Women of Influence http://www.womenofinfluence.ca Fri, 21 Apr 2017 20:43:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.5.7 2017 Global Women of Influence Senior Executive Dinner Series – Toronto http://www.womenofinfluence.ca/2017/04/21/2017-global-women-of-influence-senior-executive-dinner-series-toronto/ Fri, 21 Apr 2017 20:41:32 +0000 http://www.womenofinfluence.ca/?p=170951 On Wednesday, April 12th we celebrated our eighth annual edition of the Toronto dinner at the prestigious 40th Floor of the Royal Bank Plaza. On behalf of our presenting sponsor RBC and Women of Influence, we thank all those who joined us in celebrating accomplishments and discussing the solutions to womens advancement. 

When Deviance Works to Your Advantage http://www.womenofinfluence.ca/2017/04/21/when-deviance-works-to-your-advantage/ Fri, 21 Apr 2017 19:16:29 +0000 http://www.womenofinfluence.ca/?p=170971

Tired of mediocrity and negativity at work? Jana Raver, Professor of Organizational Behaviour at Smith School of Business, offers five strategies to give you the power to inspire organizational change.


By Alan Morantz



When we think of deviance, we typically think of social outcasts who behave in some abhorrent way outside the norms of society. From an organizational perspective, deviance is also typically associated with such behaviors as slacking, not upholding the norms of the organization, unethical conduct, and even incivility and harassment.

But there’s more to deviance than meets the eye. And, there can be great benefits to going against the norm, especially when the norm isn’t overly positive.

According to Jana Raver, Associate Professor at Smith School of Business and E. Marie Shantz Faculty Fellow in Organizational Behaviour, the positive norms that we hope to find within organizations such as active engagement, growth, achievement, honesty, and benevolence, aren’t always as prevalent as we’d hope. “Constructive deviants” are engaged employees who challenge organizational lethargy and push for higher standards of behaviour.


“Constructive deviants” are engaged employees who challenge organizational lethargy and push for higher standards of behaviour.


When you’re able to demonstrate positive behaviours by acting in a way that’s outside of the norm, you have the chance to expose the standards that are actually dysfunctional. “This type of behaviour has been linked to improved job performance ratings, recommendations for rewards, and actual rewards including raises and promotions,” Jana says.

Smart companies realize that encouraging constructive deviance saves money and increases innovation. Research has shown that it exposes dysfunction and unethical behaviour, allows for social change, encourages growth and learning, and improves group decision-making.

But it’s not always easy. “If you sit back like a disengaged, apathetic employee who will simply tolerate mediocrity,” Jana says, “then you’re not going to be able to make that positive change.”


To inspire organizational change, Jana offers the following five strategies to stand up for what you believe in:

  1. Find your cause: Determine the issues you believe strongly enough in to stand up to.

  2. Pick your battles: You can’t resist and question everything, so check your motives and be sure that you’re committed to helping improve the group/organization rather than putting your own self-interest first.

  3. Know how to build a case: Know that the quality of your input matters, so draw upon principles of effective persuasion and social networking skills to support your cause. Do your homework to ensure that what you’re proposing has been well thought-out and can be clearly articulated.

  4. Be willing to do the work: High quality suggestions are those that you’re willing to execute yourself and to take ownership of, rather than passing on to someone else. Know that once you’re invested in any cause it will take work and commitment to bring it to life.

  5. Be persistent: Finally, realize that if you’re fighting norms you have to be willing to go the distance. Change isn’t going to happen overnight. If needed, know where to go for support in order to make change a reality.

“So, dig deep inside,” Jana says, “and be the change you want to see. You can choose to take action and be a constructive deviant to uphold the standards of what you believe in.”


You can hear more of Jana Raver’s discussion on constructive deviance in the workplace in this Smith Business Insight video, Building a Better Deviant.



Five minutes with Kate Ross LeBlanc, Winner of the 2016 RBC Momentum Award http://www.womenofinfluence.ca/2017/04/20/kate-ross-leblanc-winner-of-the-rbc-momentum-award/ Thu, 20 Apr 2017 12:56:29 +0000 http://www.womenofinfluence.ca/?p=170812

Kate Ross LeBlanc, Co-Founder and CEO
Saje Natural Wellness
RBC Momentum AwardWinner



About Her Business

Saje Natural Wellness was born when Kate decided to combine her passion for retail with her mission to alleviate the chronic pain symptoms experienced by her husband. She’s now inspiring global wellness with over 50 stores throughout Canada and the United States, offering 100%-natural products that help the body detoxify and recover from the elements’ harmful effects. The Saje mission is to connect people with the healing power of plants, through living, sharing and inspiring holistic wellness daily.


