By Joan Kelley Walker
I believe that as women, our potential is limitless, but confidence and support are key. We need community and the right tools, especially now. There are many factors that can hinder a woman from reaching her fullest potential, such as job loss, tragedy, domestic violence, homelessness and mental health issues. The fact is women typically earn less and hold less-secure jobs than their male counterparts. With plummeting economic activity, women are particularly vulnerable to layoffs and loss of livelihoods.
So, what can be done? Canadian cosmetic giant Lise Watier recognized this gap and vulnerability for women in Montreal and was determined to help them build a better future. She wanted to lift those who were living in less-than-ideal situations and assist them to reclaim their confidence in their own abilities while empowering them to take action toward financial independence. She boldly created the Lise Watier Foundation with a mission to do just that. Sometimes you just need a second chance, or a chance at bettering yourself. Sometimes it makes a world of difference if someone believes in you and supports you wholeheartedly.
The foundation strives to help women to reveal, activate and develop their professional potential through professional-development programs. Since its inception in 2017, the foundation has helped more than 600 women in Montreal, Quebec City, the Laurentians, Montérégie and most recently Toronto, which is so exciting. Its vision is expanding, and more and more women are joining the program and changing their lives, whether it’s by starting a business, finding a better job or pursuing education. The program values continued education from recognizable education institutions and there is a commitment to follow up with participants to see where they are on their life journey. “It’s a life-changing program. It provides women who want to invest in a professional project with the tools they need to succeed,” says Marie-Lise Andrade the executive director of the foundation and daughter of Lise Watier. Her passion continues “I underestimated the power of the group. The effect is amazing to propel them forward in their lives. It creates an environment of trust and safety to be themselves, share, make mistakes and start again.”
The newest expansion in Toronto offers the “Let’s Start Up” program to women through the YWCA for free. The average cost to help a woman on her professional journey toward financial independence is $5,000. Currently, the foundation and private donors are funding this important initiative. When you think about the impact of what this program can offer so many women, that’s not a significant fee. Women’s lives are changing — they are contributing to society. My own entrepreneurial journey has been about self-improvement and believing in myself. The experience is invaluable and that is why I believe so deeply in this transformational program. “Let’s Start Up” program graduate Andree-Anne, who received a Bachelor of Social Work, says, “I am so grateful for the Lise Watier Foundation’s financial aid for studies. Thanks to this support, I have the tools I need to become professionally accomplished and to live again. I am proud of where I am today, and I know that my children are, too. You can’t put a price on that.”
She’s right — the impact is priceless. I believe every single woman has strength and skill, and it’s so inspiring to see a program like this support our community. For more details or to make a donation, visit lisewatierfoundation.com.