Five Good Ideas

Five Good Ideas addressing diversity in grassroots non-profit organizations

Published on 27/11/2018

In this Five Good Ideas session, Maya Roy drew on her own frontline experience to talk about the benefits of addressing diversity in smaller, grassroots non-profits. She offered five practical ideas around: 1) Participatory community development as a solid human resources strategy; 2) Online tools that can help upskill your team; 3) Intergenerational job sharing for team building and mentoring; 4) Job shadowing and management training in today’s changing environment; and 5) Challenges arising from today’s backlash against vulnerable communities.

Five Good Ideas

  1. Adopt participatory community development as a solid human resources strategy
  2. Use online tools that can help upskill your team
  3. Think of intergenerational job sharing for team building and mentoring
  4. Practice job shadowing and management training in today’s changing environment
  5. Be aware of the challenges arising from today’s backlash against vulnerable communities

Five Good Resources

1. IF you are looking for online tools to skill up your staff, THEN consider OCASI’s Learn At Work. Its Positive Spaces training can be done in both French and English and will bring your team up to date around gender, sexual identity, and how to create a Queer positive environment.

2. IF you are trying to skill up your management team around human resources, THEN sign up for an account with Coursera. You can identify modules in its Human Resources course and tailor them to your non-profit setting.

Good classes to look at: University of California Davis HR workbooks around Setting Expectations and Team building through Coursera. The five courses are free, and combine workbooks you can assign to your staff, and podcasts and articles you can view together as a team and discuss. Apply the 80/20 to your HR stress and you will reap the benefits.

3. IF you are interested in exploring your impact and getting more clients, THEN consider integrated focus groups and explore Acumen’s free online courses on Social Impact and Human Centered Design.

Assign teams to work through the modules together and apply it to an existing project.

Also consider:

4. IF you are a racialized and/or newcomer leader, THEN RUN, don’t walk, to get Tina Lopes’ book Dancing on Live Embers: Challenging Racism in Organizations which explores systemic discrimination for leaders of colour. The checklists and sample policies at the back of the book are worth the price alone.

5. IF you are stressed by the double-speak of the non-profit sector in the Trump age. THEN visit Non-Profit AF. It is funny and honest, when you cannot be.

Also, become familiar with ProFellow, Everyday Feminism and Compass Point. Find leadership resources for gender non-conforming and self-identified women of colour who desperately need reciprocal leadership, supports, and self-care. Because you are doing this work at a very high professional and personal cost.


Full session transcript  

What I wanted to do today is just talk a little bit about some of my experiences and my learning journey to give you a sense of the context before I dived right into the five ideas. And also it was very kind of Elizabeth to describe me as an expert, but I certainly don’t see myself as such. I’m interested in doing good, effective work. And a lot of what I’ll be talking about is also coming from just my own personal experience being a cisgender, heterosexual woman of colour. Obviously you’re going to see limitations around the diversity as I share with you my experiences.

As we move into the conversation part of today, I’ll also be doing a little interactive exercise to get folks moving around a little bit after my talk. I’m really also looking forward to hearing from you, some of your best practices and solutions, and things that you think do work, or don’t work.

So, I was asked today to speak around diversity. And I’m going to talk a little bit about what got me into this work. But when we are talking about things like diversity, I also think it’s really important to unpack that a little bit and actually talk about inclusion.

When we’re looking at diversity —yes, especially here in Canada — you know all the metaphors. The melting pot or the tossed salad. Yes, we’re diverse. But are we truly being inclusive? Do people truly feel like they have a sense of belonging in the kind of work that we’re doing? And as leaders in this sector, how do we start to create that? How do we hold that space? How do we make that space? And also how do we support each other? If we’re coming from marginalized or vulnerable communities, it can be really challenging also doing this work.

I wanted to start off with a little experience that I had at Newcomer Women’s Services Toronto 9 years ago. And some of my colleagues are actually here to join me as support, so thank you. So, it’s 9:00 a.m. and my colleague and I are running up the Danforth, hauling bags of refreshments. And on this cold morning, I’m asking myself who on earth selected a frigid Saturday morning in December to hold a 9:00 a.m. focus group? So I’m grumbling as we’re running up the Danforth. And then I realize, well that person was actually me.

