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.

 

Becoming authentic women leaders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


About Clare:

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Learn it, earn it and return it

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

  1. Quit that stinkin’ thinkin’

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

  1. Know who you’re fighting for

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

  1. Leave the armour behind

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

  1. Break the silence

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

  1. Think seven generations ahead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

That’s why he’s changing the conversation.

Building a new approach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Building momentum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Building the future

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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.