Inspired, Humbled and Making a Positive Impact

When you follow your dream, you don’t think about the fact that it might earn you a level of recognition beyond anything you could have imagined. In March of 2019, I was surprised to learn that I had been nominated for Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100™ by two individuals. While I was honoured to have received the nominations, I never thought I would actually win.

The gala – what a memorable occasion

November 21st was a special day. I was excited to attend the Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100™ gala event and, together with my immediate family, decided to bring all the treasured women in my life who have made an impact on me. This included my two aunts, and my mother. Among my four children, three are girls, which made my experience even more profound.

When they announced my name as one of the winners, I was shocked. Speechless. Humbled. And very emotional. I felt truly blessed to have my family and incredible female support network there with me, and it was extremely rewarding to know that others had recognized me for my dedication and hard work over the years. In that moment, my mind flashed back to my father’s speech at my wedding when he expressed his confidence in my intelligence and drive, and said he couldn’t wait to see what my husband and I would accomplish in the future. Unfortunately, my father passed away 8 years ago and even though he was there to witness the opening of our first two Lullaboo Childcare centers, I wasn’t able to celebrate with him on the night of the gala. Nevertheless, the gala was stunning and a thrill to be part of from start to finish. For me, the most meaningful aspect of it all was having the opportunity to be in the presence of so many profound and inspiring women in Canada.

Paying it forward

Pre and post gala, the overarching theme of Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100™ this year was empowerment and resilience. After attending both the Top 100 Summit and Top 100 Gala, the significance of my award began to sink in. This experience has made me realize I now have an even greater responsibility to my staff members. Given the fact that I have now been recognized as “one of Canada’s most powerful women”, it is up to me to take that acknowledgment and use it to further support and empower my employees. And it just so happens that of our 350 employees at Lullaboo, 98% are women.

In December 2019, I hosted “coffee events” at each Lullaboo location and invited all staff members to join me. Promoting open, candid and honest communication, I posed the question: “If you had a magic wand capable of anything, what would you do at Lullaboo to make an impact on yourself, your coworkers, your students or all three?” I was both amazed and impressed with what people presented. Some ideas were relatively small, others more significant. All had the potential to make an impact. I followed up and addressed each and every idea. In some cases, implementations have already been made. For other concepts, I prompted my employees to expand and explore their thought processes in order to further develop their ideas.

Given the nature of the Lullaboo business, I am in a position to impact very young lives for the betterment of our society, and to work collaboratively with the parents of those young lives. Within our organization, women perform 98% of the roles. As our business expands, we are creating an increasing number of jobs for Canadian women. I feel compelled more than ever before to guide, support and empower the people on my staff and in our local communities: by helping employees obtain a higher level of education and advance their careers in childcare education; by developing integration and inclusion strategies to assimilate ill and troubled children into our classrooms; by listening to the individual needs of families and tailoring each child’s care accordingly; and by offering delayed, reduced or flexible payment plans to single mothers who struggle financially but who also want to give their children the best possible start in life, to name a few.

Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100™ has both inspired and humbled me as a woman, as a mother and as an entrepreneur. In light of this honour, I have and will continue to put new plans into action so that child by child, parent by parent, employee by employee, I can strive to make a positive impact upon the lives of those around me.

Irini social postIn light of our current situation

Remember over these days, be extra compassionate with your neighbours. Practice patience and tolerance more then ever with your children, your parents, your grandparents. Seek help if you are feeling overwhelmed or anxious about these uncertain times. Use video conference tools as much as possible and share a smile with as many people as you can.

Lullaboo is a family and we will continue to provide the same great service when this is all over. Without you, our centers are just buildings. The children, the energy, the laughter, the singing, and the artwork that provide life in these buildings is sorely missed. We miss you, the children, our extended family.

When things eventually improve, and they will, we look forward to getting back to doing what we’ve been doing for so many years: Providing enrichment to young growing minds and allowing parents to have the peace of mind when they go to work. Until then, let’s keep learning and enjoy the time with our loved ones. We will see you soon!

Irini Mikhael, Chief Operating Officer for Lullaboo Nursery and Childcare Center Inc., is a Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award Winner in the BMO Entrepreneurs category for 2019. She has been recognized as a woman who owns and operates a thriving business in Canada.

2020 Top 100 Nominations are now open. Click here to learn more about Top 100 and nominate a powerful female or even yourself!