At the time, I was about four months into a new leadership role as Executive Director and I really wanted the members of our Saturday program to decide on our coming program, on our programs for the year. So as my colleague and I, we arrived breathless in the board room, there were actually 30 newcomer women waiting there. And they said to us, where were you? They scolded us. They’d been waiting for about 10 minutes. And they’re very prompt. They knew they were coming on a Saturday morning to do strategic planning, and they wanted strategic planning.

In 2009, I became the Executive Director of a women’s settlement agency that was undergoing a painful transition. And I spent my days living and breathing this organization and working to support a community of women. And I find when we’re using language to describe diversity and especially talking about diversity and inclusion for newcomers, for racialized community, for Black and Indigenous folks, our language is painfully limited.

Because what I saw every day — and I’m sure many of you are also running these programs day to day — I saw women seeking their voice, and standing in their own power in daily workshops. I saw young self-identified women smashing oppressive stereotypes in self-defence workshops. And I saw women from over 65 different countries creating bonds of support in our LINC ESL class as they recreated their new lives, their new pathways in Toronto.

So when we’re looking at smaller grassroots organizations, I find that the organization is actually very much like the women or program participant that we support on a daily basis. Just like them, the organization struggles against the challenges of racism and sexism and transphobia and anti-Black racism. Just like them, an organization goes through periods of ups and downs and has moments of crisis. It grows, expands, sometimes contracts. And just like the community members that we work with, sometimes we need a bit of a first aid kit to identify problems and work to rebuild relationships with our community members, our staff, our funders, and consult with our membership to rediscover their thoughts and concerns.

For me in this particular role, it meant many hours sitting in meetings not unlike this one here today chatting with our stakeholders. And at times, this was both frustrating and exhilarating. So there were endless meetings discussing what our organization does well, mapping out how and why we lost our way, and deciding how to move forward. It also meant hours of listening to women’s frustrations, fear, rage, tears, and their hopes, and dreaming of building a more responsive community-based organization.

For myself personally, and I’m sure many of you here can relate with this, it meant 12-hour days of poring over budgets, cajoling donors, and writing endless grant proposals all in the hope that the organization would stabilize and start to push boundaries. And through that, start to offer settlement programs that were really important to newcomer women in the east end of Toronto.

Because of that, it wasn’t unusual for us to be hauling groceries on a Saturday morning so that we could start to engage with our members around a dialogue about their lives and needs. And because I was late, I realized I should have definitely set my alarm earlier as our members never cease to demonstrate their commitment, and that these are savvy and skilled women who will spend three hours discussing strategic planning in the middle of their hard-earned weekend.

This experience of living and breathing in agency for the last couple years really brings us to our questions here today. What does it mean to have inclusive, collaborative leadership? And what does this look like for smaller organizations? And what does this mean when we’re creating new systems and unpacking these really powerful ideas? Not just about diversity and inclusion, but a lot of times around exclusion.

Since I’m a relatively young-ish racialized Executive Director, the most common reactions I receive when people meet me is either of disbelief or pure condescension. I don’t really think these reactions are a reflection on my skin-care regimen. I think it’s more of society’s dominant attitude towards young women of colour in positions of leadership. But for myself personally, it’s inevitable that I ended up working in this sector and doing this kind of work.

Being a second generation Bengali Canadian woman, like many of us I grew up very privileged to be a part of two contrasting worlds. Being a member of the Bengali diaspora in Canada really created a set of experiences and a foundation of values that I wanted to ground my day-to-day practice in. But it’s also led to daily reminders as a racialized woman of colour that I have to work three times as hard to get maybe half as far as some of my counterparts. And I think as someone who was a second generation woman who grew up in suburban Southern Ontario, it’s that profound understanding of isolation, and that sense of being an other.

When we’re talking about being othered in middle class suburbs in the ’80s, it had this very sort of quiet menacing quality to it. There was that silent exclusion and covert hostility of your neighbours, your classmates, and your coworkers. There were rocks flying in the air from moving cars as you walked home from school, or a textbook that’s aimed at your head during recess. It could be the teachers who every year dutifully inquired whether your parents can speak English. And regularly being asked if you were the new exchange student in town.

That was 1980s, 1990s Newmarket. And then there’s that anonymous hiss of the word “Paki” as you cross the street. And you know, we can’t forget sort of the stares that we get on the bus, or being informed that you smell like curry. If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that racists aren’t really too sophisticated about their food cuisine or their geographic accuracy.

