Sunshine Foundation

Sunshine Celebrates Women in Leadership on International Women's Day

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

On this International Women’s Day, Sunshine would like to take a moment to acknowledge CEO, Nancy Sutherland with a profile highlighting her career and dedication to making dreams come true for children.

Since her start with The Sunshine Foundation in 2005 as a volunteer member of the National Board of Directors, Nancy has shown a deep commitment to Sunshine’s mission. As the sibling of a person living with severe physical disabilities, Nancy was able to bring empathy as well as business acumen to help shape Sunshine into the organization that it is today. In 2008 Nancy was asked to become the National Executive Director of Sunshine, tasked with executing a strategic plan focused on growth. According to Nancy, the decision to embrace this challenge was made easy by the strength of Sunshine’s mission and the smiles of the children whose dreams are fulfilled. This role has since grown into Chief Executive Officer.  Under Nancy’s leadership, Sunshine has experienced growth in fundraising results year over year, has a national volunteer base of over 500, and a dedicated staff of 19 headquartered in London, ON responsible for operations from coast to coast.

Prior to joining Sunshine, Nancy’s career was focused on executive level Human Resources roles within national and global organizations in the telecom and financial service sectors.  Her early years included HR work at a healthcare facility as well as front line work with young offenders. Nancy holds a degree in Child Psychology from King’s University College and two certificates from the Richard Ivey School of Business. She is a member of the Women’s Information Network, the Business and Professional Women’s Club, the Human Resources Professionals Association, and the Women’s Executive Network (WXN).

Nancy is also a mother to 3 sons: Matt – an Ivey HBA graduate now working in Toronto, Rob – a 4th year bio-med student, and Brad – a 1st year business student, both at the University of Western Ontario.

We asked Nancy to reflect on her journey and to provide some advice to women today who are aspiring to move into leadership roles. Here’s what she had to say:

On International Women’s Day, we take time to reflect on our gender and all the gifts and challenges that come from being a woman in Canada in 2016.

I was born in the ’60s, educated in the early ‘80s, raised children through the late ‘90s and now lead an organization in the 2000’s.  I believe that my path to leadership in Canada will not be replicated by women younger than me.  So much has changed.  Their paths will be so different.

There was no internet during my education and early working years, and now I spend a significant amount of my time online researching and communicating with a global community. 

The only female leadership role models I had in my early career were either professors (feminists), senior managers (competitive mindset) in my workplace or women I read about in biographies (unreachable).  Now you can follow anyone on social media to see what they do and how they do it, learning from their success and failure instantly. 

When I was heading into adulthood, feminists had to be loud and sometimes aggressive and we felt we had to be or we would not have a career.  Some young women I speak to now can’t even imagine not being able to pursue whatever they want. 

As young women, my cohorts often worked in competition with each other, as did ‘stay at home’ moms vs ‘working moms’.  There are now #gogirl type movements that encourage women to support each other and mean girls are called out. Whatever you choose is right.

I don’t yet know what all this means for women or for women in leadership roles but when I try to imagine what I could have done with all the access and role models and peer encouragement that seems to exist now, I can’t help but think I would have been able to do so much more sooner.

Happy International Women’s Day. From our place privilege in Canada, we have made such progress.  We may see a female President of the United States soon.  But for women in other countries around the world who still don’t have education, who aren’t safe, who have no means to earn their own living and don’t even know what feminism is, there is still so much work to do.


Happy International Women’s Day from all of us at Sunshine and thank you Nancy for your wisdom and your voice.

Nancy will be a panel speaker at The Influence Event with Terry O'Reilly from the hit CBC Radio Show, Under the Influence on April 26, 2016 at the London Convention Centre.

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