The confidence gap — Three tools to level the playing field

As an advocate for young, career-seeking women, Lora Sprigings, Career Coach at Smith School of Business, founded the WIL Do initiative. This is a unique opportunity for young women at Smith to candidly discuss leadership and empowerment in a small group setting while creating space for females to build confidence by supporting and encouraging one another.

By Lora Sprigings

Today, women make up almost half of the workforce in Canada; yet men are twice as likely to hold senior management positions, according to a Conference Board of Canada report. One cause for this disparity is the level of confidence displayed by women versus men. At work, women are less likely to share their opinions and speak out than men. Yet a growing body of evidence suggests that confidence matters more than competence to workplace success, and it is this “confidence gap” that holds women back. Here are three strategies to bridge the gap.


Just do it

In a corporate environment, where performance is often judged by how well we achieve business objectives, women’s self-imposed barriers can limit career successes.

“Fake it ’til you make it” — the advice commonly cited as the panacea to overcome our lack of confidence — rarely results in a lasting transformation and can be viewed as disingenuous. A lack of confidence can cause us to play it safe and avoid taking chances. Yet the path to greater confidence requires a depth of resiliency that’s best found through failure and risk taking. Ironically, the antidote to our inaction is often simply to act, or “Just do it” as the Nike slogan says.

The more often we sidestep our fear and take on initiatives outside our comfort zone, the greater our reservoir of courage becomes. Ultimately, it is genuine accomplishment and hard work that fuel confidence.


It is not always about you

One of the key challenges facing women is a tendency to overvalue likeability in the workplace. This behaviour often starts in elementary school. Several studies have found that while girls are praised by teachers for good behaviour and staying quiet, boys are rewarded for effort and speaking out. Consequently, boys develop a deep-seated resiliency or growth mindset in which criticism seems to have little to no impact on their self-confidence.

Women’s fear of criticism is further compounded by the fact that women who exert confidence are often labelled as bossy, aggressive or intimidating; as found in the 2016 Women in the Workplace study. These comments are typically not associated with men. Women are also blamed more often for failures, penalized for self-promotion and judged more critically for perceived flaws in their professional demeanour or physical appearance.

So how do women counteract this tendency to fear and internalize critical feedback? Remember, it’s not always about you. Consider the source of the criticism, understand the potential motivation and, through honest self-reflection, decide if there is an element of truth to the criticism. You can then accept the feedback and course correct, or not. Criticism is never a reflection of self-worth. It is best seen as either a gift that opens the door to greater self-awareness or a window into another person’s character.


Find your voice

Women are often encouraged to find a mentor to guide and support them. But with the limited number of women at senior levels, this can prove challenging. A practice that is gaining momentum is peer mentorship, where like-minded women meet to discuss challenges, and offer advice and encouragement to one another on how best to navigate difficult terrain. Women benefit from diverse perspectives as well as the sense of empowerment that comes from knowing their struggle is also the struggle of others.

Together women can affect real change: gain the confidence to participate in class, request a promotion, or as the women on President Obama’s senior advisory team did, proactively echo and credit one another’s ideas when they are not acknowledged.

It is when we work together to empower one another and stand strong in our own self-worth that we will realize our true potential and build the confidence to become fearless in our pursuits.


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Learning about leadership in the great outdoors

When Gillian Riley, an EVP at Scotiabank, joined a 10-day hiking and rafting adventure organized by True Patriot Love, a charitable foundation supporting Canadian military families, she knew she would have the opportunity to mentor ill and injured veterans trying to build meaningful careers in the civilian world. She quickly realized that the mentorship went both ways.



By Shelley White





Following in the footsteps of famed Scottish explorer Sir Alexander Mackenzie this summer was a “life-changing” experience for Gillian Riley.

She recalls the moment when her expedition team reached the rock where Mackenzie inscribed his name in 1793, becoming the first European to cross Canada from coast to coast. Exhausted from 10 days of hiking through B.C.’s Coast Mountains, white-water rafting and canoeing on the rough waters of the Bella Coola River, her team stood and sang “O Canada” together. Gillian says it was an emotional moment for all involved.

“Everyone cried,” says Gillian, Executive Vice President of Commercial Banking at Scotiabank. “It was so moving; I can’t even tell you. We’d been working together for 10 days and when we got there, it was that magical feeling of, ‘We did this – and no one has done this since he did it.’ Knowing that we got there as a team, it was very, very powerful.”


“It was that magical feeling of, ‘We did this – and no one has done this since he did it.’ Knowing that we got there as a team, it was very, very powerful.”


Gillian’s expedition was one of three challenging adventures sponsored by Scotiabank this summer in partnership with True Patriot Love, a charitable foundation that supports the mental, physical and social well-being of the 700,000 military families who live across Canada. Each expedition brought together influential Canadian business leaders with ill or injured armed forces veterans, providing mentorship opportunities for the soldiers and shining a light on the challenges veterans face when transitioning from military to civilian life.

Gillian notes that the only knowledge most people have about the combat experiences of military personnel is from books and movies.

“It seems far away and foreign. But when you talk to the military, you get an understanding of what they do to protect and serve our country and the passion with which they do that,” she says. “Many of them are third and fourth generation in the military and they feel such a duty to protect this country.”

The veterans on the expedition team were open about their experiences in combat and some of the challenges they have faced transitioning to civilian life. Gillian says that hiking up mountains allowed plenty of time for one-on-one conversations with her military teammates, as well as group discussions at day’s end.

“We spent a lot of time talking. They would share their stories with the group, with people asking questions and working through issues with them,” she says.

There was also plenty of fun on the trip, says Gillian, much of it involving card games like euchre. “I got an email from one of the military fellows this week and he said the best part of the trip for him was the card games,” she says. “Also, the laughter, the humor; I haven’t laughed that much in 10 years.”