But I find that this absence of community, this lack of belonging is what shaped my world back then. Not so much anymore, but back then. And it certainly influenced my professional life. So what I really believed going into this line of work is that there has to be a way. There has to be a way even within our structures as not-for-profit organizations, as social service agencies — a place where we can build community, where folks of all generations can come together and really create their own intrinsic spaces of belonging and find some commonalities across diverse relationships.

I also wonder if — especially for folks like myself who are second generation newcomers — we actually have an advantage. And I wonder about it lying in our insider outsider status. That we’re living in these dual societies so it actually allows us to look at the world, and actually look at our work through multiple lenses. So for example for me, I may not be fluent in my mother tongue, but I understand my language and the cultural nuances of my community, and also the impact of migration, and the intergenerational trauma that comes with that. Even though our peers and the social elite may not accept us as fully Canadian, we definitely understand those power dynamics of Canadian exclusion and how inequities are perpetuated. Being both an insider and an outsider lends us to a certain set of skills and experiences. All of these years later, I find working myself at YWCA Canada and I feel like I have a sense of what is my political project.

So going back to those two questions and what diversity looks like, I’d like us to think about inclusive, collaborative leadership looks like for smaller grassroots organizations. And when we’re talking about diversity, I’m sure we hear the term diversity thrown around a lot. I mean, the M&M’s that I had this morning for breakfast were very diverse. They were of diverse different colours. But what does inclusion look like?

There are three buckets I’d like us to think about. And the exercise we’ll be doing here after, and also those of you who are at the office or at home will be going through them. The first one is around individual choices and actions. What are some of those individual choices we can make within our organizations?

The second is actually about creating systems. What kind of systems do we have in our organization? Do we just do things as they’ve always been done and think, “Oh well we’ve always done it that way, so why don’t we just sort of keep on doing that?”

And the third is all of these really powerful, unexamined ideas. We like to think of our organizations as being neutral and well-intentioned, and doing really, really good work for diverse community members. But what does that mean? At the end of the day, I think we need to interrogate power. And how do the power dynamics actually play themselves out in our organization?

Let me dive into the five ideas. And then during the discussion, you can tell me if you think it’s useful, or if you think it’s a load of dung, or maybe somewhere in between. I don’t know. It can go either way at this point. But these are some of the things I’ve been experimenting with and we’ve had some interesting successes. I’ll give you a few mini stories along the way.

So as community organizations, what’s our major resource, our major asset as social service organizations? Anybody want to throw out some ideas?

People, yes. Anything else?

[Participant]: Women.

[Maya]: Women, yes, absolutely. I’m sure folks can also tweet at home. Any other resources or assets that you see?

[Participant]: Language.

[Maya]: Language, absolutely. Being able to speak or understand multiple languages. Anything else?

[Participant]: Life experience.

[Maya]: Yes diverse life experiences.

[Participant]: Passion.

[Maya]: Passion, that drive you know, that gets us up in the morning every day, yeah. Certainly not the salary unfortunately given our funding.

[Participant]: Our clients.

[Maya]: Yes, our clients who we work with, our purpose.

[Participant]: Ideas.

[Maya]: Yes, ideas. Did you have some examples of particular ideas?

[Participant]: New ways of doing things.

[Maya]: Yeah, new ways of doing things. Yes.

[Participant]: Communication.

[Maya]: Communication. Communication when it goes well, and communication when it doesn’t go so well. Well we all know what that looks like unfortunately.

I would agree with all of your answers absolutely, especially in our sector. Ninety-five per cent of our work is people. And 95 per cent of our work is the staff work that goes to working with other people. So what I wanted to argue is if we start to invest in HR —which unfortunately is very rarely funded — that we can actually start to think about inclusion and diversity in some different ways.

For example a couple of years ago, we had a number of funders come to us, and they wanted us to do work. And they were really concerned around the issue of forced marriage in certain communities. And again, many of you I’m sure get that phone call like three days before fiscal year end. And they’re just screaming diversity, diversity. We need to do something about this. And so it was pretty much one of those phone calls. But we can never turn down free money, yes? So.

What we decided to do around looking at issues of forced marriage — I can’t pretend to be an expert on forced marriage. It’s an incredibly complex, layered, and nuanced set of circumstances cutting across many different communities, many countries, and many explanations. And when we start to look at our service users as actual staff or consultants, there are some ways to play with our program model so we can shift power, and shift power imbalances, but actually get some really, really interesting results.