About Irini:

Irini Mikhael is Chief Operating Officer for Lullaboo Nursery and Childcare Center Inc.

2019 Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award Winner
BMO Entrepreneurs

After having her first daughter and being unsatisfied with the service and quality offered in childcare, Irini Mikhael, a professional engineer, decided to open her own childcare centre in 2008. Irini went back to school to obtain her Early Childhood Education degree to improve the program’s educational content. Today, Lullaboo has nine locations across Ontario, cares for more than 1,300 children and employs 350 educators.

 

How Tara Wilson Promotes Empowerment

Tara Wilson, SVP and General Manager at Paysafe’s Income Access is a 2019 Mercedes-Benz Emerging Leaders Top 100 Award Winner. Here’s her story:

Defining powerfully empowered

Being powerfully empowered is a responsibility. This includes developing both internal and external relationships. When done successfully, it can help build a brand of integrity, trust and inclusion. As someone who advocates for those values in the workplace, I feel a responsibility to empower, encourage and inspire people in their professional and personal lives. I am one of the lucky individuals who’s had strong advocates in my career for guidance and support when I wanted to give up. Now, it’s my turn to pay it forward.

In previous work environments, it was challenging to be hopeful about long-term career prospects. I wasn’t around many women leaders. To paraphrase Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In author: “I didn’t necessarily believe I deserved a seat at the table. I had imposter syndrome.”

Lean In was an eye-opener for me. It was the first time imposter syndrome, which describes those believing that their achievements weren’t “earned”, was explained in a way that was digestible. Leaving behind that mindset required continuous learning and listening to other people’s stories.

Eventually, I understood and embraced the reasons behind my recognition as a leader: I had earned it by putting in the work. Paysafe recognized my potential and drive and saw me as a person that could add value to our organization because of my passion, experience and skillset. They further encourage me by supporting my continued development.

Empowering individuals

Starting out from a data entry level and working hard to get where I am today, I understand the importance of being down to earth, relatable and open. I’ve been fortunate to hold several positions throughout my career that helped nurture these traits. Those experiences fostered a level of sociability allowing me to easily find common ground with my team, understanding what they go through on the frontline. I strive to share my knowledge gained throughout the years via active mentorship. Currently, I mentor over 20 individuals. Anything I can do to help people evolve their approach to achieving their goals is gratifying.

Working with WXN

Being a Mercedes-Benz Emerging Leaders award recipient was humbling. Part of that honor included an off-road driving experience on rocky terrain with the other WXN winners. Coincidentally, that experience mirrored the obstacles we sometimes confront throughout our careers.

Moreover, spending time with the winners and WXN CEO Sherri Stevens can’t help but make you feel powerful. If this wasn’t enough, WXN recognized us during an exceptional awards ceremony and through continuous content marketing support thereafter. All to say, they’ve done so much more than give me an award. They’ve connected me to other female leaders, shaping us as advocates for one another and future leaders. If you’re not already a WXN member, you should look at becoming one!

Leadership

The platinum rule, “do unto others as they would want done unto them,” is a rule I abide by in my day-to-day life. For a long time, leaders communicated with others using the golden rule, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” which I don’t believe is as impactful.

Good leaders understand individuals’ personalities, needs and communication style, which should be reflected when delivering feedback. I strongly believe that the way to get the best employee performance is to treat them the way they need to be treated and not the other way around. Kim Scott’s Radical Candor is a great resource on that topic.

A career-defining moment

In my past, I was asked to speak to vendors to sort out a costly business issue. The call included senior members at a former company (all men besides me). I began talking through my research, when I was interrupted by someone who commented that I shouldn’t “nag” the vendors to make my point. This prompted laughter from all on the call, completely deflating my morale. While I was still able to finish speaking, it was a defining moment in my career because it was finally clear that my contributions to the company weren’t appreciated. In that moment, I decided to move on.

Oftentimes, individuals go through experiences where they must make a similar decision. From my viewpoint, if you’re engaged, trying your hardest and producing quality work, but are not being seen or heard, you must evaluate if the leadership and work culture is a right fit for you.

D&I plans for 2020

Organizational diversity and inclusion (D&I) initiatives welcome employees’ unique traits. As a Paysafe D&I committee member, I believe that everyone deserves a voice. Those voices extend beyond women in business and include people with both visible and invisible characteristics like age, disability, race, sexual orientation and more.