Gillian says she went into the project knowing she would have the opportunity to mentor ill and injured veterans who are trying to build meaningful careers in the civilian world. But she quickly realized that the opportunity went two ways. In her role at Scotiabank, Gillian is an experienced leader, responsible for the strategic positioning and growth of the commercial banking division and leads a large sales force. But her time with the veterans reinforced that there is still more to learn.

“The things I learned from a leadership standpoint and a personal standpoint were enormous,” she says.

One of the most important things she learned is “followership,” an essential skill in the military.

“I had a specific mentee in the program, but I think he became more like a mentor for me,” says Gillian. “One of the things he taught me early on was, ‘A good leader is a good follower.’ It’s about listening a lot, asking open-ended questions before jumping into the answers. I’ve really been practicing that, just this week even. Learning when to sort of back off, to listen and hear and not jump in to try to solve something. That’s one of the big takeaways I’ve taken back and I’ve already shared with my teams.”


“‘A good leader is a good follower.’ It’s about listening a lot, asking open-ended questions before jumping into the answers.”


Having made those connections with her expedition team, Gillian says the bonds remain in place. She has been in communication by phone and email with several of her new friends and will continue to mentor and support them as they develop and explore post-military career paths.

It’s not just veterans that stand to gain when they transition to civilian jobs, notes Gillian. Canadian companies can benefit greatly from hiring veterans, and it is a practice in which Scotiabank is already involved. The way they are trained and the skills they develop in the military could be a boon to any organization.

“When you’re going into battle, you need to be well-trained, you need to be good under pressure; you need to be very disciplined,” she says. “There is so much opportunity to hire from the armed forces and I don’t think companies always understand that. I think the more we can help companies figure out how they can bring the military in their organizations, the better.”


It Started With Courage: How two female entrepreneurs from very different sectors found success

Since launching her Turbine by Lisa Drader-Murphy label in 1997, Lisa’s company, Lisa Drader-Murphy Designs, has grown to operate eponymous boutiques in three provinces all while manufacturing designs under a vertical model on a private heritage estate in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley. As one of the last vertical fashion houses in the country, they take great pride in designing and manufacturing all their garments in Canada.

Kathy Gregory is the founding president and CEO of Paradigm Quest Inc., the fastest growing mortgage company in Canada. Providing a one-stop solution from origination to back-office mortgage solutions for lenders, enabled by revolutionary Fintech ― Paradigm has grown from a small start-up in 2004 to one of the leading financial tech and business processing companies in the country today, with $26 billion dollars in its portfolio, and major outsourcing contracts with Canadian chartered banks.  

While fashion and finance might not appear to have much in common, both Kathy and Lisa have a story of courage that started their business, have overcome challenges that have impacted their respective industries, and have balanced their longstanding success with motherhood. In this Q&A hosted by Deloitte Private, Kathy and Lisa open up about their entrepreneurial journey, and their advice for other women looking to follow in their footsteps.



Kathy, you founded Paradigm after being let go from your job in the financial industry. Some people would have been defeated by being fired — how did you find the strength to start your own business?

When I was terminated as an executive of the bank, I had three kids, a new home with a big mortgage, and I was newly divorced. I knew I needed security, but I also had a business model in my head and I wanted to pursue it. I did not want to live with regrets or in fear. I often eliminate fear by asking myself, ‘If I do this, and I fail, is anybody going to die?’ The answer was no, so I decided to go for it, and build something great.


Lisa, you started your business when you should have been off enjoying maternity leave. What happened that made you want to start your own business during such a busy time in your life?

I was on maternity leave from my job as a designer for a garment manufacturer that produced industry firefighter garments. My maternity leave replacement was not working out and my boss asked me to come back to work. I accepted, and they built a nursery in my office for my 9-day-old baby. Shortly afterward, I was walking my baby through the factory in an attempt to put her to sleep to the sound of sewing machines and I came across some long-forgotten fabric in an unused portion of the factory. I had a vision for what the fabric could be, and with my boss’ blessing I whipped up a dozen pieces and threw a fashion show in the boardroom. My boss was so impressed we agreed to go into business together.  


Kathy, not long after starting your company, you lived through the financial crisis of 2008. That must have been a challenging time as you tried to grow the assets and achieve break even. What lessons did you learn?

The 2008 crisis was shocking, but our first two years of being in business were way more stressful — limited capital and profile in financial services was a much more difficult hill to climb. From those start up days, we learned to always come together to solve problems as a leadership team, tackle the issue at hand dead on, and that full transparency and teamwork are everything. By the time 2008 came, we had already been through the ringer, and we had created a problem-solving culture.

You can make a plan as an entrepreneur, but you can’t plan for what you don’t know. You can’t predict challenges. Being prepared for whatever comes is the best advice I can give anyone; by surrounding yourself with a strong leadership team, with varied skill sets and the foundation of excellent governance. It’s not if, it’s when things might happen!


“You can make a plan as an entrepreneur, but you can’t plan for what you don’t know.”


Lisa, the retail industry has not been doing well the last couple years, but you’re expanding. What’s your secret and what can other entrepreneurs learn from your experience?    

A few years ago retail entered a phase of disruption, and now it has entered crisis mode. We have never seen anything like the current market. The new generation is thoughtful, appreciates items of value in their life and are not interested in throw away clothes. They are ecological and like to know where their products come from, which is in-line with my business. I have a 100% vertical company, I own the design and manufacturing and thus can take an idea, create a sample and try it in our flagship store in two weeks. If the samples sell I can have them in all our locations with a very short turnaround. Most retail stores purchase clothing six months in advance, if they sell out that’s it, if they don’t work you are stuck with your inventory I don’t have that issue.  


