Posts Tagged ‘International Womens Forum’

Denver: A mile high…& growing

Posted by Debbie

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

Our travel itinerary had our time in Denver for the most days compared to the other cities on our 3 week IVLP tour. None of us had ever visited the city, except for touching down at the airport enroute to somewhere else.  The borders of this Midwest state are perfectly square, yet during the 5 days we were here, we found that they are pushing the boundaries with everything they do in this vibrant city.

If I were to pick one word to describe Denver, it would be ACTIVE.  From the meetings, events, dinners in peoples homes, networking functions and even at the Women’s Film Festival, it appeared that every level Denver-ites were actively involved in their city.

Actively promoting their uniqueness

As if perfectly timed, we excited to learn that we arrived just in time to take in the last 2 days of Denver Restaurant Week.  Over 300 restaurants across the city showcase a set multicourse menu of their signature dishes for a price of $58.20 per couple.  A strange number for a marketing promotion, I thought.

It was later explained to me that 5820 refers to the number of feet above sea level that Denver is located….aka a mile high…up.  This unique geographical position with the Colorado Rockies Mountain range in the not too far distance (less than 1 hour drive from the city centre) coupled with the fact that it is in a dry desert-like climate area boasting 300 days of sunshine, this city we found takes advantage of its unique altitude that no other city in the US can hold claim to.

We had delicious discoveries in downtown Denver at Restaurant 1515 and inmearby Boulder where we enjoyed lunch at Kitchen [next door].  We learned that there is a growing trend for chef/owners to start their restaurant in a small location amongst a neighbourhood such as Highlands providing lower overhead costs & rent than a downtown address. This is similar in concept to the business incubator spaces that we have visited in other cities as the location offers low overhead & operational costs as the restaurant grows its reputation and eventually moves downtown. We went to Corner House and Old Major (on its 15th day in business as they were still ironing out their kinks).  Surprisingly, the restaurants were jam packed – even on Monday & Tuesday nights! Other restaurants we were tipped of as ‘must dos’ were: Squeaky Bean, Vesta’s Dipping Grill and Ace.  All the more reasons to return to Denver!

Celebrating International Women’s Day

Our first day of activities in Denver could have taken place anywhere.  Back to back events to celebrate International Woman’s Day where we were the guest of honour along with keynote motivational speaker Deedee Corradini, whose list of accomplishments is outstanding.

Inhale… Deedee began her career working on Capitol Hill (while being a single mom of two kids under the age of 8), first and only female mayor of Salt Lake City, UT (where she spearheaded the winning bid to host the Olympics), President of US Women’s Ski Jumping Team (leading the charge & recently winning a controversial law suit against Vancouver Olympic Games – with the Canadian women’s ski jumping team in tow) and now she’s President of International Women’s Foundation.  Exhale…

I have one question –  How does she do it ALL?

Both Jennifer & I wrote separate blogs about our experience during this single day as our Denver blog would be far too long.  Click to read mine and Jennifer’s article: You can’t BE what you can’t SEE– that appeared in Prince George Citizen.

Time to unwind

By Saturday, we all desperately needed a break from our tightly scheduled itinerary.  Waiting at airports & the times in between meetings or traveling on our bus was really the only time we had to catch up on work or call our friends and family back home.  And even this time was peppered with questions about our meetings and sharing of ideas.  When Denver began to brace itself for a ‘big’ snow storm, I have to admit that I was relieved to wake up to a cold rain-mixed-with-snow Saturday. While usually a perfect day to go to explore the city or visit a museum, I opted to relax & tackle my work to do list with a vengeance.  Turns out that the others did exactly the same!

Denver’s active lifestyle

Sunday was carved out to be 100% ‘me time’.  With new snow, and the Rocky Mountains just an hour away, what do you think I did? Absolutely! I treated myself by leaving my name badge and laptop behind to break away from our tightly knit group for a day of skiing on 13 inches of fresh powder at Breckenridge.  As you could imagine, it seemed that every Denver-ite was doing the same thing!

Going from 5820 feet to 13,000 feet in a matter of a few hours took my breath away – literally. It was perfect conditions with not-a-cloud-in-the-blue-sky day, no wind, ‘fresh pow’ and the ultimate – ‘fat skis’ made my ‘me day’ absolutely heavenly in the above the treeline playground.  It certainly revitalized me for the last week of our trip ahead.

