We see you — all you feeling, intelligent women making big change in our world. In Canada, while only 25% of senior managers in the private sector are women, the percentage of female leaders is growing and these women are inspiring the women around them to reach high, fight for equal opportunity and equal pay, and follow their dreams. When we think about female leaders in our community a giant group of influential women come to mind (you ladies rock!). Here is a small group of those women who we are inspired by often.
Delanie Dyck, Executive Director of Yoga Outreach, is committed to seeing Yoga Outreach grow and continue to expand its reputation; as an exceptional trainer of yoga teachers & support professionals, an outstanding provider of trauma-informed yoga to people facing significant life challenges, and as a great organization to volunteer for. She believes Yoga is a powerful tool for change and by simply finding oneself on the mat, each of us can change the world.
Bridgitte Alomes, CEO of Natural Pod, is a thought leader dedicated to better environments for play, learning and collaboration using sustainable furniture. In her work with Natural Pod, she has helped create over 6,000 learning environments throughout the world. She’s engaged over 20,000 educators through her workshops and presentations and has been dedicated to creating play-based pedagogy and sharing the importance of the learning environment design. Bridgitte also serves as President on the board of the Green Schools National Network, creating broad-based initiatives and successful strategies aimed at fostering healthy, sustainable K-12 schools across the United States.
Alex Mazerolleaka Ally Maz is the founder of Girlvana Yoga, Ladyvana Retreats and Distrikt Movement. She is currently writing her first book with Penguin Random House about yoga for teenage girls. She has devoted her life to the true empowerment of young women through embodiment, raw conversation and deep mentorship.
What female leaders or mentors do you look up to? Who inspires you?
Delanie:SO MANY WOMEN but honestly, I have to say the women in my family. My grandma for still being an activist at 90. My mom for being a strong and intelligent woman. My sister for being so kind. They inspire me to keep working at being principled, strong, and kind.
Bridgitte: As human beings, we are always changing and growing. The hope is that we are getting smarter, wiser, and clearer about how we want to be in our lives, and how we want to use our talents, skills, and experiences. So what once fit us – may not fit us in the same way anymore. I would not be where I am today without the generous and incredible support of many individuals and mentors.
Ally: I am currently inspired by any woman who sees the opportunity to be powerful, political and deeply connected to their bodies- I am inspired by women of colour, trans people and women speaking through the lens of art and activism.
What are ways that having more women as leaders positively impacts your workplace? Industry? Society?
Delanie: Historically, the hidden and emotional work that women are responsible for has gone unnoticed. Consequently, women are forced to choose (i.e. family vs. career), criticized for only choosing one (i.e. family or career), do not get a choice, or end up carrying the load of multiple, highly demanding responsibilities.
Having more women as leaders creates opportunities for women to blow the whistle on what it is like to give up meaningful opportunities because of how women’s work is perceived, AND the ways in which society is shortchanging itself through the under representation of women in leadership roles.
Bridgitte: I can still remember this day vividly, 10 years ago, as I was holding my new baby, setting up natural toys to sell in a pop-up shop in Vancouver, when this customer walked in. She was drawn to the natural toys and asked me about my story, and why I do what I do. This conversation with a customer altered my journey. This was my moment of experiencing an incredible leader, Suzanne Siemens from Lunapads. Not only did she encourage me to apply for a scholarship to attend the Social Venture Institute at Hollyhock, she connected me with my like-minded women to empower my path. As a new mother of two young children, giving up my comfortable corporate gig, all I saw were barriers, she knocked the barriers down for me. It was a pivotal, life changing moment. Her guidance, experience and spirit, gave me the strength to say yes.
Ally: I see women as leading with empathy from a heart centered place. I think women have a beautiful ability to create safe spaces, which can really help people flourish and feel like they have the permission to be who they are. Where there is safety and stability, there can be new ideas, creativity and inclusivity. A swing into female energy and consciousness to me means more acceptance, a greater value on emotional intelligence as well as creativity and play.
How can we ensure women continue to be in leadership roles?
Delanie: As women in leadership roles we need to support other women in their careers. This means acting as mentors, being committed to professional development within our organizations, encouraging other women and reshaping what it looks like to be a leader.
Bridgitte: As the Co-Founder and CEO of Natural Pod I’ve nurtured the business along every growth stage, every pain point, and celebrated all our successes along the way. Keeping the vision authentic to impact change throughout our community is incredibly important to me. With a mindful and focused passion, I am a leader that drives change. Our world needs incredibly strong communicators, solution oriented problem solvers, design oriented thinkers.
Ally: I think women believing that they can be in leadership roles the first step. It’s about breaking the mould about what we think a leader has to be. Leadership doesn’t have to be this masculine, linear, rigid thing that it has historically been. It can be fluid, spacious and generous. I think it’s also about women helping other women up. The old paradigm of pitting women against each other is over. It’s time for the female leaders of the world to continue to create spaces and opportunities for other women.
What advice would you give female entrepreneurs who are just getting started?
Delanie: Have a rigorous self-care plan in place and stick to it. You can’t support anyone else if you aren’t properly supporting yourself – true resiliency is developed in how we care for ourselves, not in what we can endure.
Bridgitte: Always start with your deep personal desire. What is your intention? Is it deep enough to ride the waves of what a business entails. If your drive and passion is clear, when you hit a bump in the road, you can always go back to that for alignment.
Ally: Take care of yourself first. It’s natural to want to give it all away and that can lead to burn out. As women we are conditioned to do that — be nurturing, care for others and leave nothing for ourselves. What we need to be doing to support our outward endeavours is to create ritual in our lives that keep us centered, in our bodies and connected to who we are. If we don’t have a relationship with our inner self than our relationship with the world won’t work.
How have you overcome discrimination as a woman to achieve your goals?
Delanie: Mostly by being super stubborn and sticking to my guns, which is just in my nature.
Bridgitte: By following my heart and gut!
The greatest obstacle for me has been the voice in my head. I wish someone would invent a tape recorder that we could attach to our brains to record everything we tell ourselves. We would realize how important it is to stop this negative self-talk. It means pushing back with a dose of heart wisdom.
We are constantly made to feel that we should be wiser, more successful, sexier, make more money, be awesome moms, better lovers etc. Knowing who I am, loving who I am and knowing my strengths and weaknesses supports me to stay on my path.
Ally: I acknowledge that as a white woman it has afforded me a certain amount of privilege. I recognize that my struggle is nowhere close to what women of colour have endured. What I have noticed through the years as a young woman in business is that I have had to do a lot more to be taken seriously. Over time I have developed a deep fortitude for letting my voice be heard. My job is to believe in who I am first and then step forward into the world. If you don’t know yourself first then you are constantly seeking validation from others. I think overcoming discrimination is less about fighting the outside world but more of creating a deep connection and strength within oneself to teach and show the world your who you are and what you are capable of.
Halfmoon was founded by Beth McTavish in 1989 and created out of her love of prop based Iyengar yoga. Halfmoon is lead and managed entirely by women and made up of a 70% female staff.
Many people asked when I was lying in a hospital bed, ventilated with no movement below my neck, “What will you do now? How will you practice yoga?” Many of them, knew me as either their yoga teacher or a yoga pioneer and entrepreneur. I established one of the first Yoga Alliance 200hr teacher training programs in BC and the first yoga studio in my hometown Nelson, back in early 2000.