What do you see as your biggest challenges in growing your company in the current environment? And what are you doing to overcome them?

Kathy: Our challenge and opportunity is the same — stay ahead! That’s enabled by two things: great technology and people. We spend time searching the globe to acquire the right people to bring the best technology and we now have the best  IT team, who have the view of the client experiences as their mandate, to bring solutions to the market faster and better for the overall client experience. Our IT team is engaged in searching and finding solutions in and outside of Canada, as globalization for Fintech is vitally important to stay ahead of the curve.  

Lisa: I’m celebrating 20 years in business with my label. For years, people would say I wasn’t doing it right. They wanted us to show our collections six months in advance, but I refused. Instead, I would invite my actual customers and show them in-season clothing and it really worked for us. The rest of the industry is now talking about the new fashion calendar, but that’s the way I have always done it.  


You have both received a number of significant awards. Has it opened more opportunities for you in the Canadian marketplace?

Kathy: The awards and recognitions have raised my own personal profile, and has opened doors for me. I have had the pleasure of meeting and connecting with some amazing women with better and more challenging stories than me, and that really pushes me.

Lisa: I was recently recognized, for the second year in a row, by Atlantic Business Magazine’s Top 50 CEO Awards. I was hesitant to even respond to the nomination until the nominee reached out to me personally. She told me that I owe it to women to follow up, that there were so few women nominated and we all need to do our part and get women CEO’s more exposure. It has since opened doors in networking and mentorship, and one of the best things has been the young women that have come forward and asked me questions.  


Kathy, when you took to the stage to accept the Award for Excellence in Entrepreneurship last year, you singled out Deloitte and thanked us for all our support — attributing your business’ success to the advice you received as a start-up. What a huge compliment.

Deloitte Private helped me develop my business idea and provided business advice in the initial years. It was critical for my new business to work with a reputable advisor like Deloitte, because it not only gave the organization much more credibility in the market, but was also tremendously helpful in building a strong governance foundation across the company. As my company grew, Deloitte was there to connect me with their financial institutions group to further grow my company.


Lisa, you recently participated in a Deloitte courage roadshow. Why is this topic important to you and your business?

My industry takes a lot of courage. I also felt it was really timely — we need to stop and focus on what we need to do next, because a lot of industries are being disrupted right now.


Both of you are not only successful entrepreneurs but also mothers. Do you have any advice for other working moms out there with a bright business idea?

Kathy: I’m most proud of being a mom to my three kids, but for sure the mom thing is very hard. It seems to me, we carry tremendous guilt and pressure to be perfect at being a mom and single moms don’t own all of that, it’s most moms. Many moms ask me how I do it. I answer that there are no perfect moms ― kids just want to be loved, so tell them and tell them often. Balanced doesn’t mean equal in number of hours, but it does mean balanced effort. To succeed I try to be very organized with my calendar. For example, for years now, everyone at the office knows that Wednesday is Kathy’s day to be with her kids. No office events, no client dinners ― that’s my for sure night with my kids. My kids know that Wednesday is our night too, no matter what one another’s schedule is. Like most things in life, nothing is perfect, but I think this is a good example of how being diligent at scheduling and being organized sets us up for success as much as we can.

Lisa: Balance has been my ongoing struggle. There are times when I master it and there are times when I feel like a complete failure. When my kids were much younger, we moved from Calgary to Nova Scotia to create work/family balance. When my daughter reached middle school, I expanded my business and opened more stores. It’s all about balance.


For more than 150 years, Deloitte Private has been assisting entrepreneurs in transforming Canada’s economy. We know that the journey to success requires strategic decision making and being opportunistic at the right moment. As Canada’s largest professional services advisor to private clients, we are passionate and committed to your future success — always looking ahead to anticipate your needs and prepare you for any unforeseen challenges ahead.  




Do you know a successful female entrepreneur who deserves recognition? Nominate her for the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards!

Business leaders, here’s how you start taking diversity and inclusion seriously

We all know it should be a priority, but how do we begin to make it one? Terri Hartwell Easter of T.H. Easter Consulting,  a leading employee engagement, diversity and inclusion management, and human resources management firm based in Maryland, U.S., weighs in.


By Terri Hartwell Easter



You cannot pick up a newspaper without reading about our collective difficulty with issues of diversity and inclusion in the workplace and in society more generally. While most companies and organizations are publicly committed to diverse workforces, they seem to have trouble sustaining that commitment. So what is really going on?

Having worked with many different kinds of organizations on diversity and inclusion efforts, I have found that most of them see it as a tactic, or a box to check to meet regulatory or cultural mandates, as opposed to a strategic business imperative.   

What does it mean to approach diversity and inclusion as a strategic business imperative? It means recognizing that getting diverse people in the door is not the end goal. It means that diversity and inclusion initiatives are not isolated from the larger workforce in terms of engagement and performance. And just like any other business initiative, it means that an organization must articulate their business case for diversity and inclusion.

An important first step in developing sustainable diversity and inclusion programming is to assess the current state of leadership and organizational readiness. This step is foundational and is probably the single most important factor in the success or failure of diversity and inclusion initiatives. It is only through this analysis that we can assess whether the business case for diversity and inclusion aligns with an organization’s leaders’ vision, interest and readiness for the change that may be necessary to achieve sustainable outcomes and results.    

And it does require real change. It is not uncommon for diversity and inclusion strategic planning to go off the rails as the realization sets in that changes in behaviors, processes, and approaches, not to mention mindsets, are required for success. An organization’s financial and psychological investment in the status quo should not be underestimated.  

