Growing as a leader by building your own org chart

One of the biggest honours I have received is being named to the WXN Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100. I attended the gala in Toronto last November where I met distinguished women of all backgrounds from across the country, from my fellow award winners to the 10 Hall of Fame Inductees. The opportunity to surround myself and connect with amazing women was one I couldn’t miss.

Having worked with executives over the years as a leadership coach, I’ve found that one of the best ways to set yourself on the path to leadership success is by surrounding yourself with a diverse group of mentors. I like to refer to this as developing a personal organizational chart.

What is a personal org chart?

Businesses have org charts to define roles and organize employees by skill sets, making sure their bench is full of the right people to work towards a common goal. Think of yourself as the CEO of “Me Inc.” Who are the people and what are the departments that you need to meet your goals? And I don’t mean just at work. Beyond a boss and direct reports, who is part of the informal team that helps you get things done?

Your personal org chart should include:

  • Peers
  • Personal advisors
  • Mentors (lots of different kinds) and mentees
  • Your boss, team, and others across your organization or outside of it

The various “departments” of your org chart should be able to provide you with:

  • Emotional support
  • Personal development
  • Professional development
  • Mentorship or coaching
  • Feedback and thoughtful discussion (a sounding board)

The importance of mentors in your org chart

If you’re looking to grow the mentorship arm of your personal org chart, you’ve come to the right place. Before receiving the Top 100 honour last year, I’ve been involved with WXN in different capacities, mostly from my hometown of Calgary. Now, I am also proud to share that my company, Incito, has also become a national supporting partner of the Wisdom Mentoring™ program.

You can have more than one type of mentor in your personal org chart:

  • Internal mentors – this could be a person within your organization who performs the same function as you do. You can also seek someone who performs a different function, to offer different perspectives.
  • External mentors – look for those who are in the same industry as you, as well as someone who is in a different industry.

How to find a mentor (or become one yourself)

Mentor diversity is critical in your growth as a leader. I also recommend seeking mentors who are going through the same things you are going through, whether professionally, like experience dealing with a merger, for example, or personally, such as having young children while working. Being able to relate to someone with similar experiences is beneficial because you can work through challenges together, and share in the experience. It’s also nice to seek mentors who have dealt with similar challenges in the past, but are well past them, so that you can learn from how they got through the situation and know what it might be like on the other side. You do not always have to formally ask someone to be your mentor. Sometimes the dynamic occurs naturally; an informal mentor/mentee relationship can relieve some pressure around the expectations from the partnership. If you’re struggling to get started, I’ve written more about how finding a mentor doesn’t have to be awkward.

If someone approaches you to be their mentor and you don’t feel comfortable or qualified, try your best to fight these feelings of Imposter Syndrome. Becoming a mentor yourself not only enables you to share your own knowledge and wisdom with others, it also opens up your worldview as you connect with your mentees. For example, after being named to the WXN Top 100, a mentor/mentee matching organization called Elevate Aviation approached me to mentor an officer in the Canadian Armed Forces. Even though I am technically her mentor, I’ve found that I have received so much more in return – I have already learned so much from her sharing her experiences.

If you are looking to become a mentor, you should reach out to potential mentees whose work you find exciting. You can find them by volunteering, networking, or even following someone’s work that you want to be part of. Go to events big and small. Reach out to your network and tell them about your interests. They might know someone looking to connect, whether or not they have expressed interest in formal mentorship. Put your name forward for any awards, programs, or networks, even at universities.

WXN is a great way to get started on building your org chart’s mentorship arm, whether you are looking for a mentor or a mentee. WXN’s mentorship programs often pair women from different geographical locations and diverse backgrounds. You can learn from others who are doing great things, and pick up skills or insights that you can bring to your own community.

