In November 2019, Monika Ille was named the new Chief Executive Officer of APTN. Monika has a long, rich history with the network, starting as the Québec liaison officer in 2003 before transitioning into programming. WCT spoke with Monika about breaking into the broadcasting industry, the inspirational women in her life, male advocacy, and more.
WCT: You have a very rich background in broadcasting. Was this industry difficult to break into? Describe to us your career path.
Monika: I’ve been very lucky in the sense that the broadcast industry has been a part of my life since I was a child. My mother worked at Radio-Canada with my aunt and godfather. My mother was very passionate about her work; we watched a lot of TV together and I really enjoyed that. Broadcast and the larger communications aspect of the industry were sources of interest to me. I worked at Radio-Canada when I was a student, and I was lucky enough to have my first internship in filmmaking with the National Film Board – it was on the French side through Studio D for women in filmmaking. Was it difficult? I would say no. I had great opportunities and I took them. I was open to new ideas and trying new things within the industry.
WCT: It’s no secret that women can often face different challenges in the workplace. They experience barriers when attempting to access opportunities, networks, resources, promotions, etc. How can managers and male advocates address these challenges, and, moreover, how can they implement change?
Monika: Is there a short answer for this? Being aware that there are challenges, first of all. I think men should walk a mile in a woman’s moccasins. Women have challenges concerning pay equity and maternity leave, whereas men make more money than women and have more opportunities. Implementing change means alleviating these challenges, be it in the workplace or working hours. It means having people around who empower women, as Jean La Rose, APTN’s former CEO, did for me. He treated me like a person, not as either a woman or a man, but as a human being. It also means being an active listener. If a situation arises, a manager or male advocate should really take the time to truly, actively listen and engage in the conversation. That would definitely help.
WCT: As a female leader, what has been the most significant barrier in your career?
Monika: The underrepresentation of women in key positions. When my career started there were few women in the industry and I really looked up to those who held key positions. I remember my first boss at Radio-Canada was amazing. She offered a wealth of advice and I felt supported by her. I hope to do the same, as I am the first woman CEO of APTN. I hope to inspire other women, show them what’s possible and let them know that they have opportunities.
WCT: Who or what helped you get to where you are today?
Monika: I have wonderful women in my life. My grandmother and mother are two very strong Abenaki women who strongly believe in who they are and know where they come from. Alanis Obomsawin – who’s from my community and who I’ve known since I was a baby – has done and continues to do so much for the community. These women are inspirations and they’ve helped me immensely. I hope to be an inspiration to my daughter in whatever career she chooses. Jean La Rose really supported me and played a very important role in my career. I think he saw something in me and he gave me opportunities to grow within APTN.
WCT: What advice do you have for women who wish to pursue a career in broadcasting?
Monika: I’ve always thought, whatever you want to do, just do it! Embrace it, jump into it and give it your all. I love this industry! I’ve been in it for more than 30 years now, and every day there’s something new. Especially when it comes to Indigenous broadcasting. I think there’s so much to be done to help our Peoples become stronger through control of our own communications. Controlling your own voice and image is empowering.
WCT: If you could tell your younger self one thing, what would it be?
Monika: Believe in yourself and stop doubting. Just stop. I learned that later in life . . . not too long ago, actually!
WCT: What is a quote you live by?
Monika: There was a quote on the wall at my grandmother’s house: “Grant that I may not criticize my neighbour until I have walked a mile in his moccasins.” It resonated with me and I like the symbolism of the moccasins, too. It speaks to us and feels closer to us, as Indigenous Peoples. When you’re wearing moccasins, you’re really close to the earth. You feel the bumps in the road, you feel the rocks, you feel everything. I think it’s a very strong message, one that speaks to taking the time to get to know a person. I think that’s very important and it reminds me to be more grounded and not be too quick to judge.
Thank you, Monika! You can read more about Monika's inspirational career trajectory here.