So we begin by asking hard questions, like:

  • What are your organization’s business imperatives for diversity & inclusion? Is there alignment among leaders (organization leadership, business unit leadership, board of directors) with the aspirations and vision for diversity and inclusion in your organization?
  • What is the nature of your organization’s leaders’ investment in the status quo with respect to diversity and inclusion? What are the cultural connections, power dynamics, and barriers to change?
  • What level of personal awareness do your organization’s leaders have with respect to concepts related to privilege, bias and inequities, and the dynamics of organizational and personal change?
  • How competent are your organization’s leaders in the skills necessary to change the culture and nurture an inclusive workplace, including adeptness in relationship building and management, trust building, exercising influence, leading change, and managing conflict?
  • How ready are your organization’s leaders to acknowledge and own the organization’s past failures or missed expectations for success? More importantly, how ready are they to now assume the responsibility and accountability necessary to achieve new goals for the organization’s talent management, including engagement, professional development, performance management, and sponsorship as a part of a diverse and inclusive workplace?

These are not small ticket items. These questions go to the heart of an organization’s culture, vision, values, and mission, which can cause considerable discomfort for some organizations and individuals. But if it is approached in a fact-based, business-minded way, it can be done without assigning any blame or shame. The goal is to have an honest dialogue — and to the degree that this is successful, it will help your leaders craft a very realistic strategic plan with appropriate goals and objectives.

Like any change effort, the process of implementing a new diversity and inclusion strategy will be slow and incremental. As anyone who has ever tried to change a lifelong habit can attest, behavioral change does not happen overnight — but it can be done. Approach it just as you would any new business initiative, use classic business process re-engineering techniques to understand where your organizational systems are working at cross-purposes with your diversity and inclusion aspirations, and use evidence-based practices to benchmark and best position your efforts for success.  

Diversity and inclusion is serious business.  It’s time to position your business to take it seriously.



As the former Chief Operating Officer of a top 100 national AmLaw legal practice and highly regarded organizational change strategist for leading professional services firms, commercial banks and the White House alike, Terri Hartwell Easter‘s trademark is bringing new approaches and innovative thinking to some of the toughest human resource management challenges. With a renowned diversity practice, Terri works with clients to frame day-to-day business through a lens of inclusion to attract and retain a more diverse workforce, and create pathways to business growth. 

To Close the Gender Gap, It’s a Matter Of Degrees

In Canada, less than a quarter of senior management positions are held by women, and that figure drops significantly looking up to the board level. The MBA has long been seen as a key enabler to improve these numbers, both for early- and mid-career women, but “age and stage” issues often drive decisions for women considering the degree.



With her engineering background, Christina Waters thought she would have to invest 20 years establishing herself before getting a high-impact management position. She was only six years into her career, though, and looking to speed up her progression. She figured a Queen’s MBA would do the trick, but then doubts began to creep in.

“I had to get over the impostor syndrome,” says Waters, now a Senior Director of Digital Transformation Services at GE Oil & Gas. “There’s this voice that says, ‘I don’t think I can do this.’”

In the end, Waters worked through her self-doubts and took the MBA plunge, much to her delight. “It was interesting talking to some of the other females in the program because you get to really know them in that one-year experience. We all went through this. We all hesitated. We all didn’t really believe we could do it, for whatever reason. I was glad I had that support network.” 

It is a common refrain that Gloria Saccon, director of Queen’s Executive MBA, hears often when she conducts information sessions with prospective students and alumni. “The guys talk about confidence but the women bring it up sooner.” For many, she says, developing a “humble confidence” is the biggest gift of completing an MBA. “It’s the ability to converse with other functional areas of the organization, add value to that conversation, and extract what they need to make their strategic decisions,” Saccon says. “It enables them to be more nimble and adapt in a very fast-paced business environment.”


“The guys talk about confidence but the women bring it up sooner”


In Canada, women fill roughly 35 percent of all management positions and just under 25 percent of senior management positions. According to one study, women hold only 16 percent of board seats at Financial Post 500 companies; 40 percent of companies have no female board directors.

The MBA has long been seen as a key enabler to boost these numbers, both for early- and mid-career women. Business schools are working hard to make their programs more flexible to attract a greater number of female applicants, ever mindful of “age and stage” issues. 

“The full-time MBA individuals tend to be in their late 20s and early 30s, some married and some single, the minority with families,” says Saccon. “With the EMBA, fast forward 10 or 15 years, and you’re working with people in senior management positions who have significant professional and personal commitments, such as raising young children or teenagers or looking after aging parents. For women, it can be complicated when they’re raising families. It’s a different conversation we’re having with them.”

Queen’s School of Business offers four MBA programs: a full-time MBA program in Kingston; an Accelerated MBA for those with an undergraduate business degree; an Executive MBA; and the Cornell-Queen’s dual degree EMBA.

In Queen’s full-time program, 42 percent are women, while in the EMBA program female representation is 22 percent. Saccon says there are three challenges for women considering an MBA program: achieving work-life balance; financial constraints; and return on investment, or “Will this help me to get to where I want to go?”

Saccon sees organizations being more proactive in bringing women into senior leadership positions and making allowances for those pursuing a graduate degree. “They understand that there’s more on the shoulders of someone who is in an EMBA program; that employee has a hard stop at 5 p.m.,” she says.

A small number of organizations offer financial assistance as well; in the case of the Queen’s EMBA, at most 25 percent of students have part of their tuition covered by their employers. “The full ticket is rare,” says Saccon, “but even if it’s half and the employer says, ‘Take the time you need for classes on our time,’ that’s golden. It shows they have some skin in the game.”

Women who have gone through the Queen’s MBA programs emphasize the support Queen’s provides in the way of tools, resources, and advice. They also highlight the importance of support from other women in the program and, particularly in the EMBA program, peer-to-peer learning.

That was certainly the case for Christina Waters. Her MBA experience “allowed me to go from my old company, a firm with annual revenues of $500 million, to GE’s start-up software company, GE Oil & Gas Digital, which is focused on fullstream oil and gas digital solutions.” 