I am grateful to be a Top 100 Winner because it has also helped me connect with my fellow winners: many women with whom I am able to build relationships over time. Forevermore, we have something in common, and we’ve been able to reach out to each other because of it. I’ve stayed in touch with Sandra Sutter, Victoria LaBillois, and Jessica Lui, to name a few. If you have something like this in common with someone you want to connect with, don’t be shy and reach out. The fact that I am able to say “Hey, I’m also a WXN winner. Let’s have coffee,” is just as good as any warm intro.

Learn more about WXN’s Wisdom Mentoring™ program and how you can benefit from a mentor who has faced challenges like yours, how they got to where they are now.

Jenn Lofgren, Founder, Executive Leadership Coach & Consultant for Incito Executive & Leadership Development is a 2019 BMO Entrepreneurs Top 100 Award Winner. She has been recognized 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 Jenn:

Jenn Lofgren – Founder, Executive Leadership Coach & Consultant, Incito Executive & Leadership Development

Jenn Lofgren

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

Jenn Lofgren helps executives across Canada and worldwide unlock their leadership potential and grow into inspired, authentic leaders. She is one of only 60 recipients of the esteemed Master Certified Coach (MCC) designation in Canada and five per cent of coaches worldwide. Jenn is a champion of local enterprise, an ally to women in business, an actively involved citizen and a passionate member of the global business community.

 

 

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.

 

“Powerfully Empowered” isn’t just our theme; it’s our mission

Every year, we pick a theme for our Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Awards.

It’s a challenging process because the theme represents many aspects of what we do. It reflects who we are as an organization, the accomplishments of our winners, the diversity and inclusion environment as it stands today, the challenges professional women face and the amazing work we’re all doing together to break down barriers for each other.

Picking this year’s theme, “Powerfully Empowered,” was no different. It’s about women who show their power not through their standing, but rather through the way they inspire and champion others, share their knowledge, create change and help others achieve their best. In short, it’s about celebrating women who don’t stand up just for themselves – they stand up for all of us.

As owner and CEO of the Women’s Executive Network (WXN) and the Canadian Board Diversity Council (CBDC), I often travel across Canada to speak with leaders across roles and industries. Through those conversations, I hear one thing over and over: “I don’t feel comfortable with the word power. I don’t feel powerful.

In fact, for many of us, we’re just plain uncomfortable identifying with the word “power” – we may even feel ashamed of it. We equate it to the car we drive, the office we hold, our physical strength, the money we have or the influence we exert. Some of us even attach negative connotations, especially when it refers to a woman.

Should we stop using the word? Quite the opposite – we should use it more, though in a different way. We need to toss out our old relationship to the word and start celebrating real power.

What is real power? It’s not how we lift ourselves up; it’s how we lift up everyone else around us. It’s quiet in its confidence. It’s unselfish and giving. It’s authentic, humble and honest. It’s kind and joyful. It’s shared, not hidden. It’s brave in moments of adversity and difficulty. It’s pushing forward when you feel like giving up. It’s the way we help other people feel powerful.

When I think of some of our most powerful leaders – leaders like Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Michele Obama – I realized they all have these traits.

And so does every one of the 110 winners of this year’s Top 100 Awards. They personify this kind of power, across our country and across arts, business, sports, science, entertainment, entrepreneurship, technology, the skilled trades and the public sector. They’re making an impact in their industry while inspiring and empowering others to follow in their footsteps.

Thank you to KPMG in Canada, an empowering organization, for their support and leadership as the Presenting Partner for the Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Awards. As with everything they do, KPMG gives 100 per cent of their support to the recognition and advancement of women. They also give 100 per cent in their partnerships and we are grateful.

This year, “Powerfully Empowered” isn’t just a theme. It’s a call to action for all of us to redefine the word “power” itself, to change the way we think about power in our lives and help others feel powerful in theirs.


To learn more about our 2019 Top 100 Awards, presented by KPMG, visit our Top 100 page.

