Diversity Matters Every Day, Not Just on International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day this year brought me the opportunity to sit on a panel to discuss what it means to work in the world of technology. Entitled “Female Founders in Tech,” it was hosted by Figure 1 on March 8.

I jumped in on four hours’ notice and the experience was one of most interesting and engaging conversations I’ve ever had.

Several key takeaways came out of this conversation, which included Chakameh Shafii, Co-founder and CEO at TranQool; Lisa Mattam, founder of Sahajan, an Ayurvedic natural skin and haircare line; and Catherine Graham, CEO of commonsku and President of RIGHTSLEEVE, in addition to myself. What stood out for me was how diverse our experiences are as women and how different our journeys have been. Technology needs more diversity, in many ways, and it needs to happen on more than just International Women’s Day. Women have many different experiences, backgrounds, family situations, and thoughts to share.

Women are stronger when we work together.

That’s why when Canada’s first lady, Sophie Trudeau, suggested on Facebook that we honour boys and men on International Women’s Day, it took me some time to reflect and think.

Then I realized that in my past experience, in general, men have supported me far more than women have. That’s not to say that there haven’t been amazing and supportive women in my life who have helped me. It’s just that once men have been made aware of the ways women suffer under inequality, men have been supportive.

If #DiversityMatters, then we as women need to be allies to one another on more than just International Women’s Day or during other events which promote diversity and inclusion.

The panel conversation also touched on work-life balance. Although the concept of balancing work and life is an aspirational goal, the women on the panel agreed it was more of a myth or urban legend than something that can be accomplished.

For women, especially women in technology-related fields, there may never be perfect symmetry between work and the rest of life. However, some trade-offs can make the effort to achieve that balance personally worthwhile.

Striving for balance means finding ways to create more flexibility within your daily responsibilities. Perhaps the greatest benefit of working toward a work-life balance is that you gain opportunities to shape your impact in today’s world. Many entrepreneurs, business professionals and employees in every industry feel that work responsibilities are overwhelming and take precedence over personal responsibilities. We must all remember that although our careers are important, even more important components of life deserve our attention as well.

In my view, panels like this are a good first step. They are great for getting the word out, connecting with an audience and identifying like-minded people who can advance the conversation. But panels cannot be the only step. An emphasis on diversity tends to occur only when there is a specific day set to celebrate and encourage it. We need to have conversations about diversity every day, and bring greater diversity into the workplace by taking real action.

Let’s take the next step together. How would you encourage more diversity in your brand, business or job?


Karima-Catherine Goundiam is the founder and managing director of Red Dot Digital, which she launched in 2014 with the aim of bringing greater efficiency and diversity to the world of digital and social media. She brings 16 years of international integrated marketing, campaign and project management experience to the firm. Before Red Dot, she managed digital and social media for Deloitte Canada and directed social media for Ford.

Karima-Catherine has mentored executives at every level on digital transformation, from digital strategy to social media. With over 49,000 followers on Twitter and many more across social media platforms, she writes articles on LinkedIn Pulse and the Women’s Executive Network, an international organization and community advancing the conditions of professional and executive women.

Red Dot Digital helps its clients boost their sales and achieve their business objectives in today’s digital world with solid digital and social media strategies. Globally-minded and cost-efficient, RDD works across multiple time zones, setting themselves apart byproviding real, measurable results.

@KarimaCatherine on Twitter

What You Need To Know Before You Go (Out on Your Own!)

Have you ever considered starting your own business? It seems to be the dream for many people. To own something that belongs to you. To be the boss. To have more freedom. And hopefully, the chance to strike success in a big way and make a lot of money doing what you love.

As a corporate executive turned entrepreneur myself, I must say that there is definitely something rewarding about owning a business. But, once you make that decision, there are some things I want to share with you beforehand to help make your transition as successful as possible.

Top Tips on Starting a Successful Business:

  1. Get a line of credit now!

Before you resign from your current role, apply for a line of credit. You will qualify for a lot more money while you hold down a steady job versus as a new entrepreneur. These funds will come in handy when you start your new business. Also, this money will provide you with some extra security in case you don’t make any profit in your first few months (yes, that often happens for new business owners!)

  1. Three is the magic number.

The majority of people who start businesses will tell you that the first three years of business was the most challenging and frustrating. You will likely make the least amount of money in this time too. I tell clients to consider the first three years a time to play and experiment. Know that when you make it past the first three years, chances are your business will succeed the long haul and generate more income.

  1. Set away a nest egg before you jump ship from your current role.

For me, I found saving $50,000 was what I needed to do. This provided a safety net for a few months (always your first go-to place before the backup line of credit) and then I also needed money to start my business (i.e. website, marketing materials, training courses, office, etc.).

