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Raise Her Up: Sue Tomney and Katherine O’Neill

5-minute read

Raise Her Up - Sue Tomney - Poppy Barley
Raise Her Up - Katherine O'Neill - Poppy Barley

Meet Katherine O’Neill, CEO of YWCA Edmonton and Sue Tomney, CEO of YW Calgary, our 2020 Black Friday Fund Partner. Women, girls, and gender-diverse people are disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. The YWCA is working tirelessly to help women and families recover from economic and social hardship as a result of COVID-19.

 We spoke to Sue and Katherine to learn what inspires and motivates their work to aid in a feminist recovery.

Raise Her Up - Katherine O’Neill - Poppy Barley
Raise Her Up - Sue Tomney - Poppy Barley Raise Her Up - Sue Tomney - Poppy Barley

“YWCA has been a powerful voice for gender equity and social change and progress in our community since 1907. Many hands over many years have helped make our city and region a better place to live, work and play for women, girls and families.

“YWCA has been a powerful voice for gender equity and social change and progress in our community since 1907. Many hands over many years have helped make our city and region a better place to live, work and play for women, girls and families.”

Raise Her Up - Katherine O'Neill - Poppy Barley

Name:

Katherine O’Neill

Day Job:

CEO, YWCA Edmonton

What I’m reading:

Bone Black by Carol Rose GoldenEagle.

What I’m listening to:

Podcasts. Lots of podcasts. Some of my favourites include: Dolly Parton’s America, The Daily, Ryan Jespersens’s Real Talk, 2 Crees in a Pod, CBC’s The House, HBR Ideacast, Washington Post’s Presidential, It Was Said, Revisionist History and Encyclopedia Womannica.

What I’m doing when I’m not at work:

Exploring Edmonton’s river valley. I live close to the MacKenzie Ravine, and nature has been invaluable during COVID-19.

Unpopular opinion:

Winter is the best season.

Raise Her Up - Sue Tomney - Poppy Barley

Name:

Sue Tomney

Day Job:

CEO, YWCA Calgary

What I’m reading:

White Fragility: Why it’s so Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin Diangelo.

What I’m listening to:

Obama’s “A Promised Land” Playlist. What I’m doing when I’m not at work: Walking in the park with my golden retriever Rooney, cooking, exercising, Zooming with friends, teaching myself how to play chess.

What I’m doing when I’m not at work:

Exploring Edmonton’s river valley. I live close to the MacKenzie Ravine, and nature has been invaluable during COVID-19.

Unpopular opinion:

That would depend on the audience – I’m sure my feminist opinions are unpopular to some! My kids call me “Sue-manitarian” so while I know they don’t disagree with my opinions, I think they find my humanitarian soap box sometimes exhausting, haha.

The What

What inspires you the most about your work with the YWCA?

Katherine: The fact YWCA Edmonton has been a powerful voice for gender equity and social change and progress in our community since 1907. Many hands over many years have helped make our city and region a better place to live, work and play for women, girls and families. I’m proud to carry on this important work with such a passionate and tireless team of staff, board members and volunteers.

Sue: Giving voice to those who don’t have one. My role supports and advocates for gender equity, healthy relationships, and a safe community where women thrive, and I also get to see our clients come full circle. From first entering one of our shelters, receiving counselling and career assistance, then transitioning into their own apartment in the community and giving back to the community themselves.

Raise Her Up Sue Tomney

Which women have impacted your life the most (professionally and personally)?

Katherine: The women in my family; a fearless, fun-loving and vibrant tribe of women. Also my grade 8 teacher, Ms. Osborne, who taught me early on to always think of others and dream big.

Sue: My fearless and inspirational girlfriends, my smart and passionate college-aged daughter and the iconic Gloria Steinhem.

What are you most looking forward to in 2021?

Katherine: More change. The pandemic has shone a very bright light on serious systemic inequities and challenges that exist in the world. We all need to keep working to make our planet a stronger, healthier and equitable place for everyone, and those efforts need to start in our own community.

Sue: Not being afraid for my friends and family because of COVID and seeing our community continue to support one another. It has been a challenging year for all of us, but the silver lining has been seeing how the community has come together. We are all checking in on each other, and I look forward to a healthier and safer 2021.

Raise Her Up Katherine O'Neill

What is one piece of advice you would give your younger self?

Katherine: Courage, my friend! An honourable mention is: Put down the home perm and back away quickly.

Sue: Not everyone is going to like you, and that’s ok.

Raise Her Up Sue Tomney

Poppy Barley shoe of choice for both women–The Uptown Heeled Chelsea Boot. Katherine wears the boot in sleek black leather, while Sue opts for a rich olive nubuck.

During the 2020 Black Friday weekend, we will donate 100% of proceeds, up to $10,000, to fund the incredible work of the YWCA Edmonton & YWCA Calgary to push for  women’s equality in the COVID-19 recovery. Shop now to start making a difference.

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