“It’s amazing that you don’t know what doors are open to you until you go into this program and see how your thinking changes and how you change as a person and start to believe in yourself.” 

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Finding Balance

Finding Balance

How do you strike a balance between career advancement and life fulfillment? Hear from a round table of powerful, successful Canadian business women on what their strategy is.

One male-dominated sector, two successful female entrepreneurs

Joanne Johnson and Sandra Dussault each have a successful manufacturing company, despite not having a background in the sector. How did they do it? A clear vision and smart business decision-making, including investments in technology. Brought together by the Cisco Women Entrepreneurs’ Circle initiative, we spoke to Joanne and Sandra about entrepreneurship, and their advice for other women looking to follow in their footsteps.


By Marie Moore



In Canada, women make up 47.5 per cent of the labour force. If you focus on the manufacturing sector, they represent just 28 per cent — a figure that hasn’t changed in 15 years. Which makes the stories of manufacturing entrepreneurs Joanne Johnson and Sandra Dussault all the more inspiring.

Joanne Johnson is the co-owner and president of Armstrong Monitoring Corporation, which manufactures life-saving gas detection and hazardous gas monitoring equipment. Purchasing the Ottawa-based business three years ago, Joanne and her husband have reinvigorated the over-thirty-year-old company, setting it up for future success. Sandra Dussault co-founded Vertical Suits with her husband in 2006. Starting out with one sewing machine in the spare bedroom of their basement apartment, the skydiving suit manufacturing company now has a fast-growing global customer base and their own facilities in Pitt Meadows, BC.

Neither Joanne nor Sandra come from a background in manufacturing, but their past experience and skill sets have been critical to their success in the sector. As an avid skydiver herself, Sandra was familiar with the product needs, and her background in graphic and web design enabled her to build a strong brand and online presence. Joanne didn’t know much about sensor technology, but as a seasoned entrepreneur with an ability to understand data, she knew she could add value to marketing, sales, finance, and HR.

For both Sandra and Joanne, it was the entrepreneurial lifestyle — including the freedom to pursue their own vision — that drew them into business ownership. “I like to be able to create my own environment and set the tone for how people interact with each other,” explains Joanne, “and focus on treating each other well, being innovative and having fun. When you own the business, you can make sure that those are key priorities.” 

Being the kind of person that’s well-suited to the ups, downs, and unknowns of entrepreneurship was also a big factor, adds Sandra. “For me, it has lots to do with personality. I always needed a challenge when I was working in a day job. I am very adventurous, so for me, entrepreneurship is more like an adventure and a challenge for myself. This is what makes me love running a business, and entrepreneurship.”

There’s also common ground between their very diverse businesses: both women point to technology as having played a role in changing how they operate. The gas detection equipment manufactured at Armstrong Monitoring used to be all analog signals, and Joanne and her husband have focused on transitioning to digital (now common in the industry). It allows for a lot more data capture, which has enabled them to better understand their customers, their environment, and their product’s performance. “It’s allowing us to design better equipment, manufacture better, and service our customers better,” says Joanne.  

Sandra, who leads IT decisions for Vertical Suits, oversaw the introduction of a robust online ordering system — saving countless hours in administration time that used to be spent manually entering information from PDFs. She looks forward to the day they can utilize body scans to take quick and accurate custom measurements, improving the process further. “If we could start working with those, it would be life-changing in our business,” she says. But while the technology exists, the challenge is making it available to the 98 per cent of her customers that aren’t local. In the meantime, she’s working with programmers to create a custom inventory system.

Knowing technology will play a role in their future success, they are both excited to be taking part in the Cisco Circle of Innovation program. In partnership with organizations including the Business Development Bank of Canada, the program pairs internship students from the University of Waterloo with women entrepreneurs. The aim is to help them build their digital strategy, scale and impact.

Marisa Duncan, their shared intern, points out that the program has been beneficial to her as well, providing access to mentorship and inspiration. “It’s helped me think a lot more about what I possibly want to do in entrepreneurship,” she explains. “And seeing people who have actually done it, makes me think that I can actually do it.”

Their success as entrepreneurs — especially in a male-dominated sector like manufacturing — can not only inspire the next generation of women business owners, but also help guide them. As role models, what advice to do they have for other women looking to follow in their footsteps?

Sandra believes a big key is sticking to your vision. And while you need to make sure you enjoy what you’re doing, “don’t be afraid to work hard,” she adds.  

Joanne looks to the pillars that have led to her own success as an entrepreneur: authenticity, persistence and courage. “Authenticity is really important — in every business, I always had a role that was aligned with my values and my skills so I could be me. The persistence — you just have to keep going. Whatever roadblocks you hit, you just have to go under them, go over them, go around them. And courage — not being afraid. Don’t let fear stop you from doing what you think is right.”


The Cisco Circle of Innovation program is one part of The Cisco Women Entrepreneurs Circle initiative, which addresses some of the obstacles female-led businesses face in building their tech capabilities. In partnership with organizations including the Business Development Bank of Canada, Cisco is connecting women to the expertise and knowledge needed for their entrepreneurial ventures to thrive. Are you a business owner? Fill in a short survey to register for the free virtual training from the Cisco Networking Academy, and kickstart your journey towards business success.




Do you know a successful female entrepreneur who deserves recognition? Nominate her for the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards!

The Sponsor Effect

The Sponsor Effect

Did you know that sponsorship has a direct impact on women’s belief that they can reach the c-suite level? No matter what stage you’re at in your career, sponsorship is mutually beneficial. Find out how.

