The 3 big “Wish I would Have Knowns” all working moms need to know

By Janet Winkler

On our journey to create Hacking Sophia, a digital platform designed to deliver career and life wisdom and solutions to time-starved working moms, we heard dozens of “I Wish I Would Have Knowns” from the more than 150 in-depth interviews we conducted with working moms. 

Things like: “I wish I would have known that despite all the little screw-ups, all the moments of self-doubt, all the times I asked myself if I was doing the right thing, my kids were going to turn out ok, because they did.”

This lesson, like all the rest, was unfortunately learned in hindsight. 

I too wish I had known them. There were too many nights that I laid in bed, after keeping it together for my kids, admitting to my husband “I don’t think I can do this anymore.” I had founded my own business, grown it to a company that serviced global clients with a best-in-industry reputation, worked with an incredible group of inspiring, committed, brilliant women and men — and I also had 3 children, a husband, and in time, a dog. I often felt like I was busting at the seams.

I knew all too well the challenge of being a working mom and navigating two competing time-consuming worlds — work and family. For my next chapter, I was determined to help all women, but with an emphasis on working moms living in, what we call, the Cram it all in Years, the years where career acceleration and babies and young children collide. 

Out of all the “I Wish I Would Have Knowns” that inspired the wisdom we share with the Hacking Sophia community, three big jewels emerged consistently as the foundations to prioritize, to help the shift from ‘post-baby just hanging on’ to living life more fully. Most of our Sophia Contributors learned these through challenges, often (also) experiencing a “can’t do this anymore” moment and wishing they would have known and acted on these pieces of wisdom earlier. Personally, I really wish I would have known and acted on these three early on. I know I would have saved myself a lot of hardship. 

1) Define Your What Matters (and you’re ‘not so much anymore’).

“It took me until my second child to really think through what mattered most to me. It was my immediate family, my career and my well-being. Full stop. The rest of the shit I was doing, that I thought was really important or gave me joy, just couldn’t fit anymore.” — A Sophia Contributor

Early on, everything that used to matter is still there plus add in a baby, then maybe children, and things quickly get overwhelming. Deciding what you really care about as it relates to baby/children/family, life and work in your new reality is essential. If how you spend your time doesn’t align with the core of what you really care about, your world is out of sync and you’re left feeling frustrated and certainly exhausted. Here’s how:

  • Define the big categories of things that matter most to you. Think about where you want to spend your energy, and in the Cram it all in Years think in shorter windows, like a 6-month horizon. Categories could include: immediate family, career, self-care, social time, creative outlets, etc. Just jot them down.
  • Distill your big categories of “what matters most now” list down to a top 5 and identify and define what doesn’t matter so much to you anymore. Choose your top 5, and by default, deprioritize what is less important to you. It can help to assign a value, a simple 1 – 10, to force choice.
  • List your Supposed To’s: Get these off your chest, your mind, your conscience! We’re overloaded with “I’m supposed to’s” whether it’s from social media, assumptions about what others think you should be or do, or other expectations that you accumulate. List your supposed to’s so you make the invisible visible, eliminate what doesn’t serve you and hold onto what’s important to you. Examples include: being my extended family’s ‘go to’ for advice, serving homecooked meals to my family, returning to my pre-baby fitness level, and more.
  • Write your clarity statements: For your top 5 categories, assisted by your list of ‘supposed to’s,’ add in your “why” these matter as a reinforcement and a check that you’re prioritizing for the right reasons (for you, for your family) and what you want to achieve (how). Here are some examples:

(What) Spending time with my immediate family is important to me (why) because one of my greatest joys comes from being a mom (how) so I’m going to make sure I invest quality time with them when I can be most present.

(What) Advancing career is a priority for me (why) because I enjoy the stimulation that comes from applying my skills and I want to continue to advance upwards (how) so I’m going to make sure I focus on what is going to drive my career forward, minimizing ‘other distractions” while I’m working. 

“There were too many nights that I laid in bed, after keeping it together for my kids, admitting to my husband “I don’t think I can do this anymore.” … I often felt like I was busting at the seams.”

2) Fierce Prioritization and Ruthless Boundaries.

You’ve done the hard part — the choices around how you spend your time and energy. Turn these “top 5 matters” into activities and actions, assigning time and get them in your calendar. This is what you fiercely protect and communicate to others, unapologetically. Continuing with the above two examples:

Immediate Family:

  • Spend quality time with my family: 
    • Be home by 6:30 pm 3 nights a week to bath and put my baby/kids to bed. 
    • Be fully present with them during that time; no emails, texts during that time.
    • And, relax my ‘supposed to’s’ around homecooked meals.


  • Advance my career:  
    • Ruthless focus on career advancing priorities by defining the 3 business critical priorities that will demonstrate success in my role. 
    • Defining the associated action steps to make that happen, the resources/support required, determining what to delegate and what to eliminate that doesn’t fit.

3) Assemble Your Team (Personal & Professional)

I wish I had leaned on my tribe more. You need an outlet of realness. You need a friend who you can call and say anything to without judgement. — A Sophia Contributor

We can’t and shouldn’t do it alone. Action it. Start by choosing which people are most critical to you and give yourself time to find them. It’s not a race!

Here are some examples that emerged as the early important ones:

Life: Childcare Team, 911 Friends, Trusted Advisors, Moms who have your back,
Work: Got Your Back Peers, Advocates, Mentors, Investors

Remember, as you consider the above, perfection is the enemy of done! Get started so you make choices. 

While I wish I would have known that despite the many screw-ups and agonizing periods of self-doubt of whether I was a good mom and business leader, I’m happy to report that I have three amazing adult children, each accomplished in their careers, each in healthy relationships, the same loving husband and a career that I can honestly say, “Wow, I got to do that!”

Janet Winkler

Janet Winkler

Janet is an experienced leader, entrepreneur and marketing specialist. Janet founded in-sync, an insights-based brand consultancy which was acquired by Publicis Groupe where she was appointed Group President, Publicis Health. Following her retirement from Publicis, Janet became a Senior Advisor at McKinsey & Company. However, Hacking Sophia was calling. It was born out of a desire to help working moms thrive in personal and professional lives.

3 tips for developing your personal brand and professional style

Tamara works with executive-track professionals as well as Canada’s top brands to develop distinctive, authentic image and brand strategies. You can find Tamara’s expertise on numerous style blogs, and in the media as a trusted image & style expert.

By Tamara Glick

In the early aughts, you didn’t pursue a career in advertising so much as you fell into a career in advertising. Suffice it to say, it wasn’t a common recruitment stream in my MBA program. In fact, I was the only person in my cohort to pursue it. But, I was determined. I approached my career centre with the questions: How do I present myself in this industry? If I’m networking or interviewing, how do I dress? 

To the very best of their ability, my career counsellor provided me with the only advice they knew how to give: a strictly corporate set of parameters of black and navy suits and white shirts.

There’s something else you should know — I felt like an imposter for most of my MBA. Coming from an arts and fashion background made me stand out like Elle Woods at Harvard. 

I might have known style, but I was at the finest school in the country — so I paid attention. Prepping for a mock interview with a mentor who had long been in the agency world, I suited up in my best black skirt suit, a high-necked top, a french twist, pearl earrings, and pantyhose. 

My mentor took one look at me, and her face said it all. “What in the world is this?” she said, gesturing to my outfit. I sighed: “I have no idea! I can’t do this every day and be creative!”

What happened next changed the trajectory of my career.

We discussed branding, knowing your audience, honouring yourself, and building your reputation — and all of a sudden, it clicked.

The “fashion stuff” that I had always been so passionate about, the years of assisting people in feeling strong, confident, and influential via their style — these were really, truly critical skills to professional development and to building a successful personal brand.

I changed my strategy and began to experiment with how style affected different interactions. I built a successful advertising career, continued studying the impact of image, and became a certified Image Consultant.

I launched my practice and, realizing how much more nuance there was to truly dressing for success, my alma mater became my first client.

Since then I’ve helped highly-visible, senior-level executives and thought-leaders develop a unique style that supports their goals and elevates their personal brands — especially when big changes are afoot. And just like developing any skill set, what got you here, isn’t necessarily what will get you there. Uplevelling to reach your next goal requires and deserves elevating your brand.

“I approached my career centre with the questions: How do I present myself in this industry? If I’m networking or interviewing, how do I dress?”

Top 3 Tips to Elevate Your Personal Brand

1) Originality, authenticity, and polish: 

Everyone wants and deserves to be comfortable. But, no-one needs to trade in on their style and brand potential just to remain passable, in the name of “comfort.” Comfort isn’t about wearing yoga pants to work, it’s about being at ease, genuine, confident in one’s skin. Developing a memorable personal brand is about supporting yourself with style that fits your personality, your career, and your body. It’s about polishing yourself as much as you would your presentations, papers, and results. After all, they’re all a part of the same package: You.

2) Live your brand: 

Being genuine is key to developing a meaningful personal brand. Moulds are for cookies and Jell-o — not people. While your reputation might be more about results or job functions, your personal brand can tell people so much more about you. Make your personal brand an amplification of what you bring to the table (your value) as well as what you believe in (your values). Your quirks and uniqueness can become your signature, when developed and celebrated with panache and polish. 

3) Learn the language of colour and clothing: 

Before you say “but…black!” — there is a whole language of colour, texture, and design that can elevate your personal style and visually communicate your brand. Knowing how to use your best options is like mastering an unspoken language that everyone around you instantly, intuitively recognizes. When you are articulate in colour and clothing, elusive qualities like thoughtfulness, creativity, even your standards, empathy, and sensitivity, and more can be communicated without words.

