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Newmarket networking event aims to amplify women's voice at work

The networking breakfast will talk about digital skills and opportunities for women in a post-pandemic work place
Martha Jez, CEO of Fair Chance Learning.

Editor's note: This article was changed to correct the date of the networking event which is on Thursday, Sept. 29. 

A Newmarket breakfast networking event aims to ensure women in York Region are re-entering the post-pandemic workforce with strength and support. 

Fair Chance Learning, in partnership with the Town of Newmarket and Newmarket Chamber of Commerce, is hosting the I Love it Here, Women's Networking Breakfast on Sept. 29.

The 12-year-old Newmarket company focuses on supporting school and learning systems in equipping individuals with the digital skills needed to be successful today and "for the future of tomorrow,” said CEO Martha Jez.

The company, which has its headquarters on Main Street, has hosted events all over the country but the networking breakfast will be its first in Newmarket. 

“As I was thinking about the impact we want to make as we all recover from the post pandemic or the pandemic reality, we wanted to make sure that we’re playing a part in the conversations around equipping individuals with the right skills,” Jez said. 

Technology and digital skills became even more important throughout COVID-19 but the pandemic also impacted women in the workforce, she said.

“Imagine, I’m a mom of four, having to navigate online schooling meant a lot of people, a lot of women had to take steps back in their career. So how do we re-enter with a strong foot and a supportive community to really make sure women are heard, listened to, and leading the conversation?” she said. 

Jez is a mom of four and a CEO in the typically mal- dominated tech industry. She joked that she never sees a lineup at the women's washroom when at events and tech conferences but wants to see that change. 

"That’s one indicator that we need more women in the space,” she said. 

She started her company when she was pregnant with her third child and to keep her business going, she had to skip taking a maternity leave. Instead, she brought her baby to tech conferences with her, nursing in washrooms, airports and the occasional office. 

When it comes to making sure her own voice is heard through the work she does, she credits her upbringing with teaching her how to speak out. Jez is the youngest of seven children, so she said learned the importance of speaking up as a kid. She also credits her mother as being a good example for her. 

“I have an awesome family. My mother was a really strong mother, so that as an example that it’s OK to have a strong opinion and everybody called her the CEO of our family,” she said. “I guess I learned from her that you can be a strong women and lead and it’s OK to be a bit mouthy.” 

She also credits her network and the people around her for supporting her and allowing her voice to be heard. 

“I was able to own my career because of the people I was meeting and having conversations with and the experiences I drew from that,” she said. 

A strong network is especially important for women in business, Jez said, especially when it comes to providing opportunities and lifting each other up. 

“We have a belief that your network really impacts your net worth. So if you have a strong network, the opportunities you are afforded as a result of that, it's significant,” she said. 

That's one of the goals of the upcoming network event. It will feature female leaders from businesses across York Region, as well as Newmarket-Aurora MPP Dawn Gallagher Murphy and a keynote speaker from the University of Toronto who will speak about the impact of the pandemic on women in the workforce. 

Jez said the event is open to anybody who wants to talk about “what return to work looks like, what is the culture we should be creating, the conditions of working, and thinking about new opportunities in terms of what skills they may need.” 

The event is called I Love it Here because it focuses on local leaders and draws on Jez's love for the community and desire to give back to it. 

“I grew up in Newmarket. I live in the house that my mom was raised in and we’re raising our four children in that house. My grandfather was a mayor and my other grandfather was a businessman and owner in Newmarket,” she said. “We love meeting new people. We love connecting industry and innovation to community so it felt like the right thing to do.” 

The networking breakfast event takes place at the Old Town Hall on Sept. 29 from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. You can register for free online

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Elizabeth Keith

About the Author: Elizabeth Keith

Elizabeth Keith is a general assignment reporter. She graduated from Carleton University with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2017. Elizabeth is passionate about telling local stories and creating community.
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