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.

Life is a Team Sport

To be honest, I was surprised, and completely honoured to hear I was nominated and selected as a WXN Top 100 Winner for 2018.

It seems that life is always so busy with work, volunteer and family commitments. It’s rare to actually have the time to sit down and think about where you started, what you’ve done, and how far you’ve come.

To me, this achievement is both rewarding and significant. It is a privilege to be in the company of such fantastic, accomplished Canadian women. Each of us has taken our own unique path to get where we are today. Now, here in 2018, one hundred different life paths converge to celebrate this special achievement together. How cool is that?

While I know I have worked many hours, months and years to get where I am today, I am also acutely aware that nobody (no man or woman) achieves success completely on their own. Life is a team sport. I have had so many great mentors, colleagues, family and friends who have cheered me on, taken down barriers, and offered help and support throughout my journey.

While I still feel I have so much more to give, I also recognize there are many youth following behind me that have great potential, who also require support and encouragement along the way. As a proud mother of two teenagers, both a son and daughter, I want to be a positive role model for them, and encourage them to be the best they can be. Ultimately, their challenge will be to apply their gifts and talents towards making their families, businesses, communities, and world a better place. As a bonus, if they can get paid to do that work, what an unbelievable calling and blessing!

I feel I am just starting to bring all of my experience, skills and talents to bear in order to make a significant impact. When a disaster hits, usually those most vulnerable are those most impacted. This doesn’t have to happen. There are resources, best practices, and solutions that can help. After all these years, I now know that my inherent passion is to help individuals, businesses and communities become more disaster-resilient. There is still so much more work to do in this regard. It’s also one of the things that continue to motivate me every day. I am actually looking forward to taking on even bigger challenges and seizing even greater opportunities in the future.

Finally, I am both curious and excited to think about the many men, women and children I still need to meet along my life path. My hope is that through our mutual convergence, we will all be able to leave this world a better place than when we arrived.

Leann Hackman-Carty, Principal for HackmanCarty & Associates, 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 great contribution to Canadian society.

Do you know a female trailblazer who deserves to be recognized for her contribution to Canadian society? Are you a trendsetter 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!


About Leann:

Leann Hackman-Carty is Principal for Hackman-Carty & Associates.

Hackman-Carty, Leann portrait

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

For almost thirty years Leann has lead public, private and non-profit organizations through eras of change to new levels of growth and stability. Her specialties are community economic development, business and economic recovery and entrepreneurship. She served as the Mayor of Calgary’s Executive Assistant, Community & Economic Development for over a decade; was VP of Calgary’s economic development group; managed several political election campaigns; provided business development services to the States of Mississippi and Georgia; provided leadership for the Organization of Women in International Trade; offered innovative community business and economic recovery services; hosted numerous high level international trade delegations; built peer advisory boards for women entrepreneurs; and initiated greater working relationships with provincial and international economic development groups. Since 2009, she has provided CEO consulting services to Economic Developers Alberta which is Alberta’s economic development network. Its 300+ members are involved in economic development activities including industry cluster development, tech-led economic development, business retention, expansion, and attraction, workforce development and business and economic recovery. Leann has a BA (Political Science/Sociology), BSW (Community Development), Professional Management Certificate (Marketing) and a Certificate in Economic Development.

Key Accomplishments:

