Hey Jan, we had the opportunity to meet a couple of years ago, through a mutual philanthropic ally in Calgary, Alison Pidskalny. I think it was at that stuffy Ranchmen’s Club. But loved how you put the ask for support on the table – you asked for the money for a very real need.
What type of relationship do you think women have with their money, and perhaps in giving their money away? Do you have more women giving to the YW or men? Or families?
I think women have a complicated relationship with their money. They tend to only give what they themselves have personally earned, irrespective of family wealth and tend to be risk-averse wanting to make sure it will last and sustain themselves and their community. They are not motivated as much by their ego.
So, they are cautious to ensure it doesn’t run out. We continue to work with female philanthropists to help them reframe and see how powerful and generative their gifts can be and the collective impact they can have with other community members. With many of us raised to take care of families, I think this is borne out of our greater sense of family and community. At the YW, about 50% of our donors identify as female but the majority of larger gifts are male sourced. I’d like to change that!
Can you tell us more about the mission of YW? What is the impact today and what do you see for its future? We would like to rally more support for you.
We want to see women and their families thrive in a safe and equitable community. Still in this day and age – women face multiple barriers in being safe, being fully valued and fully participating in society. In our experience these barriers escalate depending on class, demographics, race, and gender preference. Our practice framework has evolved over the years to ensure our programming, be it shelter, housing, counselling, childcare, language skills or employment skills, is helping women and their families bust barriers and build life assets that help them be more resilient and develop more agency over their lives. Self-determination and choice are at the root of this. We have, over the course of 109 years, always been there to support women and their families at critical junctures in their lives. Our aim is to continue to be relevant and also do more work at the systemic level so we can counter the social norms and beliefs about women that hold us back – no matter the walk of life.
We are so excited about your upcoming 9th Annual YWHISPER Fundraising Gala and are sharing it here in case more tickets are still available. The guest speakers (wow) – Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalists who broke the story of Harvey Weinstein, and authors of the book She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment story that helped ignite a movement – #MeToo.
How did you get Jodi and Megan to come to Calgary? That’s quite the coup. Why is this relevant to the YW?
Lol…a little luck and divine intervention I think!!! All kidding aside, we work with an amazing New York agent, Charlotte Perman, who has helped us identify rising stars and influencers that we can bring to our community.
We are strong advocates for stopping gender-based violence and reversing the social norms that allow powerful people to exploit women. I often say, now in 2020, is this still a thing? We know that stopping sexual harassment and gender-based violence, will take all of us, men and women alike. We were attracted by Jodi and Megan’s tenacious drive and methodical journalism that blew this story wide open and shone a light on the insidious nature of exploitation of women. I’m thrilled you can join us on March 4th and yes, we have just 100 tickets left, and they can be purchased online at ywcalgary.ca/ywhisper. It is going to be an amazing night and conversation as these two warriors come to Calgary from ringside at the Harvey Weinstein trial. Their reflections and observations are going to be spellbinding as they challenge us to think about what’s next and how do we get beyond he said she said!
It’s very evident that you work extremely hard, while providing leadership to so many women in Calgary. Do you take time for yourself? How do you recharge? Alone or with others?
I must admit that I am driven, sometimes for the sake of driving change. My amazing and very patient husband laughs in my face when I say I am going to slow down. This drive is a curse and a blessing. I am truly grounded by my family and friends and as I have gotten older this raging extravert does need more alone time and more unscheduled time. Weekend mornings are sacred for me to put around with no agenda! I have also recently taken up kickboxing which is highly therapeutic – lol! I had a great aha a few years back, a gift from a conversation with a dear mentor and confidant. I re-balance, find perspective and fill up my emotional reservoir when I take a step back and allow myself to reconnect to purpose. The great gift of working at YW Calgary is that I am fuelled every day by passion and purpose.
When the road gets tough (maybe too many No’s), what inspires you to go further, do more, not quit?
