A few days ago I was privileged to sit at the convocation ceremonies for the Medical School of McMaster University. Families were abuzz; flowers were pungent in the room; people were excited. And proud. I was there as part of an applause contingent for Callie Honeywood, former student at Guthrie Elementary School and graduate of Eastview Secondary School.

It was thrilling to hear Callie called “Doctor” for the first time.

There were 92 new “doctors” in the hall and the point of this is that for the first time in McMaster’s history, more than half of them were women.

Just writing this gives me goosebumps.

I keep thinking that I’m not that old, but I sure remember high school enough to know that any “girl” entering medical school in the late sixties would have been admonished for taking up a spot that a “boy” should have. It was thought by many that “girls” wasted places because they’d just quit to have families.

It was an attitude not reserved just for med school. Unless it was nursing, x-ray technician, secretarial studies, or “normal” school, earning a spot in higher education was a tough thing to do.

Not for Callie, I’m sure.

And in between my generation and Callie’s are millions of men and women who have ventured forth with new ideas, refusing to back down, insisting on the inherent right of women to be able to pursue education and careers of their liking.

Today, female high school students can sit in a gymnasium and be surrounded by women of every career type. That’s a new phenomenon, only possible in this generation. When my generation was in high school, female students had no role models, very few working mothers, very few “professional” women.

And so...

Words on Work is a newly developing mentorship program that’s provincial in scope and geared to bringing working women together with female students.

WOW essentially is a speakers database, a gathering place where women who work in both traditional and non traditional professions are described and available as guest speakers for students at schools in their community.

What a wonderful win-win-win! The women win because they get to take stock of their achievements, of why they chose what they chose, what kinds of hurdles they overcame, how their career path has grown, what major skills they use each day, what they’d do differently.

The students win because they get to listen and connect with people who are inspirational, who have gone down the path ahead of them, people who can give advice and open windows on the world outside school.

The community wins because its students get a fair shake, an enlightened approach to choosing what they’re going to do with their lives.

WOW would have been wonderful for me when I was 17. It would also have been impossible. But today, I’m excited about being a WOW speaker, about taking the message to students across the region that you can and should choose work that makes you feel good about yourself. WOW speakers say that you can go into tool and die, mechanics, engineering... anything!

If you are prepared to give an hour a couple of times a year to talk about yourself and your career decisions, WOW is sure interested in having you onboard.

For more information, call Judy or Monika at the Simcoe County Training Board, at 705 725-1011 or by email at sctb@sctb.on.ca.

And to Callie... thanks for having the courage of your convictions. Congratulations!

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