Tamara Glick

Tamara Glick

With almost 2 decades experience spanning advertising, marketing, style & image, Tamara works with executive-track professionals as well as Canada’s top brands to develop distinctive, authentic image and brand strategies that consistently garner success and accolades. Tamara’s practice draws on a multi-faceted skillset spanning her background in Communication, Fashion, and Image with corporate experience in Advertising and Marketing which enables her to strategize personal and corporate brands with clarity, relevance, and sophistication. As a communication and style strategist, you can find Tamara’s expertise on numerous style blogs, and in the media as a trusted image & style expert.

Good Question: When is Enough Really Enough? Arlene Dickinson shares her advice.


“I love my work even though I put in 10-hour days, monitor my blackberry for weekend and evening calls that usually require follow-up, and have never taken a vacation that involved being totally unavailable. I am—and have always been—fine with that. My doctor is not.

Recently I started having trouble sleeping and developed headaches almost daily. I go to work tired and pop a few Advil throughout the day. When I started getting winded after short walks, and experienced chest pains for no reason, that’s when I saw the doctor. There’s nothing wrong with me except my lifestyle.

I’ve taken control of what I can—cook more, take-out less; exercise early in the morning before work; and took the television out of my bedroom too. The symptoms aren’t going away. I’ve gone back to the doctor and the message is the same: the way I work isn’t conducive to a healthy lifestyle. If I keep this up, something will go seriously wrong, that’s what my body is apparently telling me.

Here’s the problem: My job requires this level of dedication; my boss puts in longer hours than I do; the people who report to me are under pressure too. How do I make the case that my workload and way of working aren’t tenable without losing my job? How do I achieve a work-life balance?”



Arlene Dickinson
President and CEO of Venture Communications

Arlene Dickinson is one of Canada’s most successful — and recognizable — entrepreneurs. Best known for her role as a Dragon on the multi-award-winning television series Dragons’ Den, she built her fortune with Venture Communications, and just a few years ago, launched District Ventures — an accelerator, venture fund, and communications firm focused on turning successful Canadian companies in the food and health space into globally respected brands. She is a two-time bestselling author, an accomplished public speaker, a television and podcast host, and the winner of multiple awards for her leadership and entrepreneurial success. Arlene sits on several public and private boards and is actively involved in supporting the community. 



My initial reaction is that you’re in the wrong job, period.

Some expectations come from you and some come from the job, and until you manage your need to control, and for perfection, the anxiety and stress will never go away. This is as much about your own desires as it is about the expectation of your workplace.

At some point, you have to accept that’s the reality of your work—late nights, no vacation, etc. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, it just is. The job you’re in might actually require commitment and energy that you don’t have. My advice would be: go find another job, not go talk to your boss.

However, if talking to your boss lowers your stress, then awesome—you should do that. But I don’t think it will because you’re putting the blame for your challenge on your job instead of on yourself, and you are responsible for your own choices.

As an employer, I have an expectation that people will work hard and do their job. But if someone said to me: “I can’t work as hard as you do, but I will give it my best,” then I’m ok with that. How can I expect anyone who works for me to work as hard as me? It’s my company. Most entrepreneurs understand that.

But here’s why I think your work’s not your problem: People often take a job because it’s going to be good for their career, not because it’s best for them. Sometimes we make a career move that’s not a great choice for our talents and abilities, and it becomes a trap: we get overwhelmed by the requirements, but we get the salary, the position, the authority. It’s all great except that we hate it, or it causes us stress. In this case, you love the work, but you have the stress.

If there’s a physical manifestation of stress—even though you went and changed stuff, like eating better, sleeping more, etc.—then this is not a lifestyle issue, it’s a career issue. So go find what makes you happy. That’s easy for me to say, right? Because quitting means giving up security…but this is your health and nothing is worth that, is it?

If there’s an expectation to work this way, then you need to make a decision. It’s all about choices and, ultimately, if it comes down to your health, screw it. Nothing’s worth that.

A LinkedIn consultant shares the 3 most important features of your profile — and how to optimize them


Is your LinkedIn profile the best it can be? If you’ve created a basic profile for yourself, but don’t know what to do next, here are the three features you can focus on now to ensure you stand out.


by Leslie Hughes





With over 630 million members in over 200 countries, LinkedIn is the undisputed champ in the world of professional networking.

Yet, whenever I’m at a networking event and I tell people what I do (I help to empower professionals and brands optimize their brand presence using LinkedIn), most people sheepishly admit to me that they aren’t using this channel to its fullest potential.

LinkedIn is the most career-focused out of all social channels, and we often overlook it in our day-to-day activities because, quite frankly, it’s not fun. But when it comes to creating opportunities and extending the reach of your professional brand, LinkedIn is a very powerful resource that goes well beyond just job hunting.

Did you know that LinkedIn is one of the highest-ranked sites when someone Google’s your name?

Have you ever used LinkedIn to research a vendor, or check someone out before a meeting? People are doing the same to your profile. You want to ensure that first impression actually impresses them.

Today, regardless of whether you work for a large organization or you’re self-employed, we are all expected to showcase our personal brand. 

If you’ve created a basic profile for yourself, but don’t know what to do next, here are the three things you must do now to ensure your LinkedIn profile stands out:


1) Use a professional photo. 

Your photo is one of the first things people see when they visit your LinkedIn profile. You want to ensure that it showcases a competent and confident professional. Investing in hiring a professional photographer is a smart choice, but even if you just use the smartphone in your pocket, here are some top do’s and don’ts when it comes to choosing the right photo.


  • Look directly into the camera. 
  • Smile! A study by Photofeeler found that when you’re smiling, people view you as more likeable, competent, and influential. When you smile and show your teeth, these photos were rated twice as likable as closed-mouth smiles.
  • Choose a photo that is up-to-date. (No Glamour Shots from the 80’s, please.)
  • Dress appropriately. Wear the same kind of outfit you would wear to a networking event or meeting.
  • Ensure the background of the photo is simple and uncluttered.
  • Use proper lighting. If you’re using your smartphone, natural lighting frames your face the best.
  • Crop your photo to feature your face and the top of your shoulders.


“Your photo is one of the first things people see when they visit your LinkedIn profile. You want to ensure that it showcases a competent and confident professional.”



  • Upload a selfie.
  • Crop yourself out of a group photo.
  • Include other people or pets in your image.
  • Use a graduation or wedding photo.
  • Include a photo of yourself drinking at an event.
  • Use a logo or avatar instead of your headshot.
  • Incorporate hobbies into your photo.

Having a strong professional photo can increase your profile viewings and also increase the response rate for people who will accept your connection request. 


2) Create a compelling headline.

Your headline is a part of your unique value proposition — and can let your potential connections know who you are, what you do, and how you can help them. Don’t use the default headline that LinkedIn will prompt you to use. Focus on using the right keywords that ensure you stand out.

The maximum character count for the headline section is 120 characters, so I highly recommend crafting your profile in a Word document to ensure you stay within the limits. The following formula will help you to create a headline that makes a big impact:

Option #1: (Your title) at (Company). Helping (your target audience) with (solutions you provide). 

For example: Marketing Manager at XYZ Company. We create unique marketing opportunities that drive awareness and convert clients.

This option is ideal if you’re responsible for extending brand awareness about your organization. Encourage your team to use a consistent framework so they can all become brand ambassadors of your organization.


“Your headline is a part of your unique value proposition — and can let your potential connections know who you are, what you do, and how you can help them.”


Option #2: If your role is multifaceted, you can use keywords to let people know what you do.

For example, my LinkedIn headline reads: LinkedIn & Social Selling Trainer • LinkedIn Profile Writer • Professor of Social Media • Appeared on CTVs “The Social”.

Notice, I don’t use my company name, PUNCH!media, in this headline. I focus specifically on keywords that help to showcase what I do, and some social proof to let people know I’m qualified to help them.


3) Tell a powerful story in your Summary/About section.

The Summary (also called About) section can be the most challenging area to write, but it’s also the best real estate for your professional brand to shine online. 

I like to call your Summary “your resume with personality.” I recommend writing your copy in first person (I am) as opposed to third person (Leslie is) because I think the reader feels more connected to you when they are reading your personal story.

You have 2,000 characters in the Summary block to highlight your accomplishments, build trust and let your connections know how incredible you are.

If you’re feeling hesitant about including your biggest accomplishments, you’re not alone. I’ve written hundreds of LinkedIn profiles and even the most senior executives don’t enjoy having the spotlight put upon them. Most of us don’t want to come across like we are bragging. 


“You have 2,000 characters in the Summary block to highlight your accomplishments, build trust and let your connections know how incredible you are.”


Here are two quick tips that will help you to feel better about writing your accomplishments.

Tip #1: LinkedIn is the channel you are supposed to include your achievements on. People want to work with the best. If you don’t include information that can help your network see how competent you are, then you are doing a disservice to people who need your help!

Tip #2: The easiest way to re-frame your “brags” is to use emotional language that focuses on the results you produce for your clients or how they describe you. 

For example: 

  • “I’m driven to ensure my clients receive (results you deliver)”
  • “I’m passionate about delivering (results you produce)”
  • “I’m honoured to have received X award, which acknowledges my commitment to my industry and my clients.
  • My clients have described me as trustworthy, honest and forthright.

I love the saying, “when you’re inside the jar, you cannot see the label” — often you don’t see the unique value you bring to your clients and your network. If you really don’t know how other people see you — just ask! Send an email to a few of your connections and ask them to describe you in five words or less. I think you’ll be surprised (and delighted) to hear what they think about the value you bring to the table.

As LinkedIn continues to grow, and as professionals lean on this channel more for building up their network of connections, you’ll be happy you spent the time to optimize your profile.



Leslie Hughes is a LinkedIn Optimization Specialist, Professor of Social Media, Corporate Trainer, Principal of PUNCH!media, and author of CREATE. CONNECT. CONVERT. She was called a “Social Media Guru” by CBC Radio and was featured on CTV’s The Social discussing how to manage your digital identity. Leslie has been working in digital marketing since 1997 and founded PUNCH!media in 2009. 