My plans in 2020 are to elevate those around me by continuing to drive change and having the difficult conversations that may arise along the way.

Tara Wilson, SVP and General Manager at Paysafe’s Income Access is a 2019 Mercedes-Benz Emerging Leaders Top 100 Award Winner. She has been recognized as Canadian woman between the ages of 30 and 40 who has had successive leadership positions within her organizations and has proven a passion for learning and innovation.

2020 Top 100 Nominations are now open. Click here to learn more about Top 100 and nominate a powerful female or even yourself!


About Tara:

Tara Wilson, SVP and General Manager, Income Access (Paysafe Group)

Tara Wilson

2019 Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award Winner
Mercedes-Benz Emerging Leaders

Tara Wilson has almost two decades’ experience in the tech sphere and 16+ years’ expertise in operational leadership within the payments and marketing sectors.

Tara is both a mentor to others, helping them reach their maximum potential, and an advocate for Diversity & Inclusion, promoting the needs of women in the workplace and other frequently disempowered groups. In recognition of her achievements, Tara took home the 2018 Silver Stevie Award for Female Executive of the Year in Canada.

 

I am inspired and feel empowered to change the world

When I received the email that I was selected as one of Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 in the BMO Entrepreneur category, it was an unforgettable moment for me.

I was sitting in a boardroom with about 15 people, deciding on plans for a new development when I received the email from WXN that I was selected as one of Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100. I froze and re-read the email a few times hoping it said what I thought I read. I was suddenly immersed in a different world with two thoughts – I immediately thanked God and put myself into a state of gratitude to God and the universe. I then nudged my brother, Suraj, whom I share a very deep connection with. No words were exchanged, he just looked at me, shared an understanding and we both got up quietly and left the boardroom. We walked out, closed the door, he looks at me with concern in his eyes and said, “Reet?” I quietly yelled, “I GOT TOP 100!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Suraj is my best friend and the reason I am anywhere today. He has been so supportive of me and so it was only suiting that he was the first person to know. He hugged me and said “Dude, I knew you would get this!” We went back into the boardroom and tried to act nonchalant, while inside I was ecstatic!

I have grown up in an industry that has always been male-dominated. I started working at a very young age, in the hotel industry. At this time almost two decades ago, there were so few women in leadership roles, almost nil. I was always working against preconceived notions and judgements that were silently labelled on me, like a child had taped signs to my back that read “She’s the youngest in the room. She’s the only woman. She’s the boss’ daughter”. Dealing with this type of thinking from others at a young age, I taught myself very quickly that I will not work to prove myself to others but rather to prove it to myself. Always working hard to get ahead of the judgements placed on me being a South Asian Woman, this award for me, was the Universe saying, You Did It.

I had two thoughts when I was selected for this award – the first as I mentioned was gratitude. The second was a deep calling that I need to do more, more for women and more for society. I felt this honour is also a responsibility and I want to do everything I can to ensure that I give back and help elevate others. Being selected in the BMO category for entrepreneurs, I spent time with the BMO team and learned about different initiatives the organization has to offer. I was inspired by their efforts towards diversity and so, the day the award was announced, I also launched my company’s first Diversity and Inclusion Initiative. I have also created an internal mentorship program and hope to inspire others to rise in order to achieve their goals. I am inspired and feel empowered to change the world and to inspire others to do the same. I especially hope to inspire women to support one another, to elevate one another and to follow their passion and to achieve their dreams!

I have a Guru from India who has taught me so much when it comes to life and happiness. One of the best lessons I can share is to “Live life with Life”. We must not go through each day as a passing motion but rather live our lives with excitement, with passion, with life. I hope to continue to inspire others to also live life with life!

Reetu Gupta is a Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award Winner in the BMO Entrepreneurs category for 2019. She has been recognized as a woman who operates a thriving business in Canada.

2020 Top 100 Nominations are now open. Click here to learn more about Top 100 and nominate a powerful female or even yourself!


About Reetu:

Reetu Gupta is President and Chief Executive Officer of The Easton’s Group of Hotels/The Gupta Group.

