Leading with Purpose: A Conversation with Laurie French on International Women’s Day

A headshot of a woman wearing a black turtle neck.In celebration of International Women’s Day, we sat down with  Laurie French, who assumed the role of President & Chief Executive Officer of Providence Village Inc. on April 18, 2022. Laurie is an accomplished leader with more than 25 years of experience in regional health system delivery, partnership and innovation. Her journey from a registered nurse to a visionary leader reflects her dedication to community leadership and engagement.

Laurie’s career trajectory is a testament to her commitment to lifelong learning and community service. She has held various management roles and pursued advanced degrees while actively participating in community boards and organizations. Laurie’s dedication to public education and community governance has shaped her into the inspiring leader she is today.

Providence Village’s mission is deeply rooted in the legacy of the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul, reflecting their values of compassion, justice and peace. Laurie’s leadership ensures that this legacy lives on through Providence Village, creating an innovative and vibrant community hub to empower vulnerable people in our region through health, housing and social services.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, Laurie’s journey serves as a reminder of the importance of recognizing and promoting the leadership of women. Her leadership embodies the spirit of International Women’s Day, inspiring others to pursue their dreams and make a difference in the world. Read on for our full interview with Laurie.

Can you share a bit about your journey to becoming the President & CEO of Providence Village? What inspired you to pursue this leadership role?

I have been gifted throughout my career to have many opportunities that allowed me to grow and develop both personally and professionally. I enjoyed the challenge of projects and programs that evolved from frontline nursing to case management and on to various management roles.

As I was given more responsibility [in various roles throughout my career], I also took every opportunity to learn – whether attending courses or conferences, or working part-time on my undergrad and then Master’s degrees. I also pursued leadership roles in my community as an elected school board trustee that led to the role of president provincially and nationally in support of public education. This began when my children entered school when I wanted them to understand the importance of contributing to the systems that benefit us all. 

I remain active on community boards, including the Limestone Learning Foundation, the Food Sharing Project and the Lennox and Addington County General Hospital Board of Directors. I would say I’m a lifelong learner, but that has only been possible with the support of family – sometimes [this pursuit has meant] taking time away from my own family. 

As I advanced in my career to more senior positions, I gained the experience necessary to pursue a CEO role. The position of President & CEO at Providence Village, in particular, allowed me to integrate the various aspects of my career and seize the opportunity to make a new kind of impact on the community.

March 8 is International Women’s Day, a time to celebrate and acknowledge the remarkable contributions of women throughout history. The Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul have a long and remarkable history of serving the community with compassion and dedication. How does their legacy influence the values and mission of Providence Village today, and how do you ensure that their spirit continues to inspire your work?

As a pontifical congregation, I have seen the Sisters of Providence as incredible women leaders with an important degree of independence that allowed them to lead and contribute to the communities they served in numerous ways. 

As a non-Catholic, my respect for the Sisters has grown through their dedication to community and social justice. Their commitment to multi-faith, multigenerational and diverse individuals in need is admirable and reflects the work I have committed to in bringing their vision for Providence village to life. 

How do you see the Sisters’ legacy living on through Providence Village, and what significance does it hold for you personally?

I see the Sisters’ legacy living on through Providence Village as a profound and inspiring continuation of their mission. Their dedication to compassion, justice, and peace is deeply embedded in the fabric of our community. Understanding the history of this Catholic legacy makes our work even more important, as Providence Village serves as a living testament to their enduring impact. 

Personally, I feel privileged to hold this leadership at a mission-driven organization that embodies such meaningful values and to play a part in carrying forward the Sisters’ legacy and bringing such a unique concept to life.

In your opinion, why is it important to celebrate International Women’s Day? How does it resonate with you personally?

I think it’s incredibly important that we actively recognize and promote the leadership and contributions of women who have dedicated their talents to making a difference in their communities and in society. 

As a leader, what advice do you have for other women who aspire to leadership roles in their careers?

Take advantage of opportunities and education. Find ways to get involved in your community – to learn and feel success by contributing. Use your voice and advocate for yourself and others.