Caroline Saunders

Caroline Saunders

British Consul General in Calgary

Part of UK in Canada

15th March 2017 Calgary, Canada

Canada: 8 bold women in Calgary

#BeBoldForChange was the theme for International Women’s Day on 8 March.  So, I thought, what better way to celebrate March 8 than with 8 bold women.  I decided to host a lunch with these remarkable women and ask them to bring with them a young mentee – a colleague or student – so that we could mix youth with, er, experience. Oh – and I also asked each of them to tweet about what #BeBoldForChange means for them and speak at the lunch about an occasion when they had been bold or to speak about a bold woman that they particularly admired.

A small idea turned into a great experience for us all.  We had successful business-women (including a couple of oil and gas engineers – well Calgary is the centre of the Canadian petroleum industry), a former politician turned head of a think-tank, a tech-start-up funder, a  children’s cancer champion who has raised millions for charity and me and my fellow Mexican Consul-General. And it was interesting to note how many women brought along their daughters and how many women spoke about their mother as their most influential role models. The golden thread – grand-mother, mother, daughter, was a strong feature. Here we all are.

We showed the video of Joanna Roper in her new role as Special Envoy for Gender Equality. I spoke about my Dutch mother, a teenager in German occupied Holland during WW2 with my grand-parents active in the resistance. Growing up with the ever present fear of the occupying forces finding the Jewish escapees or the printing press in the garden shed. Facing terrible food shortages over the winter of 1944-45 when people literally starved to death. Her experiences have always been a strong motivator for me in striving to promote peace and security.  I showed the group a wall plaque given to me by my grand-mother. It was made by the Delft pottery and given to Dutch women in 1945.  It says ‘To Holland’s women for their determination, courage and loyalty.’

This led to an out-pouring of quite emotional recollections by a group of women who it transpired had succeeded often through adverse circumstances.  Canada is a nation of immigrants – scratch the surface and you soon find stories of migration and hardship and success through sheer determination and sacrifice.  A migrant from Kenya who wanted to be a concert pianist but ended up being one of the most senior female oil engineers in Calgary and then Chief Exec of a clean-tech company. That takes true grit.

And what was most gratifying was the engagement of the younger women.  They were so eloquent and passionate and already doing great things.  Their mothers beamed with unhidden pride.  We all seemed to bond in a moment of shared sisterhood. The ‘mentees’ agreed to keep in touch and support each other. The experienced ladies reflected over their glass of wine that, standing on their mothers’ shoulders, they hadn’t done too badly after all!

A few days later I was contacted by the Mexican Consul-General who had reported the event to the MFA in Mexico City.  They were very complimentary and asked to be put in touch with Joanna Roper. The golden thread works in many ways.

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About Caroline Saunders

Caroline arrived in Calgary in May 2016. Her most recent roles with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office were Head of Global Challenges and Innovation and Head of Global Low Carbon…

Caroline arrived in Calgary in May 2016. Her most recent roles with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office were Head of Global Challenges and Innovation and Head of Global Low Carbon Growth.

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