10 Women Leaders in this Industry

My kids don’t really understand what I do for a living. That will come with time. It doesn’t stop me from thinking about how they may make their mark on the world – maybe even in this field – and who may be best suited to shape their understanding of the industry and what it means to be an excellent leader within it.

One night on a recent weekend at home I got to thinking about leaders in the sector, and specifically women leaders, that are exemplary for my sons and daughter in different ways. I want my boys and girl to know both men and women leaders, to be able to understand and respect gender difference, to be better positioned to understand and promote equality and equity. Moreover, it is critically important to me that my children respect the intelligence, community impacts, presence and contributions of women and to realize that there are a broad range of leadership skills to be learned from when examining different leadership styles and approaches. This isn’t just about leadership on “women’s issues” this is leadership across a spectrum of issues, and coming to realize that women and men (and people that identify as trans rather than by woman or man) influence policy, programs, thought processes, funding, politics, decision-making, and public consciousness.

In no particular order, the women I thought of that I would be pleased for my children to be influenced by are:

Becky Viv Margiotta (Social Change Agency) – tenacious innovator; steadfast purpose; change catalyst; integrity of experience; embraces imperfect action over perfect planning; creates new ways of thinking and doing

Susan McGee (Homeward Trust) – brave transformer; cultural sensitivity and protection; community leadership; manages ambiguity; lives “continuous improvement” every single day

Anne Nolan (Crossroads Rhode Island) – community impact; strategic; steady grace; supportive of her senior management team while commanding excellence to the fullest potential of each

Laura Zeillinger (USICH) – vision; “doer”; unassuming; impactful orator; keeps a watchful eye on results; makes many things possible through the hard work behind the scenes

Tanya Gulliver (Homeless HUB) – passionate advocate; informed critic; advancing knowledge; challenging assumptions; thought provoking

Ann Oliva (HUD) – intelligent; charismatic; presence; integrity; leaves her stamp on her contributions; is not afraid to provide a clear answer, even when it is unpopular

Kim Boudreaux (Catholic Services of Acadiana) – full of faith; passion; community impact; empowers her staff to achieve; never loses sight of the end users of services

Kim Walker (CSH) – smart; navigates pathways to success; moves thinking forward; challenges preconceptions respectfully; provides insightful ways to engage in thinking and doing; great example that leadership can occur earlier in a career

Mattie Lord (UMOM) – tenacious compassion; believes in setting the bar high; driven; does not sacrifice the important for the urgent; dedication to achieve the best results for families served; driven to do what is right

Kathy Christiansen (Alpha House Calgary) – lives her values; does what is pragmatic and that which is right; proves actions speak loudly; insightful commentary beyond the obvious day to day operations to situate what occurs within a bigger picture


There is loads of variation in the list. Some are in very high level positions with considerable exposure. Some are not. Some are lesbian. Some are not. Some have considerable academic credentials. Some do not. Some have children. Some do not. Some are married. Some are not. Some are younger and earlier on in careers; some are not. Some are white. Some are not. Some are Canadian. Some are not. I could go on.

They are not a singular, homogenous group. There is richness in the diversity that they represent. Each provides a different potential example for my children to learn from…for either my daughter to one-day embrace in her own leadership or my sons to support and respect and learn from in becoming leaders in their own right.

Who are the women leaders that work in the sector in your community, what are some of the qualities of their leadership, and what impact have they had on you?

About Iain De Jong

Leader. Edutainer. Coach. Consultant. Professor. Researcher. Blogger. Do-gooder. Potty mouth. Positive disruptor. Relentless advocate for social justice. Comedian. Dad. Minimalist. Recovering musician. Canadian citizen. International jetsetter. Living life in jeans and a t-shirt. Trying really hard to end homelessness in developed countries around the world, expand harm reduction practices, make housing happen, and reform the justice system. Driven by change, fuelled by passion. Winner of a shit ton of prestigious awards, none of which matter unless change happens in how we think about vulnerability, marginality, and inclusion.

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