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On November 7th, the Canadian Tamil Professionals Association hosted Tamil Women at the Top, an event that brought together female leaders in the community for an intimate and unique networking experience. This uniquely catered event was long overdue in the community, as reiterated by numerous attendees. The powerful conversations that took place were a testament of the desire to engage and connect with other like-minded women.
It was clear from the beginning that these powerful women were here to share ideas and celebrate each other. As Manjula Selvarajah appropriately stated, “Being here tells me that a lot is possible.” The diversity among the attendees was indicatory of the great strides that Tamil women have made. The professional profiles of the women consisted of health care leaders, change makers in the public sectors, and innovators in the corporate world. Although their industries and professions varied greatly, they were all able to relate to each other, having experienced similar pressures culturally, within the family unit, and in the workplace.
When speaking about the pressures they have experienced, Kajana Satkunendrarajah made a bold, yet true statement about why women experience some of the feelings that they do. “Sometimes women have feelings imposed upon us”, said Kajana. All of the women indicated that at one point or another in their careers they have felt guilt about making their career a priority in their life. Whether it was guilt that stemmed from choosing a career path that differed from the path that their families had envisioned for them or balancing work while being a mom, this was a constant struggle that underlined the decisions they made. However, as they moved forward in their careers and lives, there was a realization of the existence of diversity in experiences and in the collection of feelings.
Many of the women spoke about their experiences in networking within the broader community, but also stressed the importance of networking within their own community. In speaking about the variety of networking opportunities she had participated in within the broader community, Surekha Subramaniyan relayed that she has felt compelled to, “Try and speak the Canadian language”. Although there is significance in these opportunities, new conversations emerge when speaking with others in their own community. It was clear that there is a need and an important place for opportunities that allow Tamil professionals to connect with each other.
While receiving an award recently, Shonda Rhimes, an acclaimed Producer and Television Executive, had stated,
“This moment right here, me standing up here all brown with my boobs and my Thursday night of network television full of women of colour, competitive women, strong women, women who own their bodies and whose lives revolve around their work instead of their men, women who are big dogs, that could only be happening right now. Think about it. Look around this room. Its filled with women of all colours in Hollywood who are executives and heads of studios and VPs and show creators and directors. There are a lot of women in Hollywood in this room who have the game-changing ability to say yes or no to something.”
Shonda Rhimes was talking about women of all colours breaking the glass ceiling for each other. Tamil Women at the Top was an indication of the trajectory Tamil women are on, one in which they celebrate each other and are prepared to help break the glass ceiling for each other. The event was full of women who, as Shonda Rhimes said, “have the game-changing ability to say yes or no to something”. The collection of powerful Tamil women at the table possess great abilities and are paving the way to break the glass ceiling, for themselves and each other.