A New Focus on Growth is Underway…Do I have Mentors and Sponsors in Place?

Written By Linda Keene Solomon

Organizations have launched their plans to accelerate recovery from the pandemic and exploit new growth opportunities. With light beginning to shine, what can we do now to strengthen our relationships or build new ones with mentors and sponsors? Beyond daily work assignments and staying relevant in an unpredictable environment, is there more to do? Do professionals and entrepreneurs need to take networking seriously when non-essential interactions are discouraged or not allowed? These are questions most of us ask ourselves as we continue to navigate our new normal work environment. Upon interviewing 20 female professionals and entrepreneurs, all of them agreed mentoring relationships have continued to be necessary during the past year. Still, most have not invested the time to maintain them. “Aren’t my mentors just as, if not more, stressed and consumed as I am in terms of keeping their business or practice above water and thriving” is what I heard most often! Many interviewees do not think they currently have a career “sponsor” and questioned whether this is the right time to be concerned. The overwhelming response, “my organization is simply trying to make its plan.” Networking and visibility have dramatically changed during the past year. However, did we allow the pandemic to create a new limiting belief that one can’t effectively connect with mentors and sponsors? If you have not already abandoned this limiting belief, it is time to do so because the Post-Vaccination era has started!

The distinction between mentors and sponsors is often overlooked. A mentor typically engages with a mentee one on one, providing honest feedback, understanding of “unwritten rules”, and actionable guidance. A sponsor, on the other hand, doesn’t necessarily interact often or provide ongoing coaching. Instead, their focus is on advocating on your behalf when decisions are being made. These decisions can positively impact your career and provide opportunities for development and advancement. Sponsors advocate when selection decisions are being made regarding promotions, new assignments, leadership roles, and other enriching experiences.

Mentoring relationships are just as meaningful; regardless of whether you or your entire organization are currently operating in an essential services, virtual or hybrid environment. Why? If we consider the purpose of mentoring, therein lies the answer. Mentors don’t deliver a roadmap on a silver platter, but they do provide critical coaching and advice along the way so that one can make thoughtful decisions. They encourage us to concentrate on our strengths and identify ways to harness these strengths. Mentors point us towards facing our challenges and limiting beliefs and lend valuable coaching to help us overcome them. Mentors are great listeners, and during these unprecedented times, each of us has needed great listeners! So, what are some practical actions one can take to maintain and benefit from mentoring relationships during the pandemic and as we enter the Post Vaccination era?

  • Schedule Audio, Video, our Safe “Outdoor” Mentor “Check-ins”;
  • Engage Mentors in a “Recovery Priorities and New Opportunities Discussion”; ObtainUpdates from your Mentors and be Prepared to Share your Ideas;
  • Identify Mentor Interest Areas and Select those that you might Engage in or Support.

Beyond cultivating mentoring relationships, attracting and checking in with “sponsors’ is essential for professionals and entrepreneurs at all levels. In the pandemic environment, many of us are under the false impression that organization decision-makers are not focusing on promotions and selecting individuals for new positions and opportunities. This impression is absolutely false! Navigating an unpredictable external environment with evolving and changing needs demands that management constantly thinks about new roles and positions. As professionals and entrepreneurs, we want to be “top of mind” for opportunities as they arise; some are visible, and others will remain invisible to us, but not to sponsors! Sponsors are sometimes known, and in many cases, unknown. They do share a common characteristic – applying their influence and personal credibility within their decision-making circles to position those they are endorsing successfully.

