MARCH 8, 2023 | Contributed by: Maureen Kilcullen, Senior Financial Advisor. For International Women’s Day, we are lifting-up the voices and mission of our First West Women’s Network here at First West.

When I joined First West in June 2021, I was raring to create connections. In the beginning, working primarily as a remote advisor and new to the Okanagan itself, I was eager to get to know my diverse and far-flung colleagues across First West’s regions. And the First West Women’s Network (FWWN) caught my eye.

As a positive, forward-thinking, and realistic feminist, I was naturally drawn to making a difference for women to have equitable experiences. Good progress has been made in our culture today, and yet, there are still traditional roles and biases attached to women in some cases—impacting pay equity, job opportunities and tasks. The reality is that women take on work, home and further responsibilities that add up to a heavy weight—as became more clear during the pandemic, it’s a lot. In my experience, there’s great value in having camaraderie and a healthy outlet among other women and allies—like I found among the FWWN colleagues who share my beliefs.

When I enthusiastically signed up to the organizing committee, I thought I’d sit back and simply observe the activities. But it wasn’t long before I was elbow-deep in planning conversations about how the group is living its purpose to build connections across First West and in my local community. Our mission is to be: a network of women and allies supporting the unique challenges facing women in business and in leadership. A network that brings forward these challenges and speaks to learn about and engage in thoughtful discussions around these experiences. We seek to support and lift-up women in our communities while creating an inclusive and self-propelled group of participants that break the bias and stand united

This purpose formed in 2018 through the efforts of a senior manager who saw the potential for an Employee Network Group (ENG) to uplift women’s experiences through peer connections. From celebrating accomplishments to making mentorship connections, creating leadership opportunities, furthering allyship, facilitating critical conversations and launching education seminars, the group continually improves the experience of women working at First West.

When I ask my colleagues, “why did you join the First West Women’s Network?” it always comes back to one thing: alleviating the bias. Things are changing because employers are engaging in conversation with women, asking “how can we support you? What struggles do you have?” And through understanding, leaders like ours at First West are taking steps toward equity for women in their careers and in life.

Today in our FWWN committee, we’ve turned their attention to extending our influence even further—to keep the oomph going! We are seeking more connections and expanding collaboration between women and allies across our regions (from Vancouver Island through to the Okanagan). I know there are so many ways we can succeed together once we connect. And our expansion also includes amplifying our purpose into local communities. By partnering with non-profit organizations that support the professional advancement and the overall well-being of women, we are creating greater change for women who don’t have equitable experiences. We can use and share our skills and resources to make a bigger impact through giving back.

The greatest thing about the First West Women’s Network is that we have employees of every role, gender, experience or interest who come together in our activities. It’s truly embracing equality.

If you’d like to work for an organization with equity, inclusion and diversity at the heart, see what opportunities are available today.

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