Alumni profile: Gabrielle Scrimshaw
Walking in a good way: why your footprints matter
By Derrick Kunz
She describes herself as creative, curious and collaborative. After our conversation, I’d say she forgot ambitious, driven and grounded.
Gabrielle Scrimshaw (BComm’10) is a member of Hatchet Lake First Nation and the youngest of three girls raised by their entrepreneurial, artist father in Duck Lake, Sask.
Working in her father’s art gallery from a young age fuelled Scrimshaw’s desire for creativity and business. She said, “I enjoyed managing and growing the family business. Ultimately that’s why I pursued my bachelor of commerce with a marketing major.”
Close proximity to home was only one factor in her choice of where to go to school.
“The University of Saskatchewan and the Edwards School of Business have great programs in place to support Aboriginal students.” Citing Bannock Chat—weekly lunch meetings with other students, professors and professionals—as an example, Scrimshaw explained, “Like many Aboriginal students, I was the first of my family to pursue post-secondary education. When I started my degree, I lacked confidence to meet people or talk to my professors. I found it was easier to build these relationships over our weekly bannock lunches.” During her time at the U of S, Scrimshaw became increasingly involved in extracurricular activities which took her to 18 different countries.
After graduating at the top of her class, Scrimshaw became the first undergraduate associate accepted in the Royal Bank of Canada’s competitive Graduate Leadership Program in Toronto. “It was an amazing opportunity to broaden my skills and receive mentorship from some of the top executives in Canada.”
Scrimshaw’s move to Toronto was more than just a career decision. “I’ve always believed in being an ambassador for my community; that’s why I worked so hard through university and pursued opportunities outside of my comfort zone. I decided to dive in head first so that I could be a voice for Aboriginal people in boardrooms across Canada.”
Not wanting to lose her strong connection to her cultural roots, Scrimshaw searched online for Aboriginal professional associations in Toronto. “Nothing came up. At that time an idea was planted in my head to start an Aboriginal professional network. I realized that if I felt this gap, others might have felt it too.”
Thanks in part to DiverseCity, a leadership fellowship in the Greater Toronto Area, Scrimshaw was able to let her seed of an idea flourish. In 2011, Scrimshaw co-founded the Aboriginal Professional Association of Canada (APAC), an organization dedicated to advancing Aboriginal leadership in the private, public and social sectors. Since its launch, APAC has garnered more than 340 members across Canada. All while working full-time with RBC as manager of community marketing and communications.
Earlier this year, Scrimshaw’s achievements were recognized with an Indspire Award (formerly the National Aboriginal Achievement Awards) as the First Nations Youth recipient. Scrimshaw humbly describes the award as the “proudest moment in my life” and recognizes a larger responsibility to her community resulting from the visibility of the award.
Adding to her visibility, Scrimshaw spoke at TEDx Toronto in September. Without revealing too much about her talk before the event, Scrimshaw said, “It’s an exciting time to be an Aboriginal person in Canada. It’s a great thing to have support within the Aboriginal community and from non-Aboriginal Canadians as well; the opportunities in the Aboriginal community affect everyone.”