Celebrating International Women’s Day

In celebration of International Women’s Day, we’re sharing stories from some of our team, regional nodes and board members, and reflecting on how social innovation can support those building systems that are more inclusive, diverse and equitable.

This year’s theme is “Celebrate women’s achievement. Raise awareness against bias.” Get to know the people behind-the-scenes, who are working to #BreakTheBias and create impactful change. 

Devon Bond

Operations Manager

What motivates you to do your work?
The opportunity to make the world a better place by helping people collaborate more effectively.

What does Women’s Day mean to you? 
Women’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate incredible contributions that women, trans and gender-diverse people have made to the world. It is also a day to acknowledge the continued oppression of our patriarchal society.

How can we support women doing systems-shifting work? 
We can reflect on how patriarchal norms show up in ourselves, our personal lives, and our work culture and identify ways to combat them.

Who inspires you, and why? 
My paternal grandmother who will be 91 in April. She was playing tennis every week until her recent hip replacement, was Player of the Month at her tennis club when she was 86, and still goes for a walk and a bike ride everyday.

Flavie Halais

Communications & Engagement Lead

What motivates you to do your work?
I’m a storyteller at heart. I truly believe that stories can inspire people and move them to action, and they can also shift mindsets and spark crucial conversations. My job at SI Canada is to do just that!

What does Women’s Day mean to you?
Women’s Day for me marks an opportunity to celebrate womanhood in its most inclusive definition, and reflect on the ways we can support each other. I find it useful to learn from others about their own experience of womanhood; it’s not a fixed identity by any means and the richness of experiences is both a source of inspiration and an invitation to exercise solidarity.

How can we support women doing systems-shifting work?
Women shift systems every day by virtue of existing, so at the root of it all we need to help each other get the necessary support, care and resources to live with dignity and agency. So many women are already doing amazing work that goes unnoticed or unrecognized because they’re typically not listened to. The best way to help do systems-shifting work starts with listening to them, and directing resources where they have identified needs, rather than dictating where resources should go from the top down.

Who inspires you, and why?
My sister, who recently passed away after a long illness. She was a devoted high school teacher, beloved colleague, dedicated godmother, loyal friend and loving sister. A true community builder, and for me the quintessential modern woman.

Muska Ulhaq

Senior Manager, Labs and Challenges

What motivates you to do your work?
I am motivated to work in a field with a strong social justice focus, where I can use effective approaches and work at a systems level, to create an impact on the lives of marginalized individuals and communities.

How can we support women doing systems-shifting work?
By unlocking opportunities and sources of capital and providing capacity-building support for women working to create positive, social, cultural and environmental impact. Empowering women social entrepreneurs contributes to changing the status quo, opening new markets, supporting sustainable and inclusive recovery and scaling profound impact.

Who inspires you, and why?
Individuals and community leaders actively breaking systemic barriers for vulnerable populations, and those solving significant social and environmental problems using innovative and sustainable solutions to build a brighter future for the next generation.

Kathleen Cerrer

Digital Communications & Engagement Coordinator

What motivates you to do your work?
By creating meaningful change through connection, collaboration and amplifying stories that drive impact, especially for those from underrepresented communities who go unrecognized.

What does Women’s Day mean to you?
A time to acknowledge, support, reflect and celebrate the exceptional achievements of women and gender-diverse people who continue to break barriers and lead.

How can we support women doing systems-shifting work?
We can support women doing this important work by listening and learning, and accepting new voices, perspectives and ways of doing.

Who inspires you and why?
I’m inspired by those who take courageous action everyday to pursue what is right, and who move forward in the face of adversity.

Nathalie Rodrigues

Director of Programs, Generation of Social Innovations, Maison de l’Innovation Sociale

What motivates you to do your work?
My greatest source of professional motivation is to work from the links that are created between the disciplines and the stakeholders involved in social innovation. Collaborating in this way by mobilizing everyone’s full potential and generating positive and concrete change inspires me deeply. This is what, in my eyes, gives my work its fundamental meaning.

What does Women’s Day mean to you?
Even today, women face barriers that undermine their full potential. International Women’s Day is an opportunity to highlight the initiatives of women as well as their leadership and perseverance, despite the systemic dynamics that represent real challenges for them.

How can we support women doing systems-shifting work?
To support women, we need to work for systems change. One of the possible levers is to promote gender equality within the communities. It is also about providing women with opportunities to build knowledge, skills and leadership through programs, services or support mechanisms. By encouraging the integration of inclusive attitudes and behaviours in this way, we help to overcome the barriers between women’s ideas with a positive impact and their implementation.

Who inspires you and why?
The people who inspire me the most are all the female leaders, entrepreneurs and citizens who boldly embark on projects with a socio-environmental impact for the benefit of the community. These women make up more than 60% of the people carrying out the projects supported by the Civic Incubator, a MIS support program for projects in the start-up phase. It is a real privilege to support these project leaders, who are all more inspiring than the other

Louise Adongo 

Executive Director, Inspiring Communities

What motivates you to do your work?
Knowing that for many communities and individuals status quo is not an option and inequities have had significantly negative impact on wellbeing.

What does Women’s Day mean to you?
Space and time to reflect on gains and opportunities, as well as gaps and challenges still faced by women across the globe. Also, an opportunity to celebrate the sung and unsung heroines making impact in big and small ways for themselves and their families and generations to come.

How can we support women doing systems-shifting work?
Pay equity, policy shifts to address the she-cession and support women period.