About the RBC Momentum Award

This entrepreneur has successfully capitalized on opportunities to deliver 10% or more growth, year-over-year for three years or more. Through expanded management, empowered employees, and demonstrated excellence, she has created a flexible and responsive business that is able to adapt to changing market environments and leverage opportunities for continued growth.

Know someone that qualifies? Nominate them (or yourself!) here.


What do you wish you knew at the beginning?


“That it’s okay to be a leader. Growing up in a small town, I had a few painful experiences early on around standing out too much, and in many ways I resisted my own growth into leadership. I wish I had known earlier that it could be so incredibly rewarding – that “boss” and “bossy” are not the same thing.” 



What do you think is the key to positioning your business for continued success and future growth?


“100% it is the people.  Come what may, if you have the right people in place then you can handle whatever comes your way.”



What does winning this award mean to you?


“It’s so important for us as women to support one another, to rally behind each other, and to cheer our fellow females on. I am still so humbled and honoured to have received this award. For me, the most impactful takeaway was having the award serve as a reminder to pause more often, and take a moment to celebrate and be proud of our accomplishments. As entrepreneurs, it’s in our bones to create and move forward, and sometimes we move so quickly onto the next challenge, the next endeavor, the next idea – that we don’t take the time to celebrate our accomplishments, which can help fuel us even further. Moments like these allow us to come together, be among incredible women, and to truly share in each other’s successes now and into the future. I’ll always be grateful for this experience.”





Do you or somebody you know qualify for the RBC Momentum Award?

Change their life – nominate them today!


Other Awards

Micro Business Award: This entrepreneur owns a small business that generates annual revenues under $1 million.

Staples Start-up Award: For an entrepreneur who, in a minimum of three years and maximum of five years, has prepped her company for the next level of growth.

Social Change Award: This entrepreneur is an exceptional leader of a non-profit or charitable organization dedicated to helping others.

TELUS Trailblazer Award: This entrepreneur has recognized a new market, product, service, technological advancement or opportunity and led the way.

TEC Canada Award for Excellence in Entrepreneurship: This entrepreneur has launched and built one or more successful companies with a track record of growth and profitability over a period of at least 10 years.



How Brenda Rideout became the first female CEO of a major Canadian financial institution http://www.womenofinfluence.ca/2017/04/15/how-brenda-rideout-became-the-first-female-ceo-of-a-major-canadian-financial-institution/ Sat, 15 Apr 2017 16:19:10 +0000 http://www.womenofinfluence.ca/?p=170294

In just one leap of faith, Brenda Rideout entered the new world of fintech in the 90s, kick-starting a nearly 20 year tenure at one of Canada’s most innovative financial institutions, Tangerine Bank, where she is now CEO. Learn how her personal passion, several influential women, and a desire to be bold has helped shape Brenda’s impressive career.


By Shelley White



Tangerine Bank CEO Brenda Rideout has never been afraid to take a risk.

“When new opportunities presented themselves, I raised my hand for them,” she says of her impressive career path. In March, Brenda became the first female CEO of a major Canadian financial institution, a remarkable milestone in an industry where women in top jobs are still few and far between.

Brenda recalls the leap of faith she took when she first joined ING Direct in 1999 (which rebranded as Tangerine in 2014). She was at Shoppers Drug Mart at the time, when she heard that ING Direct founder Arkadi Kulmann was looking for a director of software development to give the bank an Internet presence in Canada. After a meeting with the iconoclastic CEO, Brenda was inspired by his vision of branchless, Internet banking.

“That was in the 90s, so there were organizations that had static websites, but nobody had a truly transactional website,” says Brenda. “So I went home that night to tell my husband, ‘You know what? I’m going to leave my nice, secure job at Shoppers to go work for this direct bank and help Canadians save their money.’”

It was a bold and risky move, but Brenda liked the idea of being able to create something innovative from scratch. “It was a startup, so I wouldn’t have to worry about legacy systems,” she says. “I would have the opportunity to build and shape from a technology standpoint.”

Technology had been a passion for Brenda ever since high school. Growing up the youngest of six kids in a “typical, middle-class family” in Toronto, Brenda took an introduction to computers course and learned early programming languages like BASIC and FORTRAN. She was instantly hooked.

