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Revisiting the Boys’ Club

From a young age, I had exposure to The Boys’ club, through my father who was a silent partner in the Cambridge Club of Toronto. In my eyes, this club was and is a mythical place where men go to do business, forge ties, and win (or lose) business together in an entertaining and exclusive atmosphere. Whether the “club” was a physical space of wood paneled walls with stories to tell, or my childhood home where men sometimes talked deals over poker games behind closed doors, I wanted in.

I wanted it for all women, and I wanted to create it for us. That passion fueled my desire to influence women and fight for our access to The Club.

But what I now know is that this male behavior doesn’t suit women’s strengths or characters, nor does having women’s clubs serve to break down those actual and invisible walls that keep us separated. So what’s the solution? After six years at the helm of this organization, I am proud to say, we are. Here’s why.

Women of Influence opened in 1994 to fill a gap: it provided women with access to role models. When I joined the company, in 2005, that need was still alive and well. The company had a strong foundation in its flagship luncheon series, and even more possibility to move the needle, but the next step was clear; we needed to reach more people than our events alone could reach.

The plan started with an expansion into media, launching the magazine in 2010 and the web content in 2011; the company’s reach grew from 10,000 a year to 100,000. But that wasn’t enough; and access to role models still wasn’t enough.

Corporations have been trying to reach, retain and tap into women, mostly by creating budgets for diversity programs and internal women’s groups, but they weren’t seeing results. So we went deeper to figure out why not and what would work. Years of asking questions and listening to you have resulted in two new extensions of Women of Influence:

  1. Women of Influence Advancement Centre, to increase the influencing and executive leadership skills of women and
  2. Corporate Gender Intelligence training through our partnership with New York-based consulting firm Barbara Annis & Associates.

As a result of this growth, we’ve also added some new senior members to our team. I am happy to introduce our new Editor in Chief, Jasmine Miller. Jasmine comes to us with experience in business and lifestyle publishing — a perfect combination for how we like to live and work: integrated. Next issue you will hear from her, and start to see her influence evolve into a deeper conversation with our women of influence, because we want to know how they do it — not the PR story, the real story — so we can share those hard-earned battles, and apply those lessons.

While the boys’ clubs may still fascinate me, in the business world they are no longer acceptable: governments aren’t standing for them, boards aren’t standing for them, and women aren’t standing for them. That’s why we decided to examine the industries that didn’t traditionally make room for women, and the women who are breaking down those invisible walls.

In this issue, dedicated to boys’ clubs or “traditionally male-dominated industries,” I’m inspired by women fire-fighters, women in mining, and women helping women with the Good Question we tackle on female bullying.

Finally, a tribute to our cover woman, Arianna Huffington, and our interviewer, advisor and friend, Elaine Kunda. Both have earned media success, both are dedicated to fueling the growth of the G(irls)20 Summit to inspire more female leaders and influencers, both can handily navigate a roundtable or boardroom with either gender, and both are simply great, inspiring women who are honoured to have as role models.