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CELEBRATING THE WOMEN IN OUR ECOSYSTEM

I do value days that call international attention to important issues. It gives us a reason to focus on something important. As a woman, I’ve also often thought – why just one day? We have much more work to do in recognizing and celebrating the contributions women make every day, everywhere.

So, I’ve embraced the Choose to Challenge call this year. We can and should collectively celebrate the role women play in society, and we can also choose to challenge gender bias. We can choose to call out gender inequality. More than that, we should commit to challenging it.

This year, Alberta Ecotrust will celebrate its 30th Anniversary and I find myself reflecting back on my time here and the role women have played in my life, my career and most importantly, the environmental movement. I have met and been inspired by so many strong and passionate women.

One woman in particular at the start of my journey is the indomitable Margaret Chandler, deeply involved in the origins and growth of the environmental movement in Calgary and Alberta and now owner of Green Fuse Inc. In 1996, as the interim Executive Director of Alberta Ecotrust, she saw a kindred spirit in me and with amazing generosity and positivity, hired me and lifted me to heights unimagined then. Our friendship endures and she continues to make me both laugh and deeply reflect.

I believe there is such a strong connection between women and the natural world. Many cultures, including our Indigenous Peoples in Canada refer to the Earth as our mother. The modern environmental movement was started in the mid-20th century by Rachel Carson, a young marine scientist whose book Silent Spring led to a manifest change in society and public policy, ultimately identifying DDT and other pesticides as a significant threat to global ecosystems. She showed that the human drive to master and harness nature comes at a huge cost.

Now we have a young global activist named Greta Thunberg, leading youth all over the world to demand action on climate change – an even bigger threat to global ecosystems; our mother, Earth. We need to listen, celebrate and create space for young women with big ideas and strong public voices. Let’s #ChooseTo Challenge those who get in their way and obstruct their leadership potential and opportunity. Who drown their dreams for a better future for all of us.

We must pay attention and ensure women have equal chances to learn and build specific skill sets that challenge the norm; elevating each other’s work and success. Women must be included at decision-making tables. This means educating, empowering, and championing women to succeed and then making room for them. With our new Climate Innovation Fund, we have an amazing opportunity to directly invest in private equity initiatives that provide a good financial return and also reduce emissions. I’m honing my own investing skills in the 51’s Financial Feminism Investing Lab. I still have much to learn, but I know I want to challenge the status quo where only 10% of women-led start-ups in Canada get funded. There are women everywhere I turn in clean-tech and we have the means in Alberta to liberate and implement their ideas, and to launch their journeys.

Today, on International Women’s Day, I am celebrating the achievements of the amazing women (and allies!) in my life, on our team, our Board, our Advisory Committees, and the hundreds who have fearlessly championed the environmental nonprofit sector in Alberta and beyond. I’m so lucky to currently work with a really compassionate and savvy cohort of women: Teigan Kopec, Vicki Stroich, Katie Michels, Oksana Makovych, Jessica Lajoie, Stefanie Drozda and Dana Marashi. Along my Alberta Ecotrust journey, I have been fortunate to work, collaborate and struggle alongside many women. I care about all of them. Most importantly, I have faith in them; they are doing the hard work to improve and protect the environment in Alberta. For their families, friends and fellow citizens.

I wouldn’t be the person I am without the support and friendship of so many brilliant and capable women. It’s a long list but I’d like to acknowledge and extend my thanks: to Margaret, Rose Bene, and Kim Sanderson who got Alberta Ecotrust off the ground with the amazing spirit and generosity of Hazel Gillespie at Petro-Canada; to Nancy Dalton and Jill Kirker, my first team (we were invincible and full of hope); to Barbara Burggraf who introduced me to professional fundraising and was the first individual donor to Alberta Ecotrust; to Wanda Spooner, who carried the torch and helped us grow; to Danah Duke and Natalie Odd, who began as bright light lights on the ENGO landscape and now shine as leaders; to Lori Hewson, Brenda Naylor and Shelley Uytterhagen for decades of friendship and sage advice on philanthropy; and to the other women who worked with me over the years at Alberta Ecotrust, including Heather Hendrie, Edie Smith, Kim Kiel, Jamie Nelson, Natalie Odd, Julia Maria Becker, Andrea Hlady, Marzan Ashrafi and Amy Spark.

A very special thank you to Pegi Dover, easily one of the most graceful and generous women on the Canadian environmental landscape.

Our province needs women of all demographics and skills, and we need each other. Let’s #ChooseToChallenge together.

 

A challenged world is an alert world. Individually, we’re all responsible for our own thoughts and actions – all day, every day.
We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women’s achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world. From challenge comes change, so let’s all choose to challenge. So, hand up high to show you’re in.
– International Women’s Day 2021

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