All Articles

International Women’s Day – Leanne Nicolle supports the women of tomorrow by leading the girls of today

This year, for International Women’s Day, we’re celebrating some of the amazing women who are turning possibilities into realities. Today, we’re shining a spotlight on Ted Rogers Community Grant recipient Leanne Nicolle – President & CEO, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Toronto – who is impacting her community through providing vital support to young people from coast-to-coast-to-coast. 

We wanted to hear more from Leanne and learn about what drives her passion for inspiring change, and what fuels her fire.  

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?  

As an advocate for humanity, I believe IWD is an opportunity to honour the women who have gone before us and have paved the way for where we are today; to celebrate the critical role that women play in our world today; and to reflect on the work yet to be done to ensure that equity is realized for ALL women.   

Tell us about Big Brothers Big Sisters Canada. 

At Big Brothers Big Sisters, we build thriving communities by empowering lives through mentorship. We believe that it is important to empower girls to reach their full potential AND engage boys in the conversation on gender equity to ensure that girls have the safety to exercise their equal rights in the future. 

Tell us about your career trajectory and how you got to where you are today. 

I left private sector in 2008 in search of meaningful work. I have been so blessed to work on amazing projects and initiatives focused on helping to solve complex social issues. I have learned that the impact of girls and women on their communities can be profound if they are given the tools and skills to thrive. This has been one of the fundamental guiding principles of my work in the not-for-profit space. How can I contribute to my community by empowering girls and women in various ways? From my early work on an initiative with UNICEF, girl !mpact; contributing to the ground breaking work with Plan’s Because I am a Girl; challenging the social lens of the Olympic team in Canada; and now, ensuring that children who face enormous adversities have positive caring adults in their corner ~ wow!  What a journey I have been on and have learned so much from girls and women along the way! 

Who has been an inspiration in your life, and why? 

My life has been a revolving door of amazing women all whom have inspired me to be the woman I am proud to be today. I have to say, though, the greatest inspiration in my life is my daughter Madeleine. She has given me the courage to do hard things; the joy to see the bright light in her energy; and the confidence that the future generation of women will be in a stronger, more equitable place. 

What would you say to young girls of today?  

That is a tough one.  I would say do your best not to be fearless. Without fear, you can’t access courage and it is going to take a brave generation to take on the next part of the journey. 

Tell us a little more about yourself, and any personal interests or details you’d like to share.  

As an Executive Mentor in Residence at Ryerson University, I pride myself on mentoring young women in their journey to their authenticity. We work on clearly defining and leaning into their values; creating their own brand identity; and effective communication for fierce conversations amongst other skills. It is incredibly rewarding to watch a young woman get effective results in challenging situations.  I always ask them “Do you want to be right or effective?”  It’s a great filter and definitely turns possibilities into realities a majority of the time!   

It is important to me to share with my community and so I am a volunteer peer counsellor for parents with loved ones who are experiencing mental health challenges and mental illness. As a mom of a son who is suffering, having a healthy relationship with him seemed impossible until I learned how to be skillful as part of his support. I’m so grateful to be able to share these skills and hope with other parents who are suffering.