  • In December 2017, Leann released her Master Your Disaster series of readiness, response and recovery guides for families, business and communities which are now available on com both in print, and in Kindle format, audio and Spanish.
  • Completed an Economic Disaster Recovery Project with 10 Alberta communities and Treaty 7 Community Futures (Siksika/Stoney); in partnership with BCEDA and IEDC, The Government of Alberta (Innovation & Advanced Education), Shell, RBC Foundation, the Canadian Red Cross and the US Consulate in Calgary. As part of this project, Leann spearheaded the production of a community toolkit to help them prepare and respond to future economic disruptions.
  • Worked with the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo on their business and economic recovery efforts, including setting up and running the Wood Buffalo Business Recovery Hotline; validating businesses for Red Cross emergency relief; and leading a 10- member economic development team to complete an economic recovery assessment.
  • Worked with the International Economic Development Council to bring their community resiliency training to bring their community resiliency training to Canada.
  • Established a partnership with the University of Calgary, Continuing Education to launch and develop a Professional Management Certificate with a specialization in Economic Development.
  • Developed strategic plans and annual work plans for various non-profit, and quasi-government organizations.
  • Organized ten very successful annual community economic development conferences, including significant outreach to elected officials. This brings together approximately 400+ attendees, 50 speakers, 5 concurrent streams, 15 sponsors.
  • Spearheaded the “Canadianized” version of IEDC’s Recovery and Resiliency Roadmap: A Toolkit for Economic Preparedness which helps communities prepare for and recover from economic disruptions, whether natural or manmade. Updated the Community Toolkit for Economic Recovery and Resiliency (2017 Canadian Version) with new links, content and case studies.
  • Lead the development of a strategic business plan for a U.S.-based, women’s non-profit with global membership.
  • Crafted a community economic development strategy that provided the framework for future promotional activities, including a major regional cluster development initiative.
  • Completed comprehensive research into federal, provincial and municipal programs and services related to trade and investment
    Organized several focus groups and community forum to obtain input on specific projects and topics.
  • Organized a US-Canada, “Save Our Kids” forum and youth rally to bring attention to the growing issue of designer and prescription drug abuse in youth.
  • Conceptualized and implemented a CIDA-funded project in partnership with the Trade Facilitation Office of Canada, OWIT, and the APEC Women Leaders Network to bring 15 women delegates from CIDA-priority countries to participate in a Miami conference.

Scaling the Mountain

Mentoring younger women to help them make it to the top

When people ask me how I ended up working as Interim Executive Director of Lincoln Centre in New York City, or being the CEO of the Kimmel Centre in Philadelphia, or being the founding CEO of the Luminato Festival in Toronto, or now serving as the President and CEO of Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, I tell them it’s all about working hard, and believing your organization can reach greater heights.

While there are many women working in the arts in Canada today, there are very few who actually make it to the top. Since winning the WXN Top 100 Award I’ve felt a big responsibility to give back, and to mentor younger women in my organization.

Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity is Canada’s largest postgraduate arts school which welcomes close to 4,000 artists and leaders to our beautiful campus in the Rockies. We are building a great team in Alberta, and many of the stars in our organization are young women.

Since winning the WXN Top 100 award I’ve created a CEO’s Circle at Banff Centre, where our group gets together every month to talk about how to become better leaders.

Leadership requires many different characteristics, you have to have clear vision, you need to know how to build an incredible team, you have to be a great listener, and you must be able to make very tough decisions.

I’ve sacrificed a lot over the years to run major arts organizations, the hours are long, and projects can be incredibly complex, but it’s worth it to me because the arts define who we are as a people, they delight us, inspire us, they challenge us and help us understand who we are.

It’s been the honour of a lifetime to help artists achieve their dreams, and to scale greater heights in their artistic practice—it’s what helps me walk up the mountain every day to my office at Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity.

After 40 years in the arts, and now leading a $70M organization, I know that we can only be strong if we put the right teams together, and that they have the resources they need to ensure success.

But ultimately what I tell young women is that they need to love what they do, they need to work hard, all of the winners of the WXN award are in difficult jobs and they are very committed, that is my recipe for success.

Janice Price, a leader in the arts and entertainment sector in Canada and the United States, is a Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award Winner in the Arts, Sports & Entertainment Category for 2018. She has been honoured because of how she has shaped Canadian thinking, communications and culture.

Do you know a female who deserves to be recognized for the difference she’s made in Canadian arts, sports, culture or entertainment? Click here to learn more about our Top 100 Nominations and how to nominate yourself or someone else. Nominating is free!