Presenting Partner:

KPMG Top 100 Presenting Partner

Eyes on the Bigger Prize: Gender Parity

Awards are nice, but my eyes are on the bigger prize: gender parity.

When I was recognized as a WXN Most Powerful Women Top 100 Award Winner for 2018, I was truly happy. Not because I’d have a nice, shiny award for myself, but because I know that being recognized as a leader means people will listen to what I have to say. And I want to use my voice to achieve an even better prize: gender parity.

The simple fact is in Canada only 5.3% of CEOs are women. This is shocking given that a 2014 Statistics Canada report says women now make up almost half (47%) of the total number of workers in this country. Clearly, there’s a huge gap for women between labour force participation and labour force leadership, and I’m determined to be a force for change.

I want Canada to achieve gender parity and I’ve got some ideas on how to get there. Just as I’ve spent my career creating a pipeline of investor-ready companies, I’m now focused on building a pipeline of executive-ready female leaders. We can’t appoint women to leadership positions if they haven’t been groomed for the demands of the job, so here’s what I’m doing to help bridge the gap and what you can do, too.

Mentor Young Women

The way I see it, young women need mentorship and guidance on how to build a career to achieve their dreams. They need exposure from a young age to leadership development courses, peer support and access to executives who can provide advice and counsel along the way. If they’re not granted access to C-suite insights, it will be far more difficult for them to cut through the glass ceiling. I make a point of connecting with young women, as I have had the fortunate opportunity of working with various groups like the WXN that specifically mentor younger women earlier in their career who are keen to be our next generation leaders.  I try to remind them that when we take responsibility for our future, opportunities will emerge that weren’t otherwise possible. Being in health sciences, we need more senior level talent regardless of gender and so the opportunity to be a leader is wide open – we just have to work for it.  Through Accel-Rx, we have specifically hosted events to share learnings and inspire women to fuel their own personal and professional growth.  It’s been very rewarding to see the progress made.

Speak Out

Now more than ever before, women are demonstrating their leadership, exerting their influence and speaking out. Around the world, we are rallying together for change, and we need to continue to make our voices heard to change our lives – and those of others – for the better. For me, that means not remaining silent or complacent around a boardroom table. It means speaking my mind even if I think others might disagree with me. And it absolutely means bringing up gender issues when called for. I can’t be a silent witness to the gender gap. I believe I must call it out and work towards changing it so one day soon the talent pool will be gender-balanced. Speaking out also means me taking advantage of my many public speaking opportunities to advocate for gender parity to larger audiences. The next time you take the stage, think about how you can also lend your voice.

Be Flexible

As an employer, I lead by example and offer a flexible work environment. This is especially important for women who are often juggling kids and a career at the same time. We can’t achieve gender parity with the same rigid, antiquated workforce standards that were largely created by men, for men.  If someone needs to leave work early one day to deal with a family commitment, so be it. The time can be made up later.

If someone wants to work from home, why not? In this day and age, with technology connecting us, having to work in an office, 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, needs to be revisited. No matter where you are, it’s easy to work remotely. And if you have a job that can be done from home, why can’t you choose how and when you’d like to work?

In short, mentorship, speaking out and flexibility support gender parity, which leads to happy employees and better results for my company.

Did you know that advancing women’s equality could add $12 trillion to the global economy by 2025*? Talk about a compelling economic reason to close the gap! And, we should also remember the human reason as well: women and men are equals and deserve to be treated as such.

While I greatly appreciate my WXN Award, I’m looking ahead to the greater prize of gender parity – because that’s a victory we can all celebrate.

*https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/employment-and-growth/how-advancing-womens-equality-can-add-12-trillion-to-global-growth

Natalie Dakers, President & CEO of Accel-Rx Health Sciences Accelerator Society, is a Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award Winner in the CIBC Trailblazers & Trendsetters category for 2018. She has been recognized as a woman who has made a major impact in her field in Canada. Natalie is a leading figure in the Canadian biopharmaceutical industry and one of B.C.’s most influential women.

