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When I look around me, I am surrounded by smart, accomplished, ambitious women – mentors, colleagues, coworkers, family and friends. I am very proud to be celebrating the accomplishments of women during International Women’s Day, but I feel like I celebrate amazing women every day.
Prior to working with United Way, I was the executive director (ED) for an adult service centre, one of six in Cape Breton. These EDs (five of six were women) were some of the brightest, most passionate women I have ever met. We supported one another, shared ideas and resources and worked hard on behalf of persons with disabilities. I continue to have so much respect for them and the work they do.
As the ED of United Way Cape Breton, I am well connected to 10 other United Ways in Atlantic Canada (10 of 11 EDs are women). Once again, I am surrounded by intelligent, ambitious, passionate women, and I feel supported and encouraged as we collaborate on various issues, most recently COVID relief.
WHERE TO TURN
When COVID hit last year, I, like a lot of people, didn’t know what to do first, where to turn, how to help. I started reaching out to colleagues by bringing them together virtually. What followed was so exciting, so inspiring … it made all the long days and hard work worthwhile.
The non-profit sector studies have shown that while it tends to pay lower, there is high job satisfaction. It also has a higher female employee ratio, so I am more often working with women. My experience was that they had a positive energy to problem solving. There was no ego, no proprietary resources they weren’t willing to share and no end to their support.
Since coming to work at United Way, I have worked with the Chamber of Commerce, the Cape Breton Partnership, Cape Breton Regional Municipality mayor, council and upper management, New Dawn Enterprises and Cape Breton University, not to mention all the non-profit organizations. I am always so humbled to be in the room with all these fabulous females, leading their organizations to do great things.
My mom (now 76 years old) was required to quit her job as a medical secretary at the hospital when she became pregnant with me. In 1976, 39 per cent of women with children in Canada were employed. That number almost doubled in 2009 (72.9 per cent).
Women have advanced significantly since my mother’s generation. I was the first in my family to go to university. When I finished, I was among the 14 per cent of women who had earned a degree. Twenty years later that number doubled, which meant a smaller proportion of men had degrees compared to women. I feel like things have moved in the right direction, but there is more to do.
As a working mom of four boys, I am committed to making Cape Breton an island of stronger communities. I want to work together with government, businesses, non-profits and individuals to be those wonderful villages that are raising our next generation. I had a lot of help with childcare, transporting my kids, feeding them, supporting their fundraisers, etc. I didn’t do it alone – no one should have to.
This year’s theme is Choose to Challenge and my challenge is to anyone reading this message: Think before you speak, educate yourself before you form an opinion and be part of what makes us better.
“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.” (https://www.internationalwomensday.com/Theme)
Lynne McCarron has been the executive director of United Way Cape Breton for the past 10 years. She is married to Kurt, mother to four sons, and wears many other hats as daughter, sister, aunt, friend, colleague and volunteer. She was born and raised in Cape Breton and is very passionate about making this a great place to live for generations to come.
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