I have had the good fortune over the past year to work with Kelly Cooper, founder and president of the Centre for Social Intelligence, to collaborate on an initiative to foster gender equity in the Forestry Sector. This innovative project is Canada’s first public-private funded national gender equity project, and is largely the result of Kelly’s vision, tenacity and her ability to bring others on board with that vision. The initiative aims to create a diverse and inclusive work force to ensure a thriving Canadian forest sector into the future.
I was impressed at the first meeting of the initiative’s Steering Committee, to see representatives (gender champions) from government, industry, academia, indigenous, and non-profit organizations. It was clear to me early on that Kelly’s enthusiasm and persuasive logic brought this powerful committee together to work collaboratively across the forest sector to engage, attract, retain and advance women. Understanding the many competing demands and costs of bringing a committee such as this together, Kelly organized the first and subsequent meetings to advance the objectives of the group in a no-nonsense, practical way that allowed us to make the most of those precious hours together.
Kelly is not only a strong advocate for gender equity, but she also understands strategy, organizational culture, building alliances and the importance of communications to build understanding and buy-in. In fact, the media have featured the work of the committee on a number of occasions already. Kelly has brought inspiring presenters to engage the committee members with new ideas, tools and strategies to take action in their sphere of influence.
I have observed that Kelly acknowledges the complexities of the issues we are dealing with in this committee, yet remains undaunted, bringing the discussion back to a firm footing when needed. Three working groups tackle different challenges of bringing gender equity into the forestry sector, thus breaking down some of the complexity and maximizing the talents of the committee members. While clearly leading the group and guiding decisions, Kelly also fosters and embraces the diverse viewpoints and builds collaboration through empathy and intelligence.
I am very honoured to have been part of this committee and to have worked with Kelly and all the members, each bringing strengths together to help solve a longstanding inequity. I expect great things will come of this effort and recognize the leadership role Kelly has played in making it happen.
Heather Dryburgh, Ph.D.
Director General, Census Subject Matter, Social and Demographic Statistics Branch Statistics Canada