Nobel Peace Prize nominee Sheila Watt-Cloutier has been working with global decision-makers for more than a decade to tackle today’s most pressing issues — the environment, the economy, foreign policy, global health, and sustainability — not as separate concerns, but as a deeply interconnected whole.
In recognition of her work, Sheila has been named to The SusainabilityX Magazine’s inaugural Global 50 Women In Sustainability Awards Program. It was created to recognize the achievements of the world’s most powerful, ground-breaking female sustainability leaders who are bridging the gender gap by breaking barriers, shattering traditional stereotypes, and taking the world of sustainability by storm. Sounds like Sheila to us!
Sheila was an elected political spokesperson for Inuit for over a decade. She served as the chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) Canada from 1995-2002, where she was instrumental in the global negotiations that led to the 2001 Stockholm Convention that banned the use of persistent organic pollutants (POPs), which were contaminating the arctic food web. The World Association of Non-Governmental Organizations honoured Sheila with the inaugural Global Environment Award in recognition for her POPs work.
In 2002, Sheila was elected the international chair of ICC, where she was integral in their Institution-Building for Northern Russian Indigenous Peoples’ Project, which focused on economic development and training in remote northern communities. Sheila was made an Officer in the Order of Canada in December 2006, and has received multiple global awards, including the Aboriginal Achievement Award for Environment, the United Nations Champion of the Earth Award, and the Climate Change Award from the Prince Albert of Monaco Foundation, among many others.
In celebration of being named to the inaugural Global 50 Women In Sustainability Awards Program, The SustainabilityX® Magazine sat down with Sheila to explore her thoughts on women in leadership and their role in leading sustainability.
The SustainabilityX Magazine: What is the importance of women’s leadership in today’s society plagued by the triple crises of COVID, Climate, and Conflict, and their deadly consequences?
Sheila Watt-Cloutier: Women in leadership during these precarious times is imperative for changing the narrative around these important issues that affect us on the ground, which helps to humanize the issues. When woman lead, they change the stories from only politics, science, and economics to relatable stories of health and well being, families and communities.
TSM: What role do you believe women in leadership positions have to play in helping companies and brands transition towards sustainability and circularity, and why is this important?
SWC: The moment women enter into these leadership roles, I believe the shift happens immediately with the priorities they give as protectors for the future of families. I believe most women want to give back to the world through her work, a new way forward that keeps children, women, and families safer. Issues which have been categorized as “women issues” such as health, education, and culture to name a few come to the forefront of their leadership role
TSM: What can be done to improve women’s participation in corporate and leadership positions? How do we achieve this?
SWC: I think many women tend to not participate in the corporate world because of the culture as many have had extremely bad experiences within these institutions. The systems themselves need to take a hard look at themselves to create safe and respectful spaces in order for more women to be interested in taking part. I believe there are shifts happening in changing the corporate world but we still have a long way to go. Women don’t want to just “administer” or “manage” what exists in these systems, they want to change how things are done.
TSM: What does this award mean to you and what significance does it hold to you personally and/or professionally, and your company?
SWC: This Award helps me to bring my story and the collective story of our people, the Inuit/Arctic world, to a larger audience. I always see any recognition for my life’s work, not only about me the personality, but about the resonance of truth with others for what I consider to be sacred work. In other words, it is about the world “getting it” and not only about me “getting” an award. It is very meaningful in my attempt to guide the world to a more sustainable way of life, by showing how the Inuit world, the Indigenous world, can be teachers of sustainability and not just victims to globalization. We have much to offer in our teachings.
At a time when people are seeking solutions, direction, and a sense of hope, Sheila Watt-Cloutier provides a big picture of where we are and where we’re headed. In her truly globe-spanning keynote presentations, she provides a clear, meaningful, and comprehensive understanding of the way today’s most pressing issues are interconnected, what it means for the future of our planet, and how we, as leaders and individuals, fit into the grand scheme of things.
Contact us to learn more about Sheila and what she can bring to your next event as an inspiring keynote speaker.