How does one attract a sponsor when it is not clear who might be an able and willing advocate? Initially, it is important to recognize that your manager or supervisor may or may not be a potential sponsor. As described earlier, a sponsor must be a credible influencer within the organization’s decision-making group – often a very tightly defined group of individuals. Each of us must make an effort to understand how decisions are made within our organizations and the organizations that support us if we are entrepreneurs. This understanding will help us identify potential sponsors. Next, recognize that in many organizations COVID has presented a silver lining opportunity as far as “sponsorship” is concerned. Not only are there new opportunities on the horizon originating from the focus on business recovery, but during the past year, the sponsorship playing field has been leveled. Attracting sponsors through more traditional interactions has not always been possible. Interactions at sporting events, after work, happy hours, or conversations in the men’s room were few and far between, if at all, creating more of an equal opportunity for men and women to attract sponsors! It is not too late to take action! However, the time is now to focus on developing and executing one’s personal plan to build sponsorship support. So what are the magical steps to having a key decision-maker in your organization advocate for you at the right time for the right opportunity? Yes, it sounds complicated and next to impossible to orchestrate or make happen. After all, isn’t the fact that someone believes in you and your potential a personal choice? The answer is an unequivocal “yes.” However, each of us has the opportunity to influence the heart and minds of others. If we don’t, then we don’t exist to potential sponsors, or their perceptions are influenced by others – not us.

So, once we accept that the playing field has been leveled, what’s next? In an extremely small organization, the only actual available sponsor might be the Executive Director, CEO, or Owner! In this case, you can execute actionable steps to ensure your potential sponsor better understands your strengths. In a mid-size to large organization, potential sponsors can exist in many different areas and levels of the organization – this is good news! For entrepreneurs, sponsors are likely individuals in organizations that can provide network and resource access. If you do not believe you have someone advocating for you who has “a seat” at the decision-making table, mentors can provide great coaching on how you “attract” a sponsor. Often, sponsors believe in your potential. Why? Because they have typically had an up-close and personal experience with you that won them over. They are “believers” in your abilities and skills and the impact you can make. They may have observed you in action, or maybe something you communicated or demonstrated led them to believe you have a quality the organization needs to be successful. Hopefully, you are getting the picture.

Beyond a heads-down get the job done approach, you must let potential sponsors periodically experience you in some meaningful way. Therefore networking remains a core priority to focus on even now before returning to the office—network with those who can help you identify your organization’s recovery priorities. Discuss the types of programs and initiatives that will likely be underway during the coming months. Beyond networking, design your plan to contribute to one or more of these priority areas. Reflect on your strengths and how you can best make a measurable impact, demonstrating your personal brand to potential sponsors. Whether they read or hear your words, observe you interacting with customers or employees, see you in action during a meeting, or interact with you one-on-one or in a group setting. Your best chance of attracting a sponsor is for them to experience you. Think and act beyond your daily routine!

In the Post-Vaccination environment, organizations are focused on accelerating their recovery as well as exploiting new opportunities. In this way, COVID has provided new opportunities to attract sponsors. However, one must recognize every opportunity has a window, and it is essential to act while the window is opening up. As the new Post-Vaccination era ramps up and previous sponsorship opportunities have been disrupted by our virtual environment, there are new emerging opportunities to demonstrate your talents to rising new and existing sponsors. Activate your networking plans, demonstrate your brand in new priority areas, and refresh your mentoring relationships to ensure you are fully aware of the emerging environment, any unwritten rules, and how to best position yourself for success!

Shrinking the gender promotion gap:

Where there is a will, there is a way 1

Our mission at TalentNomics is to achieve gender balance in leadership positions. While there has been much progress in educational attainment of women, there is still a large gender gap in career outcomes between men and women in many professions.

1 Authored by Luc Laeven, a member of the board of TalenNomics Inc. The views expressed are my own and do not reflect those of the European Central Bank.

 Why the gap? 

Several explanations may account for the lack of women in leadership positions. One possibility is that the pool of potential candidates is male dominated. An alternative explanation is that women are less likely to seek leadership positions because of family considerations or different job preferences. The imbalance may also be reinforced by self-fulfilling expectations, whereby the low representation of women at the top of the field discourages others to pursue careers in these fields. Finally, there may be gender-based discrimination in promotion decisions and the selection among potential candidates. 

 Which of these explanations is more relevant? And can corporate diversity policies foster a change in outcomes? 

