By Melissa Ade
On November 6, 2019, the inaugural Women of Paramedicine Leadership Summit was held in Edmonton, Alberta, created and coordinated by the Paramedic Pay It Forward Award and Women of Paramedic Leadership. Seventy-six participants attended this full-day summit which included inspiring speakers, small group workshop discussions, opportunities for networking, and showcased a handful of our paramedic colleague’s diverse journey’s to leadership within paramedicine. The event was made possible by funding from the Ministry of Culture, Multiculturalism and the Status of Women (Government of Alberta), and a number of sponsors.
The day opened with remarks from the Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism, and Status of Women, Minister Leela Aheer. Minister Aheer shared a powerful story of a time when she called upon the expertise of paramedics for her sick child. She shared the profound impact the team of paramedics had on her family and her gratitude for the work that we do. It was an honour to hear her speak so candidly.
Paige Mason commenced the educational part of the day with her address titled “FLip the Script”. Paige’s interactive presentation included an exploration of topics such as implicit bias, merit manipulation, bias blind spots, sponsorship and mentorship, as well as evidence based recommendations from research in other industries. For more information on Paige’s research, visit https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Paige_Mason
The morning panel discussion highlighted the importance of reflecting diversity across leadership by bringing in perspectives from leaders with diverse backgrounds and experiences. The panelists included Marni Panas (Program Manager of Diversity and Inclusion with Alberta Health Services), Saddle Lake Cree First Nation member Nadine McRee (a leader and advocate for Indigenous Health, now as a member of the AHS team), Paige Mason, and Bre Hutchinson (Director of Emergency Health Services with Alberta Health) as the panel moderator.
This distinctive and dynamic panel discussed why diversity matters and identified philosophies and strategies that can be applied throughout paramedic services to enhance inclusive practices and diversity from a place of insight, experience, and practice.
“When you are not at the table you are usually on the menu” – Marni Panas on the importance of sponsoring others.
The afternoon sessions boasted an equally poignant lineup. Dr. Verna Yiu, leader of the largest province-wide health system in Canada (which was named recipient of the Excellence in Diversity & Inclusion Award at the Canadian College of Health Leaders’ National Awards Program earlier this year) was the summit’s afternoon plenary speaker.
In her presentation, Dr. Yiu shared personal stories about her own journey as a healthcare professional and leader, outlined what organizations need to do to promote diversity and equality, and offered advice to women paramedicine professionals to help them find their place at the decision-making table.
make their own luck”
– Dr. Verna Yiu
The afternoon sessions consisted of a handful of speakers from varied roles within paramedicine, from front-line to governmental roles, speaking on an array of leadership topics. It was important to the summit planning team to create opportunities for those in the profession to speak on topics they are passionate and knowledgeable about. Providing sponsorship to our colleagues to share their messages on the summit platform was one of the ways our team chose to “walk our leadership talk” at the 2019 Women of Paramedicine Leadership Summit.
Melanie Doiron shared her session titled, “Talent Acquisition”, which highlighted hiring and recruitment as core job responsibilities for leaders throughout their career journey. This session invited the attendees to become the hirer, evaluating resumes while being mindful of their personal biases.
Angeline Abela’s session, “Queen Bees and Tokenism: When Women are Part of the Problem”, was a candid look at how women contribute to gender bias issues as well, explored how and why women engage in gender bias against other women and how we can all start to be part of the solution.
Kris Porlier’s engaging session titled, “Mansplaining: Waking up to Bias” used humor and truth as he shared his own experiences towards the subject of women in paramedicine leadership roles and how it affected his involvement throughout the planning of this summit. He also discussed his own journey of supporting his peers in the field of paramedicine and how to act as an advocate for having the right people around the table.
The final afternoon presentation was by Melissa Ade. In her session, “Fishbowl: Exploring Outside of Your Immediate Surroundings”, Melissa shared how opening the door to fresh conversations and perspectives can allow you to examine your immediate surroundings with more intention, awareness, and accountability. She put away the rose-colored glasses and engaged in a very real conversation. Her session can be found at www.paramedicphilanthropyproject.com.
Across the day, attendees participated in two facilitated workshop sessions to engage in small group discussion exploring the aspects of leadership and barriers to achieve leadership roles in EMS, the value of diversity in EMS leadership roles and the role of mentorship in leadership. These workshops gave the attendees the opportunity to speak openly in a safe environment and have their thoughts, challenges and experiences heard. The voices of those present has been synthesized into a descriptive narrative that was shared back to all participants and will be used to inform potential next steps.
During the summit, the voices of speakers and participants were also captured by a graphic artist. Participants were encouraged to engage with the artist throughout the summit to provide content, context and messages to be included in the visual representation.
Throughout the day the participants, planning members, and speakers had numerous opportunities for networking and discussion. One component of the networking sessions included a showcase of “Leadership Pathway” posters created by paramedics within varying roles across the profession. The posters displayed at the summit told the stories of their own diverse leadership journeys (posters can be viewed on the summit’s FaceBook page as well).
The organizing committee would like to take the opportunity to sincerely thank all of those that were in attendance. Your participation, collaboration, and feedback was and has been invaluable. We would also like to express gratitude to the speakers who shared their time and knowledge with us. We rise by lifting others, and our team is looking forward to partnering with you all again very soon.
For more highlights from the summit, visit our Facebook page at Women of Paramedicine Leadership Summit. There you can also stay up to date with current initiatives, future events, and network with your peers and colleagues.
LEADERSHIP | ADVOCATION | UNITY