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Female storytelling industry expanding across Metro Vancouver

Vancouver’s market for female-based lecture series is picking up steam, according to organizers of several women’s storytelling events. So much…

By Dominika Lirette , in City Feature story , on November 25, 2015 Tags: , , , ,

Brittany Whitmore, host of Vancouver's first TEDxWomen event, is launching her own female lecture series, Herstorii, next year.
Brittany Whitmore, host of Vancouver’s first TEDxWomen event, is launching her own female lecture series Herstorii next year.

Vancouver’s market for female-based lecture series is picking up steam, according to organizers of several women’s storytelling events.

So much so that some organizers are having to hunt out new markets, as new groups like SheTalks and Herstorii enter the field.

Christine Awram, founder of Woman of Worth WOW Events, says she has been hosting yearly conferences and monthly evening events for women in Vancouver for 11 years.

When Awram first started hosting the events where females gave inspirational talks and workshops, “there was almost nothing specifically geared just to women.”

However, she says this is no longer the case.

“Once they started getting going, everybody got on the bandwagon. There are just dozens and dozens, if not hundreds, of women’s events just in the city of Vancouver now. Whereas back when I started this up, there were a handful.”

Awram is now expanding into smaller communities, because of rising competition in Vancouver for this type of event.

“I’m in the process right now of regrouping on ‘What am I going to do with Vancouver?’”

One of the newest women’s lecture series to burst onto the Vancouver scene is SheTalks. Hosting its first event last March, SheTalks YVR was listed by CNN as one of the “10 coolest Women’s Day events around the world.”

“There were 600 people that came to the YVR [event] last year, so we’re hoping to have at least 800 to 1000,” says Margot Gauley, vice-president of partnership development.

SheTalks is inspired by TED Talks. It hosts themed events, such as fitness or technology, where female speakers share their stories for exactly eight minutes. Committee members chose eight because International Women’s Day is on March 8 and because, according to the website, nine minutes “is just too long.”

Former Surrey councillor Barinder Rasode, chairperson and co-founder of SheTalks, said her group is aimed at trying to appeal to the broadest group of women possible, not just high achievers or academics.

“I think people are more comfortable with being real, than trying to say that we need to be either elevated to very academic talk or to be activists. So I think there is a bit of a shift to how women are gathering.”

Natasha Raey, founder and CEO, and Barinder Rasode, co-founder and chairperson of SheTalks, address 250 people at the SheTalks Tech event of Nov.15.
Natasha Raey, founder and CEO, and Barinder Rasode of SheTalks, take the podium at their sold-out event on Nov.15.

SheTalks has had five events since its inception at the beginning of 2015, with its most recent one on Nov. 15. She Talks Tech, sold out, with 250 people in attendance, at the Terminal City Club. Next up, the organization is preparing to launch its first event in Toronto and has expanded into radio this month with weekly segments on the Roundhouse Radio show Sense of Place.

“I think any audience is interested in hearing these stories because they are accessible. Other women are particularly interested because it speaks to their own experience. It’s translatable,” says Jennifer Moss, producer of Sense of Place.

Another female lecture series to debut in Vancouver last spring, was the sold out TEDxGastownWomen event. It was the first TEDxWomen event to be hosted in Vancouver.

It was also organizer Brittany Whitmore’s first TEDx event, so she was only allowed to sell 100 tickets, but that didn’t stop it from being a success.

“Tickets sold out in 20 minutes and there were 500 people on the waiting list,” says Whitmore.

According to Whitmore, over 250 people applied to speak at the event and they had to whittle it down to 10.

Whitmore says the event inspired her to start her own series called Herstorii.

“There seems to be a real hunger for these kind of women events in Vancouver. I mean I saw it with my TEDxWomen event. We sold out immediately and [there were] so many people on the waitlist that I would’ve loved to include in the event. So I think there is definitely a need for it here. And I’m here.”

All of that activity has pushed Awram to look for new niches.

The Fraser Valley and smaller cities in B.C. are proving to be more successful.

“When you bring a fabulous event to a smaller community, it’s like boom,” she says. “Everybody is totally on board. Whereas in the city, they’re like ‘Oh, ho hum, another one.'”