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Power 5 Interview with WIL Founder & President, Maya Kanigan

Today we would like to feature the Founder and President of Women in Leadership, Maya Kanigan and Founder and CEO of Leading Talent, a WIL career portal.

Maya Kanigan with her Mom, Vera Kanigan, at WIL's first event: Women's Career Fair at UBC in Vancouver on March 1, 2001.

Headquartered on the West Coast for the first 10 years and then in Kelowna for the last 10, and led by Maya Kanigan, WIL is a national, non-profit organization dedicated to advancing women in leadership roles. After graduating with a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Victoria, Maya looked for role models and leaders in the business world. What she found was the gender inequality in leadership in the private and public sectors. She also found that there were few ways for these amazing women to connect.

Filling this void became her passion and she lent her entrepreneurial spirit to the cause. In 2001, Maya launched the Women in Leadership Foundation. Since then, WIL has played a pivotal role in helping thousands of Canadian women surge to success – on their own terms and within a community of support.

Why did you start Women in Leadership? 

I started WIL because I believe that we all deserve to do work we love. I was in my late twenties and I took a risk. Even as I had student loans and bills to pay, I took a chance on an idea. With each person that I met along the way at our events, they encouraged me with their feedback and it gave me the energy and drive to keep going.

I want to see more women in leadership roles because it would create great impact for change and make a huge positive difference in the world with a more peaceful, progressive and sustainable approach to business, community & beyond. As women, there is tremendous power in joining together. Not only do we benefit from shared experiences but together we can have a massive impact on our children, our families, our workplaces, our economy and our planet.

Who is your greatest role model? And mentor?

My Mom who has always supported me in every way with her advice, recommending the business program for post-secondary, travelling from Castlegar to Vancouver or Victoria where our events were to be there. I shied away from the spotlight and preferred to work behind the scenes and my Mom would always tell me to be visible. She is a strong, compassionate community leader who is an avid writer and volunteers on several boards.

My partner, David Mossman, WIL Program Director is my greatest mentor. He inspired me to follow my dreams and supported WIL’s start from the very beginning and to this day. One of our main programs is our Mentorship Program, which has helped thousands of women in the private sector and in the community. Mentorship helps you get to where you want to go faster.

What is your greatest accomplishment in your career trajectory? 

In 2003, when we did our first Indigenous Women in Leadership Forum and it was in partnership with Squamish Nation at the Wosk Centre for Dialogue in Vancouver, BC. We had Chief Sophie Pierre, Chief Liz Logan and Michele Baptiste as keynotes and they were all amazing. Then we opened the floor for Questions. And what was said were thank yous and gratitude for how much individuals appreciated the event. Elders even shared how it gave them hope for the next generation. We went on to hold 11 more

Indigenous Women in Leadership Forums across the country after that.

What advice would you give to women who are building their careers? 

I started WIL with very little experience and here we are today, 20 years later. Don’t let a lack of experience in an area stop you from applying for a job or promotion or starting a business idea. Remember that job postings are wish lists that employers have. What you need to show is that you can deliver.

What do you think is the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind you?  

The ability to accept imperfection as a door to being vulnerable and leading to having deeper, more meaningful connections with others.



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