British Columbia·Photos

Teens from across B.C. join We for She conference to promote female leadership

Girls from across the province listened to motivational speakers, attended leadership workshops and met likeminded peers in Vancouver at one of North America’s largest gender diversity conferences.

High school students mingle with mentors, motivational speakers at Vancouver event

Ciara Mahaffy, a 16-year-old attending We for She conference, says she's interested in astronomy, astrophysics and “the way particles in the world have shaped our universe.” (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Girls from across the province attended the sixth annual We for She Conference in Vancouver Tuesday, promoted as one of North America's largest gender diversity conferences.

The event attracted more than 2,000 people including business leaders, inspirational speakers, high school students and their teachers.

Isolde Tan, 17, is a student from Vancouver Technical Secondary School. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Isolde Tan was one of the students invited to attend the conference after high schools were given a limited number of seats for Grade 10-12 students expected to benefit from the experience.

The students were grouped at tables with successful female business leaders who acted as mentors for the day. 

Tan says she was nervous to sit with strangers at first. However, her nervousness dissipated when she realized the people were kind and friendly. 

"It's a great opportunity for networking, especially at our age since we're about to graduate."

The conference allowed young participants to network with business leaders. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)
Jadin Appaw, 18, came from Fort St. John in northeastern B.C. to attend the conference. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Jadin Appaw says she felt empowered when she attended last year so she came again. "I want gender equality to be a real thing in the world because men getting more opportunities than women isn't fair."

Hailey Gairdner, 16, is also from Fort St. John. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Hailey Gairdner says she was taught she would always need a man to support her and her family, "but here, they tell us that you don't need that. That you're your own person and you can work for yourself."

Girls attend one of the many workshops held during the event. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)
Few boys attended the conference. Among them were two 15-year-old’s from North Vancouver; Tim Kim, left, and Reece Huber. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Reece Huber and Tim Kim say they gained new perspective on what girls and women have to go through in their careers and life. 

The boys were especially moved by the feminist speaker from Saudi Arabia named Amal Alhuwayshil who spoke about her experience of being in an unwanted marriage at the age of 19. 

Jemma Wooldridge, 16, goes to high school in West Vancouver. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Jemma Wooldridge from West Vancouver says the conference is important because, "it allows you to see how many people are out there doing what they want — and that you're going to be able to do that someday if you just persevere and follow your dreams." 

Hope Cox, 14, traveled from Sooke on Vancouver Island to attend the conference. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Hope Cox says she has dreamed of joining the military to serve her country since she was in Grade 6. 

"I believe that a woman has the strength to do all the things that a guy can do." 

Roxy Gairdner, 15, stands in front of a We for She sign. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Roxy Gairdner says that one message really resonated with her: You are enough. 

"Some people tell you different. So that was a good thing to hear", says Gairdner, who attended with her sister.

“To know that I’m enough” is written with other inspirational quotes on a large whiteboard at the conference. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)