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Meet Sydney Piggott, Director of Programs and Projects at YWCA Canada

Sydney Piggott (she/her) is a civil society leader, researcher, and advocate for gender equity and inclusion on a global scale. She is the Director of Programs & Projects at YWCA Canada where she leads impact-driven initiatives with a vision to see women and girls empowered in a safe and equitable society. She’s also a contributor at Btchcoin News, a British Council Future Leaders Connect fellow, and vice-chair at Springtide Resources. She brings an intersectional feminist lens to all of her work informed by her proud Afro-Caribbean heritage.

 

My first job ever was… a summer job as a records management associate at an insurance company. I was only 15 years old when I started and I remember not having any “professional” clothes to wear. I always joke that I looked like I was dressed as a flower girl at a wedding every day!

I work in the women’s sector/non-profit sector because… I care about creating just futures and I genuinely believe that women and gender-diverse people are the ones to make that happen. I also think that the women’s sector, and non-profit sector more broadly, needs to move away from its roots in white feminism and colonialism to adopt a truly intersectional and inclusive approach to this work. The only way to accomplish that is to have disruptors in this space. I see myself as one of many in this sector who is challenging our norms, innovating for change, and pushing for accountability so that we can collectively move the dial on gender equity, not just equality.

 

I personally reject the idea that being a good leader requires decades of formal experience in leadership roles. Leadership is a journey and it can start at any age.

 

We should entrust young women with positions of leadership because… they’re already doing it. My peers and those younger than me continue to demonstrate their ability to lead change across sectors from climate justice to education to entrepreneurship. I personally reject the idea that being a good leader requires decades of formal experience in leadership roles. Leadership is a journey and it can start at any age.

We should invest in the potential of young women, girls, and gender-diverse youth because … we can’t afford not to. On top of a pandemic, we’re also in a global climate crisis, recession, fight for racial justice, and gender-based violence crisis, among so many other inequities that have only been exacerbated by our current circumstances. Historically, young women, girls, and gender-diverse people – especially those from underrepresented groups – have been excluded from decision-making processes and look where we ended up! Investing in the potential of young people who are furthest from opportunity is where we need to look for the solutions that will set us on the right path forward.

I surprise people when I tell them… that I still struggle with imposter syndrome every day. People often admire my confidence or are impressed by my job title, my degree, and my accolades. Despite all of that, I’m constantly doubting myself and it’s something that I’m trying hard to overcome. Luckily, I’ve surrounded myself with a great community of sponsors and mentors who give me more validation than any award ever could.

The one piece of advice I give that I have trouble following myself is… to take time for self care. And I don’t mean bubble baths and ice cream; I mean true, radical self care that is part of a greater process of healing. I often talk about how important it is, especially with other young folks that I work with, but often don’t practice it myself. 

If I were to pick one thing that has helped me succeed, it would be… fostering relationships with sponsors who have not only opened doors for me, but set me up for success as I walked through them. I’m lucky to have more than one sponsor, people who take a step beyond mentorship and really invest in my success in such a selfless way. I try to pay it forward as much as possible and sponsor younger youth and even my peers. Sometimes that means passing up on a great opportunity in order to give it to someone else who is much more qualified, but doesn’t have the same connections or public profile. 

I stay inspired by… the people who surround me. My friends, family, and community inspire me every day and keep me grounded in what really matters while doing this work. I learn from them, they support me, they help me grow. I’m so grateful to be around people who sustain me in that way. I would not have made it to where I am without them!