Stephanie Atwood – Mission for Change

Stephanie Atwood – Mission for Change | ElevateHER | CIO Women Magazine

In a world driven by innovation and unwavering determination, Stephanie Atwood has emerged as a beacon of inspiration for aspiring leaders. With her unwavering vision, unwavering resolve, and unparalleled ability to navigate through challenges, Atwood has carved a niche for herself in the dynamic landscape of business. 

As a visionary entrepreneur and a trailblazer in her field, she has consistently shattered glass ceilings, pushing the boundaries of what is possible. Her commitment to excellence, combined with her innate ability to motivate and empower those around her. CIO Women Magazine is proud to introduce her to one of the Most Admired Women Leaders in Business – 2023.

Stephanie Atwood‘s journey to becoming a respected figure in her field defies traditional expectations. Her professional background is far from cookie-cutter, devoid of the conventional trajectory of earning degrees or accumulating co-op experiences. Instead, Atwood’s foundation rests on her lived experiences, which have played a significant role in shaping her formidable career. 

Although she embarked on her educational pursuits later in life, she initially explored human services and correctional services, gaining valuable hands-on experience in the field. It was during this time that Atwood recognized the importance of continuing her education and ventured into a series of courses. She skillfully navigated a blend of online programs from prestigious institutions such as Harvard, Stanford, and the University of Michigan. 

This unconventional approach allowed her to delve into intensive, yet concise certificate programs, ultimately amplifying her knowledge more effectively than a traditional degree path. Alongside her business and management courses, Stephanie Atwood pursued her passion for counselling, undertaking a range of studies in emotional well-being, psychotherapy approaches, and more. 

Balancing her thirst for knowledge with the demands of professional life and personal commitments has been a formidable challenge. Nevertheless, Atwood firmly believes in striking a balance that aligns with individual goals, emphasizing the significance of both professional development and lived experiences. 

Her ongoing dedication to cultivating boundaries stands out as a vital aspect of her growth, enabling her to channel her lived experiences into positively impacting others without compromising her own well-being. As Atwood continues to explore the realms of business, psychology, and frontline work, she exemplifies a unique approach to success that challenges conventional norms, inspiring others to forge their own paths.

Forging a Unique Path to Success

Stephanie Atwood’s journey towards her impactful career was deeply influenced by her formative years, marked by a distinct lack of a conventional childhood. Even at a young age, Atwood possessed a remarkable capacity for empathy, effortlessly placing herself in the shoes of others and intuitively understanding their emotions and experiences. This exceptional sensitivity set her apart from her peers, making it challenging for her to find her place among them. 

Even with her cherished Barbie dolls, Atwood’s empathetic nature led her to consider how the dolls might feel in various scenarios, attuned to the impact of external influences on individuals. Her empathetic nature fueled a deep desire to help others and instilled a resolute belief in her own ability to create meaningful change. This profound sense of empathy and her early experiences shaped her conviction in her own capabilities as a helper and nurturer.

However, Atwood’s path was not without obstacles. She encountered significant childhood trauma that disrupted her ability to embrace a carefree childhood and undermined her confidence in her skills and abilities. Her survival instinct kicked in, compelling her to adapt and navigate her environment, knowing exactly what she needed to do to endure. 

Yet, when she reached an age where external support and resources were crucial, they were notably absent. Instead, society and even figures of authority, like teachers, reacted with ignorance and even mockery towards her trauma responses. The lack of recognition and understanding surrounding childhood trauma and its effects was disheartening for Stephanie Atwood, highlighting a dire need for education and awareness in these areas.

Turning Adversity into Opportunity

Driven by her personal experiences and the realization that the support and resources she sought were sorely lacking, Atwood resolved to make a difference. She recognized the pressing need for authentic conversations and survivor-focused approaches to addressing issues such as childhood trauma and sexual assault. 

She adds, “It was this realization that pushed me to establish ElevateHer, an organization aimed at bridging the gaps in awareness and education within her community. The need to fill the voids and empower survivors exemplified turning personal adversity into opportunities for transformation and growth.”

Atwood’s extraordinary journey from a young empath to a compassionate advocate stands as a testament to the power of resilience and the potential for change. As an empathetic leader and visionary, she continues to create lasting impact, fueling genuine conversations, and offering survivor-centred approaches that pave the way for healing and growth.

Defying Expectations

Atwood’s life story embodies resilience and triumph in the face of adversity. If her experiences were captured in a book, it would be a tale reminiscent of “The Little Engine That Could” or “Take a look at me now.” 

Despite enduring childhood trauma, abuse, and relentless bullying throughout her school years, Atwood refused to internalize the negative beliefs thrust upon her. Countless individuals, including teachers, parents, and society at large, told her she would never amount to anything. However, she steadfastly held onto the belief that she had the power to prove them wrong.

Though the exact title of her story eludes her at this moment, its essence would revolve around the theme of defying limitations and surpassing expectations. She adds, “I knew deep within my being that I possessed the capacity to achieve greatness, not merely as a means to prove others wrong, but because I genuinely believed in my own potential.”

This embodies the indomitable spirit of a small-town girl who refused to be defined by the negative labels thrust upon her. Through resilience, self-belief, and an unyielding determination to overcome adversity, she emerged as a symbol of inspiration and triumph. 

Advice to Her Younger Self

Stephanie Atwood recalls moments of self-doubt and considers giving up, but she knew that dedicating herself to schoolwork was her coping mechanism and motivation to prove everyone wrong. She would remind herself to keep going, assuring that her efforts would pay off. 

“True beauty is not defined by external appearance but by inner qualities.”