Good Question: How do I know when is the right time to leave my job?


A new position has come up in another area that I would love to pursue — but it doesn’t feel like the right time to leave my department. Should I pursue it anyway?

Knowing how much pressure we are under to deliver, I am concerned that my boss will be angry if I leave. I like my boss and my team, and I don’t want them to think I don’t appreciate all they have done for me. And I hate the idea of leaving them with all of this work to do — it will put a lot of extra pressure on everyone.”






Christine Laperriere
Executive Director, Women of Influence Advancement Centre

Christine Laperriere is the executive director of the Women of Influence Advancement Centre, president of Leader In Motion, a leadership development organization, and the author of Too Busy to Be Happy — a guide to using Emotional Real Estate to improve both your work and your life. A seasoned expert in helping women professionals advance their careers, she’s had the honour of guiding hundreds of women in various companies and roles to reach their full potential. Her background includes an undergraduate and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering, certifications in psychotherapy, Neuro-Linguistic Programming and executive coaching, along with years in design engineering and management consulting.



In my role, I get the opportunity to interact with hundreds of professional women at varying levels within their organizations, from CEOs to administrative assistants. So many women I coach feel there is “never a right time” to leave a position. I’m going to share a few pieces of wisdom I’ve gathered from working with very successful women.


It’s not a marriage.
So many talented women treat their commitment to their jobs in the same way they approach their marriages or families — acting as if they are committed indefinitely. Every employer will tell you that having employees that are extremely loyal is a great asset to their business. The challenge with this thinking is that it can limit healthy personal and professional growth.

Years ago, when I was struggling to leave a relationship, my coach said to me: “You don’t have to make him wrong in order for it to be the right decision to leave.” This was eye-opening. I was looking for where the other party was wrong to help me justify my decision to make a change. I see many professionals who will say they like their boss, team, company, or role — so they don’t know why they feel like they want a change. You don’t have to hate your job to justify leaving it.


It’s not a fling.
While it’s important to recognize that being too loyal can be a detriment, I also like to challenge talented women to think of how they build a personal brand of commitment. Changing positions quickly can leave people wondering if you’ve got the grit to work through challenges and stay the course when things get tough. 

I not only ask clients if they’ve been in their existing role for a minimum of 18 months, but also whether they’ve seen some work through to completion — in which they can say with confidence that they’ve gained new critical skills through that working experience. There will always be unique circumstances that merit a quick departure, but repeated short stays can leave future employers questioning your credentials if this becomes your regular rotation. 


“You don’t have to hate your job to justify leaving it.”


It’s more like a home. 
I like to use the analogy of a home when it comes to how we approach loyalty in our careers. If you think about it, many of us have lived in different homes throughout our lives. Some homes we live in for numerous years, others are only for a short time. Sometimes we move to get away from our loud and rowdy neighbours, other times we move because we’ve simply outgrown the place and it’s healthy to evolve in a new environment that is a better fit for who we are today.


Don’t wait for permission.
I’ve worked with many women who feel they need to wait for permission to leave. We want others to say: “It’s okay to take that new role!” The truth is, we have to give ourselves permission to pursue what feels right to us, even at the expense of disappointing others. A boss that values your work is rarely going to encourage you to take on a different opportunity, and that’s a good thing — they see your greatness! This is even more reason why you should take that leap that excites you the most.

Be thoughtful about how you leave your role, and always thank those around you for what they’ve taught you. You’ll find that over time you’ll create a network full of professionals that continue to support you for years to come.


To learn more about how you or your organization can advance talented female professionals and leaders more effectively, contact Christine directly at


Good Question: My mentor told me that I need to put more effort on critical mandates. Was it a criticism of my work? What am I missing?


“My mentor told me that if I want to move up, I need to start putting more effort on critical mandates. I feel like everything I do is stuff that has to get done — so I’m not sure what to do with this advice. Was it a criticism of my work? What am I missing?



Christine Laperriere
Executive Director, Women of Influence Advancement Centre

Christine Laperriere is the executive director of the Women of Influence Advancement Centre, president of Leader In Motion, a leadership development organization, and the author of Too Busy to Be Happy — a guide to using Emotional Real Estate to improve both your work and your life. A seasoned expert in helping women professionals advance their careers, she’s had the honour of guiding hundreds of women in various companies and roles to reach their full potential. Her background includes an undergraduate and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering, certifications in psychotherapy, Neuro-Linguistic Programming and executive coaching, along with years in design engineering and management consulting.



I often coach my clients on how to productively handle negative feedback — but I actually don’t think this is what your mentor is offering. Focusing on critical mandates is key for advancement, and the first step is understanding what this means. It’s not about getting through your task list — everything might have to be done, but not everything is critical — it’s about putting more energy towards what will have a big impact. Here are three easy steps to do it: 


  1. Figure out what are your critical mandates. 

    Can you quickly list the three most important things your company needs you to deliver on? Just because a task is urgent (someone in shipping needs a signature for a package) doesn’t make it important (delivering a presentation to align peers on a critical business objective).

  2. Colour code your calendar. 

    If you have three critical mandates, begin to colour code what mandate you are working on at each point in the day. A lot of people feel this sounds too tactical, but ironically, the moment you see where your daytime hours are being spent, it gets very easy to see what is keeping you away from your most important work. I challenge you to try this out for four weeks and then review your history to see what stands out to you. 

  3. Ask for support. 

    As you start to re-prioritize your time to focus on the most important mandates, some other things are going to naturally get less attention. As this is a growth opportunity for you, you may need to reach out to your boss to explain how you’re prioritizing critical mandates, and ask for support. She might need to delegate time intensive, low priority work to someone else, or even advise that certain tasks be set to the back burner until more critical initiatives are complete.


To learn more about how you or your organization can advance talented female professionals and leaders more effectively, contact Christine directly at


Lessons Learned: How a senior executive is redefining “having it all” by making peace with compromise

The topic of “having it all” can quickly spark debate — not only about whether or not it’s possible but also about the unrealistic expectations just discussing this goal can impose on women. But, whether we talk about it or not, many of us are still experiencing the struggle of balancing work and life. Shemina Jiwani, a tech executive and mother of two, has found her own approach to having it all, centred around compromise. These are the lessons she’s learned.




By Shemina Jiwani


Can a woman have it all? I grapple with this question all the time, as I attempt to find balance in my own life between being a mother to two young children and a Chief Operating Officer for a FinTech company. I believe the answer first lies in how you define “having it all” and being realistic about it. I believe that I can have it all, with one caveat: having it all comes only when we are able to make peace with the trade-offs and compromises necessary to do so.


We Need Female Executives

There are countless studies which find direct correlations between a company’s profitability and the presence of women in executive and senior leadership positions, most notably McKinsey & Company’s “Women in the Workplace 2018” report. Clearly, we as women are doing our part.

Women are earning more bachelor’s degrees than men, we are asking for promotions and negotiating salaries at the same rate as men, and we are staying in the overall workforce at the same rate as men.  So why do women represent only 15% of executive or senior management positions?

Clearly, there is still a lot of work to be done. We need to stand on equal ground.   


Eliminating Unconscious Bias

I recently took a business trip to London, England for four days, leaving my husband to care for our four-year-old daughter and one-year-old son solo. I was flying with a male colleague whose kids are the same age. I jokingly asked him if he was in trouble for leaving, as I had multiple friends, colleagues, and even my own mother tell me I shouldn’t be leaving my children. He was surprised. He replied the only opinion he was given on his trip was a pub recommendation.

Both men and women can harbour unconscious biases when hiring and evaluating for the promotion of women. Often these biases focus on women’s motherhood or even potential motherhood.  For instance, it may be assumed that a woman between the ages of 20 and 40 will inevitably take maternity leave, or if she is a mother that she will prioritize family before career. Yet, even hard-working women who try to prioritize their careers will still be subject to judgements about being a bad mom or working too hard.  It’s a frustrating catch-22, and it is a bias because these assumptions are not commonly made for men of the same age group.

The antidote to unconscious bias may very well be empathy. Start a dialogue by sharing your experiences with your colleagues; you may help them see things from a different perspective.


Find a Work-Life Balance

It was very difficult for me to find balance; I couldn’t unshackle myself from my own guilt and the opinions of others, even if it meant sacrificing my own happiness. This is not sustainable. Flexibility, boundaries, and self-care are essential to “having it all.”


Here are some good places to start:

  • Ask for what you want: I was lucky enough to adopt my son from Morocco, which meant living there for six months. Before, I would have assumed taking maternity leave was my only option. Instead, I worked remotely and didn’t lose any momentum in my career progression. You won’t get what you don’t ask for.


  • Establish rules of engagement: Set boundaries for yourself and others that help you be more present. For example, I leave the office at 4 PM every day, and I don’t check my phone again until the kids are asleep at 7:30 PM. For you, it might mean working from home more often, establishing flex-time, or setting a monthly travel-limit.


  • Find a support system: Maybe we can have it all, but we can’t always do it all. It’s also important to remember that raising kids is not only a mom’s job. I have an amazing husband who shares the load with me. Single moms may need to consider amending co-parenting plans, enlisting the help of family, or even hiring childcare. Every family is different but remember you don’t need to do it alone.


  • Ditch the guilt: Inevitably, you’ll miss something: a recital, a game, a meeting, a deadline… accept it and move on. Own your choices and mistakes: you’re a human being. Guilt is not productive, nor is placing too much stock in the opinions or judgements of others.  


  • Find a Tribe: With so few women in upper management, it can get lonely. I was lucky enough to find a group of like-minded women from an accelerator program called Rise Up. I now have a network of 35 women that can truly relate to me, empower me, and help me stay on track.


You probably can’t be an effective CEO and a PTA president, but you can have it all as long as you are at peace with the compromises you need to make to do so.   