 


About Janice:

Janice Price is President and CEO of Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity.

Janice Price - portrait

2018 Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award Winner
BMO Arts, Sports & Entertainment
Diversity CEO and Champion for WXN/CBDC Diversity Council

Janice Price has over 30 years of experience as a senior executive in leadership roles in the arts and entertainment sector in Canada and the United States. She was appointed President and CEO of Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity in March 2015. Prior to her appointment at Banff Centre, Ms. Price served as CEO of the Luminato Festival, Toronto’s annual multi-­‐arts festival, an organization she led since its inception in 2006. As the Festival’s Founding CEO, Janice helped Luminato become one of the world’s largest and most respected annual multi-­‐arts festivals. Previous to Luminato, Janice was President and CEO of The Kimmel Centre for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia from 2002-­‐2006, and prior to that position she was Vice President of Marketing and Communications and then Interim Executive Director at New York’s Lincoln Centre for the Performing Arts. Prior to her professional engagements in the United States, Janice held senior positions at a number of Toronto arts organizations, including the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts and The Corporation of Roy Thomson Hall and Massey Hall. From 1992–1996, Janice was the Director of Marketing and Special Projects for the Stratford Festival.

Ms. Price has served on numerous national and international arts sector

Boards including ISPA (International Society for the Performing Arts), the National Board of Culture Days, the Toronto Arts Foundation, and the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. She served on the National Executive of the Governor General’s Leadership Conference and Chaired the national Festivals and Major Events board. Ms. Price currently serves on the board of Business for the Arts and on the Council of Post-­‐ Secondary Presidents of Alberta.

 

On being named a Top 100 winner – the two women who inspired Caroline Riseboro

When I was told that I’d been selected as one of WXN’s Most Powerful Women last year my first thought was of my mother and grandmother —  two women who always serve as my original and continual inspiration, who were trailblazers in their own rights.

My grandmother came from a working-class family in England, and during the War she had to leave school at 14 to work. When she married at only 19, she was told she couldn’t work anymore. But she always knew she wanted a better life for herself, so with a tiny bit of money she started a business in the late 1950s and it became quite successful.

My mother was also a strong and brave business owner and always took chances. She was willing to constantly change and evolve to advance her career.

Both always pushed against the grain – and every day I try to channel that defiant spirit. Whenever I face barriers or feel deflated by the sheer amount of discrimination women and girls face around the world, I try to tap into that spirit and remember how far we have come. And how much we owe to women like my grandmother and mother, who were willing to defy normal and demand a fair shake.

I felt the award belonged to them.

This year, after receiving the honour once again (joining the Top 100 Alumni, made up of a stellar group of women) my first thought was of all the women I have had the pleasure of both mentoring and learning from throughout my career, particularly the incredible Plan International Canada girl ambassadors and advocates I have worked with over the last three years in my role as CEO & President.

Women and girls, who just like my mother and grandmother, continue to face barriers, hurdles, and glass ceilings when pursuing their dreams – despite it being the 21st century.

Women who dream of defying.

I read a quote by Steve Jobs recently that really resonated with me. “If you want to make everyone happy don’t be a leader, sell ice cream.”. Women and girls are always conditioned to be nice – to be liked above all else. This is something I have personally struggled with. At the same time, men and boys are taught that to change the world they should be prepared to ruffle feathers.

The women and girls I work with are constantly and unapologetically ruffling feathers. When normal is girls denied equality, they refuse to accept this status quo, they choose instead to defy normal.

But this can be lonely, often punishing work. That is why groups like WXN play a critical role in the advancement of women’s rights. Through my membership in WXN I have witnessed first-hand the incredible power of solidarity and sisterhood. It provides a space where us fellow feather-rufflers and defiant woman can come together and grow our strength and resilience.

As the inimitable Maya Angelou once said, “Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women.” Imagine the power women exercise when we knowingly stand up and stand together for our collective rights.

