Celebrating International Women’s Day 2021

March 8th is dedicated to celebrating women’s numerous achievements and progress in society, whether it be economically, culturally, socially, or politically. International Women’s Day allows both women and men globally to show their support and solidarity for women’s rights, challenging the inequality and discrimination experienced by women throughout history.

We #ChooseToChallenge the presence of gender inequality and celebrate IWD 2021 by recognizing three inspirational women. Who are they? Brittni Donaldson, Georgia Cunningham, and Carinne Chambers-Saini. Each of these women have achieved admirable success within their careers and life—defying perceived gender norms and embodying all that it means to be a role model for women. Keep scrolling to learn more about their personal stories, wisdom, achievements, and the women who have impacted their life!

Brittni Donaldson

Instagram & Twitter: @brittni__d

Biography:

Donaldson, currently active as an Assistant Coach for the Raptors 905, joined the Toronto Raptors as a data analyst for the 2017-18 campaign, a position she held for two seasons. Prior to the 2019-20 season, Donaldson was promoted to assistant coach, the youngest in the NBA to hold the title. She also spent part of the offseason as an instructor at the Giants of Africa basketball camps in Tanzania and South Sudan. The Sioux City, Iowa, native played collegiately for four seasons (2011-2015) at the University of Northern Iowa before graduating with a degree in statistics and actuarial sciences.

What did you dream of becoming when you were younger?

For the longest time, I really wanted to be an astronaut. I would spend hours as a child researching planets, stars, and moons – I even owned a telescope. Once I started playing and getting serious about basketball, however, I knew it would be a part of my life for a very long time!

What action or decision are you most proud of?

Soon after I graduated from college in Iowa, I took a risk and left my full-time salaried job as a business analyst and moved to Chicago, alone, to pursue a career in sports. I got paid $10/hour, worked overnight shifts, and was a long ways from home—but I took a chance on myself because I knew that working in sports was something I was passionate about and capable of. If I had not taken that chance and made those sacrifices, I wouldn’t be here today!

What’s most important for your mental health?

As a natural introvert, I need my me time in order to re-energize. This usually includes reading, going for walks in nature, listening to music, or doing yoga.

What woman do you most admire?

My mom. Growing up, there were no gender roles in my household – for instance, my mom did the yard work, my mom worked multiple jobs, and my mom played in several rec sports leagues/coached many of my sports teams. I learned at a very young age that women could do ANYTHING because of the example she set for me.

If you could send yourself a note in 2030, what would it be?

Continue to chase fulfillment over accomplishment.

What pieces of clothing do you turn to when you have a big day and need a boost of confidence?

I love my heeled black boots from Aldo! Super comfy and they make me feel like a rockstar.

Our Picks

-Brittni

Georgia Cunningham

Instagram: @sgcunningham1976 & @georgiacunninghambolger

Biography:

Georgia Cunningham is the President and CEO of SG Cunningham, a leading full-service general contractor and construction management firm based in Waterloo, Ontario. As a certified Women-Owned Business through WEConnect International, and one of the few female-led construction companies in Canada, SG Cunningham is proud to promote diversity in the construction industry.

What did you dream of becoming when you were younger?

When I was young, I dreamed of becoming an interior designer. While most of my friends were riding bikes, swimming and playing games, I was busy building my Barbie’s New York City apartment. It started with a shoe box and then worked up to a boot box as I needed more space to use my creative juices. I would spend hours on end designing and redesigning Barbie’s apartment… it was my own fabulous world on Saturday and Sunday afternoons that I absolutely loved. To this day, I believe design is part of everything I do: how I plan my day, what I wear, and how I want my world to look and feel. 

What action or decision are you most proud of?

One of the decisions I am most proud of is joining our family’s construction business, SG Cunningham, in 1984. Initially, I was only going to “help out” for a few weeks, but after a couple days of organizing the office, helping with accounting and speaking with some wonderful site-workers, I discovered a brand-new passion. I loved a clean desk, accounting, building relationships with suppliers and subtrades and learning about the new projects my father’s team was working on. I fell in love with the business of building. It was exciting knowing that this company (which my father started in 1976 by himself) had the potential to be whatever I/we envisioned it to be. I knew early on that I was going to make a difference in the construction industry by building a brand. I remember once saying to a client, “we are a small company but we work like a large corporation.” To this day, I love what I do, I appreciate what it means to have a good team, I recognize the importance of professionalism in our industry, and I know that hard work pays off in so many ways. Like football or hockey, construction is a team effort and I adore the team I have put together.   

In 2018, SG Cunningham became one of Canada’s first Certified Women-Owned construction companies through WeConnect International. WeConnect International is a certifying body for businesses that are at least 51% owned, managed and controlled by one or more women. This certification has introduced us to companies across 46 countries that want to do more business with women-owned businesses. Women deserve a seat at the table, they deserve to be recognized in our industry and their voices deserve to be heard. My entire team works at this one day at a time and we have seen positive changes in our industry.

What’s most important for your mental health?

I always find this a difficult question. For those that know me, I am truly at my mental health best when I feel everything is in order (I am a Virgo), but for most people – including me – that is almost impossible. I have learned that rest is the one thing that can make or break my day, and although very cliché… eating a balanced diet and exercising ALWAYS makes me feel better and allows me to experience more joy, make better decisions, build stronger relationships and communicate more effectively. For me, my physical health has a direct impact on my mental health. I also need to find something to giggle about every day! Goldie Hawn taught me that.

