Dr. Carrie Bourassa (PhD) (Photo: Dave Stobbe)

Women in Leadership: Carrie Bourassa

A prominent researcher in the College of Medicine, Dr. Carrie Bourassa (PhD) talks about her path to leadership and provides advice on how to be allies in advancing women in the workplace.

March 8 is recognized as International Women’s Day, and the theme for 2021 is “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world."

Taking our cue on that theme, we are profiling women in leadership at the College of Medicine, selecting from a variety of positions including learners, staff, faculty, and senior administration.

What is your current position and/or leadership role/title?

  • Scientific Director, Canadian Institutes of Indigenous Peoples’ Health (CIHR-IIPH)
  • Professor, Community Health and Epidemiology
  • Lead of COVID19 Rapid Response Team for SHA
  • Scientific Advisor for EDI for AGE-WELL
  • Moderator CAN-COVID Indigenous Research Channel, Government of Canada
  • Research Lead, Morning Star Lodge, Regina
  • Lead, Cultural Safety Evaluation Training and Research Lab, USask

Describe one barrier you experienced, and something that helped you overcome that (or another) barrier, in your journey to leadership?

As an Indigenous woman, there really wasn’t a pathway for me and I didn’t think that I would even get out of high school. My grandfather had a really huge role. He pushed me to excel and go on to University. It was difficult to have a voice and find a space for myself in university. There was a lot of racism and discrimination, which is still there, but I know more how to handle it.

My familial roots, my culture, and allied mentors have all been important. You need to have that support, people who can pick you up and remind you of who you are and help to provide those safe spaces. It’s important to remain humble and remember where you come from. As my Kokum says “You remember where you come from and that you’re no better than anybody else. That fall can be mighty."

How do you think COVID-19 has affected women's progress in your field or the workplace in general?

Women are often relied upon for being the primary caretaker. I count myself blessed because I am able to work at home and my daughter can be homeschooled here. But even if she couldn’t I have the kind of husband who says, “you went to school for 16 years, I didn’t. I’m going to follow you”. That doesn’t happen for a lot of people.

Many women have had to stay home because it just doesn’t make sense for them monetarily to be the one working. And that speaks to the ongoing wage gap for women. So this is detrimental to women’s careers, particularly in academia. Something has to give. There has to be support.

What advice would you have for people (of any gender) in leadership who wish to be allies in advancing women in the workplace?

Encourage women’s voices to be heard and respected within those decision making spaces. If women do have to take time to be in the home, how can men, both within the home and outside the home, support them? It’s not just about having allies in the workplace, it’s in both spaces.

And not just men, but all allies. How can all of us create space for that person to encourage them. Not to take over their voice, or be over-zealous. We don’t need fixers, we need people to be supportive. Sometimes that means staying silent, and sometimes it means stepping in and saying, “what can I do, how can I help?"


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