Reetu Gupta

2019 Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award Winner
BMO Entrepreneurs

Under Reetu Gupta’s leadership The Easton’s Group of Hotels has become one of Canada’s largest private hotel development firms. The Gupta Group is an award-winning residential builder with five million square feet of mixed-used projects currently under development. Reetu is also the co-founder and chief strategy officer of Rogue Insight Capital Ltd., a private venture capital firm. She was recognized as a Top 40 Under 40 winner in 2017.

 

Why You’re More Powerful Than You Think

When you hear the word “power,” what comes to mind? If you had asked me this question a year ago, I would have said a CEO, a politician, perhaps even a social media influencer. But after being named one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women, I have a very different perspective on power.

Last year when Accenture submitted my nomination for the award, I thought they got it wrong. Me, powerful? As Accenture’s Canada lead for inclusion and diversity, I was confident of my expertise, my relevance and a certain amount of influence. Powerful, however, was not a word I would have ever used to describe myself. Truthfully, it made me pretty uncomfortable.

So, what exactly does it mean to be powerful?

On Power

I asked my closest friends what power means to them. I heard a wide range of responses that can be boiled down to two categories:

  1. Legitimacy in a social structure such as a person’s position, status or rank. Powerful people have authority, agency and can effect change.
  2. Personal characteristics such as influence, credibility, discipline, confidence and respect from others.

My husband summarized it in four words – charisma, likeability, results and leadership. And then there’s the Wikipedia definition of power as “the capacity of an individual to influence the conduct (behaviour) of others.”

So, what’s my takeaway from starting a conversation on power? That there are as many different definitions of power as the number of people I asked and the places I looked. Interestingly, WXN’s perspective on power varies further by specifically pointing out that the top 100 most powerful women in Canada aren’t necessarily powerful because they carry a certain title, but because:

“They are resilient and strong. They inspire, learn and grow. They have faced professional and personal challenges and come out stronger. They are champions and advocates for others.”

Now this definition I can get behind.

Rethinking Power

If we think about power in terms of resilience, personal growth and advocating for others, then we all have power – or at least the capacity to have it. We’re no longer restricted by external factors such as whether that top position opens up, whether others believe in our potential or whether business is booming. Instead, power is fully within our control.

As I look at power through this lens, I realize that many people around me who I hadn’t previously thought of as particularly powerful in the traditional sense actually have enormous amounts of power. My parents are one example. They left the Soviet Union with me and my brother under extremely challenging conditions, rebuilt their lives in Canada and are strong and passionate advocates for people and causes they care about. They are not CEOs, politicians or social media influencers, yet their power is tremendous.

Similarly, each of WXN Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women have an enormous amount of power. I’ve been fortunate enough to get to know many of them over the past few months, and their stories of personal strength, grit and empowering others are unmatched. I understand why each of them was selected, and why each is considered powerful.

Owning Your Power

“Powerfully empowered” is WXN’s 2019 theme for the Top 100 awards, which beautifully summarizes that every one of us has personal power. We are empowered to continue to grow, and we are especially empowered to advocate for others. Imagine a world where we all embrace the idea that advocating for others increases our personal power and the more we give back, the more power we gain.

One thought from WXN that particularly resonated with me is, “A strong woman stands up for herself but a powerful woman stands up for all of us.” Let’s stand up for others and let’s inspire, champion and advocate for those around us, for this is where our real power lies. Let’s own our power by continuing to learn and grow, share our experience with others and empower others through our actions and accomplishments.

If you already do this, then you’re more powerful than you think. And so am I.

Zoya Zayler, Canada Inclusion & Diversity Lead for Accenture, is a Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award Winner in the Mercedes-Benz Emerging Leaders category for 2019. She has been recognized for her successive leadership positions within her organization and proven passion for learning and innovation.

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 Zoya:

Zoya Zayler is Canada Inclusion & Diversity Lead for Accenture.

Zoya Zayler

2019 Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award Winner
Mercedes-Benz Emerging Leaders

Zoya Zayler drives Accenture Canada’s inclusion and diversity (I&D) strategy and provides the organization with strategic direction to achieve its I&D goals. A thought leader in this space, she has empowered Accenture to turn inclusion and diversity commitments into actionable practices that have advanced inclusivity and resulted in sustainable change. Zoya was recognized as the 2019 Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion D&I Practitioner of the Year and one of Human Resource Director’s 2018 Top 22 Most Promising Young HR Professionals in Canada.