“My parents were encouraging me to become a nurse or a teacher, so you can imagine their surprise when I told them I wanted to study computers and program,” she says. “They didn’t know what that was. There was no such thing as the Internet at that time, let alone videogames and the gadgets we have today.”

After high school, Brenda studied computers at Seneca College, then began working as a programmer. Craving opportunities for advancement, she took a job with Imperial Life Insurance Company, where she worked her way up into management. It was at Imperial Life that Brenda met her first mentor, Carole Briard (who would go on to become Chief Information Officer at Bank of Canada).

“Carole played a key role throughout my career,” says Brenda. “There were very few [women in technology at the time], and that connection with another female leader who was trying to advance in technology was very important. To this day, we are still very close.”


“There were very few women in technology at the time, and that connection with another female leader who was trying to advance in technology was very important.”


Brenda also believes in continuous learning. She holds a number of technology certificates, and completed an Executive Program at Queen’s University in addition to a Masters Certificate in Innovation at Schulich School of Business.

A strong advocate for the advancement of women in the Canadian workforce, Brenda has led the women in leadership program at Tangerine for several years. She says that mentoring can be a valuable way for women to support each other.

“I think that lack of confidence and fear of failure can hold us back, myself included,” she says. “I definitely reach out to my female network. And it’s not about just seeking a mentor to say you have a mentor, but being willing to ask for help.”

The late Mona Goldstein, Toronto marketing guru and CEO at Wunderman, was another important mentor in Brenda’s life. After successfully taking on several operational-type roles at ING Direct, Brenda was asked to head up marketing for the company, a position she found daunting.


“It’s not about just seeking a mentor to say you have a mentor, but being willing to ask for help.”


“It was not necessarily in my wheelhouse and I certainly felt inept at times, wondering, ‘What am I doing here?’ My confidence was wavering,” says Brenda. “But Mona provided me some tremendous insight and encouragement and was one of the smartest, most inspirational women I’ve ever met.”

As a mom with a high-profile career, Brenda says work-life balance could be a challenge, especially when her son was young. In the tech world, working after hours is a necessity. Because it was hard to control her afternoons and evenings, Brenda says she felt strongly that she needed to control her mornings.

“I needed to connect with my son in the morning, so I would have breakfast with him every morning, I’d give him a hug, I’d put him on the bus. In banking, it’s quite common to have breakfast meetings starting at 7:30am, and I really had to be strong about saying no to early morning meetings,” says Brenda. “If you say no often enough, and say, ‘I’m happy to meet with you later in the day, but I’m not coming in for a breakfast meeting,’ people get used to it.”

Brenda says she still makes mornings with her family a priority.

“My son is 14 now and we still have breakfast every morning, although I think it’s more for me than him now. It’s getting harder to get that hug,” she laughs.

When she’s not carving a path for women in leadership roles, Brenda says she craves time in the outdoors with her family – hiking, golfing, skiing and walking their two dogs.

“I also enjoy cooking and baking,” she says. “If my husband will get the ingredients, I’m more than happy to put on some music and cook in my kitchen.”

Brenda attributes her career success to a strong work ethic and ample curiosity. “And having family and friends and mentors – people you can talk to and trust – is a must,” she adds.

Her advice for women hoping to emulate her success? Don’t be afraid to toot your own horn, and raise your hand when opportunities arise.

“Joining ING Direct was a risk,” she says. “But the journey has been amazing.”




Meet Marni Johnson, a Passionate HR Guru with an Unconventional Path http://www.womenofinfluence.ca/2017/04/11/meet-marni-johnson-a-passionate-hr-guru-with-an-unconventional-path/ Tue, 11 Apr 2017 15:02:12 +0000 http://www.womenofinfluence.ca/?p=170213

With experience in several industries and over 25 years in financial services, Marni Johnson provides overall leadership and strategic direction in the areas of human resources and corporate and internal communications at BlueShore Financial. Her passion for human resources developed after a bold career switch, and since then she has fully embraced her role, becoming a Trustee of the BC Credit Union Employees’ Pension and Benefits plans, and serving on the boards of the Chartered Professionals in Human Resources of British Columbia and Yukon. With a background in math and marketing, Marni is the perfect example of what a woman can achieve when she realizes that boundaries are in fact merely suggestions, and forges her own path. 



My first job out of school…At a financial institution in Toronto in a back office role. In my role I identified a gap in processes, which I raised to my manager. It was dismissed. I decided to trust my instinct and explored this further to realize that in fact there was a gap, which had financial implications for the company. I learned a very valuable lesson from this first job and that is to trust your instincts even if you are a junior in your role. Each person can bring a great deal of value to the table no matter their place in the org chart.


