Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

StFX, Coady students talk women in leadership opportunities and challenges with women leaders including Mila Mulroney and Caroline Mulroney Lapham

September 20th, 2017
L-r, Nia MacFarlane, StFX VP and Coady director Dr. June Webber, Kashya Young, Caroline Mulroney Lapham, Mila Mulroney, Annie Sirois, Bashiratu Kamal, Meghan Flood, Sherna A. Benjamin, Joanna Alphonso, and StFX Chancellor Dr. Susan Crocker

A group of StFX students and Coady International Institute diploma participants had the unique opportunity to gain insight into the challenges and opportunities facing women in leadership positions when they sat down for conversation with women leaders Mila Mulroney, Caroline Mulroney Lapham, StFX Chancellor Dr. Susan Crocker and StFX VP and Coady International Institute Director Dr. June Webber.

Both Mila Mulroney and Caroline Mulroney Lapham were on campus for the sod turning of the Brian Mulroney Institute of Government and Xaverian Commons. They made time to meet with students while on campus.  

“I found it really valuable and inspiring to see women like that,” says Nia MacFarlane of Bedford, NS, a fourth year honours business administration student and co-chair of StFX Shinerama, which this year raised nearly $30,000 for Cystic Fibrosis research.

Ms. MacFarlane says it is important for younger females to be exposed to such role models.

“Part of why I feel that I’m capable is to see the trailblazers ahead of me, and to be in a room with women like that is inspiring.”

“It’s for sure an honour to be able to be part of these private meetings,” says Joanna Alphonso, herself a leader on the StFX campus. Ms. Alphonso of Ajax, ON is a fourth year psychology student and captain of the X-Women Rugby team, defending national champions. She is involved with the StFX Athletic Leadership Academy.  

“It’s an amazing opportunity to be part of this and to learn a bit more about leadership opportunities, to grow as a person and to grow as a leader,” she says.

“It’s very new and exciting for me,” says Kashya Young of Bridgewater, NS, a third year Bachelor of Arts student and Aboriginal Student Representative of the StFX Students’ Union. She says she was intrigued to have these leadership conversations and feels blessed to be among everyone in the group.

Ms. Mulroney told the students she feels optimistic about the challenges and goals available to women.

“I do think the opportunities are there for women,” she said. “Canada is really the land of opportunity as far as I can see.”

Sometimes it feels you take one step forward and one step back, but the opportunities are increasingly there, she noted.

She says she grew up in a home where there was no difference expressed between the genders, and that’s the way she and Mr. Mulroney raised their own children. Ms. Mulroney noted out of their four children of one girl and three boys, it is her daughter who has chosen to run for public office.

Ms. Mulroney Lapham, a mother of four herself, a lawyer and a businesswoman, has a lot on her plate, but Ms. Mulroney says she is confident she will do well.

“She’s organized, she’s smart, and she is well surrounded by the right people.”

Ms. Mulroney told the students it’s important to realize you’re not going to be able to do everything alone, nor do you have to. “I think that’s an important step as well.”

As she works to create her own path, Ms. Mulroney Lapham says it’s been helpful to have senior successful women speak about the challenges they faced.

“Honesty and openness from existing leaders is the key to helping the next generation,” she said as she noted she benefitted from women leaders who were very open about their challenges, and helped her create a new path.

Other students who took part in the conversation were Annie Sirois of Ottawa, ON, a fourth year honours political science student and president of the StFX Students’ Union; Meghan Flood of Rothesay, NB, a second year engineering student, representing female students from STEM, and Coady participants Bashiratu Kamal and Sherna A. Benjamin.


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