Message from the Executive Director

2015-jan-cassandra-steer-2403I am very honoured and excited to have been given the opportunity to join the WIIS-Canada Board members as Executive Director. My first contact with WIIS-Canada was at the Annual Workshop in 2015, within months of having moved here from the Netherlands at the beginning of the year. I was immediately impressed by the nature and energy of this incredible network. From the very first welcome that all attendees received by the graduate students at the ice-breaker event, to the way win which men and women alike from so many professional backgrounds were genuinely engaged with those students presenting, and with the topics being discussed.

When I moved here last year I was searching for some valuable professional networks for myself as I sought to establish myself in a new country, a new job and a slightly new field of law. Aside from wanting to know more about the ways in which Canadians approach issues of international security, I was also consciously seeking to connect with women in my field. I have long known the importance of strong networks of women in my life, both socially and professionally. What I learned about WIIS-Canada impressed me both because of the explicit focus on gender issues, and because of the support offered to young women who want to develop their careers in this field.

At the university where I worked in Amsterdam for 8 years, I was a co-founder of a women's network for young and emerging scholars. We gave our network the name "Stepping Out", because in Dutch to "step out" (stappen) means to go out on the town, but the network also worked as a support for each other to step out beyond limits, and step out into our careers. I benefited greatly from that support network and considered it an honour to contribute to other women's success. It is this kind of network that I saw on a national scale in WIIS-Canada, and I am excited to be a part of it and to contribute to each of its members in my new role.

I look forward to working with the other Board members, who are themselves all very accomplished, dedicated women, to develop and expand WIIS-Canada in the near future. I believe we can expand the visibility of WIIS-Canada across the country, and since my own background lies in international law more than in policy, I hope to expose more students and young professionals in law to the work of WIIS-Canada as well. I believe there is much to be gained from interdisciplinary dialogues on security and gender issues.

In that light I look forward to the 10th anniversary celebrations which will take place in Montreal in 2017, which WIIS-Canada member Caroline LePrince and I already busy planning. Founding member Stefanie von Hlatky established WIIS-Canada nearly ten years ago while she was a graduate student. She saw how effective WIIS was in the US and wanted to have a network here in Canada. It is thanks to her work, but also thanks to all those who supported her that we are as big and active as we are today. And it's thanks to many women volunteering their time that the Annual Workshop and the 16 Days of Activism calling for the elimination of violence against women are such a success each year. We welcome your contribution to these events, and to next year's 10 Year celebrations, so please be in touch if you'd like to be involved.

I hope to meet many of you in Halifax in June at the Annual Workshop, and welcome any ideas you may have for our network. The coming months I will still be learning the ropes from the Board members, and soon after that we will be reaching out for your ideas and contributions.

Warm regards
Cassandra Steer