Becoming authentic women leaders

Winning a 2019 Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 award, my third, was another validation of the importance of my passion and work to advance women’s leadership. I am deeply honoured and appreciative to be recognized for my work as a champion for the advancement of women through helping them access and serve in leadership roles. When I was deputy head of Status of Women Canada, as it was then called, I recognized that without advancement of women into leadership and decision-making roles we cannot change what is happening in terms of equality and freedom from violence against women. Despite the many years of work to advance women’s equality, there continues to be under-representation of women in positions of leadership, a gender earnings gap, violence against women and continued efforts by some to silence women’s voices.

WXN has been a leader in promoting recognition of the power of women leading and empowering themselves to have an impact no matter their role or sector. Leading to create impact requires courage and the ability and desire to act despite fears of failure or push back. We know that seeing other women succeed is an inspiration for other women who can say if she can do it so can I.

When I was growing up in small town Saskatchewan, there were few role models for women in leadership roles. I was among a minority of women in our law school class and the only woman when I started teaching law at the age of 24. Needless to say, it was a challenge to navigate and I was fortunate to have some men who believed in me and helped me overcome some of the obstacles. I had the imposter syndrome despite my academic success which took some years to overcome. Later I met some female leaders in the government who could provide some guidance and help me see that the only road to success was being present at the table and adding our voice where decisions were being made. Many of the women, myself included, were subscribing to the mantra that women were victims in the system which took away our power. When a mirror was held up to the behavioural consequences of this thinking, we did not like what we saw. As a victim we give up our power to change the situation. Recognizing, through good coaching, that it was my choice to become a leader, instead of a victim, I began a different journey to success. A desire to make an impact helped to overcome fears and move forward.

One of the first steps was recognizing that I had to speak up in meetings and add my contributions in an empowered manner. I also accepted others may not share my point of view or perspective which was okay. Over time I realized my perspective was often different and added value to the discussion and decision making. At the same time, I began to truly understand leadership and focus on becoming a fully authentic women leader. Acting like the men, something I had observed from some of the very senior women when I entered government, was not aligned with my values. Many lost touch with their feminine side and paid a price. Recognizing, as I rose to more senior leadership roles, that I was now also a role model I worked to be authentic and make an impact. In the process I learned from failure and developed resilience to move again toward success  I also accepted that I might not be universally valued for this approach, but it was the only way for me to be a success in an authentic fashion. Mentoring others became an important part of my leadership.

Today, I know the importance of helping other women move forward with confidence in their own abilities. I can fully relate to this journey. Stereotypes abound in our society and we embody them without realizing it. Understanding these and making choices about how we will live and lead are so important to being our authentic selves and authentic leaders. I have chosen to devote my post career years to facilitate leadership programs and coach and mentor women to become fully authentic leaders, to seek their success on their own terms and to help mentor the next generation. Co-leading research respecting women entrepreneurs also helps me to support and encourage leadership by a powerful force of women. Interviewing so many amazing women entrepreneurs for my research and seeing so many young diverse women also receiving top 100 awards continues to inspire me in my work.

Clare Beckton BA LLP MPA, Executive in Residence, Centre for Research and Education on Women and Work at  Carleton University, is a Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award Winner in the Championis category for 2019. She has been recognized as a woman who has made a describable difference to the advancement of women in the workplace.

2020 Top 100 Nominations open on International Women’s Day – March 8, 2020. Click here to learn more about Top 100 and nominate a powerful female or even yourself!

About Clare:

Clare Beckton BA LLP MPA is Executive in Residence, Centre for Research and Education on Women and Work at Carleton University

2019 Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award Winner
RBC Champions

Clare Beckton is a champion for the advancement of women’s leadership, sought-after speaker, mentor, coach, facilitator and author of Own It: Your Success, Your Future, Your Life. She is a former professor of law, senior executive in the Canadian government including head of Status of Women Canada and founder of the Centre for Women in Politics and Public Leadership. Clare is co-author of A Force to Reckon With, Women Entrepreneurs and Risk and Everywhere, Everyday Innovating: Women Entrepreneurs and Innovation.


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