So rather than going out and just sort of hiring one staff person to be an expert on forced marriage, and to run around either screaming diversity or recruiting a really diverse group of faces that you know, would then be plastered on a poster somewhere, we were also really concerned about we didn’t want to play into stereotypes of gendered Islamophobia. And especially post 9/11 — really, really problematic.

We were also at the height of the Stephen Harper cuts where he was referring to many communities —including communities experiencing forced marriage and communities that have respectful arranged marriage — as barbaric. So when you have the word barbaric in an actual piece of legislation, you sort of know where you stand with a certain set of policy makers.

So we hired 35 young women from different communities to essentially attend a three-week leadership camp. And we called the camp “Fight Like a Girl.” We hired them as consultants. The funder wanted us to do a communications campaign. Unfortunately, I am not well qualified to do a communications campaign with today’s youth. I look like this. I wear a suit. I am not Beyoncé. I don’t know what Snapchat is. So we hired them as consultants to essentially pull together the communications campaign.

But we wanted to do it in a way that was ethical and supportive. We partnered with some really great community partners, like Shameless magazine and OCAD and Wen Do Women’s Self Defence. And the self-identified young women and non-binary youth did anti-oppression workshops in the morning with some of our community partners. And then they did self defence in the afternoon.

By about week two, they started transitioning into developing their own communications brief, and started pulling together spoken word and flyers. This was sort of just when Twitter had started. And they pulled together their own communications channel called Use Your Voice, and actually started tweeting about different issues as they saw them to policy makers and politicians.

What I saw was something really quite incredible. And you’re more than welcome to go to the Newcomer Women’s Services Toronto website; some of their work still lives on there. The level of engagement — rather than running around and having to worry about bringing in all of these outcomes for funders and doing all this outreach, we had a really engaged group of what we called consultants. They were thrilled because for the first time, their skills and expertise as young people were being recognized. Also, ask a group of young people and tell them that you’re going to pay them to do social media for a week. Folks are pretty happy about that. There were no human rights complaints during that orientation session.

But what I saw — you know on a very selfish level, just as someone who was an Executive Director —is not only was the quality of the work and the quality of the program so much more interesting, it allowed us to do the work on a deeper level, and have some more complex conversations, and start to hear about how do we talk about forced marriage? How do we define forced marriage? And also to see the young activists or the consultants, how they grew and developed in between these chunks that we were doing with them. For example, one of them, her friend was actually being attacked in her stepfather’s home, and she actually used her Wen Do Self Defence skills to actually intervene and sent the attacker to the hospital. So you know, very practical kinds of skills.

When we’re talking about these big things around diversity and inclusion and stopping gender violence, what does that mean? Another issue around diversity and inclusion that’s quite common is elder abuse. Has anybody here ever gotten a call for proposals around stop elder abuse? Just stop it? And again, some of the most challenging issues to talk about if you’re working with community members who are experiencing elder abuse is to have your own children or grandchildren as perpetrators. The taboos around that are simply enormous.

So again, what we did is we hired them as consultants. We know we have a lot of Aunties with incredible skills in writing and arts. And they actually, again, had that deeper conversation. So rather than me running over to you and saying, “Okay, stop elder abuse now. Have you stopped it? Great, my work is done. My diversity work is done for the day,” they wanted to really start to have those intergenerational conversations with their grandchildren because they felt like it started there. And they actually started telling traditional stories and put together a colouring book for them.

Again, we were able to have a different kind of conversation, a very different kind of outcome. And we were tapping into the skills and the energies of community members who really had a lot to share. So think about hiring your service users as staff.

Online tools. Another thing that we see a lot is sometimes, especially as we’re promoting into management or leadership positions, sometimes we don’t necessarily have the time and money to run out and get an MBA or a management degree in Schulich. And one of the things we started experimenting with is taking different modules from online courses and actually doing them as a team, or assigning them to placement students or to each other, or actually working through a set of exercises together.

In your little handout, you have OCASI’s Learn at Work. They do amazing stuff around gender violence. They also have the Positive Spaces campaign, which looks at how to create inclusion for LGBTQ+ newcomers. And in Coursera, if you plug in things like human resources and financial management, you start to get some really, really good courses that come up where you can just literally take a section. So for example, how do we set expectations with employees? How do we start to do coaching? They’ll have a workbook, they’ll have a podcast.