I decided to enter the world of HR because…I was given an incredible opportunity for a career change from marketing to HR by the CEO of BlueShore Financial (back then the name was North Shore Credit Union). She offered me the role of VP HR because she believed I had the right leadership attributes and could learn the technical aspects of HR. The switch was the best career decision I ever made.  


“Trust your instincts even if you are a junior in your role. Each person can bring a great deal of value to the table no matter their place in the org chart.”


My proudest accomplishment is…Having worked with my teams to create and maintain a very positive culture and a great place to work that is client-focused, results-driven and nurtures diversity and inclusiveness, since research shows a clear link between a strong culture and organizational business performance.


My boldest move to date was…Making a career change from Marketing to HR at the executive level. I faced some skepticism because my formal experience was not in the HR function. I persevered, achieved my CPHR designation, and over time established my credibility as an HR leader. I learned a lot about empowering and trusting my team, as they had more technical expertise than I did. I believe as women, we need to allow ourselves to reach for stretch goals and pursue them with confidence in our abilities to learn and grow.


I surprise people when I tell them…That I have an undergraduate degree in math, because often they don’t see that math and HR go together. To be successful in HR, you need to understand and be able to speak the language of business, which is usually numbers and money. Having strong math skills has been an enormous benefit throughout my career.


“As women, we need to allow ourselves to reach for stretch goals and pursue them with confidence in our abilities to learn and grow.”


My best advice to people starting their career is…Take responsibility for your own career by seeking  opportunities to gain experience and transferable skills. Ask for “stretch” assignments even though they will take you out of your comfort zone — you’ll be amazed at the skills and lessons you’ll learn that you can take with you as you build your career.


My best advice from a mentor was…Don’t expect anyone else to care as much as you do, or to look after your best interests. This advice instilled in me a strong sense of accountability for results. It’s equally applicable to managing your personal life and career; you must take ownership for getting what you want and not abdicate that responsibility to someone else.   


My biggest setback was…In my early 30s I accepted a job with a company that enabled me to move from Toronto to Vancouver, but it required that I take a 10% pay cut. That was a big deal, not just because of the reduction in income but because of my perception that career success meant making more money with each job change. I almost didn’t take the job because of what I saw as a step backward.  


I overcame it by…Taking a longer term view of my career and the potential the new job represented. It was the right decision — if I hadn’t taken that job, my career would have taken a very different direction and I wouldn’t have ended up at BlueShore Financial. I learned through that experience that a great career move doesn’t always have to be a move “up”.


Work/life balance is…Different from person to person, both in terms of how much of each feels right, and how that balance is achieved. For me, it’s more of a “blend” vs. a strict delineation. I frequently check my work emails in the evenings and on weekends; but also have flexibility in my days where I can attend a meeting if needed for a not-for-profit board that I serve on.


“A great career move doesn’t always have to be a move “up”.”


I feel successful when…I can see the impact I’ve had on my team’s or the organization’s results. One of my favourite things is coaching my team and seeing them develop their abilities and confidence as an outcome.  


If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know…That I am a hobby chocolatier. I’ve taken several courses over the past 25 years, continually learning new techniques and creating recipes. I take a week of vacation from work in early December and make more than 2,000 chocolates. Not surprisingly, my colleagues are incredibly supportive of “Chocolate Week” and the product of my time off!


I stay inspired by…Connecting with people who have a positive outlook and a passion for what they do. That kind of enthusiasm and commitment is infectious, and a source of energy for me.   


The future excites me because…As an organization we have a very strong vision and an aligned and engaged team to execute on that vision. That’s a magic combination, and there’s no end to what we can achieve.


My next step is…To be determined.  I’m loving my role at BlueShore and am continually looking for ways I can make an even greater contribution. What that will look like, who knows, but I’m open to the opportunities!


Want to hear more from seasoned HR professionals? Purchase your ticket to our April 26 Luncheon, Untapped Resources: How to Hire, Advance, and Retain Women.



Your responsibility in navigating a bad boss http://www.womenofinfluence.ca/2017/04/11/your-responsibility-in-navigating-a-bad-boss/ Tue, 11 Apr 2017 13:59:53 +0000 http://www.womenofinfluence.ca/?p=169946

The quality of your relationship to your superiors is critical to your professional success ― yet, it’s not always easy to overlook your boss’s shortcomings. Christine Laperriere, executive director of our Advancement Centre is here to help.


by Christine Laperriere


In my work as Executive Director of the Women of Influence Advancement Centre, I get invited into conversations with top performers who are navigating serious challenges in the workplace, and the topic of working for a “bad boss” comes up often.

