On March 4, the YWCA Women of Distinction Gala celebrated and commemorated the work of women and girls in the Hamilton community, with a special focus on the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gina Robinson, assistant dean of Student Affairs, director of the Student Success Centre and co-founder of Mac’s Money Centre, was nominated under the community champion and lifetime achievement categories. Responding to the awards theme this year — the courage of COVID-19 — Gina said that it’s all about “optimism, resilience and change that’s needed.”
For me, the pandemic really showed how deep inequities and systemic barriers exist not just within our community, but within our province, Canada and the world. So those communities that were vulnerable before the pandemic are challenged even more. These inequities are unacceptable, and changes are necessary.
A lifetime of achievement
Gina has been an active leader for the past 30 years. She started working for McMaster University in 1999. In 2012, she was appointed to assistant dean of Student Affairs. Throughout her roles, she’s demonstrated her dedication to leadership, serving as a strong role model and mentor for women in the community with initiatives like the Women in Leadership Summit.
Additionally, she’s brought vision and innovation to McMaster by championing new programs; developing new partnerships and collaborations with the City of Hamilton, Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and Community Volunteer Income Tax Program (CVITP), among others; ensuring our services are equitable, inclusive and accessible; and highlighting Hamilton communities as rewarding and unique places to live and work.
Gina has served the community and McMaster on boards and committees such as Hamilton Community Living, YWCA, University Fees and more. She is passionate about financial literacy and using her knowledge and expertise to educate and empower students and the community.
Supporting and leading the community during the COVID-19 pandemic
Gina’s leadership as assistant dean and director of the SSC lead to a successful transition to virtual service delivery at the beginning of the pandemic. This support made it possible to launch a redeveloped website and implement a new live chat function while maintaining daily services and programming for students and alumni.
Gina developed and implemented a community-based tax program for the greater Hamilton area to support vulnerable individuals and families in the community. As of March 2020, all services are now accessible online. Current partners include Hamilton Public Library (Central), Good Shepherd, First Nations, Canadian Hearing Society, Hamilton Dream Centre, Canada Revenue Agency and Chartered Professional Accountants (CPA) Canada, among others.
In partnership with the Chamber of Commerce, Redeemer University and Mohawk College, Gina helped establish wage subsidies and hiring grants for employers to support student employment. She has also been an advocate for peer-based support within the Student Success Centre. This has led to the hiring of hundreds of student staff and volunteers over the years.
As an employer, Gina increased support and training for staff through virtual platforms, activities and an online wellness retreat to address staff well-being.
Despite all the changes brought by COVID-19 and virtual working environments, Gina has remained committed to the Centre’s equity, diversity and inclusion goals by continuing to drive the conversation with resources, training and opportunities for honest, critical discussion.