When we started to go through some of this together — we’re doing it right now at certain tables at the Y — we again started to have a really richer, different experience. And the more we invested in HR, we found that a lot of those fires we’re fighting all the time as senior leaders, as employers, started to shift.

Acumen has amazing courses around social impact and human-centred design around empathy. And we started to apply some of those modules. For example, we realized our website was not accessible to newcomers. Some of my colleagues have recently done that course, and we’ve redesigned our website for the Y. Not all of us have corporate experience. And sometimes it’s thought of as too business-y. But there are ways of bringing in some of those skills with your management team.

Has anybody here ever heard of intergenerational job sharing? Sone of the things we hear about a lot are millennials. “Oh my goodness millennials. They have sort of killed everything.” I was wearing my YWCA pin the other day. And one of our Young Women of Distinction leaders came up to me and she said, “Maya, I lost my pin, I need another pin like that.” And I said, “Oh sure. You can have mine until we order you another one.” She said, “No, no, no Maya. Yours is some weird colour. Mine was rose gold.” And I’m like, “You millennials and your rose gold.” So now I have to go running. Yeah Isabel, we need to get rose gold pins! Yeah, okay your phone is rose gold.

We also have really experienced baby boomers who have retired, or are retiring, or want to scale back into part-time work. And we actually started looking at jobs that could potentially be shared by different people. Now obviously this is not for everyone. You need to have a certain level of trust. You need to have a certain personality type in a relationship.

But with some of our youth employment worker positions, we had really great experiences where, for example, I poached a professor who was retiring from a university. And they actually job-shared that position with a young person who actually grew up and lives and has lived experience in that community. So again, we weren’t necessarily looking for having that perfect piece of paper.

You know, some of us were chatting earlier. Some of you are doing job development work, or work with youth. And it was really interesting to see that balance because from the professor there was all of that academic experience. She was actually an executive recruiter in the states and in England. With the young person, they really understood what young people were experiencing in terms of systemic structural barriers. And they were able to work. They were able to work together quite well. And for those of you having to hit Employment Ontario outcomes, you know it’s not easy. And that was sort of one way we were able to do it while bringing in some balance.

Although the day that a former Ryerson professor called me and asked me what a poop emoji was was really not the highlight of my career. I said, “Just ask so and so. We shall never speak of this again.” Because apparently it was coming up in workshops and she needed to know. After publishing 12 books, she needed to know what a poop emoji was.

So similar along that line, also sometimes switching jobs. Once we did a Take Your Colleague to Work Day. And people actually switched jobs for the day. And especially for jobs that are devalued. For example in child care. It was really, really good to have senior level managers, or staff in other departments actually experience what it means to be a child care staff running after screaming, snotty-nosed children, and have to do that for $16 an hour.

What are some ways that we could also start to exchange skills? We scheduled a couple of days to do peer learning and peer exchange. Isabel and I just came from one of our retreat sessions. And one of our colleagues is doing peer training and peer skills today. So again, sometimes we don’t get the funding to do the kind of professional development that we would like. But there are online tools. You have skills in-house. There are a number of ways that we can build capacity internally.

It was also really important for me as an Executive Director that all of my managers actually be skilled up to be able to step into my shoes after I left. So when I would leave, I would make sure that people were actually appointed Interim ED. When our head of finance was Interim Executive Director, she had to help start a new program from scratch. And when I came back, she just looked at me exhausted and said, “Maya, I would never want to do the ED role. I like my numbers.” And she started to hug her computer console.

And absolutely, that’s okay too. Sometimes, you know, to find out there’s things that we don’t want to do. But I think especially for newcomers where there are still so many internal barriers in our sector. When I go out there and work with other organizations, I don’t see senior leadership reflect the community and the programs. So that’s also one way.

Just to wrap up before we do the exercise, looking at ways in terms of dealing with the backlash. I find that the more we do really, really good equality equity work or diversity work, there’s a backlash. And how do we deal with the backlash?

Let’s not pretend that there are people who necessarily want this work to be a success. When we do diversity and inclusion work well, it does mean that certain people are going to lose power. There are people who benefit from a lack of diversity. When we start to shift power imbalances, they’re not very happy. And they tend to usually have more power than us.