I find it interesting how many of us, when working with people we start to experience conflict with, anchor feelings of frustration, resentment, or hopelessness to each interaction we have with that person. After a while, just the sight of that person in a meeting will draw out a feeling of frustration, and that person hasn’t even begun to speak yet!

As I was working with one women, she admitted that each time she walked into the same room as a particular senior leader, she immediately started to think about how frustrating it was to work with him and how she just knew he was going to shoot down her ideas. At one point, I invited her to think about what part of this dynamic she was responsible for. She didn’t see herself as responsible for any part of it.

As our conversation unfolded, I asked her what it would be like to lead a team if they walked into a room already thinking about their resentment for her and anticipating what she would do next to frustrate them. She explained that it would be hard, because they would assume whatever action she took was creating what they already believed about her. She pointed out how important it is that her team show up prepared to be open-minded, leaving past judgments and baggage behind.  


“She pointed out how important it is that her team show up prepared to be open-minded, leaving past judgments and baggage behind.”


Within a few seconds, she went quiet and I could tell she realized the irony in what she’d just shared.

We’ve all worked with challenging people, and sadly there is no “magic bullet” that transforms these tough working dynamics overnight ― but I know that your individual mindset predetermines the potential outcome in any dynamic. If you start the discussion in your lowest state of mind, don’t be surprised that the outcomes of the discussions look unsuccessful and similar, time and time again.

Your job when navigating a bad boss is to reach for your internal resources to stay creative, curious, and collaborating ― bringing your best tools and thinking forward in every working environment.


Christine Laperriere is a seasoned expert on helping leaders and teams reduce internal conflict, improve employee engagement, and more effectively engage with customers and prospects. Working with the Women of Influence Advancement Centre and through her own consultancy, Leader in Motion, she has spent the past ten years teaching hundreds of leaders how to be more effective through her “Leadership through Conflict & Change” course, and helped many with specific challenges through private executive coaching. Her background includes an undergraduate and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering, certifications in psychotherapy and executive coaching, along with years in management consulting focused on implementation, change management and culture change initiatives.

2017 Global Women of Influence Senior Executive Dinner Series – Washington http://www.womenofinfluence.ca/2017/04/06/2017-global-women-of-influence-senior-executive-dinner-series-washington/ Thu, 06 Apr 2017 15:11:42 +0000 http://www.womenofinfluence.ca/?p=169852 On Wednesday, March 29th we celebrated our fifth annual Washington DC dinner at the stunning Decanter Restaurant at the St. Regis Hotel. On behalf of our presenting sponsor RBC and Women of Influence, we thank all those who joined us in celebrating accomplishments and discussing the solutions to womens advancement. 

Meet Yana Barankin, a Woman Challenging the Fashion Industry to do Better for People and the Planet http://www.womenofinfluence.ca/2017/04/04/meet-the-woman-challenging-the-fashion-industry-to-do-better-for-people-and-the-planet/ Tue, 04 Apr 2017 17:22:49 +0000 http://www.womenofinfluence.ca/?p=169524

Yana Barankin is the female lead of TAMGA Designs, a clothing line with integrity at its center. Before embarking on this journey, Yana and her business partner asked themselves two simple questions is it too expensive to produce a socially and environmentally responsible piece of clothing? Does style have to be sacrificed for accountability? The obvious answer was no  so they set out on a mission to prove it. Here’s her story.



My first job ever was… sales clerk at a clothing store!


I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I realized that I can have much more of a positive social and environmental impact by pursuing my passion rather than sitting at a 9-5 desk job. 


My proudest accomplishment is… Getting my Masters in International Development from Kent University.


My boldest move to date was… Taking a leap of faith and buying a one-way ticket to Indonesia with my fiancee to set-up a responsible and transparent supply for the company.


I surprise people when I tell them… I lived in Dhaka, Bangladesh for 2.5 years working in international aid.


My best advice to people trying to get an idea off the ground is… Surround yourself with creative and like-minded people! Know what your weaknesses are and don’t be afraid to ask for help and inspiration!


My best advice from a mentor was… It’s a marathon, not a sprint.


“Know what your weaknesses are and don’t be afraid to ask for help and inspiration”


My biggest setback was… My personal biggest challenge was moving to Canada at the age of 12 and what felt like at the time adapting to a whole new world.