What woman do you most admire?

My daughter, Julianne Costigan, but since she asked me to answer these questions, she most likely will not want me to say her… but she needs to know that Julianne Cunningham Costigan is the woman I admire most in this world!

So I will move on to the next woman I admire so much… Oprah! Oprah taught me three things many years ago: 1) It is okay to be myself. 2) It is okay to make mistakes. And 3) to be grateful for daily blessings. This incredible business woman, and perhaps the most powerful woman in the history of television, taught me to always tell my own story. When you speak from your heart, the best words come through. Not only do you communicate more effectively, but your audience listens. These lessons have helped build my confidence, which in turn has helped build my business.  

If you could send yourself a note in 2030, what would it be?

On June 10, 2018, I wrote myself a note when I was in Italy at Debbie Travis’ villa on a Women of Influence retreat. Debbie’s team recently mailed my note back to me and it said, 

“Dear G 😊

Remember to love yourself and embrace every minute! Life is good and you have so much to be thankful for … 

forever in possibilities … 

Georgia xo”

The only thing I would add to my note in 2030 would be, “now take a summer off and rent that little cottage on the coast in Ireland that you have been dreaming about!”

What pieces of clothing do you turn to when you have a big day and need a boost of confidence?

When asked this question, I knew in a second what my answer would be. A Smythe blazer is my go to – feel good piece of clothing for any day of the week and any event I might be attending. In fact, everything Smythe elevates my mood, makes me feel empowered, and immediately boosts my confidence. It is so true… they are relevant, timeless and versatile. Some women collect handbags, some women collect jewellery, but my collection is Smythe blazers. In fact, my blazers have their own closets in my Waterloo condo because I believe if I look after my investment pieces… they will look after me. And they do!

Our Picks

-Georgia

Carinne Chambers-Saini

Instagram: @carinnedivacup & @thedivacup

Biography:

CEO of Diva International Inc., makers of the DivaCup, Carinne Chambers-Saini knew from an early age that she wanted to follow in her mother’s footsteps, both as an entrepreneur and an advocate for women’s health. In 2003, after Carinne graduated from Wilfrid Laurier University’s Honours Bachelor of Business Administration program in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, she turned away corporate offers and instead joined forces with her mother to develop the DivaCup, a modern redesign of a relatively unknown concept that dated back to the 1930s. The duo started Diva on a shoe-string budget, working from their kitchen table as they faced an uphill battle to establish themselves in a male-dominated industry.

Seventeen years later, DivaCup has completely innovated the industry, taking the concept of menstrual cups from niche to mainstream. As Diva International’s CEO, Carinne and her company have received notable recognition, winning EY’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award for Sustainable Products and EY’s Special Citation Award for Industry Disruptor. In 2017, Carinne was also the recipient of Canada’s Top 40 under 50. Most recently, Carinne received a 2019 RBC Women of Influence TELUS Trailblazer award, in recognition of her industry-disrupting work with Diva International.  

Today, Carinne is a sought-after speaker and panelist at industry events and business conferences. “I want to motivate women to assert themselves – to find their unique voices and dare to follow their passion, facing down fear to fulfilling their true potentials. My hope is they will be inspired by our story – take chances and never give up, even when they’re up against all odds.” 

What did you dream of becoming when you were younger?

I always knew I wanted to follow in my mother’s footsteps as both an entrepreneur and an innovator. She always had a disruptive, questioning spirit that didn’t want to settle – and that continues to inspire me to this day. 

What action or decision are you most proud of?

Making the decision to commit my full time and energy into developing the DivaCup and launching the Diva brand will always be something I’m proud of. At the time, I had just finished my business degree and I was on the path to a career in tech. It felt like it was a fork in my path, and I needed to make a choice about what I wanted to do with my career. I made the decision to join forces with my mother and the rest is history. 

What’s most important for your mental health?

I have really struggled over the years with my mental health. I have found that spending time with my family and making time for myself really grounds me. I try to dedicate time to do activities that recharge my spirit, like taking a morning walk with Rick and the dogs, reading, meditation or getting creative in the kitchen. Disconnecting from the bustle of my day really helps to relax my busy brain. 

What woman do you most admire?

I was fortunate enough to be raised by such a wonderful woman, my mother Francine Chambers. Her determination and grit have always been an inspiration to me. When we were starting out with the DivaCup, the true driving force was her strong desire to help women who were going through the same things as she was. I have always had admiration for her but now being a mother myself, that appreciation has only grown. Especially since she always built me up, even when I was going through tough times. Because of her, that’s how I am with my children. 

If you could send yourself a note in 2030, what would it be?

Remember to slow down, take breaks, and enjoy life. Life is such a journey, the moments are really what is magic.  

What pieces of clothing do you turn to when you have a big day and need a boost of confidence?

My favourite piece of clothing to get a boost of confidence is anything in black and white with a heeled boot or shoe! I definitely feel like I can do anything in a sharp black/white outfit, but I love that the heel gives it a feminine touch. I feel powerful and confident!

Our Picks

-Carinne

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