Samantha DeBianchi’s Six Tips for Success

There are more women business owners than ever before, which is great news. The bad news? Not all of them succeed. While there are many reasons for this (lack of funding, bad timing, mismanaged resources, etc.) often times success or failure starts with you. So if you’re ready to stop getting in your own way and rise to the top of your game, follow these six tips for business success.


by Samantha DeBianchi



1. Go Big

If you’re going to invest all your time, money and energy into your passion, be it your business or some other calling, you should either go at it 100%, or not at all. There’s no time for 50-70% effort. Full commitment is required for massive success. Don’t be the one in a million girl. Be that once in a lifetime kind of woman.


2. Be money motivated

Many of us were taught early on that money isn’t important, that success is not about the money. You were taught wrong. It’s great to help people and make a difference, but if you’re not focused on money you’re not truly in a sustainable business.


3. Don’t be your worst enemy

I can’t tell you how many times I am coaching an entrepreneur, and discover that the biggest obstacle they face is themselves. When their business is up, they don’t believe it and write it off as a fluke or lucky streak. When business is down, they’re ready to throw in the towel and go back to the 9 to 5. If you’re going to be successful in life and in business, you have to be your #1 fan and loudest cheerleader.


4. Don’t do it alone

Let’s face it: business can be tough and intimidating. One of the greatest assets for anyone in business is to get around other successful entrepreneurs. Who better to understand the ups and downs than someone else in the same boat? The secret is to find a coach or mentor who has already had great success in whatever it is you are chasing, who can help guide you along and make the journey a bit easier.


5. Expect failures and learn from them

Nobody likes to fail, but in business and in life, it’s inevitable. Instead of seeing failure as a negative event, view it as an experience to learn and grow from. Never let the fear of failure stop you from going after your dreams.


6. Ignore the naysayers

Some people are going to love you for who you are and what you’re doing, while others, no matter what you do, will never get on board. In the end, the only person’s opinion that matters is your own. If it makes you happy, do it. If it doesn’t, then don’t. Constructive criticism is one thing; being told you can’t or you’re chasing the pie in the sky is something totally different and should be ignored.




As the founder of DeBianchi Real Estate and the first woman to star on Bravo’s ‘Million Dollar Listing Miami,’ Samantha DeBianchi is a business owner who’s used her own six tips to build a life and a business full of success.


Forget the Roadmap: How Janice MacLellan used lateral moves to make it to the top of the payroll profession

Juggling a busy life as a single mother of two and an avid volunteer, Janice MacLellan made strategic career choices — like turning down promotions and pursuing lateral moves — to facilitate better balance. The result? Her broad experience, notably 17 years in various roles with ADP, led her to the senior leadership team of The Canadian Payroll Association, an education and advocacy group impacting 1.5 million employers across the country.


By Hailey Eisen



“Don’t spend too much time mapping out your career, because careers are never straight lines.” That’s the advice Janice MacLellan has always given the women she mentors — and her own children for that matter. “If you’re too busy focusing on the roadmap,” she explains, “you might miss great opportunities that could lead to great experiences.”

For Janice, who is currently vice president, operations, with The Canadian Payroll Association (CPA), every job, project, course, and volunteer assignment she’s taken on over the course of her 36-year career has contributed to what she calls her “personal tool chest.”

“Everything you learn, in every job you do — you take that with you,” Janice says. While she says she had no idea she’d end up in the payroll industry — it wasn’t even on her radar when she started her career in banking — her passion for it is palpable. “I enjoyed banking, and everything I learned — especially working as a small business lender — contributed to my ability to succeed in the payroll industry.”

Raised in Ottawa, Janice went to St. Mary’s University to complete a dual-degree program in Commerce and Economics. From there she was recruited by RBC in Halifax into their management training program. After more than a decade with the bank, and a move to Toronto, she was working for the payroll service provider owned by RBC when it was acquired by ADP.


“Everything you learn, in every job you do — you take that with you”


Janice spent 17 years with ADP, where she was given the opportunity to lead special project teams, gain global business experience, and collaborate closely with the Canadian and provincial governments on business to government electronic initiatives, among other things. In her last role with ADP she was VP, comprehensive outsourcing services, and responsible for managing the payroll end-to-end administration of 3,500 Canadian and global employers.

As a single mother raising two kids (one who was a high-performance athlete), and as an avid volunteer, Janice had to learn how to prioritize and juggle her various work and life commitments. When her children were younger and in their teens, she thought carefully about her career moves in order to facilitate better balance. “I turned down some promotional opportunities because of the time demands and responsibilities, and instead chose some lateral moves that broadened my enterprise knowledge or gave me new skillsets,” she says.

Her decisions were hardly a compromise; while the roles were still at a director level, they were helping her gain experience she would need down the road, while giving her the flexibility to be there for her kids. “A career isn’t always in a vertical line up,” she says. “Making lateral moves often makes you a more well-rounded professional.”

Even her board and volunteer involvement was somewhat strategic. Her work in sports and the arts were combined with her children’s activities, and helped expand her social and business network. As an active volunteer within the payroll profession — spending many years on the board and as chairman and director of The Canadian Payroll Association, a not-for-profit dedicated to payroll education and advocacy — she gained knowledge directly applicable to her career. “ADP was highly supportive of my involvement in the organization and realized how valuable this volunteer work was in skill-development.”

With a long-term career goal of moving into the not-for-profit world, Janice was pleased when the opportunity arose in October 2015 to join The CPA professionally. She’s now a part of influencing the operational, compliance and technology policies and processes of payroll service and software providers, hundreds of thousands of small, medium, and large employers, as well as federal and provincial tax authorities. “I had been so involved in this association and this move felt like a nice segue toward the end of my career.”