On November 21 we will honour women in the CIBC Trailblazers & Trendsetters category, as well as in a new category for 2019 – Manulife Science and Technology. The Manulife Science and Technology Award celebrates the female leaders in STEM roles who are challenging the status quo for knowledge and female empowerment.  Click here to learn more about Top 100 and don’t forget in 2020 to nominate a powerful female or even yourself!

 


About Natalie:

Natalie Dakers is President & CEO of Accel-Rx Health Sciences Accelerator Society.

Dakers, Natalie portrait

2018 Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award Winner
CIBC Trailblazers & Trendsetters

Natalie Dakers is a leading figure in the Canadian biopharmaceutical industry and one of B.C.’s most influential women. With four successful start-up companies to her credit, she’s regarded as a Life Science industry visionary with an ability to get things done.

Ms. Dakers is currently President and CEO of Accel-Rx Health Sciences Accelerator Society, an organization that identifies and supports promising early-stage companies by providing seed stage capital and expertise. Ms. Dakers was also founding President and CEO of the Centre for Drug Research and Development (CDRD), a national Centre of Excellence for Commercialization and Research of biopharmaceutical products. She subsequently went on to create and run CDRD Ventures Inc., the commercial arm that supported company creation at CDRD, before creating Accel-Rx. Prior to establishing CDRD, Ms. Dakers co-founded Neuromed Pharmaceuticals Inc., a private biopharmaceutical company developing drugs for chronic pain, anxiety, epilepsy, and cardiovascular diseases where she successfully raised $70 million in three rounds of venture financing.

Ms. Dakers has served on many local, national, and private company boards and advisory panels and has garnered numerous honours including Startup Canada’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award (2015), WXN Top 100 Most Powerful Women (2016) and Business in Vancouver’s Most Influential Woman Award (2017).

 

A Conversation with Copperleaf CEO and Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award Winner Judi Hess

Judi Hess is the CEO of Copperleaf™, a Vancouver-based software company that provides decision analytics to companies managing critical infrastructure. Renowned as a visionary leader and strong advocate for empowering women in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), she has increased the percentage of female employees from 10% to over 30% during her time as Copperleaf CEO. A long-time proponent of increasing diversity in the workforce, she was recently featured as one of B.C.’s Most Influential Women in BCBusiness Magazine and was the recipient of the 2018 BC Tech Person of the Year Award.

How did you feel when you learned you were selected as a Top 100 Winner?

I was thrilled to be included in this year’s list of outstanding Canadian women leaders. It’s wonderful to celebrate the success of Canadian women and the advances we’re making in the business world, and organizations like WXN allow female corporate leaders from a diverse range of industries to share knowledge and ideas.

How will you use your status as a winner in the coming year to inspire those around you?

I want to build a movement that will empower future generations to reach their fullest potential. I’ve always had a passion for driving more diversity in our field and I hope that increasing the visibility of women in leadership positions will help attract a more diverse workforce and inspire the next generation.

How can we achieve gender diversity in STEM?

Renowned writer and social critic, James Baldwin, once said, “You are formed by what you see.” That’s why it’s so important for young women to see strong female leaders in their environment. In this age of the #MeToo Movement, it’s imperative for women in STEM to find their voices and realize that they belong here too.

Attrition of women in STEM fields is severe. In high school in Canada, girls make up around 50% of mathematics/physics students. By university, the percentage of females majoring in engineering is around 25%, and in the professional world, women comprise less than 13% of the engineering workforce after five years in practice.

It is vital to actively hire and retain more women in male-dominated industries so we can compete into the future.  It is possible to change this trend. When my father went to law school in the 1940s, there was only one woman in his class. Today, two generations later, women constitute around 50 percent of law school students in North America. We need to strive to have the same representation in STEM, because diversity brings success and enhances our workforce.

Do you have any early and lasting lessons you can share?