This day was a turning point for me, and perhaps for the other 5 women with whom I have become fast friends. We all did our own thing on this day – not spending every waking minute with each other, which is completely different from the past 2 weeks.  While I was in my element on the ski slopes, I was looking forward to seeing them to share my adventures and to hear about their day too.  The 6 of us have grown an incredible bond.  We have started planning our ‘reunion’ and figuring out when we will be visiting each other’s city.  One thing is for certain, I have a new board of advisors for my business as they know more about Savvy Company from our meetings and discussions. I am very grateful for this unexpected connection through participating in IVLP.

‘ACTIVE-ating’ the downtown core

Since we arrived, we all commented on the positive energy and great vibe in Denver.  The Denver International Airport is growing into an Airport City, there were loads of funky looking housing developments & old brownstone warehouses cleaned up transformed into offices or loft living.  Construction and cranes seemed to be everywhere. There was a blend of modern, historic buildings and some that were revitalized similar to what we saw in Kansas City. Ken Schroeppel was once an urban planner, now Instructor of Planning and Design at University of Colorado Denver and highly regarded blogger on Denver’s development Urban Infill –  gave us a walk through of the development plans for the city’s Union Station revitalization.  He explained that residents are active in the decision making process of major developments in City Hall.

We couldn’t believe it when he explained that residents vote on all aspects of developments of their city.  Yes, vote! “Denver is civic minded.  They haven’t met a tax increase they didn’t like”, quips Ken with a smile. Actively engaging Joe Public in the decision making process of improvements and changes in their city was impressive.  And Ken explained that the City immediately undertakes the approved change/project with a timeline to have it completed within 4 years. Mind boggling when I think how long City of Ottawa has debated the pros and cons of installing Light Rail Transit.  In Denver, the Union Station revitalization and development project is already breaking ground and Francisco Alonzo – Director of Innovation at the Airport proudly reported that the first train running from downtown to the airport will be in 2016 along with a network of other lines, hotels, office buildings, active spaces for fountains, farmers markets, restaurant, retail and rental apartments.

We stayed at Brown Palace Hotel – Denver’s historic hotel. In contrast, a few blocks away was the 16th Street Mall – a pedestrianized street with free modern shuttle service that is directly connected to the city’s main bus lines providing a quick way to jump on and off at each street corner in order to make it easy to shop & dine at the various retail & restaurants lining this street. In the summer, 16th street is the heart of the city where on World Music Day, anyone with an instrument are welcome to perform on stages that the City of Denver has built.  Beyond this one day activity, the Keys of the City is an innovative way to keep 16th  Street Mall active with pianos of all kinds colourfully painted by local artists throughout the spring & summer months. “It started several years ago with a couple of pianos, and this summer, we figure that we will have 30+ pianos donated and painted for anyone to sit down and play or simply tinker on”, proudly commented Brittany Morris Saunders, VP Public Affairs of Downtown Denver Partnerships.


Oh, there is so much more to tell you about Denver that I will leave you with this for now
& be back with part 2 of the blog – stay tuned!

What is our combined Shoe & Luggage Count?

Since we had Sunday ‘off’, while I was skiing, the others did some ‘retail damage’ in Denver.  Amina bought another suitcase, all the while the others bought new outfits (we were getting bored with our packed luggage) and new shoes & boots! At our Monday meetings, we had a whole new and refreshed look!

Here’s the latest count…

Total number of luggage: 11 pieces that we checked in…don’t even ask how many we carried on!

Total number of shoes & boots between the 6 of us: 42 pairs (up from last count of 38)

We are women after all! 🙂


Follow us on Twitter

For in the moment tweets about our tour, follow our group on #IVLP and

  • @savvydebbie (Debbie Trenholm)
  • @Halifax_Gateway (Nancy Phillips)
  • @JenniferBrandle (Jennifer Brandle)
  • @PillPak (Fiona Webster Mourant)
  • @amigerba (Amina Gerba)



You Can’t Be What You Can’t See

Posted by Debbie

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

Did you see me at the hockey game in Denver where Edmonton Oilers had a shut out on Stanley Cup winning Colorado Avalanche? I was the one with a red maple leaf painted on my face, a Canadian flag held high, getting tackled by a group of dedicated Avalanche fans. Perhaps you didn’t catch that game and maybe I’m overindulging in my description of the evening, but it certainly was a thrill to be in Denver enjoying our Canadian national past time. (Proud Canadian gals in photo on left from front to back: Amina, Debbie, Fiona, Jennifer, Stephanie & Nancy)

It is my final week, of the three-week International Visitor Leadership Program, as a guest of the U.S. Department of State, with only days remaining in Denver before heading to San Francisco for the final stop. Washington, D.C.; Kansas City, Missouri; Austin, Texas, and now Denver: my experiences in these cities have taught me priceless lessons about Women in Business and the spirit of entrepreneurship. The inspiration I’ve received to dream big, lead boldly, and speak proudly will certainly affect my personal resolve and future contributions to Prince George and northern B.C.

