Shannon Christensen, CEO & Founder of Mamas for Mamas has received the Meritorious service Medal, one of Canada's highest civilian honours, conferred by the Governor General through the Chancellery of Honours and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.
You may remember Shannon from our International Women's Day event in March. Shannon shared her story and journey of how she started Mamas for Mamas and grown from being an online Facebook group with one Chapter to having 62 Chapters across Canada. Speaking from personal experience in working with Shannon, not only is she 100% dedicated to Mamas for Mamas, but she is also one of the kindest and sweetest individuals you will meet.
Before starting Mamas for Mamas, Shannon found that after the birth of her first son, she was suffering from postpartum depression and was struggling a bit. She reached out to her Grandmother, "She told me that if I didn't have a village then I had to build one". From there, Shannon started a Facebook group, with kindness being the currency - this allowed for other mamas to exchange no longer needed items such as clothing, toys and baby equipment.
In 2017, Mamas for Mamas opened a physical location in Kelowna, BC and today, there are 62 satellite Facebook locations across Canada, which handles over a million donations and trades each year. A second office has opened in Vancouver, another in Penticton and locations are on the way for Kitchener-Waterloo, Victoria, Calgary and Grand Prairie.
During the International Women's Day event, Shannon was asked "What gender specific challenges, stereotypes or barriers have you had to overcome during your career"?
Shannon said that she "had many many presented to her, however she likes to see them as opportunities to grow. As a young women - I was 27 years old when I started Mamas for Mamas. I had a Master's degree and had done a lot of work in gender specific sexual assault trauma treatment. I could just tell that there was this dichotomist understanding of what it meant to have a gender-specific issue in the workplace. At Mamas for Mamas, I was often seen as inexperienced or perhaps unable to lead an organization and move away from being a trauma counsellor, which was a safe role for a women in today's world - it's the social services, it's helping others - it was within the confines of what I was supposed to be doing. I felt that as I moved into more of a leadership role, I was questioned about whether I could or should actually be doing that. I had to do a deep dive into what it meant to be a women, in a workplace that was run by men, not just in the non-profit sector, but in general. Many many executives are male and I was often the only female at the boardroom table. I felt I earned my place there."
Shannon often says "No Mama left behind. We mean that professionally, economically and very much in how we connect as women".
From all of us at Women in Leadership Foundation, we would like to extend our heartfelt congratulations to Shannon.