A Top 100 Award Leads Women to That Journey of Success

Humbling. Exhilarating! This is what it felt like to be the winner of one of Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award.

To be a part of the Top 100 Summit, being amongst the most senior leaders in the industry; to be with them, connect with them, be a part of their discussions, it was a true learning experience.

To come to Canada as an immigrant, to start a business from my basement, to watch it grow into an all-women team and help over 15,000 students find placements in colleges and universities across Canada and around the world… This is a success story for all women, all immigrants, and especially, all immigrant women!

Being a Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award winner has re-enforced my belief that “Unless you return the knowledge you have you can’t grow within!” Hence, it’s imperative to continue growing one’s own knowledge. In 2019, I completed my continuing education and graduated. And how do I empower others? As a Co-founder and CEO of Education Consultants Canada (ECC), I recently hired two graduates to be a part of my all-women team. I strongly believe in giving opportunities to students, to do their internship with us and to work with us.

We all do business! But at ECC we aspire to do it a certain way, where our women employees leave with more than just job skills, they are empowered with vital communication and life skills that will carry them throughout their professional and personal journey.

As a winner of a 2019 Top 100 award, it gave the opportunity to experience the Resilience Retreat Workshop conducted by Bank of Montreal. Through interactions and exercises with other award winners, I learned my key leadership strength is empowering my team and I got to take away the feeling of wellness of mind, spirit and body from the workshop as it was about “building resilience from the inside out for women entrepreneurs”.

The theme for the 2019 Top 100 award was ‘A strong woman stands up for herself, but a powerful woman stands up for all of us”. This win is for my all-women’s team! They are the unsung heroes who are young adults just out of school, carrying the enormous responsibility of building, shaping careers, counselling students from all over the world and helping them to integrate into the diverse community.

The path to discovering my personal power as an immigrant woman started with a road-block. I had an academic degree with over 13 years of experience working overseas but could not get my accomplishments recognized when I moved to Canada. It made entering the workforce initially difficult. However, I preferred to look at the obstacles as challenges, and it led to carving a path of untapped opportunity, which has been instrumental in my journey. I wanted to ensure that others who arrived new to Canada didn’t have to face similar struggles, hence, ECC gives opportunities to the novice as a new hire, especially international students. I believe that for students to succeed in their studies in Canada, they have to be armed with right information and the right support structure. I knew I could make an enormous difference, not just to students, but also to Canada! When a student is nurtured to academic success, it paves the way for that student to decide to remain, integrate with the culture and diversity and be a part of the community. THAT is the dream! And ECC helps in aligning that “Canadian dream,” which every immigrant carries with them when leaving their home country.

A Top 100 award win encourages, inspires and recognizes the “unsung heroes”. Women who are pushing boundaries every day and by doing so inspiring and changing lives unknowingly. It is vitally important and a social obligation to give back to the community when one is in a position to do so. It is consequential because only then can one amplify one’s own knowledge, growth and succeed within and outside.

A Top 100 award leads women to “that” journey of success, by giving a forum to share their story of grit, experiences, and personal power that truly allows them to be in sync with diversity, empowerment and inclusion.

Sanchari Sen Rai, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Education Consultants Canada (ECC), is a Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award Winner in the BMO Entrepreneurs category for 2019. She has been recognized as a women who owns and operates a thriving business in Canada.

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 Sanchari:

Sanchari Sen Rai is Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Education Consultants Canada (ECC).

Sanchari Sen Rai

2019 Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award Winner
BMO Entrepreneurs

Sanchari Sen Rai and her all-women team have helped thousands of international students work through the onerous process of applying to study in Canada, getting accepted and flourishing both academically and in their lives. Sanchari believes it is a vitally important social obligation for businesses to give back to the community when they are in a position to do so.

 

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.

 

Top 100 winners share: 6 ways we can all be powerful

Power. Is it your physical strength, the amount of money you have or your title within your organization? Or is it the way you give unselfishly, meet adversity with bravery and stand up for others?

“Our mission and challenge to you today is redefining what power means to you,” said Sherri Stevens, Owner and CEO of WXN and CBDC. It’s a call-to-action she shared with all of us during this year’s Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Awards Summit and Gala at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on Nov. 21, 2019.

And to help us all on that mission (should you choose to accept it): our Top 100 Winners, who shared their stories and knowledge with a crowd of over 1,200 women and allies.

