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Michelle Savoy – Dean’s Philos Award

Michelle Savoy

Blaze a Trail of Giving

I arrived at the Telfer School almost 30 years ago as a young student, unsure of how I would perform. I needn’t have worried: my professors gave me all the tools I needed to succeed. Best of all, they nurtured in me a confidence I didn’t know I had—the self-assurance to see myself in a top job, to be a leader of a successful organization and to improve my community through giving.

So I made that vision a reality, becoming a top executive at one of Canada’s biggest banks and an active contributor to many charitable organizations. Yet the higher I climbed in my career, the more I realized that there were even fewer women in philanthropy than there were in high leadership positions. Generations of men had looked to other men as mentors and guides in their professional lives, but we women didn’t have that luxury—either as executives or as philanthropists.

I decided to change that. To supply rising career women with the role models they needed, I started acting as a giving mentor. As these younger women became increasingly engaged as philanthropists, they became mentors themselves. We created a community of women that encouraged other women to cultivate generosity alongside their career successes. Steadily but surely, this growing group of women blazed a trail of giving.

Our work is far from done. We must make certain that women continue to have powerful examples of giving that they can emulate. We need to foster a culture of giving and, in doing so, leave a clearer, wider trail of generosity behind us to guide the way for others.