Sharon Fleming, CGCS Board Member & Parent

Interview Series

How did you discover the CGCS Community?

It was 2018 and I was new to Calgary and monitoring the city’s budget process. I was in a City Hall board room with two brilliant female colleagues, one of whom is an inspiring Girl Guide leader in Calgary’s longest running unit. I shared the impact of having gone to an all-girls school and how I needed to find such a place in my new home-town for my own daughters. They pointed me in the direction of Calgary Girls Charter School (CGCS), where one of their daughters, and a few of the city’s senior staff have sent their girls – the rest is history!

Why did you choose to send your girls to CGCS?

When I look back on the experiences and opportunities my attendance at an all-girls school offered me, I can offer three concrete outcomes that most parents would want for their daughter(s), the freedom to achieve self-actualization, the opportunity to lead, and the development of an inclusive mindset.

Do you think your own experience of being educated at an all-girls school made you who you are today?

I personally thrived in an all-girls environment. During my five years of enrollment, I was never concerned about what others thought of me. I was very relaxed about my personal appearance – while still pushing the envelope on what was appropriate uniform compliance during the grunge era. Most importantly, an all-girls learning environment set the foundation for eventually being able to be my true-self in my future role as an unwavering public servant. My personal experience with an all-girls education was that leadership opportunities were ripe for the picking. Opportunities that were traditionally sought after by male peers were available and vacant. This space gave my female peers and myself opportunities to thrive in areas, that unbeknownst to us, we were traditionally not invited or included. Whether it be sports, STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), or debate, we girls had a seat at the table and we thrived. We also competed against the best in our region and we held our own. While this seems simple, it is different to the opportunities that my friends in mixed-gender schools had. The feeling of being at the table and thriving is not easily forgotten. I continue to rely on this leadership experience as I grow my career and expand my horizons, often ahead of, and beyond my expectations.

As a strong female leader and mother, you are an inspiration to many. What is inspiring you lately? What are you reading? What are you watching? 

Reading:

A Promised Land : I have recently picked up Barack Obama’s A Promised Land and am inspired by the movement he started to help create a more inclusive America and world.  Upon contemplating a run for the presidency, when an exasperated Michelle asked him “Barack, why do you need to be president?” Barack responded:

“I know that the day I raise my right hand and take the oath to be president of the United States, the world will start looking at America differently. I know that kids all around this country – Black kids, Hispanic kids, kids who don’t fit in – they’ll see themselves differently, too, their horizons lifted, their possibilities expanded.  And that alone… that would be worth it.”

This message of inclusion is foundational in the CGCS community through the Go Girls program. The diverse perspectives and cultures abundant at CGCS are setting our girls up for the real world.

Watching:

Halt and Catch Fire : Set at the dawn of the personal computer, Halt and Catch Fire captures the culture and creativity behind the early innovators of the time.  Having grown up with a father who was a data analyst at IBM from the late 1960s through early 1980s and having spent my early career as a systems integrator with a major consulting firm, culminating with a short stint in Silicon Valley during the dotcom boom – I was quickly hooked.

What I love the most about it is that by Season 2 the innovation and creativity is led by an unlikely pair of strong brilliant women who along with a visionary and a team of misfit programmers, change the face of computing through online community connection.