So what can we do in our daily lives to be powerful and make that mission a reality? Here are six lessons from our speakers and winners.

  1. Learn it, earn it and return it

Success doesn’t happen in a silo. When one person succeeds, we all succeed, said Rola Dagher, president of Cisco Canada and 2019 Top 100 award winner. Hence her philosophy of “Learn it, earn it and return it” – no matter where you are in your career, if you’ve been blessed with an opportunity, use it to support and uplift those around (and those who follow in your footsteps).

  1. Quit that stinkin’ thinkin’

People fear what they don’t understand, said Victoria LaBillois, a Mi’gmaq entrepreneur, president of Wejuseg Construction, owner of Wejipeg Excavation, mentor for Indigenous women and 2019 Top 100 award winner. That’s why we have to do everything we can to create opportunities for other people, be bold and step into our power.

  1. Know who you’re fighting for

It’s a basic truth of life, said Melissa Grelo, co-host of CTV’s The Social and 2019 Top 100 award winner: we can’t know what we’re fighting for if we don’t know who we’re fighting for. Those of us who have privilege must understand that many of our sisters start their fight from a different level. How do we fix that? Stand next to them, but never in front of them. Help make their voices heard. 

  1. Leave the armour behind

“Can you think of a situation where you’ve seen a leader step out with courage and vulnerability?” asked Jenn Lofgren, founder and executive coach at Incito Executive and Leadership Development and 2019 Top 100 award winner. It starts with understanding what it really means to be vulnerable and accepting (even embracing) that things are going to be uncomfortable sometimes. Now that’s courage.

  1. Break the silence

Samra Zafar, author of A Good Wife: Escaping the Life I Never Chose and 2019 Top 100 award winner, knows what it’s like to be silent. Married as a teenager to a much older man, abused throughout her marriage and denied access to the education she desperately wanted, Zafar was not alone – there are millions living the life she used to know. That’s why it’s up to us to break the silence for those silences that are yet to be broken.

  1. Think seven generations ahead

Mohawk wisdom teaches us that, in the decisions we make today, we must not focus on the impact to our own grandchildren but rather on our great-grandchildren’s great-grandchildren – the seventh generation to come. That philosophy fuels WXN Hall of Fame alumni Roberta Jamieson’s goal of making sure every Indigenous youth graduates school through her organization, Indspire.

Congratulations again to all of our winners, past, present and future – and thank you for sharing your wisdom!

Why Sandra Stuart says diversity isn’t a one-woman show

Imagine you just moved to an office in a different country.

You’re in a business meeting with your new team and following along okay, though not great (you’re still learning the language, after all). Everyone around you is joking with each other – and you can’t shake the feeling that you’re on the outside looking in.

It might not be deliberate, but “it just doesn’t feel very good,” said Sandra Stuart, president and CEO of HSBC Bank Canada and the inaugural winner of the WXN 2016 Vanguard Inclusion Award.

The reason she knows how it feels? She’s been excluded before. Through her storied career that began in 1980 as a Saturday teller with HSBC, she’s held roles as far afield as Brazil and sat in meetings exactly like that.

“Your challenge is to figure out how you can belong, how you can fit into the culture,” she said.

Though she didn’t speak Portuguese at first, Stuart is thankful she found people who helped her find a way to belong. It inspired her to take action, too. “I don’t like how this feels and I know I can do something about it,” she said.

It’s been 18 years since her time in Curitiba, Brazil, but it put matters of diversity and inclusion on her radar. And for the last 9 years as COO and now CEO, she’s made great strides in making sure employees at HSBC Canada feel welcome, no matter who they are or where they come from.

Little by little

While Stuart’s proud that “balanced and inclusive is just how we are now,” it didn’t happen overnight. It’s been a concerted effort that grew little by little over the last decade.

“It’s not any one thing. It’s a combination of many things. It’s a combination of spirit, people, energy level, sponsorship, education, a deliberate corporate framework,” she said.

A standout from that mix is what HSBC calls employee resource groups.

“These are groups of employees who have a specific diversity theme, and it’s an opportunity to come together,” she said. “It’s an opportunity for them to educate the organization in terms of not what makes them different, but what differentiates them and how we can learn about it, how we can be inclusive, how we can understand and appreciate difference.”

