City To Recognize Women Building A Dream

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Helping girls for years, several community leaders will soon be honoured for their work.

Build A Dream is set to be recognized by Windsor this Thursday. Taking place following breakfast and a speaking engagement, the day will be acclaimed as Dreamers Day at City Hall.   In addition, the organization’s flag will also be raised as part of the 10 am ceremony.

Originally inspired by a Women’s Enterprise Skills Training of Windsor community project, the group was created after seeing its results.

“the project was to identify reasons why young women were not considering careers in the skilled trades and science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) and emergency response and then implement initiatives that would help young women make career informed decisions,” said Build A Dream Partnership Liaison, Laura Daniel. “In the community needs assessment report we found parents were the number one influence when it came to career decision making for youth.”

From there, community, education and industry stakeholders came together to host the first Build A Dream event in 2014 — an open forum where parents and students could meet with employers face-to-face to learn more about industries where women were under-represented. Those on hand also had the chance to participate in activities and learn from panel discussions and keynote speakers.

Although Build A Dream has come a long way, a big challenge back then was getting the message out and having employers help with its mission. Educating the future workforce while including their parents was also critical.

“We knew that in order for young women to make choices about their future careers, their parents needed to be involved in the decision making process,” said Daniel. “This meant creating a space where both girls and their parents could learn about opportunities with incredible organizations across the community.”

Within a year or two, the community started taking notice and became active participants in the group’s programs. At its first flagship event, there were less than 20 companies/organizations and 120 girls with their parents: Last year, there were 50 companies and over 700 girls with their parents who attended. This growth has allowed the group to expand to London in 2017 and in 2019, they’ll do the same into Kitchener-Waterloo. Build A Dream also hosts march break and summer skilled trades camps, which are well-attended annually.

To share their model across Canada, President Nour Hachem-Fawaz registered the group as a not-for-profit organization in 2017 as well.

“Recognizing the need to increase the numbers of women in male dominated industries was an issue across Canada,” said Daniel. “The goal of our organization is to impact as many communities as possible to help young women make career informed decisions. We also work closely with industry in helping them diversify their workforce and support the recruitment, retention and advancement of women in these fields.”

Another important aspect of Build A Dream is its awareness campaigns. Created to break down stereotypes and continue towards a more diverse workforce, last year’s campaign was called #idreamtobe — it featured young women dressed in different gear to portray different career pathways.

Still, the group’s expansion wouldn’t be possible without its partners either.

“Our partnerships with our sponsors and exhibitors have really grown over the years,” said Daniel. “We are so thankful to have people and organizations that believe in our mission and believe in diversifying the workforce. We believe that young women can’t be what they can’t see. It is important for us to profile women in a variety of careers to showcase female role models across different career pathways.”

Supporting Build A Dream from the beginning, sponsorships and businesses looking to join the groups’ initiatives have risen year over year. As the desire for a diversified workforce grows, so do the opportunities to connect with women who may be under-represented in a specific industry.

It’s also something that impacts the community on a cultural level.

“Culturally, we see the connections we are making with the community and the eventual growing footprint that leaves every year,” said Daniel. “For example, we are proud to partner with FIRST Robotics Team 6875 – Build a Dream Amazon Warriors. They are an all-female robotics team that has seen tremendous success at the First Robotics World Championships. We are proud to continue to support the dreams of girls in our community and encourage them to pursue any type of career they are passionate about.”

Giving girls many programs, resources and mentors, the influence also trickles down. Teachers often notice increased confidence and energy to pursue a tech class in school, for example.

As a result, the group has had several success stories since its first event four-years-ago.

“One of the young women who attended our event in 2014 and was unsure of her career pathway is now an electrician working for one of the companies we work closely with,” said Daniel. “Most recently a mother approached us at one of our camps and said ‘two of my daughters have been directly influenced by your programming. One of them is starting her first year in engineering at the University of Windsor and the other one just went through the skilled trades summer camp.'”

With Dreamers Day, the organization wanted to continue the momentum from last year’s #idreamtobe campaign. Receiving positive feedback on International Day of the Girl, Build A Dream wants to raise even more awareness about diversity in the workplace. Feeling it’s important for Education, Industry, Government, Community, Parents and Young women to come together for change, the group will also teach people about where they came from. — Beyond that, it’s a recognition of the founding partners that helped along the way..

It all begins with a sold out breakfast before the 10 a.m. city hall ceremony. Taking place at The City Grill Events Centre (located at 375 Ouelette Avenue,) AM800 CKLW’s Kara Ro will MC as those on hand welcome a special guest.

“The goal of the breakfast is to bring together community leaders to celebrate the work they have done so far to provide opportunities for girls and young women in our community,” said Daniel. “[General Motors’ Global Advanced Technology Communications Manager] Jordana Strosberg is an incredible woman who has seen great success in her career as a professional but is also an advocate for women. She also works for the first automotive company to hire a female CEO (Mary Barra) and commit to creating an equal workforce. Jordana’s lessons are invaluable and she represents exactly what our mission is.”

Build A Dream will discuss last year’s work as well. In addition, Dream Makers who helped create community opportunities for girls are set to be recognized. Last but not least, young women with big dreams for themselves and the community will also be acknowledged as Dreamers: Everyone being featured was picked by organizers after a call for nominations.

Those involved hope the breakfast and city hall ceremony will inspire attendees to spread the group’s message to organizations, family and friends, increasing its reach. Without word of mouth and drawing attention to such opportunities, it’s something that couldn’t continue.

“You can’t be what you can’t see,” said Daniel. “Our mission is to educate girls and parents on potential career pathways. We want them to learn about opportunities that they may not have otherwise considered. Our focus is on careers where women are underrepresented and to provide mentors and programs to learn about these careers.”

While Dreamers Day is another way to get their word out, the group’s Partnership Liaison is glad to have the city’s support. This year’s International Day of the Girl has a fitting theme too.

“We are thrilled that Mayor Dilkens and the City of Windsor recognize the importance of celebrating and advocating for young girls in our community,” she said. “October 11th is International Day of the Girl and this year the theme is ‘A Skilled GirlForce.’ This is exactly what Build a Dream aims to do, diversify the workforce and provide girls with the opportunity to learn about careers in all fields.”

For more information about Build A Dream, those interested can visit the organization’s website. All are welcome to attend the flag raising ceremony at city hall at 10am as well.