For Future Generations: Supporting Indigenous Women Leaders through Mentorship and Advocacy
Jul 17, 2020
Karen MacKenzie is a proud Cree-Métis woman, business owner, knowledge keeper, community supporter, and a program Mentor for Coady Institute’s Indigenous Women in Community Leadership (IWCL) program.
“I am honoured to be a mentor in the IWCL program,” Karen says. “My motivation is to support and raise our women and youth up by building self-confidence and resiliency – and pride in who we are.
“We look to build on the work of our ancestors for future generations.”
Karen is Co-Founder and President of MacKintosh Canada, an Indigenous-owned international consulting company, and of PeopleBest Canada, a data analytics platform that supports organizations to “look at what makes success happen inside people”.
“I am also a knowledge keeper who is recognized by the community,” Karen says, “I sit with community organizations to provide teachings, stories, and learnings that assist them in their growth and transformation into organizations that move toward sustainability, diversity, and inclusion.
“I bring a strong voice for Indigenous people by sitting on the Independent Advisory Committee for Senate appointments for Alberta, and sitting as a Police Commissioner for the Edmonton Police Commission.”
Leadership is about the courage to step into the unknown. It is built on a strong sense of self-awareness and a commitment to ‘we’ rather than ‘me’. Leadership is being authentic, caring, and compassionate. Leadership reflects thinking with the heart.
One of the key components of the IWCL program is connecting program participants with the guidance and support of experienced Indigenous women mentors.
“The mentors are strong, positive role models who reflect the diversity of First Peoples along with the diversity of our experiences and teachings,” Karen explains. “The mentoring component is such an important component of the program as it reflects the traditional roles of women supporting the growth of the next generation of leaders through relationships.”
“Being a mentor is a gift as I have a circle of mentor sisters and maintain contact even when we are not at Coady,” Karen says. “And importantly, I maintain strong personal ties to most of the women I have had the privilege of mentoring as well as those that I have met along the way.”
With a wealth of experience in leadership positions, Karen has honed her personal leadership philosophy, which centres on transformation and lifting others up.
“Leadership is about the courage to step into the unknown,” Karen reflects. “It is built on a strong sense of self-awareness and a commitment to ‘we’ rather than ‘me’. A good leader acknowledges the unique gifts of each individual and welcomes them into the circle where they can develop, grow, and thrive.
“Leadership is being authentic, caring, and compassionate. Leadership reflects thinking with the heart.”
The mentoring component is such an important component of the program as it reflects the traditional roles of women supporting the growth of the next generation of leaders through relationships.
On June 29, Karen was one of 11 Indigenous women leaders who released a joint statement in support of Coady’s Circle of Abundance – Amplifying Indigenous Women’s Leadership campaign that launched with a $200,000 donation from Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively, and later a matching donation by the Jeannine Deveau Education Equity Endowment Fund.
The statement in part reads, “We have a shared vision for raising the profile of Indigenous women’s leadership and voices in Canada and globally. We know that magic happens when women lift each other up and share their Indigenous knowledge, perspectives, cultures, and traditions.”
On July 7, Coady announced the campaign had raised approximately $650,000 of its $1,000,000 goal.
“This gift recognizes the unique and important role that Indigenous women play in transforming the world. This transformation starts with the individual and moves out through their family, their community, and Canadian society. Canada and the world can be so much more when we change our thinking,” Karen says.
“This gift will allow more women to participate and perhaps deliver the program using different models that would reflect regional development.”