Faculty of Applied Health & Community Studies
Degree: Community Development
Year of graduation: 1979
Whether pursuing the joys of the written word, the sense of justice that comes from advancing feminist or social causes, or the tactile thrill of repairing cars, Diane Hill has carved out her own unique path. “I’ve always thought of it, in a sense, as following my curiosity. If there’s an opportunity that looks interesting – even if I might not know how to do it but could learn – I take a chance. That’s how I’ve really made a lot of changes in my life,” she says.
Hill has always pursued non-traditional paths. Born and raised in Southern Ontario, she left high school early at 17, working in factories, cleaning offices and repairing cars as an apprentice auto mechanic. Her experiences fostered a growing interest in feminism, sparked by the writing of Germaine Greer and others. “I’ve been driven by a desire to make a difference and contribute to positive social change in some small way,” she says.
She chose Sheridan’s community planning program because she was looking for a mentally challenging career in a field where she could explore social justice issues. After graduating, she worked at the City of Scarborough in the planning department. In her 10 years at the organization, Hill created marketing materials using layout and darkroom skills she acquired during previous work for her sister’s printing company.
In 1991, Hill felt she needed a change again. She enrolled at George Brown College to study counselling for assaulted women and children and, in the late 1990s, she was the director of policy and research at United Way Toronto. There, she had the chance to do research, write and edit, an interest of hers since childhood, when she would write poems, short stories and create radio plays with her friends.
Craving more of the writing and creative elements of the job, Hill left the United Way in 2000 to start a successful freelance business, landing bylines in More magazine, The Globe and Mail and The Toronto Star, as well as researching data for community organizations and completing a Master’s degree at York University in environmental studies. An article she wrote for Readers’ Digest Canada on women in non-traditional careers ended up in the lunchroom of the Canadian Women’s Foundation, and Hill was tapped to create a detailed report for the organization’s new women-in-trades program. Her work led to a full-time role as senior director of research and policy, then senior director of public engagement, running the marketing and communications program as well as launching and editing the organization’s SHE magazine.
Now, Hill is at another transition point in her career, having stepped back from her senior director role at Canadian Women’s Foundation to oversee communications for the organization’s newly launched Gender Equality Network, made up of 150 women leaders from varying roles and industries that will tackle systemic roadblocks to gender equality in Canada. She’s also returned to freelancing armed with new perspectives on marketing and communications, media interviewing and other facets she’s learned over the years.
Looking back, Hill relishes the freedom and skill set that her non-traditional path has given her. “I’ve had a bit of an odd career, I guess,” she says. “I haven’t been the sort of person to pick something and just stick with it for 25 years and get the gold watch. If I had, I would probably be retired by now, but I wouldn’t have had the experiences that I did — and I don’t regret it for a minute.”