Shemina Jiwani is the Chief Operating Officer and Senior Vice President of Strategic Initiatives at AscendantFX, a technology-based payment provider. Shemina is an experienced strategic leader with a focus on aligning people with technology. Shemina is an inaugural member of Money 20/20’s Rise Up Program, a global accelerator program for women in finance and technology. Follow her on Twitter @sheminajiwani


Why Women Will Leave Your Company – and How to Prevent It

by Elizabeth Dulberger





My journey to becoming a successful executive coach, speaker, and author was not easy. Like most, I started my career in the corporate world as an Executive Assistant, a role that offers a very unique view into an organization: you are constantly in the same room as the most powerful and influential people, but you also gain insight into all the other employees roles, thoughts, and feelings. I saw firsthand how things like political agendas play out, and how great teams, and not-so-great teams, are built.

I was eventually promoted to a team leadership role. Over time, I began to understand the women who worked for me and their struggles to be heard, seen, empowered, and understood. After having managed a large team of mainly female employees, I now understand why motivated, ambitious, talented and strong women often leave companies, and why they may leave your company.


Reason Number One 

Sometimes leaders have fought so hard to get into positions of power, that they are very careful not to lose their status. As a result, they tend to guard their accomplishments so tightly that their responses may seem defensive and unsupportive to women who are motivated and determined to get ahead. Whether this stems from envy, insecurity or something else is irrelevant — what is relevant is that talented women rely on their leaders to recognize and support their potential and advancement. This requires women and men in positions of power to remain open to mentoring and guiding their teams, without coming across as defensive or territorial.

How to prevent it:

As leaders, it’s important to remember that when we empower and encourage our teams, we not only positively impact their future careers, but we build our own professional networks, too. If you sense that someone at your organization is not receiving the support they need, feel free to offer whatever support is appropriate for you to provide. Any bit of guidance can help!


Reason Number Two

A woman may leave your company if she feels she MUST choose between the job and her home and/or family life. A woman who is repeatedly pressured to make that choice will eventually look for a culture where she doesn’t have to choose. Examples of this pressure may mean instilling a fear of speaking up about personal matters that need tending to, or requiring that she frequently stay and work long hours, leading to stress and exhaustion. A woman, or any employee, under constant stress will either end up burning out, or leaving.

How to prevent it:

Ensure that women at your organization have the ability to openly navigate the balance between their work and home lives, and the freedom to make professional compromises when necessary. Feeling supported and understood is crucial for any employee’s  workplace satisfaction, particularly for women who often play double-duty as professionals and caregivers.


“It’s important to remember that when we empower and encourage our teams, we not only positively impact their future careers, but we build our own professional networks.”


Reason Number Three

Women tend to process things externally, while most men are internal processors. What does this mean? As women, we typically want to talk things out before solving a problem. We like to weigh out the pros and the cons, and solve problems by comparing them to previous experiences. On the other hand, men will typically think things through internally, and often move forward with a solution without feeling the need to verbally express their ideas first. The challenge here is that some leaders will view a woman’s “processing time” as her “conclusion/final direction.” Women need time to process their plans so that they can reflect and make changes if necessary. If a female employee at your organization is not given a chance to process important decisions, she may avoid decision-making roles that feel hasty and uncomfortable, and could start searching for a new job where she is given time and freedom to think.

How to prevent it:

Instead, try keeping the conversation open throughout the decision-making process. Provide time and space for feedback and revisions, and set clear deadlines your employees can work within, at their own pace. Giving her that room to process will lead not only to successful problem solving, but it will give her the confidence to take her time assessing a problem, and come up with the best solution possible.


Reason Number Four

Women are often CEOs of households, organizing and anticipating what’s coming and what to prepare for. Companies that emphasize and practice the virtues of openness, contingency planning, ethical decision-making, and planning for the future will attract female employees because these often reflect their own strengths and values, making them environments women shine in.

How to prevent it:

As a leader, make sure your culture and values are not only defined, but also practiced. Ensure that the women within your organization are well informed of who you are, what you value, and why they are assets within the culture you have built.




To be Promoted, You Have to Promote Yourself

There’s a difference between bragging and self-advocacy. Here’s why you need to know how to do the latter, and some tips for getting started.


By Dana Rubin



When I talk to my female clients about the skills of thought leadership, there’s one question I hear over and over: “I don’t like to brag! How can I put my best foot forward without sounding full of myself?”

At first the question puzzled me, because the skill I recommend is self-advocacy not bragging. But my female clients often don’t get the distinction. It’s a gap in understanding that reverberates throughout their professional lives.

In today’s workplace, being competent isn’t nearly enough. You can’t keep your head down and do the work and hope people will notice.

Self-advocacy is necessary to making your accomplishments known to your peers, to the higher-ups in your organization, your customers, and to your wider professional community for example, the organizers of conferences you may want to speak at, or editors of publications you may want to publish in.

But many women find they don’t want to stand out because it makes them uncomfortable. They even hesitate to use the “I” word, preferring to share credit with their colleagues: “It was a team effort,” they like to say. Men, on the other hand, tend to do the opposite — they will readily say, “Pick me I’m the best!”

Traditional gender roles play a large part in these tendencies. Historically men have been expected to be assertive, dominant and bold, while women were expected to be selfless, caring and unassertive. Now those roles are breaking down. Women want to get ahead, and to do that they must self-advocate.

If you don’t know your value or can’t articulate it, your superiors won’t know what you’ve accomplished. If you’re not regularly claiming credit for your impact on the organization, you’ll be overlooked.

Because I’m a big fan of language, I went to the dictionary to find out what exactly is the difference between bragging and self-advocacy. According to Merriam-Webster, bragging means, “to talk about yourself, your achievements, your family, etc., in a way that shows too much pride.” Advocacy, on the other hand, is  “the act of supporting a cause or proposal.” Those are two very different actions.

Historically women have been very comfortable supporting causes. So why aren’t they passionate about advocating for their own careers?

Here’s the insight I now share with my clients: bragging about yourself positions you higher than other people. It can make others feel they are somehow less than you and that is not conducive to a positive working relationship or environment.

Self-advocacy is different. It’s about sharing who you are, what you do, and why you do it in a way that helps people see how you might be able to help them, and in a way that positions you to help your organization.

When you self-advocate, your motivation is to tell people about your work so you can be helpful. Your inner voice is saying the same thing as your outer voice. That’s what it means to be authentic.

When women hold back, it creates a barrier to advancement. It’s also a barrier to the advancement of their company, which is not using all the talent and resources of its employees.


How can women break free from the fear of self-advocacy?

Here’s one strategy I recommend. Take out a piece of paper and pen, and then:

  • Make a list of everything you’ve done in the last year that has contributed to your organization’s business success. You must list a minimum of ten actions.
  • Put a check mark beside each accomplishment that your direct manager knows about and has commented on.
  • Put a star by those accomplishments that are known by your industry or professional community.


Was that hard or easy to do? For many of my clients, it’s an ‘ah-ha’ moment. They finally begin to understand that to be promoted, you must promote yourself.

Most of the time we accomplish a task and then move on to the next one without thinking about the effort, skill and outcome of what we did.  But if we don’t think that way, why would others our colleagues, bosses, managers, or influential people in our field? They’re not mind readers.

So the next time you hesitate to toot your own horn, remember: you’re not bragging you’re self-advocating.



Dana Rubin is the CEO of VizibilityLab, a consultancy that develops female talent to be visible and influential thought leaders. 





5 Simple Words to Help End Sexism

by Phuong Uyen Tran



It is uplifting to see so many movements like #TimesUp, #StandTaller and #MeToo gaining traction in the fight to end gender bias, discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace and beyond. But as long as the discrimination and harassment continue, there is room for more initiatives. More ideas.

That’s why I want to share a tactic I’ve developed during my career in a high-powered environment in Asia — a region that generally lags sorely behind the west in terms of gender equality. It involves stating one simple, five-word phrase that reminds men of their role as our partners in the battle against discrimination and harassment, and invites them to shift from being passive observers, or enablers, in situations where they could make a difference, to actively becoming part of the change.

The words are: “Do I have your support?”

Though conceptually simple, these five words can have an extremely powerful effect.

Asking, “do I have your support?” gives voice to a reality that’s all too easy to ignore: women cannot eliminate sexism on their own. We need men to help us dismantle it. Doing so also engages men explicitly, and directly. When we ask, “do I have your support?” men must consider what this means. Perhaps there are many who must consider this question and its implications for the very first time; thus hearing it is an eye-opening experience for them. If the answer is ‘yes’ — as we would fully hope and expect — they might then realize they need to revise their behavior so that their actions match their words.

As a woman living and working primarily in Vietnam, I have encountered countless situations when I’ve needed to use this phrase, and even more when I wished I had used it. Even though 73% of women in Vietnam are engaged in the workforce according to the United Nations International Labour Organization (ILO), male dominance remains well entrenched in Vietnamese society today.

Time and again I have been in situations that taught me things such as: don’t offer tea or coffee to other people in a meeting unless you have reached a senior enough position for this to be viewed as a gesture of goodwill rather than a given. Or: don’t offer to take notes in a meeting, for it is always women who are asked to take notes. Instead, say ‘no’ and add, “In my experience, it’s always women who are asked to take notes, and until we start refusing, it will stay that way. Do I have your support?” I discuss all of this in more detail in my new book, Competing With Giants.

“Do I have your support?” can be a very powerful tool for enlisting men who are not perpetrators but who are aware of harassment to speak up, speak out, or rise to your defense in situations such as:

  • When difficult negotiations are given to your male colleagues because people assume men are tougher negotiators. 
  • A male colleague keeps complimenting you on your looks and you would like him to stop. 
  • You need to make it clear that you must leave the office by 5:30 several times a week to make it to your children’s’ daycare on time — and that this does not impact your productivity.

