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Photo: Diyyinah Jamora/Empow(her)

Ottawa’s Empow(her) Network bridging gaps for young women’s empowerment in our community

By Andrew Monro on April 3, 2019

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Andrew Monro is Apt613’s correspondent at Impact Hub Ottawa, writing about the many innovators that call Hub home. Hub is a co-working space at 123 Slater Street for projects with a positive local and global impact.


“Everyone has something phenomenal about themselves. They only have to tap into it. I know you have it.”

Shae McGlynn, Empow(her) Network’s Workshops Executive, is enthusiastically emphatic about helping and empowering others, which lies at the heart of Empow(her)’s purpose.

The Empow(her) Network is an Ottawa-based organization centred around providing young women with opportunities for both personal and professional growth and leadership. They accomplish this by providing peer-to-peer mentorship, networking opportunities, and skills workshops.

Originally called the Head Start for Young Women Program, a municipal initiative for high-school-age girls, the organization rebranded and relaunched in January, moving their focus to young women and related gender identities, for whom they discovered an unaddressed demand for opportunities for professional skills development, networking, and safe spaces to discuss issues particular to their demographic.

Photo: Diyyinah Jamora/Empow(her)

Their most recent workshop focused on empowering folks with the tools and resources for financial independence. Shae notes, “financial literacy and independence is so important, but there are so few resources to learn and discuss it.” Addressing these kinds of gaps, especially for young women, is the core mission of Empow(her). The organization also tackles other significant issues, including harassment in the workplace, healthy relationships, intersectionality, and LGBTQ2+ issues.

The organization’s executive, all young women, were inundated with questions and interest. As Shae describes it, “there has been so much interest and engagement, far more than we ever expected. Even when we were still working on the rebrand, we put out a call for volunteers, and quickly had over 40 people say they wanted to get involved.”

“We don’t bring in experts, we invite our peers.”

Empow(her) organizes and runs events and workshops using a consensus-based, feedback-driven model of asking prospective attendees themselves what they want to do, or learn about. “We actually already have a year’s worth of workshops already planned out,” says Shae. “By the summer, we will likely have planned out all our workshops for 2020 too!”

Empow(her) also emphasizes peer-to-peer education. Says Shae, “we don’t bring in experts, we invite our peers, women that are just starting to succeed on their chosen path. They talk about their struggles, how they have improved. They talk to the attendees at their level.”

Their first event was a workshop on the fundamentals of business networking at Impact Hub Ottawa. The workshop not only sold out, but was so in-demand that people still came and waited outside the event room.

“Local women want to be part of it so badly, because there isn’t anything like it being offered in Ottawa,” explained Shae.

“There isn’t anything like it being offered in Ottawa.”

As well as rebranding, Empow(her) has made community partnerships to help them with their events. RBC joined this year as a sponsor of Empow(her) events. Both Alt Hotel Ottawa and Impact Hub Ottawa support the Network with space for their events. They have also partnered with the Young Women’s Leadership Network and Feminist Twins.

Shae notes that, besides being very grateful for the support of their partners, they would not be able to do anything without the help of volunteers—“We have the most incredible women that want to make their own community better.”

Empow(her) has six more workshops planned for 2019, as well as two full-day conferences. Their next event will be the first of these conferences, focused on professional development, coming up on May 25.

Looking ahead, Empow(her) has plans to create a digital network (on LinkedIn) to augment the work they do in person, connecting women to share ideas, opportunities, advice. As well, Shae says that if any feminist organizations, local companies that want to help support young women’s empowerment, or any young women that have something to share, the Empow(her) Network would love to connect.


Empow(her) Network can be reached by by email <team@empowernetwork.org>, or social media: Facebook/Twitter @EmpowHerNetwork; LinkedIn @empow-her-network; Instagram @Empowherottawa.


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