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Meet 10 women rocking Social Finance in SKIRTS!

13 Jan

Canada has been falling behind with women’s leadership,with considerably less than 30% of corporate boards comprising of women. Organizations like the Women’s Executive Network are running programs specifically designed to help fix that gap, however there’s a long way to go yet.

Or is there? Tina Crouse, Funding and Investment strategist, has a bit of news that is going to surprise you. She’s making a movie to let the whole world know that when it comes to Social Finance, Canada has been leading the way with women leadership.

This week, we are talking with Tina about her upcoming films SKIRTS! and her sense of vocation toward social finance.

What is social investing? This is a great video to explain:

Vocation: having a special urge, inclination, or predisposition to a particular calling or career which meets our spiritual need to make a difference and to give meaning to our life’s purpose. It is a drive to fulfil a social responsibility, a willingness to contribute to society, to our social groups, and generally to the welfare of others.

We’ve interviewed Tina about her upcoming film that is soon to be crowdfunded. There will be some awesome perks once that gets started (including one-on-one coaching with high level social financiers), so we’ll let you know once it starts in March.


Tina, you have been stoking the fires for SKIRTS! for the past year, raising interest in the project. What about social finance resonates with you so deeply? Why is this an important story for you to tell?

I worked for many years in the non-profit sector and I was dismayed by the lack of progress; we rarely solved anything. People worked hard but they were over-worked, under-paid and achieved little. Charities were jostling at the trough of government funding and were being fed very little; their dependency was causing a cycle of poverty, known as the race to the bottom, while they were striving to feed, clothe, house, educate and care for Canada’s poor, weak, elderly and infirm. I could not stand it that we weren’t succeeding.

As someone who raised money for the charitable sector, I was always looking for better, more effective ways to achieve things for society. At one point, I helped an organization raise money for its programs without government support.

Tina Crouse

Suddenly, I saw a direct relationship between effort and effect and I witnessed the control that organization had in achieving its goals. It was independent AND it was succeeding with little change to its programs. A few years later, I was introduced to social finance as an entire sector able to do the same thing. It was breathtaking. With my eyes wide open, I could see so many ways to be effective and help society.

What was required was for us to marry business to a social mission: to put caring on the same level as profit. Traditional business says that can’t be done because it holds a singular goal of profit-only in its mind, but that’s laughable because human beings have always been able to walk and chew gum at the same time.

And now we have social finance to prove it.

Women have been at the forefront of social finance for over 30 years. Can you tell us about a few of the women you plan to feature, and a little on the work they’ve done, and for how long they’ve been doing it?

There will be ten women in the film [Tess Hebb, Nancy Neatman, Donna Morton, Bonnie Foley-Wong, Carol Newell, Barb McInnes, Tonya Surman, Nora Sobolov, and Ruth Richardson and Mary McGrath]; ten wonderful, charismatic, committed, creative, effective, brilliant women who achieved the ‘firsts’ in their fields. Each woman held a vision that sparked a change that led to where we are now. They are our history and our present, and through their stories they make it possible for us to go forward.

Women Leaders

Can you share with us the story of one of those ladies as a taste of what the film holds?

Tessa Hebb is a professor at Carleton University and Canada’s leading academic in impact investing. Just 20 years ago there were no words for what she does today.

She studied and did post-graduate degrees in a world that has so radically changed that it took tremendous vision, commitment and enthusiasm to stay in the field of social finance, research it, develop it and promote it. She had to have the insight to see its potential so that she would devote her life to it and teach it to others who are now some of our best people in social finance. Tessa has worked to convince people to invest millions and millions of dollars to benefit society. Millions!

During your announcement of the film SKIRTS!, you gave a few women an award for their work. Please share that story here, because I think our reader will relate deeply to it.

That was such an emotional experience. Of the ten women who agreed to be in the film, only four were available to be in Toronto the night of the Women in Leadership’s Award Ceremony at the Social Finance Forum 2014. While watching the women onstage, I realized that they didn’t get recognized often enough, that their fantastic achievements, so instrumental in building a bright and beautiful future for Canadians, was not being highlighted, noted, lauded.

Social Finance
Image provided by Tina Crouse

What does SKIRTS represent in the bigger sense? What is it really about, what bigger story are you fitting into?

Recently, the world has turned its attention to the impact that women can have in business and impact is a big word in social finance. While doing my radio show, So Fine Canada, the Hear > See > Click of social finance in 2011, I discovered that much of Canada’s history of social finance was in fact led by women and this had been going on for 30 years!

While the rest of the world is just waking up, Canada has been ahead of the curve, achieving our aims and improving things for society long before people realized the ‘need’ for women to lead, to be on boards, to innovate and create whole systems of change. And since this ‘new’ idea has emerged, I thought it a good time to celebrate our female leaders and what they have already achieved.