The good news as I have discovered is that more and more men are eager to help dismantle sexism.  

My own father — who also happens to be my boss — is a glowing example. Even though he hails from a generation when conversations about sexism, #MeToo, #StandTaller and #TimesUp were nonexistent, he has never discriminated between men and women. He just wants the right person for the job. He likes to use the analogy about a block of wood: it does not matter what kind of wood it is, because it can be carved according to need.

My father has also been extremely supportive of my own decisions to focus on my career rather than on family life, which is quite rare in Vietnamese culture, and to help women play substantive roles at THP. When men support their wives, their daughters and their female employees and colleagues on their path to success they ultimately find that it benefits everybody, men and women alike.

My greatest hope is that if enough of us stand up and ask “Do I have your support,” one day, everywhere, this will become to be the norm.


Phuong Uyen Tran is Deputy CEO of Tan Hiep Phat (THP) group, Vietnam’s leading independent beverage company. In addition to running Number 1 Chu Lai Plant, she is responsible for THP’s procurement, domestic and international marketing, public relations, and corporate social responsibility programs. Phuong is an executive of the Beverage Association of Vietnam and also sits on the executive committee of the Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO) Vietnam chapter. After being asked by Harvard Business Review to write a case study on how her family owned business walked away from a $2.5 billion offer from Coca-Cola, Tran decided to write the book, Competing With Giants: How One Family-Owned Company Took on the Multinationals and Won, that would teach people exactly how to do it in their own business.





Three Lessons from Michelle Obama about Finding Your Voice

Michelle Obama’s memoir, Becoming, is not only a candid look at her journey from a cramped South Side apartment in Chicago to her position on the world stage today, it’s also full of lessons that anyone can learn from — like how to speak powerfully in public and express yourself honestly. Read on for some advice from the former First Lady.


By Dana Rubin



Michelle Obama’s memoir Becoming quickly made headlines for revelations about her infertility treatments and unfiltered comments about Donald Trump. But I see another story that will endure now that those headlines have faded: a woman who struggled and succeeded at finding her voice.

“If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life,” she writes, “it’s the power of using your voice.”

The memoir details Obama’s remarkable journey from a cautious, self-conscious girl from a working class neighborhood in Chicago to one of the most admired women in the world. One theme she returns to again and again is her desire to speak powerfully in public and express herself honestly.

And who among us doesn’t want to do that? Fortunately, Obama’s memoir gives us plenty of lessons to learn from.

get help

In the early days of her husband’s presidential campaign, for the first time in her life, Obama was expected to do a fair amount of public speaking. She spoke in living rooms, bookstores, union halls, and retirement homes, “energizing volunteers, and trying to win over leaders in the community.”

But she never got any guidance. “What they didn’t tell me was what my message in Iowa was supposed to be,” she writes. “I was given no script, no talking points, no advice.”

After her husband’s victory in Iowa, the crowds got bigger and the stakes got higher.

She describes her anguish when a line she tossed out while campaigning in Wisconsin — “…let me tell you something, for the first time in my adult lifetime, I’m really proud of my country” — became fodder for conservative radio and television talk shows.

That led to an surprise intervention with advisors Valerie Jarrett and David Axelrod, who sat her down and showed her videos of some of her public appearances with the volume turned down. That way she was able to focus on some less than flattering facial expressions that she would need to control.

This was a turning point. Afterwards, Obama insisted on getting support in the form of a communication specialist to help sharpen her message and delivery. In time, that helped her feel “a new ease, a new ownership of my voice.”

Like Obama, you don’t have to go it alone. Sign up for a workshop or program. Get a coach. Join a local chapter of Toastmasters or the National Speakers Association. No matter what our experience level, there’s always room to improve. Help is within reach.

get ready

Obama makes it clear that even in childhood she was hyper-organized and prepared — which is an asset when it comes to public speaking.

For her 17-minute speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2008, she “rehearsed and re-rehearsed until I could pace the commas in my sleep…”

She found huge comfort in preparation. A teleprompter was set up in a corner of her office in the East Wing of the White House, and she used it. She also pushed her scheduler and advance teams to make sure every detail of her public appearances went smoothly and on time.

The truth is, rehearsing for a speaking event can be uncomfortable, in fact downright stressful. But the single biggest mistake speakers make is to wait until the last minute, or wing it.

Put aside excuses not to prepare and commit to putting in the time until you feel comfortable and confident about your delivery. Enlist a friend to rehearse with, or record yourself on your smartphone. You’ll probably see ways to improve, like Obama did.

get real

The deeper Obama got into the experience of being First Lady, the more she felt comfortable just being herself. That brought a consistency to her communication style — whether she was speaking to college graduates, the homeless, hip-hop stars or massive, prime time audiences.

She writes that she established a strict code for herself “to only say what I absolutely believed and what I absolutely felt.” Over time, she began to feel urgency about not wasting the precious opportunity she’d been given to speak out — so she made the most of it, with lasting resonance.

Stumping for Hillary Clinton at the Democratic convention in Philadelphia in 2016, she wanted to deliver the message that “words matter.” She will forever be remembered for her eloquent call that night for civility in public discourse: “When they go low, we go high.”

Reading Obama’s memoir, you get the feeling she has a lot more to say. As she promotes her book and speaks to packed arenas around the country, she knows girls and women around the world will be watching and listening carefully. I hope she inspires more of them to step up and speak out.

What motivates you to use your voice? What issues do you care enough about to champion in public? Define your core beliefs and the causes you care about, and learn to speak about them persuasively. That’s power.



Dana Rubin is the CEO of VizibilityLab, a consultancy that develops female talent to be visible and influential thought leaders. 





How to find role models



In the quest for gender parity, it’s crucial that we as women consider the ways we can truly help, rather than compete with, one another. I believe that one of the key ways to do this is to seek out inspiring role models, women who have ‘been there and done that,’ because, at the end of the day, you can’t be what you can’t see. The question is: how exactly does one find a rolemodel?

Here are several ways you can search for one — or several — female role models.   


By Melinda Garvey



Read books written by female leaders.

The best way to understand a concept or a person is to get to the root. Read books and articles on topics that interest you. If you find an individual you admire, read what they have written. Create a deeper understanding of where their ideas stem. Seek to understand their voice and their personal story. Someone’s background can shine a light on how they managed their circumstances and ended up where they are today.


Do some research on the women who inspire you.

If you see someone that you admire, parse through their internet profiles. See the material they present to the public and research their life and career story. Fortunately, many people today publish their own content on blogs and social media platforms, inviting others to take a look at their personal worldview.You can learn a lot about a person through a simple Google search.


Attend networking events for powerful women.

Quality role models are hard to come by, but with some investigating, you can find leads. One of the best ways to find role models is to put yourself in situations where those around you are successful. Leadership conferences and conventions for your industry of choice are perfect hubs to hear various powerful voices in the field and gauge your interest. Don’t just pick a role model for the sake of picking one, but rather, find someone with whom you can relate and learn from their journey.


Emulate qualities you like, but make them your own.

When you find someone that you look up to, understand which qualities you admire about them. Is it their genuine and honest approach? Is it their ability to overcome the adversities of life? Whatever the case, emulate the positive qualities. Work to achieve these goals in your own life. By no means reject your true self, but incorporate your favorite qualities of your role model into the best version of you.


Watch YouTube videos and take notes.

The best way to learn a task or quality is to watch others do it well. Take your education into your own hands the modern way. Use the Internet, namely YouTube videos, to garner visual knowledge on a topic. If your role models have their own channel, even better. If not, just research and investigate topics of interest. For example, your role model may be into public speaking. Study up on videos of the best public speakers and their tips for improvement. The more you learn the better you will get, and seeking your own educational path is a great start.


Revamp your social media.

Social media is a large component of your self-image. If you want to find role models online, seek out and follow inspiring content. Completely refine who you follow on various platforms by only following content that fuels your mission to be a better person. These digital profiles of individuals are no fewer role models than those you know in ‘real life.’ Due to the amount of time spent on social media platforms, this content influences your beliefs and habits tremendously.


Contact them directly for assistance.

If you discovered a role model on the Internet or in real life, it is never a bad idea to reach out to them. Don’t expect a response — especially if they are pretty well-known. However, you never know what kind of relationship can manifest from your effort to connect. If you contact them digitally, you may foster a relationship that starts casual and ends up amounting to an in-person friendship. It is worth the risk, and if nothing comes of your outreach, it’s still meaningful to express your gratitude for their impact on your life.



How to start making more money as an entrepreneur



If you’re an entrepreneur, the question of how to make more money is one you probably ask yourself every week. It’s common, and I highly suggest this type of self-talk, because it means that you’re on route to helping more people and growing your business as a result. The problem is, most entrepreneurs get lost trying to “do” and “be” everything at once in order to increase their revenue, which is unsustainable. Instead, here are some actionable strategies for you to make more money as an entrepreneur — without burning out.


By Shaylene Cameron



Know your numbers
The goal of running your own business is to create a life you love and profit while doing it. This starts with being clear on the cost of operating your business. Consider your basic overhead: office rent, internet, phone, website, online platforms, conferences, payroll, etc. Also factor in other, more variable expenses, such as education, personal coaching, advertising etc.


Be clear on what you do
Have you ever asked an entrepreneur what they do for a living and their response takes three minutes to explain? We always want to avoid confusing a potential client when talking about our business. So let’s create a clear elevator pitch to talk about what it is that you do.

Here’s a short template I use with some clients:

I help____(your niche) who wrestle/struggle with ______(niche’s problem) have ______(desired solution) and (desired solution).

Here’s an example:

I help female entrepreneurs who struggle with enrolling clients have 10k months and still time for themselves.


Treat yourself like an employee
This is huge! I want you to start viewing yourself as an employee in your own company. Imagine you work for a CEO and she asks you to finish a deadline by 6:00 pm. What do you do? Finish that deadline! Hold yourself to the same expectations you would any other employee or contractor.


