My parents came to Canada from Italy in 1959 with only $13 in their pocket and unable to speak English. I often reflect back on those early days and wonder why I never felt deprived. I realize the sense of family security they gave me and my three sisters was a real gift. With this incredible support around me, I had the confidence I needed to achieve my goals.
This is why the work of the Canadian Women’s Foundation is so important to me. They know in order for a woman to move out of poverty, she needs a strong support system. In fact, their entire approach is designed to provide women with what they need to move forward.
They believe, as I do, that when you invest in women—whether it’s time or money or resources—they go on to help their children, families and communities. This is good for our economy, and good for all of us.
I first became aware of the Canadian Women’s Foundation through my job at CIBC, which has been partnering with them for nearly 20 years to help women move out of poverty.
I was asked to volunteer on the Economic Development Committee, which selects the community organizations that will receive funding from the Foundation.
I’m honoured to work alongside the amazing women who sit on this committee. They come from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences but we are all united in our common goal of supporting other women. With this diversity of experience, expertise and talent around the table, our committee has created very effective strategies to help women build strong and sustainable futures for themselves and their families.
Too many women feel helpless and trapped in low-income situations. They believe they don’t have the power to change their lives.
I truly believe that if there’s a will, there’s a way. As the work of the Canadian Women’s Foundation has proven over and over again, so much is possible if you take advantage of the resources that can help you.
In addition to sitting on the Economic Development Committee, I also coach and mentor women both within CIBC as part of the CIBC Women’s Network and outside the organization as well. I find these experiences to be mutually rewarding: both parties take away useful tips and inspire one another.
In fact, just last year I had the pleasure of coaching a participant in the Canadian Women’s Foundation’s Leadership Institute, which is a partnership with the Coady International Program at St. Francis Xavier University in New Brunswick.
My mentee was building a vision and brand for a not-for-profit organization focused on empowering women. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of working with her—she was so engaged in the issues and so dedicated to making a difference. I can only hope I inspired her as much as she inspired me.
I am also inspired by programs that train women to move into non-traditional roles, such as construction worker, electrician and mechanic—the Foundation funds many programs like this. These transformational programs are truly changing the face of employment for women by proving they have diverse skills and capabilities and by helping them to move into rewarding, well-paid careers that actually allow them to earn a sustainable livelihood. It’s also leading to a more fair and respected representation of women in our workforce and our broader economy.
Through programs like this, the Canadian Women’s Foundation is creating a powerful legacy of knowledge, resources and change that will be felt, not only by women and girls, but by whole communities across Canada, far into the future.