 To answer these questions, I launched a major research initiative at my current employer, the European Central Bank (ECB), to analyze the career progression of men and women. The ECB is the central bank of the euro area, and it employs many economists among its professional staff. As in other major central banks its cadre of professional staff is dominated by men and the gender imbalance increases at more senior levels. This “leaky pipeline” of women is a general feature of the economics profession. According to data from the Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics Profession, women account for 28.8 percent of PhD graduates but only a mere 13.9 percent of full professors in economics in the United States. The picture is similar in the rest of the world. The underrepresentation of women is perhaps nowhere as visible as at central banks, the recent appointment of Christine Lagarde as President of the ECB being a welcome but rare exception to what is very much a male-dominated field.  

Female Professionals at the ECB 

The research, conducted jointly with Laura Hospido and Ana Lamo, analyses the career progression of men and women at the ECB, using confidential anonymized personnel data from its professional staff during the period 2003-2017. Our analysis focuses on expert staff across four different salary bands representing different levels of seniority (expert, senior expert, principal expert and advisor) in those departments of the ECB that employ economists. With this selected group, we focus on a broadly homogeneous pool of workers in terms of educational attainment and work experience, ensuring comparability across individuals. Moving up to a higher salary band requires a promotion. 

We find that a wage gap emerges between men and women within a few years of hiring, despite broadly similar entry conditions in terms of salary levels and other observables. One important driver of this wage differential is the lack of promotion of women. We also find that the wage gap shrinks after the ECB issues a public statement in 2010 supporting gender diversity and takes several measures to support gender balance. These concrete measures included expanded mentorship programmes, enhanced childcare benefits and more flexible work arrangements, and the introduction of gender quota. Following this change, the promotion gap disappears. 

Figure 1 shows in more detail that this change in diversity policies in 2010 had material effects on gender differences in promotion outcomes. The figure focuses on promotions from salary band F/G, which is the entry level salary band for professional economists at the ECB. The gender gap in promotions is defined as the difference in the promotion rates of men and women. The promotion gap narrowed from 2011 onwards, following the policy change. While prior to 2011, the gender promotion gap stood at over 36% after ten years since entry, this gap decreased to about 8% on average after 2011, or a decline of about 80 percent. 

Source: Hospido, L., Laeven, L. and Lamo, A. (2019), “The gender promotion gap: evidence from central banking”, Working Paper Series, 2265, European Central Bank. Forthcoming in the Review of Economics and Statistics. 

Note: The chart illustrates the gender gap related to the average annual probability of promotion (moving from Expert level to Principal expert or Adviser level) since entry at Expert level (Band F/G) before 2011 and from 2011 onwards. 


Using 2012-2017 data on promotion applications and decisions, we explore the promotion process following the new diversity strategy in depth, and confirm that during this most recent period women are as likely to be promoted as men. This results from a lower probability of women to apply for promotion, combined with a higher probability of women to be selected conditional on having applied. We coin this reluctance to apply for promotions the gender applications gap. Following promotion, women perform better in terms of salary progression, suggesting that the higher probability to be selected is based on merit, not positive discrimination. We do not find evidence that the composition of the selection committee, including the fraction of women on the panel, alters these results. Taken together, these results show that corporate diversity policies can effectively reduce gender bias in promotions. 


Understanding the main drivers of the observed gender promotion gap is critically important to improve our understanding of how we can close the gender gap and ensure that women are adequately represented. The ECB experience shows that a well-designed gender strategy that includes concrete measures can improve the gender balance and foster a more inclusive environment. Our research findings suggest that a key measure of success is an environment in which women seek promotions at the same rate as men. This requires removing any institutional barriers that prevent women to seek promotions while steering outcomes toward a better equilibrium where there is no place for selection biases and self-fulfilling expectations. Much of this needed change can come from within, and companies should embrace and rise to this challenge. 

Giving Forward – The Rewarding Experience of Nurturing Hidden Talent

When Neeti and I started conceptualizing TalentNomics after working together at the IMF for [X] years, we both were very clear about two things:  1) the “what” – we wanted to devote ourselves to empowering girls and women and 2) the “where” – Neeti wanted to focus her energy globally while my passion was India and South Asia. We had healthy debates about which segment of women to target.  Professional women who work in the organized sector who struggle to become leaders? Or less privileged women who struggle to get and retain earning capacity? After much discussion we agreed to start with women in the organized sector. Neeti convinced me that this was the right decision because expanding the ranks of women leaders creates role models who inspire other women to join them, and because our experience, skills, and connections lay in the corporate world.