  1. Prepare to work hard.

Despite the freedom I have available to me as a business owner, I work harder in this job than I have in any role in my entire life. The decision to work hard is of my choosing and I actually enjoy almost every minute of it. But it takes hard work to be a success. I don’t know any successful entrepreneurs who can “luck” their way into making millions.

  1. Get a coach.

When you start out on your own, this will be the time in your life when you may feel you have the least amount of money. But, hiring a coach is a must-have for any business owner. First of all, it can be an isolating change starting your own business. In the corporate world, we have teams and lots of people to bounce ideas around with. When you start your own business, it can be lonely. A coach is a trained professional who can help you get your business off the ground and running successfully in a lot less time.

  1. Be prepared for the tough days.

You will receive rejections. You will have customers that you thought were a for-sure thing fall through. That is the reality of business. Don’t take rejections personally in business. Everyone needs to do what is best for them. And often when one door closes another one (perhaps you didn’t even see this door before!) will open. It is really part of the fun of business.

  1. Consider investors.

Depending on the type of business you want to invest in, it may require extra capital. Research potential investors thoroughly and talk to other people/companies they have invested in to learn if they are a hands-off or hands-on investor. Think about what kind of investor you want. Also, consider how much equity in your company you are willing to give up. If you give up more than 50% to an outside investor, you own the minority share and you will lose some control over your company. Perhaps in this case, you may want a few investors so they can each take a smaller piece of the pie and leave you with the majority control. If your venture requires a large amount of money and you have to deal with majority investors, hire a good lawyer and negotiate a buy-back clause in your contract. This will give you the option to buy back majority equity in a certain number of years for a set price.

Blogger Carey-Ann Oestreicher, MBA, BA (Hons.), Chief Engagement Officer, Potential Unlimited

Recipient of a Top 40 Under Forty Business Achievement award, Carey-Ann Oestreicher, owner of the career development firm for women, Potential Unlimited (www.potentialunlimited.ca), holds a MBA and has worked in a variety of senior positions including vice-president level. Her focus is her family and helping women in business find true peace and happiness in their lives while achieving new heights in their careers.

Carey-Ann has been featured in a variety of media because of the success she has experienced with her holistic approach to developing women leaders and entrepreneurs. Her appearances include: CTV’s Canada AM, TSN, CBC News, Global Television, City TV News, The Globe and Mail, Canadian Business magazine, The Toronto Star and The Canadian Press.


What makes a woman powerful?

Now that International Women’s Day has come and gone, does the spotlight on incredible women just fade to black?

At WXN, we’d like to keep that light burning brightly. That’s why nominations for our 2017 Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Awards opened last week and will be available to the public until Friday, May 19th. Nomination fees go to support the WXN Foundation’s Scholarship Fund, offering awards and bursaries to young women in universities across Canada—the future powerful leaders of our country.

But when it comes to Top 100 nominations, some of the most common questions we get are around the definition of that word “powerful.” Who do I nominate? What makes someone powerful?

We tend to think about notable women (and men) throughout history as larger-than-life figures who made life-or-death decisions and epic speeches before thousands. In Canada’s 150 years, there have certainly been a few. But being powerful is really about making the most of as many small moments as you can, learning from those who have come before you and having the vision to gradually build toward something bigger, every day. Change happens in the details.

You all know a powerful woman. You probably know many. There is no finite checklist, but here are some things to think about when considering a Top 100 nomination:

  • How does the way she chooses to live her life, every day, impact those around her?
  • Is she sacrificing the safe/expected/traditional route for her area of interest?
  • Does she have a single focus and passion that carries her forward in everything she does?
  • Is she a “first” in her field?
  • Does she have a new or fresh way of leading?
  • Is she changing old standards that no longer work?
  • Is she someone’s role model, without even knowing it?

If someone comes to mind when you read through the questions above, she might be one of the powerful women we’re looking for.

Check out the criteria for our 9 categories and help us continue to shine the spotlight on the powerful women who deserve it. Nominate someone today.

Self-Promotion in the Workplace: How to Get Comfortable with Being Your Own Biggest Fan

You’re good at your job. You always go above and beyond. You face challenges head-on and find solutions that work not just for clients but for the company. So why aren’t you getting noticed for that next-level promotion?

It could be that you’re not bragging enough.

The professional world is one where confidence is key. While you may feel confident in your abilities, not making that known to others could be holding you back. It’s all about self-promotion and learning to do so authentically.