I also think it’s okay to state things like Trump has now made it okay to be racist. We’re starting to see that. We’ve seen that ripple effect policy-wise, politically across different countries. And so as community members in spaces like this, I think it’s really important for us to a) organize and b) actually talk to each other about what we’re experiencing on the ground. And how do we support each other at work? If you’re a colleague who’s experiencing anti-Black racism, what does it mean to have support in your workplace, or outside of your workplace?

YWCA USA – so we’re YWCA Canada – the American version. I’m really proud of my sister organization’s work in the states. They have been at the forefront of being against Trump at a time when it wasn’t necessarily politically sexy to talk about separation of families, and denying rights of asylum seekers to families. And they were very quick to organize.

And so I think it’s okay, especially as larger organizations. Whereas sometimes it’s hard for us to talk about diversity, I think it’s okay to take risks. A couple of weeks after I started, the hate rally — the neo-Nazi rally — happened in Charlottesville, Virginia. And I started monitoring it on Twitter online Friday night and watched it throughout the weekend. And I Googled the community because I’ve never been to Virginia. And I saw that there were actually three YWCAs within driving distance and 11 YMCAs.

So first thing Monday morning, I called them. And they didn’t have a CEO. Alejandra hadn’t started at the time. And staff were terrified. They were like, “We don’t know what to do. They’ve applied for paperwork to do another neo-Nazi rally the following week. We don’t know if we should keep our daycare open. We really don’t know what to do.”

I said, “Well what do you need? We’ll send buses.” I talked about the countermarches that were happening here in Canada. And no, in that moment, we couldn’t stop it. But I think it was important for them that they felt heard and that there were folks reaching out from other countries who are following this and watching it closely. And we actually issued a solidarity statement that was shared over 14,000 times. It’s really interesting when I’m visiting YWCAs in really small towns and I have working-class white women coming up to me with tears in their eyes saying, “I felt so proud when I saw that. Because I can’t stop what Trump is saying. I can’t stop what happened. But I felt proud to work for an organization that would actually stand up and be on the right side of history.”

And of course, some of you might remember, there was sort of that weird 72-hour period where Trump hadn’t actually denounced. And then Campbell’s Soup issued like a scathing condemnation and Trump’s business council dissolved itself over that. So I think it’s okay as bigger institutions when you’re experiencing pushback from a manager or CEO. Organizations especially today — we need to stand for something. It’s not just about being on the right side of history. But community members, donors, funders – they want to know that you stand up for something. You know, having a charitable status is an enormous privilege.

The American Civil Liberties Union, when Trump dropped the paperwork around the Muslim ban, ACLU just simply tweeted out, “We’ll see you in court.” Do you know how much they raised over a single weekend? $10 million in a single weekend. They weren’t scared of Trump. They weren’t scared of a very favourable climate for him. I remember one donor — if there are any Star Wars fans here. I remember one donor writing in to ACLU on Twitter saying, “I love you.” And ACLU tweeted back to him and said, “I know.” So you know, how you engage with activists as donors, as members, it starts to build a different relationship. So there you go — diversity work.

I’ll just leave you with a final quote. At the end of that meeting, I had started talking about me and my colleague running up the Danforth at 9 in the morning. And when we had finished our session that day, one of the youth came over to me. She was around 12 at the time and in our Saturday program. And she just said to me, “You know what, I know there’s nothing that we cannot overcome.” And I thought those were good words to end on. Speaking truth to power. Thank you very much.

This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

Maya Roy

CEO, YWCA Canada

Maya Roy is a diversity specialist with 20 years of experience in a variety of sectors in public policy development, public health, adult education and social work. She has extensive experience working in marginalized and disadvantaged communities, and is skilled in human resources, financial management, grant writing and project planning as well as in strategic communications and marketing. Maya is proficient in English, French and Bengali. Her work has taken her to Thailand, Brazil, India and the UK where she worked with NGOs to support human rights and violence prevention. Her essays have been published in Going Beyond the Journey (2013) by Insomniac Press, and she is the winner of the 2013 CASSA Gender Advocate Award and the Toronto Community Foundation’s Vital People award in 2014. She has a Bachelor of Social Work from the Ryerson School of Social Work, and has a Masters in Social Policy and Planning from the London School of Economics. Maya was a member of the Gender Equality Advisory Council for Canada’s G7 Presidency.