When I was told that I’d been selected as one of WXN’s Most Powerful Women last year my first thought was of my mother and grandmother — two women who always serve as my original and continual inspiration, who were trailblazers in their own rights.
My grandmother came from a working-class family in England, and during the War she had to leave school at 14 to work. When she married at only 19, she was told she couldn’t work anymore. But she always knew she wanted a better life for herself, so with a tiny bit of money she started a business in the late 1950s and it became quite successful.
My mother was also a strong and brave business owner and always took chances. She was willing to constantly change and evolve to advance her career.
Both always pushed against the grain – and every day I try to channel that defiant spirit. Whenever I face barriers or feel deflated by the sheer amount of discrimination women and girls face around the world, I try to tap into that spirit and remember how far we have come. And how much we owe to women like my grandmother and mother, who were willing to defy normal and demand a fair shake.
I felt the award belonged to them.
This year, after receiving the honour once again (joining the Top 100 Alumni, made up of a stellar group of women) my first thought was of all the women I have had the pleasure of both mentoring and learning from throughout my career, particularly the incredible Plan International Canada girl ambassadors and advocates I have worked with over the last three years in my role as CEO & President.
Women and girls, who just like my mother and grandmother, continue to face barriers, hurdles, and glass ceilings when pursuing their dreams – despite it being the 21st century.
Women who dream of defying.
I read a quote by Steve Jobs recently that really resonated with me. “If you want to make everyone happy don’t be a leader, sell ice cream.”. Women and girls are always conditioned to be nice – to be liked above all else. This is something I have personally struggled with. At the same time, men and boys are taught that to change the world they should be prepared to ruffle feathers.
The women and girls I work with are constantly and unapologetically ruffling feathers. When normal is girls denied equality, they refuse to accept this status quo, they choose instead to defy normal.
But this can be lonely, often punishing work. That is why groups like WXN play a critical role in the advancement of women’s rights. Through my membership in WXN I have witnessed first-hand the incredible power of solidarity and sisterhood. It provides a space where us fellow feather-rufflers and defiant woman can come together and grow our strength and resilience.
As the inimitable Maya Angelou once said, “Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women.” Imagine the power women exercise when we knowingly stand up and stand together for our collective rights.
With my mother and grandmother behind me, I feel powerful. With a sisterhood behind me, I know I am unstoppable.
Caroline Riseboro, President and CEO of PLAN International Canada, is a Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award Winner in the CIBC Trailblazers & Trendsetters category for 2018. She has been recognized as a woman who has made a major impact in her field, in turn making a great contribution to Canadian society.
To learn more about our 2019 Top 100 Awards, visit our Top 100 page.
Caroline Riseboro, President and CEO, PLAN International Canada
2018 Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award Winner
CIBC Trailblazers & Trendsetters
Caroline Riseboro is the President & CEO of Plan International Canada – the leading NGO in Canada advancing the rights of children and equality for girls. As the youngest person to ever lead a major Canadian charity, Caroline is a passionate advocate for gender equality and is well-respected for her commitment to tackling some of the world’s most pressing issues.
She has a proven track record of leading organizations to new heights by challenging the status quo. In 2017, she was recognized as a Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award Winner and was awarded the Bronze medal in the Woman of the Year – Government or Non-Profit category at the Stevie Awards for Women in Business. Caroline regularly writes and speaks on the topic of gender equality and under her leadership, Plan International Canada has delivered record- breaking results.
Prior to joining Plan International Canada, Caroline was Senior Vice-President, Marketing & Development at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) Foundation, and held many senior roles at World Vision Canada, more recently as Senior Vice-President of Marketing and Engagement at World Vision Canada. She was the first and youngest woman in the agency’s history to serve in this senior role. Before joining the non-profit sector, Caroline began her career in advertising and communications.
Caroline’s influence in the sector extends through her voluntary leadership roles. She sits on the Board of the Humanitarian Coalition and CAN-WaCH, is the President-elect for the Association of Fundraising Professionals GTA chapter, and has sat on numerous task forces including with Imagine Canada and the Canadian Marketing Association’s Not-For-Profit Council. She holds a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) degree from McGill University and is pursuing a Master of Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership from Carleton University.