Backlash over material advising women’s conference to smile more, pray

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Attendees at a government-led women’s leadership conference say the day’s good intentions were marred by the distribution of an 80-year-old booklet advising people to smile more, never complain and conquer their problems through prayer.

The conference gathered over 350 women leaders in Newfoundland and Labrador as the government discussed the details and mandate of its updated status-of-women office.

But reading material from Dale Carnegie’s 1936 “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” handed out in a networking session, drew ire from those who found its message tone-deaf and condescending.

Shannon Lewis-Simpson of Memorial University said she felt infantilized and taken aback by the session, and said she thought time would have been better spent engaging the attendees in discussion.

Amanda Bittner, who teaches politics at Memorial, said she saw the event and its strong attendance as positive for progress on women’s issues but planning missteps served to alienate and upset some guests who gave up their days to attend.

Carol Anne Haley, minister for the status of women, tweeted her thanks for feedback on “a piece of content” and said it would be taken into account for future events.




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