This year, for International Women’s Day, we’re celebrating some of the amazing women who are turning possibilities into realities. Today we’re getting a closer look into the life of Linda Cottes, Senior Vice President at YMCA Greater Toronto and Ted Rogers Community Grants Recipient.
Here, Linda reflects on the inspiration she finds in work and in life, and how both make her stronger.
What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
International Women’s Day is a day to pause and celebrate the work of women. I am grateful to be a woman and to have spent my career at a charity that gives me the freedom to explore new ideas, to continuously challenge the status quo, the liberty to learn, the encouragement to embrace people’s many dimensions of diversity, and an appreciation of various leadership styles.
Tell us about your role at YMCA of Greater Toronto.
I have the privilege of being the Senior Vice President of Child and Family Development at the YMCA of Greater Toronto, where I lead a dedicated team of professional educators who, in partnership with families, support thousands of children in high-quality learning and care environments, where they influence learning, health and individual development.
Recognizing the ever-changing needs of families, the team is committed to continuous improvement, including adapting with innovative new programs and digital connection tools. Throughout the pandemic, we have had to quickly pivot programs and services in more than 300 childcare and early learning programs to meet not only parental needs, but develop a community response to support healthcare and frontline workers.
We recognize and deeply appreciate the commitment demonstrated by these essential childcare educators. Each are heroes who give so much of themselves to support others, helping them reach their potential and shine.
Who has been an inspiration in your life, and why?
I am inspired by the early childhood educators I have the pleasure of working with. While I am privileged to hold a leadership position, their experiences lead to progress and change. Their stories inspire me – from supporting a child’s language development to helping a single mother transition out of the shelter system. Seeing women supporting women and educators supporting children, including young girls, is incredibly inspiring. I believe the role and impact of the childcare sector is undervalued and underappreciated. I see my responsibility in my leadership position to change that. I advocate for the sector, for the children and for the families, and in particular for women.
What would you say to young girls of today?
Believe in yourself and don’t be afraid to shine. I would say how fortunate it is for you to be a woman. There is so much potential for you, so dream big and go for it.
Tell us a little more about yourself, and any personal interests or details you’d like to share.
I am very proud of my two daughters who are wonderfully talented, confident and accomplished women. From them comes my greatest joy in my life: six grandchildren, all under age six. It can be very overwhelming and gives me a greater appreciation for the amazing work of the YMCA of Greater Toronto’s childcare team. In addition to the hugs and joyful moments with each of my grandchildren, I feel I have a responsibility to ensure gender parity by teaching each of them to be the best version of themselves. Empathy, inclusion and caring for others are values near and dear to me.