Five years later, I know it was the right decision for us. We have invested our time, resources, and energy strengthening the pipeline of women leaders through our CruciBOLD program, both globally and in India. We have worked with women across sectors, including steel, oil, power, pharma, IT, banking, finance, infrastructure, and the garment industry, representing over 25 organizations. In all, we have strengthened the capacity of over 80 women to become leaders in their sector.

However, my inner calling to also help far less privileged women was strong. In 2017 I discovered we could leverage our programs to impact these women too by working with a trusted partner educating young women in in one of India’s poorest states, Andhra Pradesh.  The Rural Development Trust (RDT), run by the Vicente Ferrer Foundation (VFF), has a 40-year track record of impactful work with poor and marginalized communities in India. RDT offers a one-year residential Professional Language Program in Anantapur for recently graduated women to hone their language and computer skills and build bridges to hard-to-find jobs in the organized sector. The Program offers business English, basic computer skills, and one foreign language (French, German or Spanish).

On a visit to the RDT Anantapur campus in 2017 I met these girls, each eager to speak and share their dreams with me. Their elementary English was not a constraint to expressing their eagerness to soar! While none had travelled beyond Andhra Pradesh, many had dreams of work in Paris, Berlin, Barcelona – depending on the language they were learning. In addition, one girl told me that instead of working abroad, “I want to become the District Magistrate so that I can help lift my community out of perpetual poverty.” They shared their dreams with confidence and optimism. I was inspired to help enable these rural girls to spread their wings and break barriers.

A key part of TalentNomics India’s CruciBOLD program is giving forward, called CruciBOLD Ripple, through which CruciBOLD participants agree to mentor other junior professionals from a different organization. Inspired by the aspirations of students at the RDT Professional Language School, we opened up our mentorship program to include them. Women professionals from CruciBOLD were thus given the chance to expand opportunities for young women in rural India, many of whom are the first in their families to go to college, further enhancing their potential to be leaders of tomorrow.

A Call to Action: Regaining Ground Lost to the Pandemic’s Gender Effect

Women in the US, especially women of color, have left the workplace or been laid off in unprecedented numbers during the Covid-19 pandemic, jeopardizing their financial security and reversing the gender diversity and equity gains of recent decades. By January 2019 women had achieved their highest level of participation in the workforce in US history. Today only 56% of US women are working for pay, the lowest level since 1986. LinkedIn data further shows a marked decline of women’s hiring into leadership roles during the pandemic, reversing progress across multiple industries. A 2021 World Economic Forum report warns that the pandemic has set women’s gender parity back a generation.

But there is opportunity in crisis. Organizations can regain ground, attract and retain female employees, and support their advancement to leadership by adapting their workplaces to be more flexible and inclusive in the post-pandemic era. They can create an organizational culture that supports all employees and provides equal opportunities for women to achieve their potential.

What are the best practices for achieving this?

1. Mentor women

Along with invading our personal space at home, working remotely has created a sense of isolation and separation from normal interactions and networking opportunities. Mentoring programs like those of TalentNomics pair early- to mid- career women with senior women who share their experience, help to build

connections and networks, and provide guidance on their journey to leadership. Mentoring creates and strengthens emotional as well as professional connections, which is especially important during remote work, which will be a lasting legacy of the pandemic.

2. Utilize remote work to attract and retain women in the workforce

Remote work allows employers to diversify their hiring by removing physical location as a job requirement. Remote work can create opportunities for women – particularly mothers, caregivers, and those with disabilities – who will be able to take on or move into jobs that previously would have required them to relocate, travel extensively, or manage a long commute. Organizations should seize this opportunity.