With my mother and grandmother behind me, I feel powerful. With a sisterhood behind me, I know I am unstoppable.

Join Caroline and become a WXN Member today. Witness the power and solidarity of the Women’s Executive Network to grow your career and expand your horizons.


About Caroline:

Caroline Riseboro, President and CEO, PLAN International Canada

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

Caroline Riseboro is the President & CEO of Plan International Canada – the leading NGO in Canada advancing the rights of children and equality for girls. As the youngest person to ever lead a major Canadian charity, Caroline is a passionate advocate for gender equality and is well-respected for her commitment to tackling some of the world’s most pressing issues.

She has a proven track record of leading organizations to new heights by challenging the status quo. In 2017, she was recognized as a Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award Winner and was awarded the Bronze medal in the Woman of the Year – Government or Non-Profit category at the Stevie Awards for Women in Business. Caroline regularly writes and speaks on the topic of gender equality and under her leadership, Plan International Canada has delivered record- breaking results.

Prior to joining Plan International Canada, Caroline was Senior Vice-President, Marketing & Development at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) Foundation, and held many senior roles at World Vision Canada, more recently as Senior Vice-President of Marketing and Engagement at World Vision Canada. She was the first and youngest woman in the agency’s history to serve in this senior role. Before joining the non-profit sector, Caroline began her career in advertising and communications.

Caroline’s influence in the sector extends through her voluntary leadership roles. She sits on the Board of the Humanitarian Coalition and CAN-WaCH, is the President-elect for the Association of Fundraising Professionals GTA chapter, and has sat on numerous task forces including with Imagine Canada and the Canadian Marketing Association’s Not-For-Profit Council. She holds a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) degree from McGill University and is pursuing a Master of Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership from Carleton University.

You can reach Caroline on Twitter at:
@criseboro
@PlanCanada

Redefining Leadership with Disruption and Humanity

“Regardless of where you work or what you do, it’s really important to always change the way you approach things. . . .Redefining what we do and how we do it, shows the evolution of our society and its needs,” says Top 100 Winner, Ulrike Bahr-Gedalia.

In her recent insightful TedxKelowna talk, Bahr-Gedalia challenges us to redefine our traditional perception and understanding of leadership using two key qualities – disruption and humanity. The outcome, she says, can be extraordinary.

Bahr-Gedalia was joined at TedXKelowna by fellow Top 100 Winner Tasha Kheiriddin – find her heartfelt talk on how autism can make a better world here.

WXN Digital Brand Ambassador Ilona Dougherty is Wired for Innovation

Do you remember your first summer job? What it felt like to come to the office every day instead of going to school? How grown up it seemed?

Our first jobs often make lasting impression on us. But in a world that portrays Millennials and Gen Z as a nuisance, are we giving young people the opportunity to make a positive impact on the workplaces they will frequent this summer?

Recently at the University of Waterloo I give a Tedx talk about how our summer interns and young employees are in fact the innovation engine our companies need in a knowledge economy. Neuroscience and developmental psychology tells us that from 15 to 25 years old young people’s brains are wired for innovation. They don’t need to be trained or taught to be innovative, we just need to tap into their natural abilities.

This summer I encourage you to look at the summer interns and young employees you are working a little bit differently. If you let them, they can have just as much of a positive impact on the work you do, as your mentorship and support will have on them.

For more tips and insight about how to tap into young people’s potential in the workplace check out my Tedx talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mobQ-r6k5xY

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Ilona Dougherty is the Managing Director of the Youth & Innovation Research Project at the University of Waterloo (https://uwaterloo.ca/youth-and-innovation/) and was one of WXN’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women in 2015.

@ilonadougherty

Overcoming the Self Doubt that Fuels Imposter Syndrome in Women

So here’s my dirty little secret: I’m an imposter.

There, I said it. It only took me 20 years, and lots of sleepless nights worrying about what other people might think. But now that it’s out in the open, the truth, I believe, will set me free.

