Invest Ottawa, partners to host International Women’s Week events in March

Susan Richards
Invest Ottawa co-chair and chair of the organization's female founders and women-led business subcommittee Susan Richards.

With the growing popularity of International Women’s Day events around Ottawa, a few local business leaders recently started asking the question, “Why just one day?”

Invest Ottawa announced Thursday it is partnering with more than 20 local organizations to host International Women’s Week in the region, a week of events to promote and celebrate female entrepreneurship from March 4-8. The local economic development agency is joined by all of the region’s post-secondary institutions, organizations such as L-Spark and TiE Ottawa, government agencies and businesses including Calian Group and RBC.

Invest Ottawa vice-president of marketing and communications Sonya Shorey says she’s had many conversations over the past month with business leaders in Ottawa excited to put on an event related to International Women’s Day on March 8. Shorey says the idea to spread programming out over the full week resonated with partners, all of whom leapt at the chance to get involved.

The week’s events will feature a number of practical seminars and panels for both male and female entrepreneurs in the region. On Monday, Invest Ottawa is bringing in Monique Woodard, a former venture partner with 500 Startups, to give a keynote address at Bayview Yards. The next morning she’ll join a panel of female investors to share the ins and outs of raising funding as a woman.

“We know that women investors support more women-led firms, and that this is going to be a key element to help us move the dial,” Shorey says. “Having more women investing in our local companies will add a lot of fuel and horsepower.”

Bringing Woodard and other speakers into Ottawa also breeds new global ambassadors for the National Capital Region, Shorey says.

“They’re raising our flag for the type of opportunity and talent that exists here.”

In the same vein as Invest Ottawa’s other year-round initiatives, the IWW events are designed to showcase the city as an attractive destination for talent and multinational companies looking to expand. Another one of the week’s events, a consultation with Calian, CGI and other partners to address the cybersecurity industry’s gender gap, reflects Ottawa’s focus on building a diverse tech ecosystem.

“If we can take all of those initiatives and pull them together, we can shine a spotlight on our region,” Shorey says.

Organizers also hope the week’s events inspire activities and initiatives throughout the year. Susan Richards, co-chair of Invest Ottawa, says she herself was inspired to host a female financial literacy seminar after last year’s International Women’s Day events. She notes that many organizations are planning announcements about new initiatives, scholarships and awards during the coming week, which can help carry the momentum forward.

“It really is a very strong calling for women to get active in the community,” Richards says