People thought Canada was at the back of the race. Funny how that is, to be so far out in front that people assume you must be in the back. Women’s leadership is our forte. How wonderful is that?

What do you need from our readers to make SKIRTS! happen?

I would like to ask people to talk about us, discuss us with friends and with media so we can be interviewed on television and radio. Join the Facebook group, SKIRTSCdnWomen, or follow us on Twitter @SKIRTSdoc. If you’d like to ask questions, please email And of course, look for our Indiegogo campaign as that, most certainly, will be an interesting process as well.


Don’t miss the launch of SKIRTS! crowdfunding campaign. Follow Tina and her work at the film’s facebook page and stay tuned. If you think this is a worthy campaign, we invite you to share the article to spread the word. Also, if you have stories of unsung women leaders, leave your reflections in the comments below.

Thank you so much to Tina for her considerate responses to our questions, and for championing women leadership. Keep up the fantastic work!

Till next week,


2014 Round Up of Inspiring Interviews & Moments

22 Dec

Happy holidays! 2014 has been a year of wonderful moments for Sister Leadership. As we enter the season of love and gratitude, we want to look back and thank all those who have shared their time and stories in our blog. It is an honour to showcase such amazing women. Don’t miss this round up.  Sister_Leadership_2014Wonderful interviews with such inspiring women:

Bringing excellent class health services to our city of Ottawa, Jennifer Van Noort has shared the heart and values of fundraising for the Ottawa Hospital.

Diana Merpaw, Canada’s Sex Coach, took us to a heightened state of consciousnessin this post about living in the moment.

Inspiration WomenSharing with us her process of connecting to creativity Dale Griffiths Stamos reached out to us this year, and we were so impressed with her thoughts on connecting to spirit.

We spoke with the vivacious Sangita Patel about helping other people to shineas a host of ET Canada.

And don’t miss the up and coming Chamika Ailapperuma. This lady gets it done! I’m so impressed with her dedication and enthusiasm.

Defying convention, Nicola Martin spoke candidly with us about spirituality in the workplace and how it has impacted her own career.

If you want to learn more about chakras and their impact on your health and wellbeing, reiki master Julie Desmaris opened up to us about her practice and working with clients in this unique field.

Top 100 award winner (Women’s Executive Network), Janice McDonald shared with us about how she leads with humility.

A fellow coach, Lisa Weiss spoke with us around vocation,and how it plays into her career.

Wonderful ladies who have come before:

Donna Stewart and Ruth Stewart VergerMixed into our storytelling, we care to honour those who have come before. In this post we introduce Anne Caroline Macdonald and congratulate Fields Metal winner, Maryam Mirzakhani. Also, we had history come to life when storytellers, Ruth and Donna, spoke with us about Lamira Dow Billings and captivated an audience of Women’s Business Network ladies with their stories of her life.

Wonderful discoveries of 2014:

SuccessMaya Angelou – how could I have missed learning more about this lady? She is featured in a post this year with beautiful snippets of wisdom transformed into shareable images. Plus, the inspiration from MC, my own personal coach, has led to many insights over the year, including bringing gratitude for ‘now’ into every moment.

This year also marked our first retreat for Sister Leadership. It was a mix of great company, conversation and fun as our team worked on upcoming goals. This was needed time away since there have been some large hurdles for me to leap this past year, with my mother’s diagnosis of lung cancer and the strain of giving care. With each decision and treatment plan, we adapt and do our best.

And then there was the miracle moment in the hospital room I cannot leave out of this roundup.

Highlights from women networking in Ottawa:

We have had many excellent conversations and connections this past year as Sister Leadership visited different networking groups. Here are some of our highlights.

Business WomenOver at the WXN breakfasts, we asked the question: What is a good leader? We heard from Shannon Gorman, Lyne Parent-Garvey, and Paul Melia on their experiences as CEOs and growing as leaders. At another WXN breakfast, Clare Beckton and Janice McDonald chatted about overcoming fear, asking the question: If you weren’t afraid of failure, what would you do? And, as Jennifer Flanagan asks: How can we make failure a good thing?

Women in Communications and Technology (WCT) welcomed Sangita Patel to share her story of jumping from engineering to ET Canada, which we captured in our post and, goodness, it’sinspiring!

The Women’s Business Network held their annual gala to honour the WBN Businesswoman of the Year Awards winners. It was a thrill to be at the event, and we’veprofiledthewinners.

Recently I’ve taken over as co-chair of the WBN Events Committee, and helped organize a networking event at a branch of BMO. One of the biggest takeaways: What you do is more than just your passion,you must think of it as a business.

Thank you to everyone once again for giving forward by allowing us to share your stories. This year’s collection of takeaways is powerful, and we hope new readers will discover the gems within our online magazine. It was a journey capturing many insights as we explored the logical, spiritual and intrapersonal intelligences. There’s more to come in 2015!

If you want to share your story with us in 2015, drop me a line at Till next time,


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