Island expat recognized for empowering women and girls

Jennifer Gordon, centre, is joined by friends and co-workers at the award ceremony Leading Women Leading Girls Building Community.

KITCHENER–Haweater Jennifer Gordon is an unabashed feminist who often blurs the lines between work, volunteering and personal time. Last Friday, April 20 Ms. Gordon was recognized with a Leading Women, Leading Girls, Building Communities award along with 11 other exceptional women and girls in the Kitchener area.

Ms. Gordon is the director of youth programs at the YWCA in Kitchener-Waterloo and had received five or six nomination forms. She was considering nominating some of the youth from her program and was surprised to be herself nominated by her co-worker.  “This has forced me to stop and pay tribute to all the amazing women I work with,” she said.

Empowering and supporting women and girls is “at the core of who I am and how I use my time and what I enjoy doing,” she explained. “I’ve always been really cognizant of women’s issues. I can definitely relate to the oppressions that women face. “It’s important to me to see women thrive and to have the opportunities they want, but also to believe in themselves.”

Ms. Gordon feels that women continue to experience varying degrees of oppression and lack across the board support for intersexual feminism. “There’s a lot of work to be done,” she said. “Women are there, ready to make some change, to put forward ideas and opportunities to challenge some of those things.”

“It always starts with a conversation, then I immediately go into strategizing how to make this happen and how do I use my program platform.” In her work with the YWCA she is mandated to understand and address gaps in programming for girls. “I leave no stone unturned for women and girls.”

A recent venture for Ms. Gordon is In Her Shoes, a retail and online marketplace selling used women’s clothing and accessories while providing entrepreneurial and marketing job experience for women. She is president of her community neighbourhood association, encouraging “inclusivity and belonging as well as safety to create a flourishing, well-connected community,” she said. Ms. Gordon also researches women’s issues for community groups.

“There’s always the opportunity to create a better situation for other women,” said Ms. Gordon. “I’m not about changing the world. Other people do that work on a grand scale. There’s a lot of opportunity to make small impacts, to make small, pointed interventions that chip away at our every day life. That’s what I’m all about.”

She credits her rural, Northern Ontario upbringing on Manitoulin Island and being an only child with a strong female role model in her mother. Her parents are Rita and Terry Gordon of Gordon’s Park Eco Resort in Tehkummah.

Ontario’s Leading Women/Leading Girls Building Communities Recognition Program acknowledges and celebrates women and girls who demonstrate exceptional leadership in working to improve the lives of others in their communities through volunteer work. Since the program’s launch in 2006, nearly 1,000 women and girls from across Ontario have been recognized.

While it was nice to be recognized, Ms. Gordon spent little time celebrating. Immediately following the awards ceremony, Ms. Gordon was off to lead an art workshop attended by 75 people.