I overcame it by… Giving it time.


Work/life balance is… Knowing when to a call it a night (laptop and cellphones OFF) and enjoying the weekend with family and friends.


If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… I’m a self taught photographer.


I stay inspired by… Being outdoors.


The future excites me because… There are endless possibilities! We’re starting to see a shift where businesses can’t just take away from people and the planet — to get customer loyalty they have to show how they’re giving back. Combining profit and purpose is the challenge of our generation, and there are so many amazing entrepreneurs and companies working on it.


“Combining profit and purpose is the challenge of our generation”


My next step is… My next steps are all about TAMGA at the moment! We’re developing some amazing new pieces and prints with our team in Indonesia, and will be introducing some awesome new eco materials to our line. This summer we will be doing lots of in-person festivals, pop-ups and markets in the Toronto area. And we can’t wait for lots of sunshine, TAMGA clothing, and meeting all our amazing customers.


Meet the founder of Lucky Iron Fish, a company with social responsibility at the heart of its business model.



The Old Boy’s Club http://www.womenofinfluence.ca/2017/04/03/the-old-boys-club/ Tue, 04 Apr 2017 02:49:19 +0000 http://www.womenofinfluence.ca/?p=169514 Old Boys Club

Many of the men in power today grew up in a time when a woman’s only place was in the home. Research shows we’re still carrying around those gender stereotypes. Could the highest of glass ceilings be propped up by antiquated perceptions?


By Teresa Harris



Over 3,000 world leaders descended upon the town of Davos, Switzerland in January for 2017’s World Economic Forum. This year, the theme was “Responsive and Responsible Leadership,” which makes sense, given the ways in which the world’s superpowers have been engaging with one another lately.

Out of the 3,000 attendees, 21% were women. While a hopeful increase from 18% in 2016, and a massive leap from 2001’s abysmal 9% — in large part due to WEF’s implemented gender quotas — considering women represent roughly 50% of the population, it’s not enough.

So we couldn’t help but consider: how are discussions on Responsive and Responsible Leadership extending beyond the superficial to include considerations on the people we’re selecting — and not selecting — for leadership positions?


“How are discussions on Responsive and Responsible Leadership extending beyond the superficial to include considerations on the people we’re selecting — and not selecting — for leadership positions?”


Currently, women make up 48% of Canada’s labour force. And yet, only 16% of board of director seats are held by women, and fewer than 5% have reached the C-suite. The 2016 Fortune 500 list reveals that just 21 of these top-tier companies are run by women — and that number has gone down, settling in at just 4.2% versus last year’s 4.8%. UN Women reports that only 22.8 % of all national parliamentarians were women as of June 2016, and as of January 2017, just 9 women out of 196 countries are serving as Head of Government.

So the question is: why are women so poorly represented at the highest levels of power? Research shows that it might be less about access, and more about perception.

Let’s remember that just 50 years ago, a woman’s primary title was “stay at home wife and mom.” Considering the average age of WEF’s attendees is a little over 50, it’s safe to assume that many of the world’s most powerful men were raised in a time when women were simply not at the helm of business, economics, and politics. And while there were new initiatives being developed to support women’s advancement, most proponents of these initiatives were clear about what should remain a priority in women’s lives.

In a 1961 televised conversation with Eleanor Roosevelt, newly appointed chairwoman of the Commission on the Status of Women, US President John F. Kennedy stated, “We want to be sure that women are used effectively as they can to provide a better life for our people, in addition to meeting their primary responsibility, which is in the home.”

Given the climate of women’s rights at the time, this is an unsurprising ethos. Alongside the decade’s limiting social views of a woman’s role, many structures were in place that inhibited women from gaining any real sense of economic and political power. In America, it is only in the last fifty years that women have been granted the right to get a credit card without their husband’s cosign, serve on a jury, and receive an Ivy League education.

In Canada, it has only been in the last century that women nation-wide have been granted the right to vote, own property, and join law enforcement, and it wasn’t until the 1980s that Canadian universities enrolled at least 50% women. Examples like these prove that for a long time women had been excluded from the game at the most rudimentary level, so it’s unsurprising that the byproducts are corporate and political ecosystems that inherently favour men.

We’ve come a long way since the 1960s; and yet, society still has a tendency to hold women accountable to traditional gender-role stereotypes, expecting them to embody maternal, “feminine” characteristics, such as being caring, warm, compassionate, nurturing and sensitive.