Schedule “me” time
Scheduling alone time is the most powerful thing you can do for your business. The top 1% of high-performers place as much emphasis on their personal life as they do on their business.
Take time to grab a cup of tea, snuggle up with a book, call a friend, take a trip. I suggest scheduling (yes, scheduling) something for yourself once a week to nurture your soul. This is where creativity flows and financial attitudes shift.


Train your mind for positivity
Entrepreneurs have a higher risk-threshold than most. We’ve got the tendency to jump and open the parachute on the way down. Given this nature, you’ll likely have more mental and emotional ‘ups and downs’ than someone in a 9-5 role. So, creating a sense and feeling of mental/emotional security is vital to long-term gain. A simple strategy you can use: choose an affirmation that is positive and about you and say it as often as possible.

Some simple affirmations could be:

I approve of myself, I’m an amazing money manager, I always pay myself first, Money flows to me easily.


Develop a referral system
Most people think getting a referral is the product of luck or chance. But, you can create an organized referral system and make it a win-win for everyone.

First steps to set up a referral program:
1) Create an agreement with specific guidelines on what your role is and what the referrer’s role is. Be sure to see legal representation to ensure you have everything you need.
2) Established some sort of value-exchange. For example, if you get a client, they receive coaching or money in return.


Joint Venture Partners
Partnerships with people in similar industries to you are going to be your biggest asset. When you’re searching for partners, think “community” instead of competition. Joining forces and resources is a powerful way to leverage your business.

Start with these steps:

1) Make a list of and research 10 potential partners that you’d like to partner with

2) Contact them and share your interest in becoming a joint venture partner. Be sure to mention why you think you’re a good match.

3) Arrange a date to speak and schedule it in your calendar.


Use these tools as the foundation of your business before adding any more work to your to-do list.



Shaylene Cameron is the CEO and Founder at Shaylene Cameron Mentoring. After driving over $1 million in B2C sales, managing a team of 12, and teaching everything from prospecting to client sales, Shaylene quit at the top of her game. Now, she helps coaches and service-based entrepreneurs have a positive impact AND create more wealth in their businesses. You can reach her at






How to go from Good Writer to a Good Communicator



When sitting in an interview chair, we often rely on our resumes and glossy portfolios to demonstrate our writing, our expertise and capabilities. But once we land the role, can we be certain that our strong writing skills will translate into an ability to communicate and work effectively with our peers and our senior colleagues? What is it about the way we communicate that could be holding us back from being seen as a leader, or even preventing us from getting ahead?


By Amanda Sutton



There are countless opportunities in the workplace where we can take a step back and reevaluate our communications skill set, whether it be in the boardroom, the breakroom or your outbox. When it comes to writing, we’d be better off learning how to gain confidence and inspire action in others rather than delivering flowery prose.


The difference between ‘writing’ and ‘communicating’ at work.

There is a distinct difference between knowing how to form and craft a letter or article, and how to effectively communicate your goals, wants, and desires across other channels.

While some have the ability to write prose and long form thought, the need for short form thought is at a peak. Now more than ever, the ability to form persuasive thought into concise statements is a business requirement.

But first, it’s important to know the difference between writing and communicating.

Writing can be seen as composing or telling a story, and is most often subjective to the reader. It can often inspire, and is typically focused on sharing one viewpoint or approach, but leaving the reader to make up their own mind.

Communicating can be seen as sharing or exchanging pertinent news or information. The goal of communicating is usually to elicit action, and the purpose is often to interact, liaise, and coordinate towards a larger project or goal.

In the office environment, these two approaches can have very different results.


It’s more important to be smart than sound smart.

An easy exercise prior to sitting down at a board meeting or drafting an email is to organize your thoughts around the goals you want to achieve, considering your role within scope of the project.

Sounding smart can not be your end goal. You aren’t trying to wow anyone with eloquent words or descriptive analysis of the current situation, but more with your ability to provide insight and clarity.

Identify the purpose. Identify all parties involved/affected. Provide actionable items or options, and demonstrate that you are thinking two steps ahead. Be clear, direct, and concise. This approach shows knowledge, perspective and leadership in one fell swoop.

TIP: Bullet points or email subheads work well to organize content and streamline thoughts.


Get answers, not silence.

Two of the most frustrating parts of communicating in the workplace are unresponsiveness and delayed approvals. The cause of these can often be boiled down to communication cliffs; responses like “Sure, sounds good” and “Contact me later” are fine, but now you have to craft a whole other email outlining the HOW and WHEN. In business, there are times for casual conversations, and there are times when you just need a firm response because of a deadline.

This can be avoided by valuing your time upfront. Rather than squishing your request in among a long explanation about how and why it is important, be direct and highlight what you need and when you need it.

Giving people options — i.e. A) This item – delivered by this date B) This item – delivered by this date — is another great way to get closer to a definitive answer or confirmation, all while keeping the lines of communication open. Setting firm expectations requires the person you’re communicating with to take more decisive action to meet your request.

TIP: If a clear answer is what you need, avoid words like ‘following up’ and ‘checking in’ — these don’t elicit action and might get brushed aside in an overcrowded inbox.


Keep things moving.

As a communicator, my job usually involves keeping a project, interview, or deadline on task, so the art of project management comes naturally.

People’s time is valuable, especially yours. You don’t have time to go back and forth, send multiple emails on the same topic, or worse, risk losing time on a project with a pending deadline. Getting to the end goal is the key for any project or team, and most often can come down to a simple sign off.

Leave people with an understanding of your timing and your expectations on their delivery so they have a picture of how they will schedule you into their work week. i.e. I will be working on the Jones case until Tuesday afternoon, but will be free Wednesday morning to discuss Project X. Does 10am work for you?

TIP: Reminding people of your other responsibilities is never a bad idea to reiterate not only your value to the company, but that you value their time as a priority.

With these simple but monumental skill sets, not only will you deliver beyond senior-level expectations, but your newfound ability to take ownership and steer the ship will establish your position as a leader, potentially opening opportunities for advancement down the road.




Amanda Sutton is a seasoned communications pro and has offered strategic counsel to dozens of businesses on the subjects of communications, PR, branding, media and crisis management. She has run her own PR agency, Catalyst Communications Choreography, for the last decade. Her team sets themselves apart as PR choreographers with a big picture mindset, a talent for value-driven messaging and a journalistic approach to content writing, driven by a natural curiosity about why you do what you do. Building on a strong foundation in sales and business leadership, Amanda’s background includes working on both agency and corporate sides of PR and now includes working alongside startups and educational programs that are producing the next generation of communicators.




Changing Quickly Takes Time



Any way you slice it, change can be hard, either as the leader trying to move a team through to the new beginning or as an individual who is managing their own transition. Leah Reilly, human resources consultant, explains a different way to look at change that can help make the process smoother.


by Leah Reilly



One of my favorite models of change is by William Bridges, written about extensively in his book, Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change. Bridges has a theory of change that basically asserts that “change” is the actual event. It’s the thing that happens that shocks the system and is a specific point in time and is situational. Transition, however, is psychological, and is a three-phase process of gradually accepting the details of the new situation and the changes that come with it.

In his model, change is fast and it’s the transition that’s slow. Change begins with an ending, something that once was and is no longer the case. The transition process moves through the neutral zone and ends with a new beginning. It’s a challenging concept, so I’ve included a diagram of the model:


If you are a leader who is staring down a major change this year, you might find that this model can be very powerful in coaching others to move through the stages of transition. Often labels like “good with change” or “change resistant” will get tossed around to discuss either the cheerleaders or the heel-draggers in a change initiative. But when you peel back the layers, you’ll begin to understand that it’s not immediate buy-in or sheer resistance that causes the person to behave the way that they do, it’s where they are in their own transition process. As a leader, you can start conversations to understand where people are in their own transition and perhaps help them come out the other side of the “neutral zone” that much faster.

On an individual level, I find this model very helpful and I can apply it somewhat clinically when I’m trying to understand why I’m reacting to events that occur in life. I’ve found that if I can mindfully understand where I’m at in reacting to a change event, I can perhaps work my way more quickly through to a new beginning. It helps me not to dwell in the past and seize opportunities more readily.

Any way you slice it, change can be hard, either as the leader trying to move a team through to the new beginning or as an individual who is managing their own transition. The point Bridges makes is that you can’t hit the fast-forward button on a change event and move straight from the end to the new beginning. During a transition people need time to process and sometimes dwell in the neutral zone before making it up the line toward enthusiasm. The model suggests while the process of transition can be difficult, allowing oneself or others to fully move through the stages can result in a creative and potentially positive outcome.


Leah Parkhill Reilly is a Women of Influence Advancement Centre expert and the owner of Parkhill Reilly Consulting. As a results-oriented human resources consultant, she has a proven track record of driving change across large, complex organizations specifically with regard to learning, development and organizational effectiveness. Leah has worked in a variety of industries including telecommunications, insurance and financial services. Her career experiences run the gamut from project management for systems implementation to human capital strategic planning.


Are you coasting or are you creating?

Human resources consultant, Leah Reilly, warns about getting trapped in sentimental feelings about your past roles and accomplishments. Instead, seek out new experiences and push yourself creatively and positively career-wise, and it can result in gains in other aspects of life.


by Leah Reilly


At one point, I accepted a role with a former manager because I felt trapped in my role at the time. This new offer was a lifeline out of a bad situation and it seemed perfect. I’d work for someone I knew, in a role I was quite comfortable filling and things would be great. What I hadn’t accounted for was the fact that I had changed. I had gained experience, opinions and maturity. I was a very different employee from the person I once was; I had led and managed people, delivered challenging projects and dealt with difficult personalities.