What I’m talking about—for those business associates and friends who might be a bit nervous at this point—is the much-discussed “imposter” syndrome. That’s the phenomenon whereby high-achieving individuals think they don’t belong—that they’re a fraud and it’s only a matter of time before everybody figures them out. It’s an idea that’s been around since the 1970s, when a U.S. psychology professor by the name of Pauline Rose Clance started studying the issue amongst her students.

Back then, it was largely seen as a “women’s” issue. But since the study came out nearly 40 years ago, Clance and others have realized it’s something that men feel in equal measures—but don’t verbalize. I can relate. As the CEO and majority owner of a successful tech company, and someone who has served on numerous boards, I work mostly with men—men of varying levels of accomplishment and talent. But what unites them all, at least superficially, is an outward confidence that they belong.

On paper, I should belong too. I’ve lead Webnames.ca for 17 years—a profitable and growing company with no debt. We’ve built relationships with Fortune 500 clients around the world and have a widely admired corporate culture. I’ve won several local and national awards for entrepreneurship and leadership. And yet every time I walk into a room of my peers, my heart skips a beat and the nagging self-doubts resurface. Why am I here? Did somebody make a mistake in inviting me?

While the imposter phenomenon affects men and women in equal measure, what doesn’t strike with such parity is confidence. A recent Harvard Business Review article makes it clear: there is an undeniable “confidence gap” between the sexes, and it’s having a profound impact on who chooses what professions—and who ultimately climbs to the top. The problem is particularly acute in science- and technology-driven organizations like mine: of my employees, fewer than 20 per cent are women, including only one who actually works on the technical side of our business.

So what can be done about it—this confidence gap, this lack of female representation in the field, this feeling of “not belonging” for those who do make it to the top? I think the answer is three-fold. First, we need to find ways of encouraging girls earlier in life to believe that the maths and sciences is a viable pursuit. At Science World, data collected by UBC professor Andrew Baron indicates 26 per cent more boys than girls under the age of two are being brought to the facility’s Living Lab—that’s a decision being made by parents that has long-term implications. The school system also needs to create equal opportunities for excellence. In B.C., the provincial government has taken an important step by introducing mandatory coding courses into the K-12 curriculum—but teachers play a critical role too in ensuring girls get equal airtime, as boys are often quicker to put up their hands.

Secondly, companies need to go out of their way to attract and retain female employees. That’s something I’m hyper aware of at Webnames.ca, where just five out of every 100 technical job applications we get is from a woman. While an increasing number of employers offer flexible work hours and family-friendly policies to encourage women to stay and grow within a company, it’s not enough. We need to put women in leadership roles—and mentor them toward that goal—to ensure better representation within our ranks, and build clear paths for promotions and raises.

Finally, we, the female leaders of the business world, need to speak out more—to be both seen and heard. That’s what I’m doing. As a younger woman, I had a huge fear of public speaking. But I was determined to confront it, taking courses at the Dale Carnegie Leadership Centre to try to lick the problem. It still took another decade of pushing myself to accept those stress-inducing speaking offers. Now, I regularly speak to audiences in the hundreds—and with each passing speech, each passing year, it gets a little easier. I also make an effort to take on a young woman in technology as a mentee each year so they can learn from my mistakes and we work on planning out career/life goals

 

When there’s more of us “girls” sitting around the decision-making table, giving keynote addresses, or passing on our learnings, I think it’s only a matter of time before the confidence gap shrinks and that sense of not belonging starts to abate. But until then, we need face our fears head-on—and embrace our inner imposter.

 

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Cybele Negris (cybele@webnames.ca) is president, CEO and co-founder of Webnames.ca, Canada’s original .CA registrar. She is also the founder of Webnames Corporate which specializes in managing large and complex domain portfolios for Canadian corporations and institutions.

Originally published in Business in Vancouver, February 2017.