3. Communicate resources and de-stigmatize flexibility

Organizations should communicate the resources they offer, particularly paid sick leave and family leave programs. For example, a recent McKinsey study on Women in the Workplace reports that while most companies offer mental health counselling, parenting resources, health checks, and bereavement counselling, only about half of employees know that these benefits are available. Leaders should encourage employees to access flexible leave programs and mental health resources without stigma.

4. Recognize and minimize gender bias

COVID-19 has amplified the implicit biases women face, such as higher performance expectations, harsher judgment for mistakes, and the perception that their attention is split between work and home. The increased demands of caregiving during the pandemic, sometimes manifested as views of children in the background during video calls, can lead managers to assume, consciously or unconsciously, that women are less committed to their jobs than their male counterparts and employees without children. Organizations need to ensure that managers and all employees are aware of these potential biases in order to counteract their impact, especially during the disconnected nature of remote work.

5. Recognize and equitize caretaking

No conversation about women’s equality in the workplace is complete without a discussion of affordable childcare. For US dual-earner families, pre-kindergarten childcare is already the most expensive part of monthly budgets, even ahead of housing. When schools and childcare facilities closed during the pandemic, mothers, who on average earn less than fathers, became the default childcare provider. Organizations can help fill the gap created by the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on women without access to affordable childcare by making work flexible for fathers and mothers alike, with equal access to paid leave for anyone with caretaking duties.

Now is the time

In recent years, organizations had grown the ranks of women leaders and those being readied for leadership and they can continue to build upon, rather than lose, this foundation. If organizations rise to meet the challenges working women face, they can protect hard-won gains in gender diversity and create more equitable workplaces in the post-pandemic era. The World Economic Forum report concludes that today:

“Leaders have an unprecedented opportunity to build more resilient and gender-equal economies by investing in inclusive workplaces, creating more equitable care systems, advancing women’s rise to leadership positions, applying a gender lens to reskilling and redeployment and embedding gender parity into the future of work.”

Now is the time for organizations to take the lead in creating a more equitable future.

 By – Neeti Banerjee, Aria Pahari and Nandini Singh

Story About Game Changer Award Winners 2017 for Walking the Talk

Fireside Chat with Paul and Raven Lacerte of the Moose Hide Campaign, Canada

and Founder & CEO of TalentNomics, Neeti Banerjee, and Program Analysts, Aria Pahari and Nandini Singh. The Moose Hide Campaign is a grassroots movement of men to end violence against women and children, especially within Canada’s Aboriginal communities.

 TalentNomics sat down with father-daughter duo, Paul and Raven Lacerte, to gain deeper insights about their motivations and approach to the Moose Hide Campaign. They founded the campaign in August 2011 after hunting for moose along Highway 16—a section of land that runs through British Columbia,where dozens of indigenous Canadian women and girls have disappeared. Here, Paul and Raven honed in on the intersection between the violence, women and children endure and the role of moose hide in indigenous culture. The Moose Hide Campaign distributes pins made of moose hide to spark discussions about violence against women and children.Since 2011, the campaign has grown exponentially, to reach 750,000 Canadians across all walks of life.We spoke with Paul and Raven about its impact and what it means to “walk the talk” in their leadership context.

 TalentNomics: How do you feel about being selected for the 2017 TalentNomics GameChanger Award for “Walking the Talk”? What does it mean to you?

Paul: It’s interesting because one of the phrases Raven and I use is, “Some people talk, and some people walk.” We think of ourselves as walkers, and we try to align ourselves with walkers. The main purpose of the Moose Hide Campaign is to bring the issue of violence against women and children out of the shadows by talking about it, and by mobilizing conversations that form a new narrative. People often ask, “What can we do?” andour answer is that we can start by using our words, because words contain incredible power. What “walking the talk” personally means to us is that we are both on a healing journey. We are both indigenous to Canada, and we are intergenerational residential school survivors. When we say “walking the talk”, we also mean that we are not exempting ourselves from the healing process. We are actively participating in our own healing journey.

TalentNomics: How do the roles and the titles of “father” and “daughter” inform your leadership and advocacy?