Within their organization, the groups are wildly successful, she added, since it’s a roots-up movement fueled by employee enthusiasm. “It was kind of lightning in a bottle and it still is on a lot of levels,” she said.

Then there’s the data. HSBC regularly reviews how specific designated groups are progressing, Stuart said, which leads to in-depth discussions about why problems exist and what they can do to correct their course.

About 10 years ago, for example, those numbers showed that there weren’t enough women in leadership and middle management. Digging deeper, they found that women often felt like it was tough to integrate back into the workforce after mat leave. HSBC changed their policies to allow for more flexibility.  They also set targets and she’s proud to report they’ve had a gender balanced board of directors and Executive Committee since 2013.

“The first thing you want to do is, you want to understand what your workforce looks like,” she explained. “Why don’t I have women in senior roles? What is the turnover and attrition rate? At what level do they attrite and what job family are they in when they attrite? That data allows you to have conversations that lead to policy and behaviour changes.”

They use scorecards to measure the results of diversity and inclusion as part of their performance objectives as well. Though the exact numbers are a trade secret, Stuart can share one thing: the goals are challenging, fair, achievable and thoughtful.

And they’ve seen results, she added – so much so that D&I is a given in their culture. Take the Pride lanyard that hangs around her neck, for example. “It’s the little things you do that continually reinforce your belief in the power of the diverse workforce,” she said.

Keeping up with changes

For Stuart, diversity isn’t just about gender.  She is trying to make her organization a place that people feel comfortable to be truly themselves at work regardless of gender, ethnic background, sexual orientation, disability or generation.  HSBC also supports mental wellness and provide access to a broad range of resources, too. It’s both the right thing to do and good business, she said.

After all, they’re a global organization, serving people from around the world. It makes sense to reflect that within their own teams. “When you’re on a phone call in HSBC, an international phone call, you see the power of diversity,” she said.

Winning the Inclusion Vanguard award meant a lot because it signaled that her organization is moving in the right direction, even if it took her by surprise.

“I was incredibly humbled. I was honored. And I thought, ‘oh my goodness, I haven’t done enough,’” she said. “You sometimes wonder if you’re making a difference, and when the market recognizes you with something like that, the whole team gets to celebrate it.”

 

We are proud to partner with Accenture for the Inclusion Vanguard Award, a prestigious part of our annual Top 100 Awards! In 2016, we honoured Sandra Stuart with the inaugural Inclusion Vanguard award for her work that she has done, not only with HSBC Bank Canada but towards diversity and inclusion in Canada-wide. At our 2019 Top 100 Awards on November 21, we will celebrate a new winner of the Inclusion Vanguard Award, recognizing a leader who has made a remarkable impact in driving real, lasting change. The Inclusion Vanguard Award symbolizes what we all strive to achieve: a stronger, more inclusive Canada!

 

She’s also proud that HSBC brought home the Government of Canada’s Sector Distinction & Outstanding Commitment, Employment Equity Awards for the past three years running.

She’s of two minds when it comes to awards like this. The first: she’s excited. Positive attention helps inspire others to do good things, she said. But she looks forward to the day when diversity is so baked into our organizations that it doesn’t need to be called out.

“Bringing positive attention and positive action is a good thing. But I’m sorry we still need them,” she said.

Still, all credit goes to her team who made the win possible, because they lead by example every day of the year, she added.

“The award represented the really hard work of the team around me. So it was something super positive that I could share with everyone.” No matter where they’re from.


To learn more about the Accenture Inclusion Vanguard Award and our Top 100 Awards, visit our Top 100 page.

Why Rich Donovan puts “delight” ahead of “diversity”

Donovan, Rich portraitIt was 2008 and Rich Donovan had just crunched the numbers on how many people live with disabilities worldwide.

The United Nations at the time reported the number around 600 million. His analysis pegged that population at 1.2 billion.

“I actually had to do the analysis three times because I didn’t believe the numbers. They were just too big,” he said. “It’s a pretty ballsy statement to make that the UN’s wrong by a factor of two, right?”

But he was right – and that’s the moment Donovan, founder of Return on Disability, author and past winner of the Women’s Executive Network’s 2018 Inclusion Vanguard Award, knew there was a huge, untapped opportunity touching 53 per cent of the world and worth an estimated $8 trillion.

