change systemic issues. Men are an integral part of the solution."

With files from Mario De Ciccio