Raven: It’s been incredible as the daughter in this relationship to watch my dad’s leadership and soak in as much as I can of what he has to offer. Now that we lead together, it is special to share that relationship with everyone else. Not many fathers and daughters have a healthy relationship in indigenous populations, especially given the residential school experience, where kids were separated from their parents. It’s a real privilege to be close with my father, and it has been incredible to share what a healthy father-daughter relationship could look like and to be role models and leaders in that context.

Paul: My big motivation for launching the Moose Hide Campaign is that I don’t want any kind of harm for Raven or any of our daughters. What often informs my leadership is that I’m a dad first and foremost, trying to protect my own daughter. I don’t mean to say that I care less about supporting men in our society to change, but I always try to create conditions in which our daughters are safe, as much as possible. Acting as a dad makes me feel like I have to be a bit fearless, open myself up, and share deeply personal things, to connect with many people, in the deepest way possible.

TalentNomics: That probably helps build trust, because you open yourself up and share about how you feel. When you share at a personal level, do others respond at a deeper level as well?

Paul: Absolutely. As we connect with other people, I think that there is a depth of meaning that we find, like a connection or a kinship. It involves, for example, me taking risks to make disclosures about my own failings. Part of our path toward healing and change is to hold ourselves accountable and to be honest about the fact that not a single one of us is perfect. I share areas where I have fallen down, and try to model that accountability and honesty. It leads to trust, and it leads to other men feeling a bit more safe to be able to say, “Here are the things that I’m struggling with in the dark recesses of my psyche that causes me to behave in unacceptable ways.”

TalentNomics: How important is it for survivors of violence and abuse to share their stories with others? What characteristics and abilities are necessary to facilitate these conversations?

Paul: One of our objectives to create a kind and gentle invitation for survivors of violence and abuse to share, disclose, and talk. A key systemic change we are trying to affect, is to create more safety for survivors to talk, but obviously we never obligate them [to share] in any way. Our experience is that when you feel safe and you are able to share your story, it has a healing effect, and it breaks down social isolation. In terms of the characteristics and abilities that are necessary to facilitate conversations, there are certain circumstances where clinical supports and trained counselors are important. If you want to take people deep into a place of disclosures and trauma, you want to have the proper supports there. But this is a society-wide problem for which we don’t have anywhere remotely close to enough clinical support to handle all of the conversations that need to happen. Raven and I trust good-hearted human beings to increase the number of conversations. We are building some training that helps cultivate compassionate listening skills without taking on vicarious trauma. We just have to trust our neighbors and the spirit of community, and count on the idea that in many ways, people know how to be with and help each other.

Raven: Just to add to that, men come forward in small men’s circles we have at Moose Hide Campaign events and talk about the violence and abuse that has happened to them. In the circle, we pass around a sacred object while men share about what violence means to them. Often that comes with disclosures or talks about different things that have happened to them growing up. We often say that “Hurt people hurt” and we want to create space for them as well to come and heal on their journey.

TalentNomics: Have you all facilitated any conversations about toxic masculinity with the men that you work with? How has this contributed to the healing process?

Paul: Yes. It’s interesting because we’re in an emerging space of understanding healthy masculinity, and [recognizing that] there’s no one definition of that. Many of our conversations are about toxic masculinity and exploring what that means for different folks. Our narrative is about kindness and love, vulnerability, healing, and how that’sas much of an expression of masculinity as protecting your family against intruders.

TalentNomics: How does the Moose Hide Campaign seek to redefine the concept of a “warrior”?

Raven: For us, the term “warrior” is about a protector and provider, and not someone to be afraid of or who exerts power over anyone. One of the things that we are doing is trying to reach young boys and have them internalize this message. We started a program called “Ten Men”, in which ten boys from a high school volunteer for a big event we throw at their school. They fast for the day, and we refer to them as “men” to give them a sense of responsibility and ownership toward the goal of ending violence against women and children. We try to bring out that healthy warrior spirit in men.

TalentNomics: What role does institutional or systemic racism play in facilitating or preventing women from sharing their experiences and, subsequently, creating behavioral change?