In fact, she sees it as a culmination of the experience she’s gained throughout. “Both ADP and RBC were instrumental in developing my executive skills over the years, every job I ever had, not to mention my payroll industry knowledge from a technology and legislative perspective, and employer perspective — all of this I bring to The CPA table and it enables me to continue to represent the various stakeholders of the association and allows me to provide input to the association agenda,” she says.

Today she’s a strong advocate for the payroll profession and excited about the opportunities for education and employment opening up within the field. “When I look back over the years of my career, I have no regrets,” Janice says. “I started my career when women had to assert themselves to be equal to men — but I’ve never felt the impact of being a woman when it came to the opportunities I was afforded. The key for me was to always find organizations that were aligned with my own personal values, and to operate with integrity no matter what.”



In partnership with ADP, we’re highlighting the importance of strong leadership in finding, attracting and inspiring the talent to move organizations forward. Our evolving workplaces succeed when diverse voices and passionate leaders come team up. By celebrating Canada’s inspiring leaders, we can understand and nurture what it takes to build a better workforce. ADP provides the technology and expertise that helps Canadian organizations of all sizes to build and inspire the workforce they need to succeed.




Handling the leap: How a corporate executive became an entrepreneur

Shira Yoskovitch’s experience as a busy executive and caregiver — paired with her passion and talent for finding “that right thing” —  inspired her to create a personal shopping concierge service, Handled Concierge Services. She shares the lessons she learned in the process, and her best advice for aspiring female entrepreneurs.


By Marie Moore



They say necessity is the mother of invention. Handled fits the adage well.

Founder Shira Yoskovitch says her inspiration for the personal shopping service came from her own experience — not only as a busy executive, but also spending years with the added responsibility of caregiving for her parents. “During that time, my to do list was ridiculous; it was impossible. I was forever on the hunt for someone to just help me.”

At the same time, shopping was a task she actually enjoyed. So much so, Shira often took it on for others. “The truth be told, I have been shopping for my friends and some people in my circle, for the better part of 15 years. I have a friend who hasn’t bought her own pair of shoes since she was in high school.”

It took four years of mulling over the idea of starting a shopping service before personally and financially Shira felt confident moving forward — or at least recognized it was the time to have some faith in her idea. “I remember thinking, if I don’t do it now, I’m going to find myself in five years wishing to heck I had, and I’ll have missed the boat.”

So she set about creating the kind of personal shopping company that she could have benefitted from when she herself was stressed and overstretched. She chose the name — Handled — to reflect the breadth of the services that would be offered as a “holistic, end-to-end, solution provider.” Not only will her team complete whatever shopping task you give them (from clothes to gifts, from budget to luxury), they also provide their styling expertise, deal with returns and alterations, and deliver wherever it’s most convenient for you. They’ll even do a wardrobe consultation to make sure you’re using what you already have to the fullest.

With a background in supply chain management and operations, Shira was also well aware of the importance of making the process smooth and simple from start to finish, so the experience wouldn’t feel like a burden. She invested in technology (another field she’s experienced in) to make the booking process easy. “You can actually access us through various digital mediums, like your cellphone or a tablet, and book something with us like you would book something into your calendar — it’s an extension of how you live your life.”

Her biggest challenge since opening the business? Convincing women that there’s nothing wrong with getting help. “A lot of times there is this overwhelming sense of, ‘I couldn’t possibly send you to go shop for me, I’m Superwoman, I should be able to shop for myself.’ I liken it to the same argument of, do you use a drycleaner? Do you go to a car wash? Do you go to Starbucks for your coffee, as opposed to getting your coffee at home? All of those things are technically things we could do ourselves, however our time is better spent doing other things. I have the same conversation when it comes to Handled. Let us do the task that, frankly, there is no virtue to you doing yourself, for the cost of what you’d tip a delivery person.”


“You get lost, you make a plan, and you move forward. You put one foot in front of the other, and if you do that for enough time, it becomes a skill, a resilience like anything else.”


Ironically, learning to ask for help was a key part of Shira’s journey while setting up Handled. As a self-described control freak, it didn’t come naturally to her. She’s been pleasantly surprised by how many people have stepped up to offer their assistance, or make a beneficial connection. She now recognizes it as an integral part of building a smart business, not only for the time saved and expertise gained, but also for giving her the ability to see the faults in her own plan. As Shira explains, when you work alone, “You start drinking your own Kool-Aid.”

Her focus now is on growing the Toronto business, with a near-future goal of expansion into more cities in Canada, as well as the UK. The uncertainty of that journey doesn’t seem to phase her, a trait she says she picked up spending years as an expat, travelling to new, weird, and wonderful places. “I got so used to forever being lost, that it stopped scaring me. You get lost, you make a plan, and you move forward. You put one foot in front of the other, and if you do that for enough time, it becomes a skill, a resilience like anything else.”

She also credits the skills she learned in the corporate world for setting her up for success as a business owner, but she advises aspiring entrepreneurs not to let cautious knowledge-collection stop them from jumping on an opportunity. “If you have an idea, you are never going to get 95% of the solution worked out beforehand. You need to have enough courage of your own convictions to take a leap.”

The biggest reward so far from taking her own leap and launching Handled? It has allowed Shira to devote herself to a career she’s passionate about. “The truth is, I love it. I love finding that right thing, and by the way the right thing could be a Joe Fresh or it can be a Gucci, it doesn’t really matter — it’s the right thing.”


Handled is your personal shopper at your fingertips. Get the right look for an occasion or event, or build an everyday wardrobe filled with perfect pieces that work for your lifestyle. All you need to do is tell us what you want, and set the budget and timeline.  We handle everythingyes, everythingfrom there. Get started at

Handled is a proud sponsor of the 2018 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards


Embracing Change: How Susy Martins’ Cross-functional, Multi-country Career Led Her to a VP Global HR Role for the Largest Insurance Company in Canada

Susy Martins has had one constant in her career: change. And it’s her ability to embrace it that’s been the secret to her success, leading her into her current role as VP Global HR Operations with Manulife.