 

We are proud to partner with Accenture for the Inclusion Vanguard Award, a prestigious part of our annual Top 100 Awards! In 2018, we had the absolute pleasure of honouring Rich Donovan for his extraordinary and notable actions towards diversity and inclusion in Canada. At our 2019 Top 100 Awards on November 21, we will celebrate a new winner of the Inclusion Vanguard Award, recognizing a leader who has made a remarkable impact in driving real, lasting change. The Inclusion Vanguard Award symbolizes what we all strive to achieve: a stronger, more inclusive Canada!

 

Today, the number of people with disabilities has grown to 1.7 billion people, yet it’s an entire market that’s historically been overlooked. “From my perspective, this is the reason why every company that faces an end consumer, every government that faces an end citizen, should put [disability] at the core of their experience design,” he said.

That’s why he’s changing the conversation.

Building a new approach

In a world where companies talk about diversity and inclusion, Donovan is talking about something else entirely: markets and delighting customers.

Not surprising, given he used to manage about $6 billion in equity as a Wall Street trader. “The trader in me decided to treat disability as a market. I went about doing the analysis as I would for any other trade,” he said.

Trading is where his diversity journey starts, first through Merrill Lynch where he helped with on-campus recruitment efforts for women and visible minorities. “But we weren’t recruiting people with disabilities. In fact, nobody was. And so we decided as a group to add disabilities to that recruiting process.”

That led to Lime Connect, a third-party recruitment organization he founded in 2006 that grew out of those efforts. They connected with other big names like PepsiCo, Google and Goldman Sachs. It’s also where Donovan learned a key lesson: “It’s not about numbers and quotas; it’s about people. And people have desires to be the best that they can be.”

Therein lies the problem with a lot of diversity and inclusion programs, he said. “They haven’t taken the time or the effort, or made the investment, to really understand how those dimensions impact their revenue formula. They haven’t started to build these changes in demand into their product mix, their R&D mix, their customer experience.”

Now, with Return on Disability, he’s leading the charge on a new way of approaching the conversation. “This is more about, how can we best serve our customers? How can we best delight our customers?” he said.

“And the way you do that is you deliver to them what they want.”

Building momentum

Donovan’s decision to start a business focused on that premise was a huge risk, especially since no one else was having those conversations ten years ago.

“When you take a risk like we did, leaving a pretty good job and building something that was totally out of left field at the time, you realize that not many people do that,” he said.

Inclusion Vanguard Award
We have honoured deserving recipients with the Inclusion Vanguard award annually, at our Top 100 Awards, since 2016.

That made winning the Inclusion Vanguard Award that much more meaningful, he added. It honours Canadian leaders, both male and female, who champion change and outstanding commitment to a broader diversity agenda within their organizations, clients and communities.

“At the end of the day, professionals don’t do things for awards; they do things for rewards. They do things for profit. They do things to better their business. But between today and the realization of the market, which could be ten years, you need some steps along the way to say yeah, you’re headed in the right direction.”

The award also signals that the conversation he started is becoming mainstream and reduces risk for others who want to follow his lead.

“It’s helpful for other companies to see this is something that you too can be successful at,” he said.

Building the future

Today, Return on Disability has 15 clients globally, ranging from multi-national banks to governments that embrace people with disabilities as valuable customers who drive growth and revenue.

Donovan’s also become an author, publishing Unleash Different last year, which chronicles his journey to Columbia Business School and beyond as a person living with a disability himself.

When he looks back on his accomplishments over the past 13 years, he’s encouraged by the change he’s seen… even if it’s slow-going.

“Organizations and brands are incredibly complex. They’re full of people with different needs, they’re full of corporate mechanisms that we navigate,” he said. “Change on this scale is a very difficult thing to do.”

He’s seen change pick up pace for those 1.7 billion people with disabilities worldwide and the people in their lives, in products like Google’s autonomous car, Amazon’s Alexa and even Disney characters that put accessibility first. He’s seen it in his own work and the work of his clients, too.

“We’ve proven our model and our work…Our clients have put packaging and commercial machinery and technology on shelves globally,” he said.

But there’s still work to do in the market – and he’s ready to do it. “We’re still talking 15 companies out of 5,000, and that doesn’t even include government. So the opportunity’s still there.”


To learn more about the Accenture Inclusion Vanguard Award and our Top 100 Awards, visit our Top 100 page.