Men on the other hand are held to standards of independence, assertiveness, ambition, and self-confidence. This serves them well in today’s business climate, which is propped atop decades of bold risk-taking and a fend-for-oneself mentality.

This leaves women in a bind — if we adopt our expected gender role, we remove ourselves from the leadership running. When we digress, we’re pegged as abrasive, hostile, and unlikeable. For example: researchers Victoria L. Brescoll and Eric Luis Uhlmann found that when men express anger in the workplace, it is seen as an appropriate response to the situation. Angry women on the other hand are viewed as just that — angry women.


“When men express anger in the workplace, it is seen as an appropriate response to the situation. Angry women on the other hand are viewed as just that — angry women.”


And these limiting perceptions aren’t only held by men. A Unilever study revealed that when it comes to leading high-stakes projects, 77% of men believe that they are the best choice. Surprisingly, 55% of women feel the same way, signaling the power social conditioning has in shaping how women perceive their own potential.


Even men who were once our allies in the workplace can experience a change in perception — particularly if they marry women who don’t work. One study by Sreedhari D. Desai and colleagues discovered that men married to non-working women eventually begin to perceive their female co-workers as less qualified, and the organizations that employ them as underperformers.

Which is simply not true. Studies show women are better communicators, as well as more charismatic, democratic, and participative than their male counterparts, qualities associated with effective leadership and proven to foster stronger teams, elevated performance, and increased company value.

Unfortunately, although research exists to support the promotion of female leaders, and the current state of international relations is calling for leaders to adopt qualities women are known to possess, there are still structural and social barriers within the workplace that limit women’s opportunities to rise in the ranks.

Since structural barriers have a way of influencing social perception, the end result is a labyrinth of challenges ambitious women are forced to navigate. In order for women to make their way on even ground with men, it is crucial that companies adjust their policies and illuminate the ambiguous practices and performance benchmarks that influence advancement.

The WEF 2017 mandate suggested that in order to navigate the politically tenuous and uncertain environment we exist in, “we need responsible world leaders that are open to communication.” Seems like a job for a woman, no?

Among the female leaders who did participate at the WEF were Ruth Porat, CFO of Alphabet, and General Motors CEO Mary Barra.

“Women’s aversion to rejection manifests itself in the job market,” said Barra, confirming the idea that women are less likely than men are to apply for jobs they’re not at least 90% qualified for.

Reshma Saujani, founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, both in attendance, agreed — gender norms are keeping women out of tech, and out of leadership.


How are top Canadian companies addressing gender diversity and inclusion within their organizations? Find out on April 26th at “Untapped Resources: How to Hire, Advance, and Retain Diverse Talent” — buy your ticket today!


“I don’t think it’s possible to overstate how important stereotypes are,” Sandberg emphasized, calling them out as “at the root of the gender gap we face.” When women are told they’re ‘bossy’ rather than ‘assertive,’ or ‘cold’ over ‘professional,’ it creates a distance between the way women want to be perceived, and the way leaders need to be perceived.

Political leaders in attendance included Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg and Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh, representing a small portion of the 22.8% of female state leaders worldwide.

And while out of 400 sessions more than half addressed issues of gender diversity and inclusion, we can’t help but feel that those discussions will lack substantive influence until at least half of those at the table are women and minorities. It’s a step in the right direction — but it’s about time we took a leap.



Meet the Woman Revolutionizing Toronto’s Events Industry, One Soiree at a Time http://www.womenofinfluence.ca/2017/04/02/meet-the-woman-revolutionizing-torontos-events-industry-one-soiree-at-a-time/ Sun, 02 Apr 2017 21:41:11 +0000 http://www.womenofinfluence.ca/?p=169321

As the founder and President of The Concierge Club, a nation-wide event and staffing agency, Monica Gomez is behind some of the best celebrations Toronto has ever seen. But she’s not only owning the events industry  — she’s making it a better place for women, too.


By Marie Moore



Some leaders have a strong business sense, while others know how to take care of their employees. The great leaders? They’re known for both.

A savvy businesswoman, entrepreneur, and mother of two, Monica Gomez manages to embody the combined personas of a whip-smart executive and the warm older sister you never had.

Monica is the founder and President of The Concierge Club, a full service, Canada-wide event and staffing agency that provides event coordination and staffing for high-profile brand and celebrity events. Having launched just five years ago, the agency now boasts a regular roster of high-profile clients including Ciroc, Guerlain Cosmetics, and even the Bieber family.  

