“I’m not usually at a loss for words,” said a visibly moved Karen Bird, RBC Dominion Securities investment advisor, who was named the winner of this year’s ATHENA Leadership Award at the Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce annual Women in Business Breakfast Friday.
Friday marking International Women’s Day, Bird told a packed room at The Water Tower Inn, “It’s a very special day for me.”
“I have no problem motivating somebody else and boosting them up, but to acknowledge my own accomplishments, and for women in general, it’s hard for us to do.”
“When I was nominated, I wrote down all the things I’ve done. It was a very empowering exercise for me to acknowledge within myself the things I’ve done,” Bird said.
“I would encourage every single woman in this room to do that this week. Take a half an hour and sit down and grab a blank piece of paper and a pen and start writing down all the things you’ve ever done for yourself or somebody else. You will have the most amazing day, week or month after that...you’ll realize what a phenomenal human being you are.”
“I want to thank my family...I couldn’t do anything that I do if they hadn’t helped me and supported me,” said Bird, a mother of four.
Bird, who hails from Batchewana First Nation and now resides in the Sault, said “I moved off my reserve a couple of years ago. My son and I were walking through the mall a year after we moved, he grabbed my hand and said ‘Mom, I was really scared when we left the reserve. I didn’t think we were going to be able to do it."
“But then he grabbed my other hand and said ‘you are why we came here’ (in a show of confidence)...it’s amazing when your children do that, make you see things you don’t see in yourself,” Bird said.
Bird’s speech was met with thunderous applause.
Previously, Bird worked for the Batchewana First Nation (BFN) housing department, then as Batchewana’s renewable energy director, helping to negotiate some of the largest wind farm partnerships in Ontario for the territory.
She also sat for a term on Batchewana’s council and was president of Batchewana Band Industries for five years, the corporation that operates the territory’s industrial park.
The ATHENA award is presented annually to a woman or man for professional excellence, community service and for actively assisting women in their attainment of professional excellence and leadership skills.
More than 7,000 leaders in over 500 communities in several countries around the world have received the ATHENA award since its inception in 1982.
Friday’s Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce annual Women in Business Breakfast included a panel discussion and question and answer session, hosted by Jasmyn Rowley, Village Media’s director of communications and community engagement.
The panel included Francine Floreani, Great Lakes Honda dealer principal; Kristina Koprash, Krush Clothing Boutique owner/operator; Maxine Anderson, a Sault Michigan real estate agent; and Lisa Bell-Murray, OLG chief financial officer.
Each woman shared their stories of success and challenges, offering professional advice to women gathered for Friday’s event.