Determination and believing in yourself are hugely important for success. When I was rising up the corporate ladder, I was often the only woman in the room, but I never let that make me feel like I didn’t deserve to be there.

I’ve also learned a lot from failing. Failing is okay as long as you learn from it, and those early lessons helped to make me more resilient in the long run.

What advice would you give someone who aspires to become a leader? 

Seize opportunities when they are presented to you. If anyone asks you to take on a leadership role, just say ‘yes’. Most women have less confidence than they should in their abilities, so if a leader sees potential in you, you should probably trust them and go for it!

Judi Hess, CEO of Copperleaf, is a Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award Winner in the HSBC Corporate Executives category for 2018. She has been recognized as a woman holding a senior position in a Canadian company. Judi is also renowned as a visionary leader and strong advocate for empowering women in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

On November 21 we will honour women in the HSBC Corporate Executives category, celebrating those in senior positions who have made steady progress and are forging the way and breaking down barriers for future women.  Click here to learn more about Top 100 and don’t forget in 2020 to nominate a powerful female or even yourself!

 


About Judi:

Judi Hess is Chief Executive Officer of Copperleaf.

Hess, Judi portrait

2018 Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award Winner
HSBC Corporate Executives

Judi Hess is the CEO of Copperleaf, a Vancouver-based software company that provides decision analytics to companies managing critical infrastructure. Under Judi’s leadership, Copperleaf has become one of the top 20 biggest software companies in BC, and one of the Fastest-Growing Software Companies in Canada.

Judi began her career as a software developer at MDA and spent 14 years there before joining Creo Inc. in 1995. She rose to become president in 2002, a position she held until Creo was acquired by Eastman Kodak for just under $1 Billion USD in 2005. During her 4 year tenure at Kodak, Judi was a general manager and vice president within the graphic communications group, a corporate officer and vice president of Eastman Kodak, and head of Kodak Canada.

Judi is currently a member of the Federal Economic Strategy Clean Technology Table, and on the board of directors of Pason Systems Inc. (TSX: PSI) and Neurio. In 2018, Judi was recognized by the BC Tech Association as Person of the Year, and in 2017 as an Influential Women in Business, an award celebrating B.C.’s most outstanding business women.

Originally from Toronto, Judi and her family live in Vancouver. She holds an Honours Bachelor of Mathematics Degree With Distinction – Dean’s Honours List from the University of Waterloo, and is an avid downhill skier.

Women in STEM and Canadian Energy

I’ve always been a geek. Since childhood, I’ve been interested in how things work, and the parts that create systems. “Why?”, and more importantly, “why not?” both featured often in my speech. I became an engineer; it felt like the right fit for me, connecting science and the practical application of it in the everyday. I have never felt that I was limited due to my gender.

The ability to solve challenges in finding and producing oil and gas, and the phenomenal opportunities to do this in the province of Alberta were gifts I received. I progressed from the training of a larger Company, sitting rigs in Southern Alberta, to starting up and running small Companies with teams of other technical professionals and learning all the aspects of the business. Now in my late 40s, I remind myself of my “Why?” and I keep this spirit of discovery alive. This is especially important today working in the Canadian Energy Industry.

We are living in a polarized time in our country on issues of energy – related to the environment and to our economy. Our resources are our lifeblood, no more felt than in Alberta right now. We want to use them carefully and thoughtfully. For all the effort being spent on social media missives, we would do far better to get together and look for those “third ways” – how do we spend not only our money, but our time?

What appears to limit us is only the proving ground for the solutions to come.

We need the biggest networks of people possible, minds from all backgrounds, working on better technologies, new ways of thinking, and “third ways” of solving a problem. The data technologies emerging will generate new methods in managing our projects – this is already starting to happen. Canada is a leader in environmental technologies, and our home grown systems can be exported around the globe.