Paul: In this patriarchal and paternalistic world, we’ve gendered the superiority of men over women, all the way up to what we consider to be the spiritual or ancestral world. Institutional and systemic racism and gender bias is something we have been grappling with fairly significantly as it relates to indigenous populations. Institutional and systemic racism is a profound and central challenge that has given rise to violence against women—that has perpetuated it, that’s made it permissive. This has certainly created a hierarchy between the indigenous and non-indigenous, and certainly women of color. That dehumanization and hierarchical relationship of looking down on women of color, new Canadians, and indigenous women is much of what emboldens menparticularly white mento perpetuate a class approach or a superiority complex that keeps women, especially women of color and indigenous women, in vulnerable positions.It’s one of the reasons that our engagement efforts heavily target elected officials. We have a truth and reconciliation theory of change.Describing the inequities, the cost of racism, and by naming racismthats an important first step for our work in effecting change inside institutions and systems.

TalentNomics: What has been the most noticeable change you have seen in the behavior of men and women since the creation of the Moose Hide Campaign?

Raven: The part I love most is when people bring the Moose Hide Campaign to their communities and own it. I was out for dinner one night during my travels, wearing my moose hide pin. A young, indigenous woman came up to me and said, “Oh my goodness, that’s the Moose Hide Campaign! That’s about ending violence against women and children! I know the woman who started that campaign and brought it up to the Northwest Territories. Our community is so proud of her.” I did not say anything about who I was. The moment was just about that specific community having their own Moose Hide Campaign founder who brought positive change to the community. It was magical for me to see that happen and know there is somebody out there who feels that ownership and leadership.

TalentNomics: Has the campaign measured any outcomes in terms of reduction in violence against women and children in Canada, at any level?

Raven: We haven’t done it yet. We measure where the Moose Hide packages go, and how many packages are being sent out. We then try to get information on what the communities have been doing with them. It is hard to measure impact, especially on an indigenous, First Nations-focused level. It has also been a challenge to figure out what success looks like, or how we might measure success. It is one of the learnings that we are going through right now.

TalentNomics: In hindsight, what is the best advice you received when you were about to launch the Moose Hide Campaign? Did you talk about it in your community, or with people you think highly of?

Raven: We recognized there was a gap in this space, and in terms of problem-solving, we had to figure out what it was that we could do. Leading up to it, there were lots of people we talked to. There was lots of support from our family and our community.

TalentNomics: What are the unexpected learnings you have had during the last 5 years that have caused you to modify your strategy or approach?

Raven: Yeah, we’ve learned a lot along the way—especially me, being 16 when I first started! One of the learnings for me has been trying not to step on the toes of the women’s organizations who have been in this space for a long time. There are women and organizations in this space who have been working to support women who have experienced abuse. We try to encourage men to engage, but we understand that sometimes the women’s organizations feel that men should not be in these spaces. We want to navigate and honor everyone’s experiences by creating a space of love and healing, and by not blaming or shaming anyone. We need the men to join us and to take that stand to continue on their healing journey through prevention work.

Paul: There are a few real, very powerful underlying principles that we’ve also been learning about, especially regarding how to foster and invite men into this space without reinforcing harmful modalities of masculinity. Another would be struggling with the question of—and it’s a bit of a role reversal now— what is the role of women in the Moose Hide Campaign? Many women have said to us that they feel excluded from the Campaign. And it says on the card that we’re a movement of men to end violence against women and children, which involves creating personal accountability for men, healing, and advocacy and leadership in joining the struggle collectively. A big part of our learning has been about embracing solidarity and not reinforcing divisions between genders.

TalentNomics: What advice would you share with others who wish to be change agents and bring about social or cultural change?

