by Deirdre Kelly
When Beverley Wybrow (BA ’71) was president and CEO of the Canadian Women’s Foundation (CWF), the Order of Canada recipient mentored a young student from her alma mater, York University’s Glendon College, encouraging her to make an impact in the fight for women’s equality in Toronto and across Canada.
Kristin Blakely (BA ’00, MA ’02) did so, and then some.
A public sociologist committed to advancing gender equality through scholarly teaching, advocacy and board work, Blakely teaches undergraduate courses in sociology at Glendon along with leadership courses focused on gender and diversity at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies.
In addition to her many responsibilities, in February of this year she became co-chair of the CWF, where she hopes now to become a role model herself.
“Really, it’s a continuation of what I’ve been doing in the women’s movement for the past 13 years,” says Blakely, co-author of the 2008 book Gendered Worlds and a frequent contributor to such academic publications as Contemporary Sociology, the Journal of International Women’s Studies, the International Journal of Qualitative Methods and the Journal of Family Issues.
“I will be continuing the struggle for gender equality in Canada by participating in women’s boards combined with my academic work, which is focused on the same area.”
Blakely interned at CWF in 2000, just as she was starting her master’s degree at York, and the experience honed her interest in women’s issues and heightened her appreciation for Glendon for having inspired in both her and Wybrow a passion for Canada’s women’s movement.
“It’s this tiny place,” says Blakely, “and it’s pretty amazing that we both ended up discovering women’s studies and then each other.” Wybrow, who did social work, led the way.
In 1985, she established the Assaulted Women’s Helpline in Toronto, and then, in 1991, helped launch CWF, a national non-profit organization helping women and girls. She stayed with the organization 22 years, taking early retirement in 2014. Under her guidance, CWF granted $35 million to 1,300 community programs across the country, and attracted 9,000 donors.
“I loved it very much – it was a very entrepreneurial, innovative, exciting time,” Wybrow says. “The idea of women helping other women, and money coming only from private sources to fund work, was very appealing to me.”
Blakely, in her position as CWF board co-chair, hopes to build on that legacy of promoting power and equality among women.
“Being a public sociologist, for me, is about bridging my work in the community with my scholarship in the academy,” she says, “and feeling like I can affect change in both areas.”