Empowered Women, Empower Women: Erin Horvath & Diana McConnell
By: Caitlin Cooke | Glass Cliff Divas
I’ve had the privilege of knowing some pretty badass women in my life. These two are no exception. I met Erin Horvath (pictured here to my left) through The Hub Muskoka, a co-working space in Huntsville, ON run by her non-profit organization, New Vu. I knew that I wanted in when I found out that she also worked with Indigenous communities. So after starting Glass Cliff Divas, I mustered up the courage and asked her if I could learn more about what she did and how I might be able to get involved.
Shortly after this, Erin announced that she was running in the provincial election. She asked us to submit a proposal for managing the marketing aspects of her campaign. That was when I met Diana McConnell, President of the Parry Sound – Muskoka NDP Riding Association (PS-M NDP), someone who equally intrigued and intimidated me. She is the one to my right in the header.
So I found myself surrounded by two female powerhouses, who spoke with such passion about the causes they cared about. Who took the time to dig deeper into the issues that mattered to them. Who were involved in their community. And who were both parents. It drove me to say ‘I can do this too’.
Over the last year and a bit, I’ve learnt SO much from them both. I look up to them as peers and as mentors. I’ve attended round-table discussions about social entrepreneurship and chanted at protests against cuts to our healthcare and education systems.
In the last few weeks, there have been several opportunities to nominate these women for awards and I honestly just haven’t had the time. So this is my apology and an attempt to do my own semblance of recognition for the incredible work these women do.
Diana McConnell. Named after the Amazon Princess Warrior (aka. Wonder Woman), she certainly bears the name well. Diana comes from a passionate upbringing in Worker’s Rights. She advocates for the community of Parry Sound, Muskoka and has helped organize more protests in our community than I can count.
As president of the PS-M NDP Riding Association and the spearhead of Fight for 15 and Fairness movement in our community, Diana always leads with courage and care. I once asked to sit down and talk with her so I could learn more about where the fuel for her passion and activism emanates from.
She spoke about when she worked as a manager for a large retail corporation and ended up quitting because couldn’t bear to look another hard-working associate in the face, someone struggling just to get by, and tell them the year’s raise was only $0.10. That made sense to me. Diana is a fantastic mother, coworker, community member and friend. She has been integral to the Muskoka Power of Many, an advocacy group which is growing in popularity and exposure.
Fight for $15 minimum wage, worker’s rights, environmental issues, public education and healthcare, job protection, women’s rights are only a few of the causes I’ve seen her put so much love and passion into. I find her simply astounding.
Now that we’re in a federal election year I’ve had the privilege to work closely with Diana again and she continues to amaze me. She is so collaborative and creative and genuinely fun to be around. I hope to continue to team up with and learn from her as the years go on.
Erin Horvath. A name you likely have heard if you’re from Parry Sound – Muskoka. She is one fierce lady who tells it like it is and doesn’t care if you like it or not! Now that is something I can get behind. Erin speaks passionately about strengthening communities from the grassroots and she’s tackling it from every angle. I have an exchange that inspires me in one way or another every time I come into contact with her. Whether it’s talking about the issues I’m going through with my toddler or a global problem that I’m frustrated by, she always helps me see things from another perspective.
Erin has lead several initiatives and enterprises within the not-for-profit, First Nation, private, and community sectors. She uses her formal training in Psychology (BSc Hons), Community Development and Participatory Action Research (M.A.), Social Entrepreneurship and Education (PhD. in progress), Mediation (Canadian Institute for Conflict Resolution), Collaborative Planning (National Charette Institute) and Challenge Course Facilitation (Canadian Ropes Course Company), along with her experience from living and working within First Nations communities, to create meaningful, relevant and engaging sessions.
I am currently working with Erin on Building Communities of Trust, which is aimed at sexual violence prevention. This project hit home for me as I uncovered a bit of my past that is aligned with the #metoo movement.
It’s not good enough to just deal with the problem after it’s happened. We need to teach young people consent, and how to prevent sexual violence from even happening in the first place.
This the kind of thinking (forward-thinking) that I admire most about Erin. I hope that I can be a sponge for all your wisdom… and maybe one day make a difference in someone else’s life the way you have in mine.
So these are just two women, in a long line of BOSSI Women I felt compelled to highlight today. They are my friends, my colleagues and women I am proud to say ‘She’s BOSSI’ too.