Denver is known for many things: the mile high city existing 5,280 feet above sea-level, the world-class skiing in the nearby southern Rocky Mountains, and the wild blue mustang sculpture with glowing eyes greeting passengers at the Denver airport. Ironically, none of the things I knew about Denver have made much of an impression on me. Rather, I’ve spent the past three days here being inspired by women in business and by a civic-minded entrepreneurial city that has written its own story. But March 8, International Women’s Day, was a difficult paradox for me.

As guests of honour, our travelling group of six Canadian women attended the Denver World Affairs presentation of The Gender Agenda Gaining Momentum with guest speaker Deedee Corradini (in centre of photo), former mayor of Salt Lake City and president of the board of directors of the International Women’s Forum. I felt torn and conflicted as Corradini implored women to consider running for elected office. She spoke passionately of the need to increase the number of women in government, in decision-making positions as she was as the first and only female mayor of Salt Lake City. Then, fast forward to later in the day as I watched part of the movie Game Change in my hotel room, documenting the political life of Sarah Palin. While on one hand I believe women should consider politics as a career option, I wonder how attractive a political career is for anyone with a desire to make a difference.

And finally, part of our Denver program was to attend the Women + Film VOICES Film Festival in order to view the movie GIRL RISING, a new feature film about the power of education to change a girl and the world. This movie demonstrates that there is so much work to be done in helping women contribute fully and equally within all parts of life, work and community. These goals are supported by a strong business case too. Various studies, including those by the Reibey Institute, McKinsey & Co., and others, demonstrate a direct, positive relationship between the percentage of women on corporate boards and the company’s fiscal performance. Whether women choose to go directly into business or into politics, it is absolutely necessary for men and women alike to work towards achieving gender balance in every arena of life, it just makes sense at every level.

We are certainly making headway in women’s corporate and political representation in Prince George. With examples including women holding high ranking positions as mayor, newspaper publisher, minister of justice and attorney general of British Columbia, president and CEO of Northern Health, and CEO of Northern Development Initiatives Trust, as well as hundreds of business owners and managers, Prince George is no garden of shrinking violets. Our future is bright, but brighter still with the contributions and sacrifices of so many strong women.


This post was written by Jennifer Brandle-McCall (in photo left).  Jennifer is the CEO of the Prince George Chamber of Commerce and one of the dynamic women selected to participate in the IVLP tour across the US. Jennifer wrote this article for her weekly business column “Business in the Black” that appeared in the Prince George Citizen newspaper on March 14th, 2013. Jennifer also has a blog about her experience & discoveries while ‘on tour’. Her blog can be found at:


Think BIG. Be BOLD.

Posted by Debbie

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

We kicked off our IVLP Denver experience by celebrating International Women’s Day – March 8th – with several events where we the guest of honour alongside with the highly regarded Deedee Corradini, President of International Women’s Forum. You may be more familiar with her name as the woman who was recently in the headlines for her un-ending media, negotiations and law suit all in order to secure Women’s Ski Jumping as a Olympic event in Sochi Russia in 2014.

“It was the hardest and most rewarding endeavor”, Deedee told the crowd of 300+ women from WorldDenver and the Denver Eclectics  during her talk at the historic Denver Country Club.  Deedee is no stranger to the Olympic Organizing Committee as she was mayor of Salt Lake City, Utah (the first and only female mayor) and was instrumental in winning the bid to host the 2002 Winter Olympic Games.  She was obviously proud of this undertaking too as her smile lit up the room as she recalled the story about ‘the split second energy level went from silence to ear numbing roar as soon as the President of the Olympic Committee said the word ‘Salt….’ as Salt Lake City was announced as the winning city.  “Olympics is about world peace.  It brings the youth together for a few weeks and breaks down international barriers.”

Neither Olympic size challenges were no small feat, Deedee stressed the importance of International Women’s Day to recognize how far we have come in a short time in achieving. “Women rights are  human rights…all around the world”.