Arguably this made me a better leader and even better suited to revisit the former role, but I didn’t find the job nearly as satisfying as in the past. I no longer had the same creative spark, it was too easy and I could just coast and fill my time with busy-work rather than meaningful endeavours. It took a health wake-up call for me to realize that I was coasting and that the dissatisfaction with work was permeating other aspects of my life: personal relationships, fitness and overall wellness.


“It took a health wake-up call for me to realize that I was coasting and that the dissatisfaction with work was permeating other aspects of my life: personal relationships, fitness and overall wellness.”


Recently I was listening to an interview with Michael Stipe on the Q podcast. It’s the 25th anniversary of “Out of Time” and they’ve re-released their landmark album. I’ll wait for a second while you settle into that nugget and feel incredibly old. During the interview, Michael made a comment that was something along the lines of “I abhor sentimentality. I just want to move onto the next song, the next book, the next album.”


Pause for a second and settle into the idea of “letting go of sentiment.” At first it seems a bit callous, at least to me it did. It seemed like heartlessly tossing away something cherished and moving like a magpie onto the next shiny object. But that’s not what he meant, or at least I don’t think that’s what he meant. What I’ve taken this to mean is that you can’t let yourself get trapped in the memory of what was.


Stipe’s comment resonated truthfully for me and drew me right back to the experience of trying to go back to an old role. I’ve learned from this experience in my career that the clichés are indeed true, that time stands still for no (wo)man and that you can’t go back again. I’ve learned that pushing yourself creatively and positively career-wise results in positive gains in other aspects of life. It’s critical to let go of the sentimental ties that bind us to the past and that can cause us to stagnate.


You need to continually move forward, push yourself and create new experiences. Warm and fond memories of past roles and successes will remain but don’t spend too long patting yourself on the back for your past accomplishments. Remain curious, keep learning, be open to reinvention and don’t look back.


Leah Parkhill Reilly is a Women of Influence Advancement Centre expert and the owner of Parkhill Reilly Consulting. As a results-oriented human resources consultant, she has a proven track record of driving change across large, complex organizations specifically with regard to learning, development and organizational effectiveness. Leah has worked in a variety of industries including telecommunications, insurance and financial services. Her career experiences run the gamut from project management for systems implementation to human capital strategic planning.

The Missing Step in Tackling Lofty Goals

If you’re having trouble sticking to your plans for positive change, you might need to rethink your approach. Christine Laperriere, executive director of the Women of Influence Advancement Centre, explains how small steps can lead to big wins.


by Christine Laperriere


Quick check: how is everyone doing with their New Year’s Resolutions? If you hear your inner skeptic starting to moan or admitting defeat, I know how you feel.


As a former “goal-aholic,” I regularly set lofty goals at the beginning of each year. Within a few months of trying to juggle my new targets with my existing commitments, I would usually cave under pressure and postpone those big changes for another day. How can we finally stop this painful tradition, while still accomplishing changes that will improve our personal and professional lives?


I started my career as an engineer and have been trained in many methodologies around continuous improvement. One set of principles goes by the name Kaizen — the Japanese word for improvement. When used in the business sense and applied to the workplace, Kaizen refers to activities that continuously improve all functions and involve all employees, from the CEO to the assembly line workers. Toyota is famous for the successful use and application of Kaizen.


Kaizen principles are unique in that they focus on systematically making very minute goals to ultimately create big and lasting change. With this approach we would begin by holding ourselves accountable to a single goal that is so small, it would seem it requires very little effort to attain. As you become accustomed to that small shift in behaviour, you layer on another tiny goal to shift behaviour yet again.


“Kaizen principles are unique in that they focus on systematically making very minute goals to ultimately create big and lasting change.”


For example: if your goal is to become incredibly fit and it has been months since you’ve been to the gym, your ultimate goal may be to go to the gym four times a week. Using Kaizen, we would start with a much smaller goal. Perhaps something even as small as putting on your walking shoes each day. These tiny goals may seem almost too easy to attain.


Practicing this minute task over and over each week would create subconscious patterns and habits while helping you feel you reached your goal easily. After holding that change constant continuously, we would look to gently raise the bar again. “I’d like to exercise 2 times a week.” What the Kaizen approach factors in is how much more motivated humans are by feeling confident something is easy, how slow humans really are to making change, and how wonderful we are at repeating behaviours that are already ingrained in our subconscious mind as habits.


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.

Advance Insider: First-Hand Account from Building Your Personal Brand

First-hand accounts from motivated professional women on what inspired them to attend a Women of Influence Advancement Centre course. Discover how the program has helped them advance in their career goals, and turn their insights into action with Christine Laperriere’s expert advice on how to practice the skills within your current role.

Registrant: Journalist & Instructor

Course attended: Building Your Personal Brand

Why did you enrol and what big objectives do you have for 2015?
I’m a newcomer to the city and my career is in transition. I enrolled in the course to get tips on presenting my non-linear career path and experience in a way that resonates with others. My objective in 2015 is to set the stage for new professional opportunities to arise, and be ready to “bring it” when they do!

What was your biggest “a-ha!” moment from the course?
One of my biggest moments came from looking at the differences between how men and women present themselves and their professional experiences. The course helped me identify vocabulary, body language, and behaviour (don’t sit at the back of the room!) that get in the way of the message and image I want to project.

What did you learn or how will you improve yourself going forward?
“What got you to this point won’t necessarily get you to the next one,” was one of my key takeaways—I learned more effective ways to tell my story, and that I will need to keep editing it to get to the next chapter of my career.

Who would you recommend to take this course?
I would recommend the course for people in career transition, or those who are trying to get to the next level. How often do you get the opportunity to take a step back and look at your personal brand from a new angle? What are you presenting, and what do you want to present? Shoana is a down-to-earth facilitator who makes participants feel comfortable sharing their stories and learning from each other’s feedback. Everyone left the course feeling more inspired and confident about personal branding.

“Try this on your own and Advance Your Skills Today”

Expert Advice from Christine Laperierre Executive Director of the Women of Influence Advancement Centre

Would you like some quick tips on how to help you build your personal brand?

This article from Forbes gives great ideas you can use today.


Advance Insider: First Hand Account from Strategic Influence & Leadership

First-hand accounts from motivated professional women on what inspired them to attend a Women of Influence Advancement Centre course. Discover how the program has helped them advance in their career goals, and turn their insights into action with Christine Laperriere’s expert advice on how to practice the skills within your current role.

Registrant: Marketing Director

Course attended: Strategic Leadership & Influence

Why did you enrol and what big objectives do you have for 2015?
I registered for Strategic Leadership & Influence because I had always assumed these skills were inherent in people, rather than something that could be learned. Intrigued by a course dedicated to developing these skills, I enrolled to elevate my strategic influence within my current company and to also have tools I can bring with me throughout my career.

What was your biggest “a-ha!” moment from the course?
Discerning how to communicate a message so the recipient understands it was the biggest “a-ha!” moment. Sounds obvious, but most instruction is about how to effectively communicate so that you are UNDERSTOOD – clear language, eye contact, no hedging, etc. – and not often are we instructed on how to ensure the message/ask/presentation is positioned so the other side is receiving it in a way that makes sense for THEM.

What did you learn or how will you improve yourself going forward?
Learning the different ways people understand information and make decisions, and managing my communication accordingly, is a skill that I will apply not only in my career, but also through all walks of life. After this course, I could immediately identify the decision making style of my colleagues. This helped me put together a proposal for strategic deliverables in a way that each person in the room could support, thus eliminating many rounds of changes and iterations. Overall, the kick-off meeting for the project began much smoother as a result. It can be difficult to put aside time for professional development – the deadlines are looming, your to-do list is growing – but it was a refreshing break to be given the space to ruminate on something that can enable my professional growth. The facilitator, Tammy Heermann, created an inclusive environment to let us try tactics in real-time and provided immediate feedback on how to improve.

Who would you recommend to take this course?
I highly recommend this course for women who are presenting to, and wishing to influence, decision makers in their current roles. As we move up in our careers, we are increasingly faced with stakeholders who have a hand in steering the outcome – this course directs you on a path toward influencing the outcome as well.

“Try this on your own and Advance Your Skills Today”

Expert Advice from Christine Laperierre Executive Director of the Women of Influence Advancement Centre

1. Before you go into your next meeting, take notes regarding the impact you would like to make on each person in the room. In addition, note some of the key questions and speaking points you plan to incorporate to do so.

2. Once you leave the meeting, be sure to capture the impact you believe you made in the meeting. Now, go back and compare your planning notes. What went according to plan? What didn’t? Why?

3. If you really want to advance, casually poll someone who sat through the meeting. Find out what they remember most about the meeting and how you influenced them and the other team members. Identify any gaps that exist between your notes and their feedback.

Premier’s Remarks: Women of Influence

Christine Laperriere, Executive Director & Lead Coach of the Advancement Centre, shares insights following the Women of Influence Top 25 Luncheon featuring keynote speaker Premier Kathleen Wynne.

This month, as the year winds down I am reflecting on the impact the Women of Influence Advancement Centre has had on women’s advancement. This year our Advancement Centre has grown and changed significantly and now more than ever, we are focused on effectively helping women gain the skills they need to advance powerfully in their careers.

That said, hearing the Premier of Ontario Kathleen Wynne endorse the importance of this mission helps us feel more validated in this effort. In a recent speech given at a Women of Influence Luncheon, the Premier explained that she is more hopeful than ever about the future as she sees the growing influence we have as women.

While her message was hopeful, it came with some very sobering facts. She explained that “Making progress every decade is not enough when there are still too many people being victimized, men and women both”.

She finished her message with a powerful request to all of us; this is our opportunity to use our influence. There is great danger in keeping these issues silent and the more we all speak up and bring these issues forward for resolution, the faster we will make progress as a society.

TAKE ACTION: How can you use your influence today to speak up, bring more awareness to the challenges women face, and ultimately help women everywhere advance more powerfully?