Atwood acknowledges that she is not an ugly person and encourages her younger self to embrace a broader definition of beauty. Through her reflections, she offers insights into resilience, self-belief, and self-perception, aiming to inspire others on their own journeys of growth and self-acceptance.

When she assumed leadership positions, Atwood had a belief in her own capabilities, and her effectiveness as a leader was often reinforced by others. However, one particular piece of advice had a profound impact on Atwood’s understanding of leadership. She learned that being a good leader did not mean allowing people to walk all over her. 

Leadership Revelation

An insight from her own reflections prompted a paradigm shift, revealing that the role of a boss encompasses true leadership qualities. While Atwood excelled in uplifting her employees, helping them harness their potential, and utilizing a strength-based approach, she also realized that she was sacrificing her own well-being by permitting others to take advantage of her.

Atwood reflects, “This realization led me to recognize the importance of striking a delicate balance. I discovered that effective leadership entails setting clear boundaries and having the confidence to enforce them. Understanding that being a good leader means having robust boundaries became a pivotal realization, and it remains a fundamental principle for me.”

Her leadership journey exemplifies the significance of establishing and maintaining boundaries as a leader. Through her experiences, she has come to understand that true leadership involves not only empowering others but also safeguarding one’s own well-being. 

By embracing this lesson, Atwood has cultivated a leadership style that combines upliftment and support with a firm sense of personal boundaries. Her story serves as a testament to the transformative power of finding balance and confidently asserting boundaries in the pursuit of effective leadership.

Adapting and Thriving

The post-pandemic landscape has ushered in a significant shift in the world of entrepreneurship, a transformation that Atwood keenly observes. The emergence of online businesses and the virtualization of companies have reshaped the entrepreneurial landscape, revolutionizing the way businesses grow and thrive. 

Meetings for Atwood’s organization, ElevateHer, predominantly occur in the virtual realm, reflecting the broader trend towards an online era. The pandemic has not only accelerated the adoption of virtual platforms but has also democratized entrepreneurship, making it more accessible for individuals to embark on their entrepreneurial journeys. 

The barriers to entry have been lowered, enabling aspiring entrepreneurs to establish their ventures with greater ease. As the entrepreneurial ecosystem adapts and embraces virtualization, the post-pandemic era serves as a catalyst for innovation, providing fertile ground for new ideas and ventures to flourish in an increasingly interconnected world.

Pioneering Change in the Non-Profit Industry

Stephanie Atwood’s relentless drive and passion for creating an impact have propelled her forward. Through diverse roles like women’s support worker, and assistant executive director, Atwood gathered the experiences that culminated in the establishment of ElevateHer in 2018. 

Her early years were marked by an invigorating hustle, pushing her to forge ahead. Each role she embraced shaped her journey and prepared her for entrepreneurship. She adds, “Entering the non-profit sector at a young age presented unique challenges, with older individuals dominating leadership positions.” 

Raising awareness and garnering support proved to be an ongoing struggle. Overcoming the obstacles, Atwood tirelessly conveyed the organization’s mission and impact to the community. Despite age-related hurdles, she remained resolute, prioritizing the growth of ElevateHer. 

Securing funding emerged as a formidable challenge. As executive director, Atwood recognized its crucial role in providing community services and supporting her staff. With unwavering dedication, she pursued funding opportunities, formed strategic partnerships, and crafted compelling grant proposals. Writing funding proposals for her own position added further pressure, illustrating the realities faced by non-profit leaders. 

A Remarkable Transformation

Stephanie Atwood reflects on the rapid and steep trajectory of growth that her organization has experienced. From initially working tirelessly to establish their name, they have now achieved remarkable milestones, including federal funding and a significant partnership with the Elizabeth Fry Society for their GATE trafficking and exploitation program. 

The transformation seemed to occur overnight, initially overwhelming Atwood. However, as she gained control over the growth and learned to navigate the challenges that accompanied it, she found herself able to look back with a sense of accomplishment. 

The realization that she had been doing something right and witnessing her 10-year dreams unfold in just two years brought a smile to her face. While the accelerated growth brought its share of growing pains, it also presented valuable opportunities for learning and development. 

“I’m just so excited for what the future has in store for ElevateHer, but also what ElevateHer has in store for the future.”

Ambitions Unveiled

Stephanie Atwood is renowned for her meticulous planning and organized approach to life. She crafts daily, monthly, and yearly plans, fully aware that unforeseen circumstances often disrupt even the most well-laid plans. She acknowledges that external factors will inevitably influence her plans, requiring adjustments along the way. 

Her commitment to the expansion of partnerships remains indisputable. Her envisions extending ElevateHer’s services throughout Canada, particularly addressing the pressing need for housing in the industry. Her ultimate aspiration is to empower individuals who seek support from ElevateHer, enabling them to become program leaders, managers, or even directors in various offices across the country. 

These ambitious plans align with Stephanie’s personal goals, which include indulging in her passion for travel and cherishing quality time with her beloved Chihuahuas. Additionally, she harbours dreams of establishing a personal hobby firm and, perhaps, experiencing the serene beauty of Tahiti for a period.

Word of the wise

Be authentic with boundaries. If you are authentic in the work that you’re doing, then you’re creating something that is a reflection of yourself, your values, your beliefs, and your growth. 

I find as an entrepreneur, it’s so easy to be influenced by others. I’m not saying to not be influenced or not to accept advice from others, but knowing what your boundaries and limits are, and knowing that whatever approach you take, it’s still an authentic part of you. 

Another word of advice that kind of goes hand-in-hand with that is I feel like, a lot of the times, we’re made to believe that we need to be, act, or do certain things to fit a societal mandate and I think it’s important that we can step out of that role; that we can think outside of the box, expand our minds, take a leap of faith, take a risk, and go for it.



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