I will say to anyone, if this opportunity intrigues you, then STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) career fields need you. STEM fields have been known to be male-dominated, and I will also say that THE TIME IS NOW for more women to join these fields and contribute their gifts to society.

I have answered “Why?” on the question of the opportunity for women in STEM, and specifically in the Canadian Energy Industry.

If you know an inspiring woman that is making an impact in ANY STEM field please help recognize her contributions by nominating her for Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 in the new STEM category [Manulife Science and Technology category]. This category will help acknowledge and recognize women in STEM fields and create visibility for other women in STEM.

Because, as we continue to share our stories, the question should be “Why not?” All the best in your journey of inquiry.

Heather Christie-Burns, President and CEO of High Ground Energy Inc., is a Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award Winner in the CIBC Trailblazers & Trendsetters category for 2018. She has been recognized as a woman who has made a major impact in her field, in turn making a significant contribution to Canadian society. Heather is also breaking traditional barriers as a leading female in STEM.

Do you know a female trailblazer who deserves to be recognized or a leading woman who has is breaking new ground in STEM, contributing to Canadian society? Are you a trendsetter or a woman in STEM that’s made an impact on Canada? Click here to nominate today! It’s free! Deadline to nominate is June 17.

Looking for more information about Top 100? Visit our website to learn all about the awards including the CIBC Trailblazers & Trendsetters and Manulife Science & Technology!


About Heather:

Heather Christie-Burns is President and CEO of High Ground Energy Inc.

2018 Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award Winner
CIBC Trailblazers & Trendsetters

Ms. Christie-Burns is President and Chief Executive officer and a founder of High Ground Energy Inc., a private equity backed upstream E&P company with assets in eastern Alberta in the Viking light oil play. High Ground is one of a very few ‘blind pool’ (building from no assets) private company start-ups in Alberta in the last 4 years, with a $230 million equity backing in July 2014 from Pine Brook and Camcor Partners. The Company purchased assets from Penn West Petroleum in April 2016 and has since transformed the asset from a liability-weighted legacy gas base without cash flow into a healthy going-concern light oil project with 3,300 boe/d of production and approximately $33 million of cash flow from operations. High Ground has 15 employees in Calgary and 15 contractors managing its field operations in Consort, Alberta.

Prior to founding High Ground Energy in 2014, Heather co-founded and was President and Chief Operating Officer of Angle Energy Inc., an Alberta based, TSX- listed upstream E&P Company with an enterprise value upon sale in December 2013 of $576 million. Angle Energy was grown through the drill bit as a Canadian controlled private company, blind pool start up. The Company went public in June 2008 and was the last IPO that year on the TSX. Upon its sale, Angle Energy had 48 employees, 11,000 boe/d of production, and approximately $100 million of cash flow from operations.

Ms. Christie-Burns is a successful entrepreneur, building companies for the past fourteen years. Additionally, in Heather’s twenty-four year career as a professional engineer she has developed expertise in petroleum exploitation, M&A, corporate and property evaluations, joint venture negotiations, reservoir engineering and production operations. Previous to her executive roles at Angle, Ms. Christie-Burns was the Senior Reservoir Engineer at Bear Creek Energy Ltd. from January 2002 through March 2004. From February 1999 to January 2002, she was Senior Reservoir Engineer and later Senior Exploitation Engineer with Encal Energy Ltd. Prior roles include Fekete Associates Inc. and a field engineering role at Norcen Energy.

Ms. Christie-Burns earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Calgary. She is a member of the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) and the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta (APEGA). She was recognized in 2011 by Calgary’s Avenue Magazine as one of the top 40 under 40, and was also awarded recognition in Oilweek’s Class of Rising Stars of 2011. Heather has presented to a variety of audiences including the Oil and Gas Council, Women’s Executive Network (WXN), WinSETT, the SPE, the Calgary CFA Society and Calgary Women in Energy and participated as a mentor over the past four years in the Lilith Professional Organization.