How To: Move Past Personal Barriers to Success

How does the Dean from the Richard Ivey School of Business, Carol Stephenson, guide us to move past our own personal barriers to set ourselves up for success? Our Executive Director and Lead Coach for our Advancement Centre, Christine Laperriere, weighs in on three insights to turn into actionable advice.

Continue reading

How To: Discover Who You Are

Christine Laperriere, Executive Director & Lead Coach of the Advancement Centre, shares how to bring insights into action:

1. Discover Who You Are

2. Find Your Passion

3. Build Strong Relationships


In this clip Daniela Crivianu-Gaita, VP & Chief Information Officer of The Hospital for Sick Children discusses the importance of understanding yourself and having strong relationships. To bring these insights into action, try applying the quick tips below. Interested in more strategies to help you reach your full potential? Join us on September 16th and 17th to find your passion and reduce stress, or join us September 23rd to learn more about getting on boards to take your career to the next level or visit the Women’s Advancement Centre.

1. Discover Who You Are: There is a significant amount of pressure to have your entire career path figured out. Daniela provides some comfort by explaining that “you discover as you go along. There isn’t a magic answer.” She encourages you to continue to discover who you are as a person, who you are as a leader, and what you value. Some quick steps to ensure that you commit to continually learning include actively keeping track of your interests and disinterests. Maintain a journal that tracks what excites you in your day to day, where you thrive, when people praise you and for what, and even what makes you feel uncomfortable. Self-reflection on these simple questions over time allows you to uncover who you are, what your values are, and how you lead.

2. Find Your Passion: Daniela recognizes that “in order to be successful you need to be passionate about what you are doing.” She acknowledges that knowing the difference between liking something and being truly passionate about it can be difficult. To help find your passion take some time to consider what you enjoy, create a vision board, and consider the careers of people you admire. After taking some time to brainstorm, stop thinking and try it! The only way to determine whether something is a true passion is to do it. Engage and take action to receive clarity; whether that means volunteering, taking a course, or changing your career path.

3. Build Strong Relationships: Be ready and willing to communicate and collaborate with your own team, organization, and partners. The vitality of making the most out of the opportunities around you starts with building and maintaining strong relationships. Daniela explains to be highly successful one must “be able to communicate and collaborate with (the team) on an ongoing basis.” Some methods to aid in building strong relationships include: training yourself to share credit, avoiding the blame game, and being respectful when communicating.

How To: Apply Guiding Principles of Success

Christine Laperriere, Executive Director & Lead Coach of the Advancement Centre, shares how to bring insights into action:

1) Teach by Example
2) Be Persistent
3) Say Thank You

Janice O’Born founded the Charitable Office in 1985 to promote philanthropy to the staff of The Printing House. The office has since raised over 44 million dollars. Janice has extensive managerial experience and has served on four boards, including The Duke of Edinburgh Award for Business and the National Arts Centre Foundation.

1. Teach by Example: As a manager, one of the best ways to encourage your workforce is to set and personally exhibit expectations. As Janice explains, “I commit 100% and I expect that of people around me.” Her comment highlights the importance of setting and meeting high standards to create a successful team. Take a moment to brainstorm areas your team struggles with such as work ethic, drive, accountability or perseverance. Choose the one that you consider the biggest hurdle to your team’s success and make that a priority for your own personal behaviour.

2. Be Persistent: Janice encourages us all to “go after end results.” She attributes much of her success to refusing to take no for an answer. Janice ensures that the ‘nos’ she receives are turned into an opportunity to build and maintain her network. Try setting up an excel sheet of important conversations where you keep track of the date, time, major topics, and with whom you spoke. This allows you to be strategic in your perseverance by having the necessary information on hand to tailor your follow up to address their previous concerns.

3. Say Thank You: Janice provides insight on the importance of maintaining a strong and supportive network. Her experience fundraising for SickKids taught her that it is “easier to convert the donor you have to give more than to find a new one.” One of the methods Janice uses to maintain a strong and helpful network is to ensure she takes the time to say ‘thank you.’ The next time a recent contact or colleague goes out of their way to help you follow up with a quick thank you phone call or letter. They will appreciate the gesture and you will begin to build your own network of support.

Three Steps to Reaching Your Highest Potential

Christine LaPerriere, Executive Director and Head Coach of the Advancement Centre shares how-to Bring Insights Into Action here in 3 steps.

1) Grow your influence
2) Focus on your authentic self
3) Inspire greatness in others

In this clip, Claudia Hepburn, Co-Founder and Executive Director of The Next 36, has some excellent ideas to share.  In order to bring these insights into action, try applying these tips below for immediate results.  If you like these ideas, maybe it’s time to reach for your highest potential by joining us for an upcoming course in the Women’s Advancement Center.

1) Grow your influence: Claudia makes the comment that “a key part of influence is enabling others to feel good about themselves.”  Next time you are working with your team members, notice where your attention is during your discussions and meetings.  Often times, we are so focused on the project, timeline, deliverables and results that we don’t step back to think about how the team members currently feel about themselves or their contribution.  Some of the best leaders know what excites a team member and they remember to endorse that team member for their brilliance when they see it.  In your next meeting, pick a team member that seems a bit tired or stressed and comment on something excellent you notice in their current contribution.  Watch to see if over time they better leverage that strengths and begin to feel more relaxed and energized in their work.

2) Focus on your authentic self: One suggestion Claudia has for us is to “try to focus in on your authentic self”.  We know this is important but sometimes implementing this is very challenging.  In your next problem solving meeting, notice if you have useful thoughts and suggestions that you filter out for fear that you might sound silly or might be judged.  Share with the team that your intention is to help solve the problem and then share that new idea out loud.  As you hear the responses of others, allow yourself to be unattached to whether they agree or not with your idea; simply listen to them with close attention and curiosity.  As you are more authentic in how you share and how you listen, you’ll inspired those around you to do the same and ultimately everyone will benefit.

3) Inspire greatness in others: In this video, Claudia has a great quote: “If you treat a man the way he is, he will remain that way.  If you treat him the way he could be, he will become that person.”  This is a powerful idea.  Notice next time you are working with an employee in which you believe doesn’t have the skills to accomplish an important task.  Notice that sometimes as you worry about her capability, she seems worried about her ability to do this task correctly too.  Picture what you would say and do differently if you thought she could complete the task perfectly.  How would your interaction with her unfold differently?  By simply treating her with the trust that she has the skills and intelligence to accomplish the task, could she rise to the occasion?  Great leaders know when to test theory and over time they cultivate powerful people around them.

The Incredible Power of Friendship


One of the greatest strengths of the female species is our ability to make and maintain deep and meaningful friendships. No matter if you’re mourning a loss or celebrating a great achievement, good friends will be by your side to offer support or serve up a celebratory toast.

A dinner date or phone call with a girlfriend is often the perfect antidote to the fast-paced busyness of everyday life. And, science shows that feeling emotionally close to a friend actually increases levels of the hormone progesterone, helping to boost your well-being and reduce anxiety. If that’s not reason enough to make time for your friends, I don’t know what is.

We’ve heard, time and again, from our top Women of Influence that it’s their close friends who help them cope when life gets tough and who contribute to their positive attitude in the face of adversity. Feeling overwhelmed? Sit down for a glass of wine with a girlfriend or two and watch the stress melt away.

When it comes to the corporate world, friendships can be extremely beneficial. Having friends and allies in the right places or with the right resources may even lead to improved success and advancement.

This anecdotal evidence is now being supported by research conducted out of the University of Michigan. The researcher, Dr. Irene Levine says close friendships can even extend the longevity of one’s life. She writes: “Friendships are so pivotal in our lives that they help us define who we are and who we will become.”

Still, we’re finding that with a little creativity and focus many women could do more to harness the power of friendships in the business world. From our Women Entrepreneurs of The Year and our Top 25 Women of Influence we’ve learned just how important it is to develop meaningful relationships with other women. These friends can step in to offer candid advice, champion our successes, and push us to develop new skills and further expand our reach.

Our friendships with other women are integral to our sense of fulfillment

Understanding the value and power of friendships has played a pivotal role in our decision to invest in establishing our Advancement Centre with a series of highly engaging hands-on workshops led by women, for women.

Our goal is to create spaces where women feel comfortable sharing their challenges, insights, and experiences and learning from one another. It’s within these spaces that great friendships are made.

We tested this idea with Queens School of Business and they were so moved by it that they proposed we  work with them to set up an accreditation endorsed by both the university and Women of Influence. In this program, 50 percent of the courses are available exclusively to women. (Click here for more details)

Queens has also instituted a program in conjunction with Women of Influence which offers every registrant in their Executive Education Centre a $200 credit toward a Women of Influence course. (Click here for more details)

Too often, our friendships are neglected in the face of other more pressing responsibilities including children, career, and family. Instead of making time for friends, we claim “we’re just too busy.” But, when women have the opportunity to come together as friends, amazing things transpire.

In the feedback from our workshop Building your Personal Brand led by Paula Pyne this sentiment was echoed time and again:

“I felt so encompassed in happiness and positive energy from all the amazing women in the room. I was honoured…to feel a part of the powerful tribe yesterday! ”

“What surprised me most was how positive the energy was in the room…”

“The honesty and sharing was inspiring—we all have a story!”

These positive feelings make sense.  Dr. Levine insists that women who maintain their friendships feel better and, as a result, are usually better wives, mothers, and leaders. When you’re being supported, amazing things can happen.

We invite you to devote a day to yourself and come develop some new friendships while improving skills critical to your success. Click here to see our list of courses offered by Knightsbridge, workshops offered by Queens School of Business, and courses designed exclusively for women by Women of Influence.

Step Up To Help a Friend

If you know someone who is experiencing stress or is facing challenges in their career, please pass this information along to them. We are stronger together.