Left group – Kelly, Stephanie, Amina & Jennifer (in pink). Right group – Marcy Grossman (Canadian Consulate General), Nancy, Deedee Corradini (far right), Fiona & me (back)

We can do so much when more of us are engaged…

Did you know that there are countries such as Russia where the entire country celebrates International Women’s Day as a national holiday? “We can do so much more when more of us are engaged.” Deedee explains, “When women are provided access to education and training, it has a large impact.  Women flourish, families flourish and countries flourish.” The audience representing women from 30 to 80+ years old nodded in agreement. This was a remarkable moment for me to see from my front row seat.  And these active women were not just from Denver either.  There was a IVLP delegation – just like ours – who were visiting Denver from various African countries, focused on learning about US women in politics.

Deedee challenged all of us to get actively engaged in our community especially by participating as a Board of Director to a growing business.  She cites that research has found when a board has 3 women members, it is directly linked to a positive bottom line. The IMF even has launched a program specifically to train, prepare and secure board level positions for women.  Switching to politics, Deedee noted that Congress is lacking female governors and representatives.  In response to that, Deedee has initiated ‘Real Women Run’ to train women to run for political office. Her messages were repeated during the lunch and evening cocktail reception, where we along with the African delegation were guests of honour. All combined, it was certainly an inspiring day reminding us of all of the opportunities, support and resources that are available to women. “We have become global.  This has only been in the last 20 years. The internet has made us –at all ages – connected. We have to be actively engaged,” were Deedee’s parting words before she left for the airport to return home to her family.

The incredible power of education for girls

These words echoed when we were invited to attend Women+Film VOICES Film Festival the first screening in any US city of the film Girl Rising.  While we have been parachuting into cities for the past 2 weeks, it was comforting to see some familiar faces at the theatre who we had also attended Deedee’s talks the day before.

I highly recommend that everyone see this documentary – men, women and teenagers too. Here is the trailer. Girl Rising showcases 6 pre-teen girls from developing countries – Thailand, Sierra Leon, Cambodia, Nepal, Haiti, Peru, India.  The thread that weaves these girls together is their common life story that highlights the power of education to change a girl, not only personally, but also their education makes an impact on their families and  today’s world.  It is not an ‘all good news’ film.  There were moments in the film when tears streamed down my face.

This film intimately exposes the hardships and mind numbing stats & facts about girls all around the world whose life would be dramatically different if they were able to go and stay in school.  An education system exists in the featured counties, so that is not the issue.  For various reasons school was unreachable for these girls and countless others too.

Some reasons are cultural, political & were hard for me to wrap my head around:

– boys get the priority to go to school while the girls in the family stay home and work

– it is common place in some countries for girls to be married by age 13 years old bear children soon after

– there are more girls working as slaves (yes slaves!) than girls at school

– only those with money can go to school (even if it only costs a little)

– girls are told that they can’t go to school and don’t question why not.

By making ways for girls to go to school can be the first step in solving poverty, the spread of HIV Aids, and promoting cultural change and ultimately women in business.  It is easy to see that enormous problems in the world could be on their way to be solved if girls are in school.  This message was repeatedly driven home with narration of A-list actors including Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, Liam Neeson, Cate Blanchette and Selena Gomez amongst others. This is certainly gets my 2 thumbs up for its powerful messages.

During the movie, we were reminded that:

– $1 in the hands of a woman is, on average, worth $10 in the hands of a man

– Research consistently proves that educating and empowering girls breaks the cycle of generational poverty

– Educated mothers are 50% more likely to immunize their children. And when more girls are educated, a country’s malnutrition and HIV rates decline. (UNGEI, the Council on Foreign Relations)

– When girls receive 7 years of schooling, they marry 4 years later and have 2.2 fewer children. (United Nations Population Fund)

– When women are educated and empowered, democracy is more likely to flourish and the conditions that promote extremism are reduced. (World Politics)

My little way to help girls with school

Provoked by the film, we naturally gathered to share our impressions and personal stories.  She doesn’t know this yet, but I decided that as a birthday gift to Amina (Amina Gerba is one of the participants in the IVLP tour with me) each year, I will make a donation to her Gerba Foundation that assists in building schools for girls and boys in Cameroon, Africa. This is my little way to celebrate Amina’s efforts and help girls stay in school too – the powerful message of Girl Rising.


IVLP delegation of African Women in Politics visiting Denver for International Women’s Day. Deedee in centre