Women Inspiring Women: Anneke Gillis

This month, we’ll be hearing from inspiring women in our network and sharing their stories. We’re passionate about supporting women, especially in their health and wellness journeys. Read on to get top tips for living, working, and playing optimally from women trailblazers.


Profile: Anneke Gillis

Tell us about yourself.

I split my time between Winnipeg, Manitoba and Kenora, Ontario. My family and I have a place on the Winnipeg River System in the City of Kenora where the sunsets, forest and the fresh water lakes and tributaries are inspiring. I work for Kenora Chiefs Advisory as Special Project Coordinator (think swiss army knife to get new project frameworks up and running and mobilize teams for responding to needs quickly). This past year has mostly focused on supporting and working with First Nation Communities in the surrounding area as they respond and support their members deal with all aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic. I take the time to build relationships and help leadership by doing the background work for partnership development and community-driven processes. I like being useful, helpful, supporting community priorities in a good way. I am motivated by kindness and reconciliation in action.

What do you consider as your biggest achievement?

I’m a starter and I do the little things in the background. My biggest achievement is being able to bring together unlikely partnerships to truly collaborate for meaningful outcomes. You won’t see my name credited to the projects and partnerships I’ve worked on. I have no ego or authority over any decisions but those who I’ve developed relationships with know what I contribute…I brush clear a path for those to take on meaningful change in Truth and REconciliation. My passion is challenging the default systems by bringing to the front the voice of those who have previously not felt comfortable or safe in engaging fully in partnerships. Honestly, the newly formed All Nations Health Partners in Kenora has been the most rewarding to contribute to.

What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?

There is no room for shame or blame in building good partnerships. Help others succeed. Own your strengths and talents. It’s ok to be vulnerable. Best advice to me now for my future self, don’t interrupt and listen to others first before sharing your ideas or guiding the direction of work. If you are really upset, get a good nights sleep before approaching your boss.

How do you stay productive and be your best self at work?

We all know the saying “one day at a time; ” for me, on the hard to be productive days I go to “ten minutes at a time” and make my goals and to-do’s 10 minute intervals with rewards (small ones) at the end. I think of everyone’s roles and responsibilities within a PRoject and remember my lane and where other peoples lanes are…stay in them. Take the break when there is a lull in work without feeling guilty (nothing is wrong, it’s a gift to get ready for the next high pressure surge).

What’s your top mental health tip for when the going gets tough?

A safe sounding board. Know the colleague you can debrief with. One thing that we have started doing at KCA is walking meetings. We have so many beautiful hiking and cross country ski trails, we don our mask and put on our boots and get outside to do the brainstorming and downloading and needing communication. It helps with Zoom fatigue.

What are your top health hacks?

A close friend of mine got me to buy the ‘Calm’ app and the stories and meditations are everything when it comes to getting to sleep faster without overthinking. Physical activity and food are the biggest struggle for me. Often I stop and hike on the way home. It’s easier if I remind myself it doesn’t have to be a fully hour and a half, even 20 minutes is good. Owning dogs helps because they HAVE to be walked. I love to swim and being on a Masters Swim team is great but with COVID that’s been interrupted. Food, I like chocolate and French fries way too much to be super healthy but I do cook at home rather than take out most of the time (even more now during COVID). And gardening in the summer is motivating for healthier food.

How do you ensure your personal and/or family’s financial wellness?

Our big thing is not to carry any debt other than a mortgage. None. If it takes debt or monthly payments to get it, we don’t. We save to maximize our RESP, RRSP and Tax free accounts.

What’s your favorite fun activity?

Being outdoors with my family and close friends. Hiking, canoeing, climbing, skiing, snowshoeing. Every. Single. Time. I think “why don’t I organize these adventures more often!”

Who are your female role models and why?

In terms of famous persons, Mother Theresa and the ANYWAY poem attributed to her. That is my guiding mantra and all of her narrative on humble services. In terms of personal role models, Jennifer, (funny I have 20 Jennifer’s in my contacts and I adore every one of them and the guidance, advice and lessons they present to me but mostly Jennifer Reid, Jennifer Dreaver and Jennifer Findlay as the very best advisors and mentors). My boss, Daphne Armstrong, she is Anishinaabe and the smartest human I know who can manage the most complex relationships in a way that allows everyone to save face through sticky situations and feel like they’ve been heard and are taking action in a good way. She’s fun! She’s real! and she forgives to move forward quickly.


This month, we’re sharing inspiring women’s stories. Who inspires you? Leave their name and social media link in the comments below!

Read more Women Inspiring Women profiles here.

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