Yet despite her current status as an event industry heavyweight, Monica got her start in the financial industry, where she worked in office administration. However it didn’t take long for the creative and energetic people person to realize that she wasn’t passionate about the administrative side finance.

“Event planning kind of fell into my lap,” she recalls, having been involved through the financial industry in planning and executing the hospitality suites for the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) trade show. But when the stock market crashed and the future of finance seemed bleak, she realized it was time for a change and moved east to Toronto.

Craving the creativity and social networking opportunities of the entertainment industry, and armed with the knowledge that she couldn’t work for anyone else, Monica decided to start her own company.

Under the mentorship of prominent Toronto event planner Elvira Muffolini, Monica quickly developed a name for herself, and The Concierge Club was born.

“Elvira is one of the people who helped make me who I am today and is now my Director of Events,” Monica reveals. “I don’t burn bridges, because you never know who’s going to come back into your life. This is also why I always treat everyone with the most respect no matter what.”


“I don’t burn bridges, because you never know who’s going to come back into your life. This is also why I always treat everyone with the most respect no matter what.”


Monica’s staff of brand ambassadors often refer to her as a second mother, a title she’s proudly earned by being attentive to both their professional development and their personal lives. From tax trouble to boyfriend problems, very little is off limits.

“From day one I treated the girls with respect. If they made a mistake, there was always an open line of communication ― even personal issues are on the table, because I get that sometimes they affect work. If I can help, I want the opportunity to do so.”

With over ten years of industry experience under her belt, Monica has seen the worst side of the events and promotions industry first-hand. Many staff, particularly younger women, are regularly taken advantage of, often being scammed of their pay and disrespected by management.

“With The Concierge Club, I wanted to do the opposite of what I was witnessing,” Monica says. “When you instill in your company a foundation of respect and communication, you get that back from your employees. Clients notice ― they see the difference in our brand ambassadors.”

Several of those brand ambassadors have graduated from in-field to now run the day-to-day operations of The Concierge Club, and whether it’s giving bonuses or passing along positive client feedback, Monica always makes sure her staff feels appreciated and valued — because they are.

“It’s rare to see that kind of investment in people in this industry,” Monica explains. “Because of this so many staff contact us and ask if there’s anything they can do to grow with the company, and we’re always receptive.”


“When you instill in your company a foundation of respect and communication, you get that back from your employees.”


When it comes to growth, Monica sometimes can’t believe how fast things have changed in the last few years. In 2016 the Concierge Club expanded its services to include total event planning, and has since pulled off some of the biggest events the city has seen. These include Justin Bieber’s dad’s engagement party, which made it into every big media outlet globally; the Dragon’s Den season 11 launch party; and most recently the nationwide events for cosmetic powerhouse Guerlain cosmetics. “This launch was very special for us.” Monica says “This was the biggest fragrance launch to date for Guerlain, with Angelina Jolie as spokesperson, and they entrusted us to plan it for them.”

“I’m a hustler and won’t take no for an answer.” Monica says.

Monica’s family has also doubled in size; in past few years she’s become a mother to two-and-a-half-year-old Adriana, and six-month-old Ayden.

“It’s a challenge to balance,” Monica admits. “And there’s a lot of guilt, a lot of the time. But in the end it’s all for them. I want my children to see their mom working hard and succeeding.” And despite being a self-proclaimed hustler who is rarely satisfied, she doesn’t hesitate to provide credit where it’s due. “My mom lives with us and is a huge help ― the company wouldn’t be where it is without her. And my husband has been my number one supporter since day one, constantly giving me the confidence I need to keep moving forward even when times are tough.”

It is those moments to stop and feel thankful that Monica relishes. She can often be found having celebratory dinners at Harbour Sixty, or treating her management team to spa days.

But her generosity extends beyond the walls of the company. Last year The Concierge Club raised almost $100k for various charities, and this year they have plans to add a new program to their charitable contributions — but they can’t announce it just yet.

“It’s easy to get lost in this world, and sometimes we don’t realize how lucky we are. It’s important for me that we set an example as a company, and have our staff get involved in giving back.”

It’s this commitment to excellence and integrity that Monica believes sets The Concierge Club apart. And she doesn’t plan on changing her business model, even while eyeing expansion in the future.

“I want to be known for changing the event staffing industry. I started doing things differently, and now everyone else is following suit. I want to keep that going. We have become a leader in this industry and will continue to do so.”


Photographer: Dexter Quinto

Designer: Caitlin Power