Awarded 2017’s Most Innovative Woman of the Year by the Stevie Awards, Jess Tomlin is the President and CEO of The MATCH International Women’s Fund, Canada’s only global fund for women, providing resources to organizations around the world working to dismantle the status quo through innovation and disruption. Jess herself has worked in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and Asia for a range of actors including the World Bank, the UN and USAID. Prior to her appointment at The MATCH Fund, she was with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), managing large-scale reform for the Agency that supports Palestinian Refugees in Jordan, the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon and Syria.
My first job ever was… As a gymnastics coach, a babysitter and a cashier in my local pharmacy. I guess I’ve always been a multi-tasker who likes to keep her options open!
I chose my career path because… I rather think it chose me. As a young girl, social justice was what fired me up, and it still does.
My proudest accomplishment is… Making a solo move to Zambia at 22 years old.
My boldest move to date was… Taking on The MATCH Fund when it was all but dead. Building this organization into Canada’s only global women’s fund, supporting women’s organizations in 35 countries around the world, and doubling impact year on year is something I’m tremendously proud of.
I surprise people when I tell them… I was a really average kid. I’ve never had opportunities handed to me, I’ve created my own success, often by coming in through the back door.
My best advice to people starting their career is… Don’t take no for an answer. Be propositional. Stay on it. Build your network. Every leader out there respects tenacity — it’s what will help you rise above the fray.
“Every leader out there respects tenacity — it’s what will help you rise above the fray.”
My best advice from a mentor was… You be you.
I would tell my 20-year old self… That you have your whole life to realize your what you’re capable of.
My biggest setback was… I’ve lost count.
I overcame it by… With time you see that setbacks are part of the journey — they force you to dig deeper and this cultivates an inner resilience, a quality I value more than anything.
Work/life balance is… Something other women achieve? I strive for work/life integration, which on many occasions means I take work calls during my run! But it also means working from home when I need to, while a spaghetti sauce simmers on the stove. This for me is far more realistic and allows me to bring my whole self to all I do.
If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… That I played Little Orphan Annie in grade 8. That I can make pancakes in the shape of fairies. And that I have a potty mouth.
I stay inspired by… Surrounding myself by people who are smarter than me. Every day I am reminded of the extraordinary power of women around the world fighting to change their world. They do it with creativity, grace and grit.
The future excites me because… We are at the tipping point for gender equality, and this is a moment in time that will forever change the course of the future. My daughter will not experience systemic barriers and sexism the way we have.