Best-selling authors Katty Kay and Claire Shipman have researched the topic of confidence extensively, the results appearing in their compelling 2014 book The Confidence Code. “Compared with men, women don’t consider themselves as ready for promotions, they predict they’ll do worse on tests, and they generally underestimate their abilities,” they say in their article of the same theme in The Atlantic. “This disparity stems from factors ranging from upbringing to biology.”

However, tooting your own horn is a lot easier said than done. Why? Because it goes against everything we’re taught as young girls.

Kay and Shipman talk about the difference between how boys and girls are typically raised. Boys are often encouraged to be more rambunctious and wild, exploring their boundaries. When they get into the classroom, this behaviour is disciplined, but they’ve learned an important distinction in the meantime: discipline is about particular actions in a particular situation—not a reflection of who they are. Criticism doesn’t deflate their confidence.

On the other hand, girls learn how to follow rules in the home and how doing so pleases authority figures. That is the objective: to please, to be liked. These are lessons that transfer over easily into our studies. “Good girls” are praised in elementary school classrooms for being quiet, orderly and respectful. Bragging about your accomplishments does not make the list.

Though we carry these early rules into our professional lives, studies show that one thing helps women in our careers more than anything else: making our accomplishments known.

According to a 2011 Catalyst study that had female MBA students employ nine qualities of the “mythical ideal worker,” women who proactively made their accomplishments more visible “advanced further, were more satisfied with their careers, and had greater compensation growth.”

Self-promotion is necessary for top success. So how do we get more comfortable with it? Here are some tips to get you started:

  1. Throw out the expression “fake it ‘til you make it”

“The reason extremely confident people don’t alienate others is that they aren’t faking it,” write Kay and Shipman. “They genuinely believe they are good, and that self-belief is what comes across.”

When it comes to talking about your accomplishments, start somewhere that does feel comfortable. Maybe that’s women’s group at your organization, or at a WXN networking event, around the table, or in front of the mirror (this youtube video “Dad and daughter inspire with morning affirmations” is cute, but consider its positive power).

Start with honesty.

  1. Identify your strengths, not your perfections

“We watch our male colleagues take risks, while we hold back until we’re sure we are perfectly ready and perfectly qualified,” write Kay and Shipman about perfectionism. “Bob Sullivan and Hugh Thompson, the authors of The Plateau Effect, call this tendency the ‘enemy of the good,’ leading as it does to hours of wasted time. The irony is that striving to be perfect actually keeps us from getting much of anything done.”

It’s not about what you do perfectly. It’s about what you do (or did) well.

Create two lists of your strengths: one that is ongoing and one that is job-specific. These will give you authentic talking points for your current accomplishments and what you can achieve in the future, with the right support, investment and opportunity from your superiors.

  1. Seek credit and feedback

“Of all the strategies used by women [in the Catalyst study], making their achievements known—by ensuring their manager was aware of their accomplishments, seeking feedback and credit as appropriate, and asking for a promotion when they felt it was deserved—was the only one associated with compensation growth.”

Point out your accomplishments to your superiors for the dual purpose of receiving credit (where credit is due) and feedback

It’s not about opening yourself up to unnecessary criticism. It’s about saying, with confidence, I’ve done well. Help me achieve even more. Conversations about promotions are much easier when you’ve laid the groundwork of where you are now and where you know you can go.

  1. Lift others up with you

“In 2004, four female executives at Merrill Lynch started having lunch together once a month,” Sheryl Sandberg writes about in her book Lean In. “They shared their accomplishments and frustrations. They brainstormed about business. After the lunches, they would all go back to their offices and tout one another’s achievements. They couldn’t brag about themselves, but they could easily do it for their colleagues. Their careers flourished and each rose up the ranks to reach managing director and executive officer levels.”

While self-promotion is still important, community-promotion can be a good place to start. Talk to your team, identify high-performing allies and find ways to help each other bring awareness to individual accomplishments—not group projects but single roles and abilities.

Practice these four steps and remember: “It’s not bragging if you can back it up.” (Muhammad Ali)

Learn how to develop authentic self-promotion strategies, when to bring them forward and why it can help your professional success at one of our Speaker Series events across Canada.

Calgary May 2nd ft. Michele Harradence, VP, Operations & Environmental Health & Safety, Spectra Energy

Vancouver May 5th ft. a panel of Heather Odendaal, Founder, WNORTH Conference; Jen Murtagh, CEO, The Minerva Foundation; and Leslie Fenn, Owner, Howe Sound Brewery

Toronto June 13th ft. Executive Coach Victoria Turner

Ottawa June 13th ft. Laura Peck, VP,  McLoughlin Media & Sr. Partner, TransformLeaders.ca

Montreal June 14th