Purpose fuels me. I can be bold because I am advocating for the most vulnerable in our community – helping women and their families find and develop agency and self-determination. When I get stuck or I am hesitating, I remind myself of this.
At HK we love to dive into politics, so bring it sister. What is your advice for our civic, provincial and national leaders, or those vying for it? Oh, wait – would you ever run in politics?
Lol! A question that has dodged me most of my life. My grandfather always hoped I would be Prime Minister one day! He was of an era of civil discourse, respect and diplomacy.
We live in complex times and need all of our brains – one big brain in fact – to solve the challenges we are facing.
What is your favourite HK piece and why? Would you like to see some HK in colour this summer, yes or no?
I love the Rock Salt Robe as well as the Ruby Tunic – both so easy, comfy, flattering and ever so chic to wear. These pieces go anywhere. And absolutely I vote yes to color! Royal blue and orange shades are my favorite!
Any book, TV, movie, podcast recommendations for us? Here are some we’ve loved lately – Michelle Obama’s biography; TV show, Fleabag; Movie, Bombshell; and Podcast, Second Life with Reese Witherspoon.
I was riveted by the Morning Show on Apple TV – very relevant to the conversation we had about the insidiousness of sexual harassment and gender-based violence. I also just finished the “Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”; big questions raised here about the ethics of medical research and the exploitation of a black woman and her family! I am also excited about the next season of Outlander! Yes, it’s true! I love historical fiction.
Someone just asked us this question – you are left on a deserted island. How long would it take for you to make a call and say come pick me up or? If you stayed what would you do?
I’d last about 3 days, catch up on my sleep, read a book and then make the call. I am social and get energy by being with people. It’s like I can’t even get into first gear if I am not around people – a morning person I am not!
What women really inspire you, were role models for you, or are forever in your heart? Who really had an influence on you? Or your biggest champion? Anyone change the course of history for you? Your CEO, Sue Tomney just made the top 25 women of influence 2020 – that is quite an achievement.
I really do stand on the shoulders of my two grandmothers. Both were amazing women in their own right and had a huge influence over me. One was a healer and one was a moral north star. My mom has carried this north star torch for our family. I am also blessed with amazing female friends in my life. My inner circle of girlfriends are the “Chicas”. And Sue Tomney who is one of my dearest chicas. I can’t imagine doing life without her. What an amazing gift it has been to work with my best friend to create legacy for the women and families in our community. A career and life highlight.
We know what the YW stands for and we’ve talked about the situations we have all found ourselves in as women. Is there a story there for you too? How do you think that helped you try to prevent other women from finding themselves in a similar situation?
I absolutely have my own #MeToo stories having worked in large male-dominated organizations be it corporate or government most of my career. My first experience with the glass ceiling was age 24 when I didn’t get a promotion because I was a young female!! It fueled me to forge non-traditional paths and to work harder to prove myself! I am finding now that I want to pay this forward by working with young women to help them find their voice and confidence and to not settle!
Anything else you want to share with us? Any Jan-wisdom or advice?
I get teased about having many Jan-isms and one that has served me well is the reminder that to be “fascinating one first must be fascinated”!!! I work hard, some days better than others, to be curious rather than judgemental! I often lead with – what’s your story?!
Women are very much attracted to you; I see you surround yourself with them. You actually hold court, it’s impressive. What is that???
Lol I think it has something to do with my answer to number 12. And that I get tremendous satisfaction in seeing women succeed and thrive!
Jan our readers are women like you – comfortable with their age, comfortable in their own skin, and can just be themselves and not give a fuck. When did this happen for you? Why did it happen?
For me it happened in my mid-forties when I was making some really stupid choices in relationships with potential male mates. I ended a bad relationship and decided to get some help. A big step for me because my narrative was that I was a smart woman and highly independent! Turns out I was looking for a man to take care of me. Not flattering but steeped in some early childhood experiences. I had an amazing therapist who helped me answer the question “who takes care of me”? My answer – “I take care of me” – full stop. This was my turning point!