Inspiring Inclusion: A Conversation with United Way’s Board Chair for International Women’s Day

As we approach International Women’s Day, United Way Halton & Hamilton is excited to join in celebrating this year’s theme “Inspire Inclusion.” When we inspire others to understand and value women’s inclusion, we have a stronger community.

Last year, United Way Halton & Hamilton invested over $2.3 million to support young girls, female-led lone parent households, survivors of violence, and initiatives aimed at preventing the cycle of violence and oppression.

United Way supported programs are designed to address various challenges faced by women in our community and to provide them with the support and resources they need to thrive. 41 local programs work to empower women and girls, with a focus on advocating for women’s issues, providing role models and mentors, promoting empathy and compassion, fostering leadership and collaboration, and encouraging diverse perspectives.

In celebration of International Women’s Day, we had the opportunity to sit down with our United Way Halton & Hamilton Board Chair, Susan Nicholson, to gain insight into her journey and her perspective on how women inspire our community. Susan has been a renowned professional in the legal field for over 26 years and has served her community, holding various positions across multiple United Way markets, for the past 15 years.

Here’s what Susan shared with us:

United Way: Can you share with us your personal journey and how it led you to become involved with the United Way?

Susan: My first full-time workplace had a United Way campaign, and after watching an emotional United Way video that moved me to tears, I signed up to be a United Way canvasser for the workplace. The experience opened my eyes to the incredible impact that United Way has on the lives of individuals and families in our community. Since then, I have been actively involved with United Way, driven by a desire to make a meaningful difference.

United Way: What are some of the key initiatives or projects that you are particularly passionate about?

Susan: With my United Way involvement, I am particularly passionate about early years opportunities. I believe that investing in parents, especially single mothers, in areas such as parenting, nutrition, and education support, can help them to thrive. I am also encouraged that United Way’s investments in women and girls cover such a wide range of focus areas, including food security, community inclusion, education, and programs that build self-esteem and leadership development.

United Way: Could you highlight any specific challenges or barriers that you feel women in our community may face?

Susan: Women and girls in our community continue to face systemic barriers to inclusion, advancement, and prosperity. We can often see this through higher local rates of poverty and mental health challenges. I believe that it’s critical that as a community we are dedicated to supporting young girls, female-led lone parent households, Indigenous, racialized, and newcomer women, as well as survivors

of gender-based violence. When women have access to resources and support, we can empower them to create a better future for themselves and their families.

United Way: How can we ensure that programs and services are inclusive and supportive of women from marginalized backgrounds?

Susan: Expanding Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion training and awareness programs is a positive step forward, however, there’s still work to do. We need to continue reaching out to marginalized communities and ensuring our efforts are meaningful and go beyond surface-level initiatives. As a Board Chair, it is so important that the United Way has made this a focus. We need to ensure diversity and inclusion in our programs and services by implementing DEI principles across all areas, including prioritizing DEI in funding applications, requiring DEI implementation from funded agencies, providing training for staff, and conducting ongoing research and conversations to better serve marginalized communities.

United Way: As we celebrate International Women’s Day, what message would you like to share with women in our community, especially those facing adversity or seeking support?

Susan: To women facing adversity, I want to convey that your strength, resilience, and determination are truly inspirational. Everyone’s journey is unique, and adversity can take many forms. Each of us are unique and know that your voice matters. Seek support from your community, whether it’s friends, family, colleagues, or professional networks. You don’t have to navigate challenges alone. As an added note, 211 is a confidential service that can be accessed in more than 150 languages by phone, chat, text or web.211 that can provide information to help guide to those community resources.

To anyone seeking support, understand that asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of strength. Reach out to others, share your experiences, and build a supportive network around you.

United Way: Thank you for your inspiring words today Susan! We’re so grateful for your leadership and governance here at United Way, and for your support of women and girls in our wider community.

How can you get involved and make a difference?

There are many ways that you can #InspireInclusion and help empower women in Halton and Hamilton.

Join United Way’s team of volunteers to drive connection and investment in the community through Cabinets and Committees. Consider joining Women United™, our powerful network of women leaders, who are addressing the critical issues facing our Halton & Hamilton.

Empowering women with equal opportunities to develop their skills, earn fair wages, and assume leadership roles doesn’t just benefit them individually; it strengthens entire communities. When women thrive, communities flourish, economies prosper, and societal well-being improves for everyone.

Let’s continue to have ongoing dialogue around women’s issues and #InspireInclusion for all.

Happy International Women’s Day!

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