Raven: As the youth ambassador for the campaign, I reach out to younger populations. I went to school in one of the smaller communities here in British Columbia, and of the women in the school, 25% of them self-harmed, and 4 of the young girls here were pregnant. It’s important for us to understand that there’s a lot of pain in young people, and that they’ve experienced a lot of trauma. Oftentimes, they experience a sense of hopelessness. What I try to do is tell them that change is possible and that there is a better life out there. If they do not like something that is happening in their lives, they can address it and then do their best to move away from it as they get older. I use my own story to reach and connect with them. My mom went to residential school, and we faced a lot of challenges growing up because of her experiences. I just want to show young people that they have the power to change their own lives. I also always encourage people to find a mentor if they can. Someone who they trust, and who can show them different skills.

Paul: I would share our truth and invite others to reflect on whether or not that is a truth for them. This is an inside jobif were going to affect a change, the most powerful path forward is to embrace our own healing, as individuals. The strength in a movement can get lost if it’s “other-centered”, which can be seen in the forms of blame and shame.

TalentNomics: How can other change agents, both individuals and organizations, support the goals you strive for and expand the ecosystem you are connecting?

Raven: We always try to encourage people to get pins and wear them. We want people to understand the significance of the moose hide pin as a daily reminder of their commitment to live violence-free lives. We will be bringing pins with us [to New York for the Crucible]. When people wear the pin, it starts a conversation, even with complete strangers. Fasting is also really important. To go without food or water for an entire day is a good time to reflect on one’s commitment to ending violence.

TalentNomics: What are your two big insights about addressing resistance to change? How have you transformed “naysayers” and “disinterested” people into passionate advocates and change agents?

Raven: I wish we were able to transform some of these people a little bit more. Oftentimes, the folks who come forward against our campaign are those who perpetrate violence and hence want to keep things quiet. It is difficult for us to try and engage these people. We come from a place of understanding, but we do not tolerate violence. It is difficult to get such people to change because they are probably entrenched in cycles of violence and haven’t embarked on their healing journey quite yet. We are there for those who are ready for change and want something they can feel connected to. There are definitely people who were perpetrators in the past but have embarked on their healing journey and are now advocates. But there are also some who are not quite ready. Sometimes, some people who come to our events have had a violent past, and we have to try to figure out how to engage them and keep our events safe for all. Sometimes we also have to respectfully turn people away.

Paul: One of the experiences that we’re having now is in that context of resistance to change. Because of what’s happening in the White House and Hollywood right now, there’s an incredible power dynamic, that’s becoming more polarizing and acute regarding misogyny. When faced against that power, it can feel daunting. So, for people who are resistant to change or are deeply entrenched in a belief system about punishment, coercion, and control through physical, emotional, or spiritual violence against women and children in their community, we begin to wonder, “what can we do?” What Raven and I have started to experience as the Moose Hide Campaign has begun to take on some levels of scale, is that, in the face of resistance to change, there is tangible power in our collective voices. It can be, in some way, coercive, when the majority of people stand together and raise their voice, but there’s power in that and that helps create change. We’re primarily experiencing this in institutions. We’re building towards a critical mass of voices and acceptance of certain kinds of behavior. When enough voices get raised, theres a new narrative, a new paradigm, and a new level of tolerance or intolerance, especially towards misogyny.

TalentNomics: What is a value, principle, or motto that guides you in your journey, and that you embody in your decisions and actions?

Raven: I believe that good lies in everyone, and that healing is possible. I practice if we do our best, good things will happen. 

Paul: It’s not really a value or a motto, it’s an imperative, and the imperative is this: the status quo is unacceptable. I may have shared with you and your team that I’m a plane crash survivor. I thought I was going to die, so that led to a period of great trauma in my life and I had developed PTSD. When I came out of this period, and I became whole again, I gained an acute appreciation for how precious life is, how precious every moment is, and how precious every person is. That became a truth for me. “My truth is that every single human being is precious. The lie is that people aren’t precious.” The lies are the assumptions and the judgments we have about each other. My universal truth is that every moment we’ve been gifted, and every human being that we’ve encountered in this life is precious. So, violence against the most vulnerable people in our society, the people who have the least ability to protect themselves like the women and children in our communities— [this is] profoundly contrary to that preciousness. The starkness of that relationship between those flawed ways of being and this universal truth is what guides me in this work.