Regina duo work with their moms to create community to support women through education, inspiration

·3 min read
Skylar Gerard, second from left, and Talitha McCloskey, second from right, are the co-founders of RaiseHER Community. Their mothers — Gwen Keith, left, and Marlene Smadu, right — are both active members of the RaiseHER Community. (Kelsey Conway Photography - image credit)
Skylar Gerard, second from left, and Talitha McCloskey, second from right, are the co-founders of RaiseHER Community. Their mothers — Gwen Keith, left, and Marlene Smadu, right — are both active members of the RaiseHER Community. (Kelsey Conway Photography - image credit)

Regina's Talitha McCloskey and Skylar Gerard are the co-founders of RaiseHER Community — a movement that creates space for women to support women and become leaders in the community through education and inspiration.

And they were inspired to start the community by none other than the women who raised them — Marlene Smadu, McCloskey's mother, and Gwen Keith, Gerard's mother, who are now both active members of the RaiseHER Community.

McCloskey and Gerard started RaiseHER in October 2019, after noticing a need for mentorship and community for themselves, their friends and co-workers. McCloskey especially noticed thatshe and other women in professional capacities did not have the type of support that they needed to live their lives to the fullest.

"Skylar and I put our heads together and created this community of women, men, and non-binary folk supporting each other," McCloskey said. "We created a community that does not care about what your background is — if you want to support other people, we welcome you and hope that you can join us."

RaiseHER offers that support by hosting a number of events throughout the year that create opportunities for networking and informal mentorship, including a series of virtual conferences this month.

The program conference began last Thursday, and is expected to run every Thursday throughout May. For McCloskey, the conference is important because it informs the participants on how to wholeheartedly support people during the difficult pandemic period.

"In these unprecedented times, we see women and marginalized people being impacted with economic stress and gender-based violence so much more over the last year," McCloskey said.

"We are looking to share stories, tricks and tips as to how we can show up better for others and hopefully learn something for ourselves as well."

RaiseHER operates through paid memberships. It's not a non-profit, but is described on its website as a "for-impact movement where all profits are reinvested back into the business to enable continuous empowerment activities."

RaiseHER also donates one membership to a deserving woman in need for every 10 that are purchased, the website says.

While the organization is based and founded in Regina, it now has members from all over Saskatchewan and Alberta.

Talitha McCloskey and Skylar Gerard say they started RaiseHER to create a community for women from different backgrounds.
Talitha McCloskey and Skylar Gerard say they started RaiseHER to create a community for women from different backgrounds.(Kelsey Conway Photography)

Smadu and Keith say they were thrilled when their daughters came to them with the idea of creating a community of intergenerational women. Smadu says one of the best things about the organization is how the women involved are able to teach and learn from each other, regardless of their age or position.

"It's not just about us seasoned women in the workforce giving advice to others. I've learned so much from the young people who are a part of this," Smadu said. "It demonstrates that while mentoring one-on-one can be helpful, mentoring as a village provides so many more opportunities."

Smadu also says it's important to "learn to lead from behind." Both Smadu and McCloskey say that being a part of the community has prompted them to change their language, and how they engage with people in day-to-day interactions and on social media.

Smadu is excited for the conference because of the different innovative ways the co-founders have been able to make the event interesting, pandemic aside.

"With COVID, every in-person thing we planned had to be changed. Talitha and Skylar are experts not only at using technology but making people feel engaged in whatever the conversations are," she said.

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