Who inspires you and why?
My mother, my grandmothers and my many many mentors and friends along my life’s journey. Also, the many men who have supported, championed, fought for and given space for women to take up space and lead.

Michael Alberg-Seberich

CSI Institute Board Member

What motivates you to do your work?
COVID, growing inequality, climate change and now the war in the Ukraine, are instant reminders for me that we can do better in this world. All this turns into a very personal motivation through raising a child and nourishing friendships. The people close to me drive me to make my humble contribution to potential solutions. It’s the experience of human connections drives me.

What does Women’s Day mean to you?
For myself, it is a day that raises awareness for women rights and the continuous strive for equality in our societies. Back here in Potsdam in Germany, where I live, it is also a time to recognize what women do for society, families. The symbol for this, are the flowers given away on the street to women walking by.

How can we support women doing systems-shifting work?
Social innovation has many ways to do so,  for instance, listening even closer to women and their needs. Especially creating trajectories for women to use their experiences, their knowledge for social innovation.

Who inspires you and why?
I had the honour to collaborate with Mary Gordon, the founder of Roots of Empathy, repeatedly. Her vision of developing empathy early on among children is one that I consider crucial for a society that aspires equity within a democracy

Marilyn Struthers

CSI Institute Board Member

What motivates you to do your work?
A deep belief that we can and should be able to influence the landscape in which we live. Our society and communities are an expression of who we are. We must take this seriously and be certain that how we invest our time, our money,  our creativity and our work  truly represent the world we want to live in. This is an active function, much about doing in the everyday as well as grand schemes.

What does Women’s Day mean to you?
Women’s leadership is what is required to nurture the world now. We are emerging from an era of building and conquering; horizons, space, technology, information. What we need now are the capacities of birthing, nurturing and relationship building, the ability to observe what is changing, what is good, and what is needed to nurture  right relationships and sustainability.

How can we support women doing systems-shifting work?
Recognizing, gathering, exploring and protecting space for the women who hold the burden of this work.

Who inspires you and why?
The women in my communities – both at home and across Canada – who are imaginative and relentless in the pursuit of a society that will be a safe and strong place for the children that are coming.

Darcy Riddell

CSI Institute Board Member

What motivates you to do your work?
I am motivated by a call to protect and restore the many beautiful facets of life on earth – species threatened and going extinct from the loss of nature, peoples who don’t have access to  justice or sustainable livelihoods, and the cultures and languages that have been eradicated or harmed by the forces of colonization, control and extraction. I am inspired to collaborate with people across the gender spectrum who are seeking to heal our broken systems and grow new and renewed cultures that are life-affirming and liberatory.

What does Women’s Day mean to you?
I was raised by strongly feminist parents. Alongside living out some non-conforming gender roles and engaging in critiques of patriarchy, we talked about unjust wars and how corporate and imperial powers were exploiting and harming people in order to get rich and gain power.  Later, in my teens and ’20s I was influenced by ecofeminist writing and approaches. On International Women’s Day, I think specifically about gender inequalities and how patriarchy keeps functioning, but I see this as part of many interlocking systems that aren’t working for people or the planet. International Women’s Day is an opportunity for all people to consider how many barriers still exist for women (and women identified and gender diverse people) – from lack of representation in politics or property ownership, to persistent unequal pay, exposure to domestic violence, and lost opportunities due to the expectations of unpaid domestic labour. These barriers are more extreme for women and girls who are Black, Indigenous and people of colour. I talk to my children about this also, and we explore together what we can do to change these patterns.

How can we support women doing systems-shifting work?
Support can look different for everyone, depending on where you are located.  Many people reading this are women identified or gender diverse leaders doing systems shifting work. So from the personal side, we can learn to shake off the patterns of sexism that include suppression of our intuition, our embodied knowing, and our spirituality. This happens when we embrace a pace of life that is human, investing in self-care, creative expression, relationships, and unstructured time to just BE. Everyone benefits from support and encouragement to do this, and to reclaim ways to do it together, through collective healing and rituals, through being together in celebration or grief, and by making the feminine and relational more visible. 

On a larger scale we can all support women identified and gender diverse leaders in politics, speak out against sexism where we see and experience it, and fund or support organizations whose work empowers women, girls and gender diverse people. Men and male identified people can be supportive by deliberately carrying a greater load of domestic, care and/or family coordination work, as an act of social change. I also highly recommend the Systems Sisterhoodwhich is a peer-to-peer learning space that offers camaraderie and support for women identified and gender diverse leaders working in systems change.  

Who inspires you and why?
My current inspiration are the indigenous women and allies who recently launched the Right Relations Collaborative on the west coast – they are Cúagilákv (Jess Housty), Kim Hardy, and a council of aunties who guide the work: Marilyn Baptiste, Nuskmata (Jacinda Mack), and K’aayhlt’aa Haanas (Valine Brown). This is an Indigenous-created, paradigm busting relational space, aimed at reframing the inequitable power dynamics between philanthropy and First Nations communities.  They invite foundation leaders to “apply” to be in reciprocal relationship with First Nations communities.  The collective is “a learning ground  for the settler-created philanthropic sector to joyfully dismantle the harms and inequities of the extractive financial system from which philanthropy was formed.” I am excited and inspired as they advance their work to decolonize siloed funder approaches that divide up interconnected issues, suck energy to meet foundation-created requirements, and reinforce paternalistic relationships. This is the time where we need to invest in transformation, not just support incremental change. I’m inspired by the growing number of holistic examples of social change that begin from a fundamentally different power orientation. This is what Women’s Day can remind us of.

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