Be the change you want to see: Women must work together and support each other.

I immigrated to Canada in 1982 and have had the privilege of living in five different locations in Canada and working in almost every province. I learned how to sing the national anthem from Hockey Night in Canada and became a Canadian citizen in Ottawa. Through my work at the CBC, I learned about the history of this country, and the differences and shared experiences that make up the definition of a Canadian. When I moved to Halifax with my husband Joe and our daughters Claire and Katie, we fell in love with Nova Scotia. The east coast reminds us of our homeland, Ireland, and combines the best of what we’ve experienced across Canada with the wild Atlantic ocean and the warmth of the people. We knew we had found home!

As an immigrant you begin by establishing your new roots, but at some point you realize the importance of paying it forward to those following the same path. It’s no surprise to me to see so many immigrants with a burning desire to give back to the country that gave so much to them. We all work hard and have challenges, but there is something special about being an immigrant and wanting to leave a legacy in the very country that gave you a new life.

I have always volunteered for causes I believe in, with a special emphasis on women and children. Working for the IWK Foundation brings my passion and professional acumen together to work for a great cause. We are on a mission to build the best in the world right here—nothing less will do! I also make myself available to mentor and help other women, especially immigrant women, because I know once they get on their feet the impact they have on our community will be profound.

It’s amazing to me in 2018 that women still have to march and fight for equal pay, equal rights, and equal representation on corporate boards, in government, and in leadership positions. Women make up more than half of the total population and yet our voices are often not heard. This will change only when women as a collective decide to work together, support each other, and change the game—which will ultimately change the outcomes.

We must learn how to support each other and be the change we want to see in our lifetime. It has been my mission to support women of all ages in any way I can by advising them, helping to influence their career paths, and connecting them to the larger community. I give back by coaching and mentoring in the way I was coached and mentored.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to each other. Take the opportunity to compliment other women and celebrate their achievements on a daily basis. START RIGHT NOW.

When we make a personal choice to always be there for other women, we are unstoppable.

From my earliest childhood, I questioned why I should be treated any differently from boys. Feminism has been part of my soul my entire life. Women’s rights are human rights and until we see equality and transparency I will never give up the fight. I will always find the time to support my sisters young and old.

The late Maya Angelou said that before she attended an important meeting or went on stage to make a speech, she always remembered the people who helped her in her life. It provided her with strength and conviction.

None of us get to where we are without help, and remembering the shoulders you now stand on is a great way to stay authentic and grounded in your life.

As an immigrant and a woman, it is crucial that my life speaks to the values I hold dear and I am committed to paying it forward.

Be authentic, have a voice, and use it and help each other. It is the only way forward. The recent #MeToo and the #TimesUp movements have created an unprecedented opportunity for women and men to rise up together and create a more equal and just society. If women play it smart, we can start a revolution from which all society will benefit.

Jennifer Gillivan ICD.D, President & CEO of the IWK Foundation

Jennifer Gillivan is President and CEO of the IWK Foundation, the primary fundraising and outreach partner of the IWK Health Centre. Jennifer is very passionate about the rights of women and children in our society. Jennifer was born and educated in Dublin, Ireland. She immigrated to Canada in 1982 with her husband and two daughters. Prior to joining the IWK Foundation, she worked with the CBC for 14 years.

Jennifer was appointed by the Prime Minister of Canada to serve as a member of the Independent Advisory Board for Senate Appointments in Nova Scotia. She is Vice Chair of the Canada Children’s Hospital Foundations Board, Co-Vice Chair for the Children’s Miracle Network North American Advisory Board, a member of the Advisory Board for the Sobey School of Business at Saint Mary’s University, and the Atlantic Ambassador for Women Get On Board. She has won many awards, including an RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrant award and a Top 25 Maritime Immigrant award for 2017. The Halifax Chamber of Commerce named Jennifer the Halifax Business Person of the Year for 2017. She was also named an Atlantic Business Magazine Top 50 CEO for 2014, 2015, and 2017. For more information, visit

My East Coast Experience

My East Coast Experience

My East Coast Experience is a multimedia publishing platform, celebrating the similarities and differences of people choosing the East Coast of Canada as their new home.