RaiseHER Community redefines 'leadership' through empowering mentorship

By University Advancement and Communications Posted: March 6, 2020 1:00 p.m.

RaiseHER Community founders (L to R) Gwen Keith, Skylar Gerard, Talitha McCloskey, and Dr. Marlene Smadu
RaiseHER Community founders (L to R) Gwen Keith, Skylar Gerard, Talitha McCloskey, and Dr. Marlene Smadu Photo: courtesy of Kelsey Conway Photography

Mothers. For many of us, they are our first mentors, teachers, and guides into adulthood. They model the kind of behaviours and values we wish to see reflected in the world. They are, in the words of University of Regina graduate Talitha McCloskey BA’12, CPR’14 and Skylar Gerard BCOMM’14 (University of Saskatchewan), “the Original” mentors.

Unfortunately, not all women are lucky enough to have strong female role models in their lives.

“As we grew up, we quickly discovered that many of our female colleagues and friends had a tough time finding female mentors and experiencing what leadership looks like. As a result, we had several discussions with our mothers, identified what could be possible, and RaiseHER Community was born,” says Gerard, herself a mother and a marketing manager for Jump.ca.

“We have had the benefit of mentoring by and support from these strong women leaders throughout our lives, and we recognized how valuable that has been to our own education, career, and family progressions,” says McCloskey, who sits as a director on the University’s Alumni Association Board.

“We wanted to provide an intergenerational community that could facilitate mentoring from women who have experienced challenges, overcome barriers, addressed discrimination, sought equity, and demonstrated strong leadership, and who could provide sound and compassionate support to those who are just now experiencing some of these things.”

In spring 2019, McCloskey and Gerard, along with their mothers Gwen Keith BEd’74, MEd’77, PGDEA’83, MEd’84

McCloskey and Gerard
at RaiseHER Community’s
inaugural conference
FEAR/LESS, 2019. Photo:
courtesy of Kelsey Conway

and Dr. Marlene Smadu, Vice-Chair of the University’s Board of Governors, launched RaiseHER Community and by the Fall they were ready to kick off the organization’s inaugural conference FEAR/LESS: Ignite Your Inner Leader.

“I use my Certificate in Public Relations from the University of Regina every day, both in my full-time work and in my RaiseHER Community initiatives,” says McCloskey. “The competencies I developed in that program gave me the confidence to set out with Skylar on this adventure that is RaiseHER Community.”

Local response to membership opportunities in RaiseHER Community has been positive, and the organization is almost half-way to reaching its goal of 150 members by October 2020. Partnering with local non-for-profits such as the YWCA, RaiseHER Community offers one membership for free to a deserving woman, for every ten memberships purchased.

Community membership offers various services and resources to help women develop their professional and leadership skills--individually and collectively--through the support of peers, mentors, and other members. An annual membership of $175 provides discounted access to conferences and monthly LeadHER Circles, an online member space that provides an array of professional development tools and resources, discounted merchandise, exclusive offers from local female-supporting businesses, as well as community networking, mentorship, and leadership skill-building opportunities.


RaiseHER Community’s
services and resources help
women develop their
professional and leadership
skills. Photo: courtesy of
Angela Bailey Photography
& Design

RaiseHER Community’s focus on individual empowerment and collective support echoes this year’s theme for International Women’s Day (IWD) held on March 8--An equal world is an enabled world. This theme embraces the concept of collective individualism--each person must take action, own their thoughts, and be responsible for them. When used collectively, these individual expressions and actions challenge stereotypes, fight bias, and celebrate women’s achievements.

“It’s a known fact that supporting women not only helps those woman succeed, but also enhances the outcomes and well-being of their families, communities, economies, societies, and workplaces,” explains McCloskey.

“The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the World Health Organization acknowledge the importance of women’s well-being and engagement in creating health for their families and communities. When we extend this understanding to the economics of our society, we know we are missing significant creativity, perspectives, and intelligence if we don’t have half of our population--females--at important decision-making tables, yet that continues to be the case in many organizations and areas.”

If the spots at the table aren’t there, McCloskey, like her mother Marlene, encourages women to create their own table and express their voices.

“You don’t need to wait to become a leader,” encourages Gerard. “You are capable of being a leader now and can continue to develop and demonstrate your leadership with support and nurture. There are a ton of amazing leaders here in Regina just waiting to meet you and help you develop your skills.”