By Hailey Eisen



Given the rate at which things change in the business world these days, adaptability and flexibility are must-have qualities for success. For Susy Martins, vice president of global human resources operations with Manulife, these skills are like second-nature, thanks to the significant diversity she’s experienced throughout her career.

Since completing her HBA from the Ivey School of Business in 2001, Susy has worked for a number of different companies, across many functional areas (from Finance to Operations to HR), in 17 different countries. She’s also participated in a number of leadership and development programs within the organizations she’s worked for. Add in two maternity leaves, and it’s obvious that Susy is no stranger to change.

After working for 3M in London, Ontario for a few years, Susy took her career overseas in 2003 when she joined General Electric, first in the Finance Management Program and then as Corporate Auditor. Based out of the Netherlands and then Spain, she worked in dozens of countries across Europe and Latin America. Susy says having this experience early on in her career taught her a lot about communications across languages and cultural norms — and prepared her for the international work she’s doing today. “I wasn’t just a visitor in these countries, stopping in to take a few photos and moving on, I was working with the people, in a variety of languages, and I really got a sense of how things differed country to country.”


“I really got a sense of how things differed country to country”


That understanding has come in useful now that she’s responsible for 150 people globally. With more than half of her leadership team located in Asia, she’s also learned to adapt to a non-traditional work schedule. These days, it’s not uncommon for Susy to start meetings at 9pm, once her sons, now 3 and 7, are fed, bathed, and tucked into bed. Working from her home office in Waterloo, she always takes 5pm to 9pm off to be with her family, but often works until midnight to accommodate the work-hours of her overseas teams.   

“When I started in this role five months ago, I was having late meetings every day of the week and working full days as well,” she recalls. “I was getting really tired.” Thankfully, Manulife is highly supportive of work-life integration and this flexibility has made it possible for Susy to balance her time better — using a few hours in the middle of the day, plus Fridays (which are already the weekend in Asia) to run errands, drop off and pick up her kids, and make time for self-care. “As women, we need to decide what we want to do with our time,” she says. “When I was younger I had more time for travel, to sit on boards, volunteer, and get involved in extracurricular activities. Having kids has changed how I use my time and I’ve had to step back from a few of those responsibilities to make time for my family.”


“As women, we need to decide what we want to do with our time”


Despite the balancing act, Susy is as dedicated to her career as ever. This being her first VP role, she’s had to adapt to new responsibilities yet again. “I’m really a generalist in a lot of ways, I like HR because the function is a critical part of the business’ strategy and there are many facets to HR – talent management, analytics, operations, systems, etc.” Currently responsible for global payroll, the contact center, and knowledge management, Susy is once again learning new areas of the business. “When I started this position, being new to payroll, ADP reached out to me directly and their sales and support teams met with me and my leadership team to go over where we were at and where we wanted to be,” she recalls. “It’s extremely helpful to have partnerships like that to make transitions easier.”

When it comes to managing people across borders, Susy says the key is to find a common purpose and goals and rally around those — that’s the essence of engagement. “Engage the team you’re working with and make it fun to come into work every day, make it very clear what you’re trying to achieve, and then hold them accountable.”


In partnership with ADP, we’re highlighting the importance of strong leadership in finding, attracting and inspiring the talent to move organizations forward. Our evolving workplaces succeed when diverse voices and passionate leaders come team up. By celebrating Canada’s inspiring leaders, we can understand and nurture what it takes to build a better workforce. ADP provides the technology and expertise that helps Canadian organizations of all sizes to build and inspire the workforce they need to succeed.




The Power of Negotiating: Get Your Ideal Salary

Did you know that only 7% of women negotiate the terms of a job offer? Marni Johnson, SVP of Human Resources and Communications at BlueShore Financial, wants to see that change, so women start stepping into their full potential and start closing the gender wage gap. 


By: Marni Johnson



In my career, I have been amazed at how many women do not negotiate – whether that’s negotiating an initial job offer,  asking for new responsibilities, or pursuing professional development. By not negotiating, women are missing opportunities to move their careers ahead and often leaving significant money on the table..

Research shows that 57% of men negotiate job offers, but only 7% of women do.  In one study, those who negotiated were able to increase their salary by over 7%. Over a career, that difference can amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Why don’t women negotiate? Many of us have been taught it’s not “ladylike” to ask for what we want, believing instead that if we do great work, our efforts will be noticed and rewarded accordingly. We may not see an opportunity for negotiation, instead viewing a situation as “take it or leave it”.  We may view negotiation as a conflict situation with a winner and a loser, and we are afraid of the impact on our reputation.  Or, we may simply not know how to negotiate.

In order to succeed to their full potential, women must negotiate, and negotiate well. Fortunately, it’s a skill that can be learned.


“In order to succeed to their full potential, women must negotiate, and negotiate well”


Typically, in a business negotiation you will be working with the other parties well after the negotiation is over,  so you want to find a solution that meets everyone’s needs while maintaining a positive relationship.

Here are some ways to do that:


Know what you want, and why you want it

Start with a clear desired outcome in mind.  As Lawrence J. Peter said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else.”  

Understanding your motivation will give you more flexibility in the negotiation; for example, you might be willing to take less vacation if you are allowed time off work to pursue professional development.


Know your bottom line

Know what your bottom line at the outset; if you don’t reach an agreement, what’s your best alternative?  You’ll likely face tradeoffs; for example,  an opportunity to work on a special project may require longer hours. Knowing your priorities and where to draw the line can stop you from accepting an offer you’ll later regret.


Know what they want and why they want it

What are the other person’s concerns, assumptions and values? Knowing what’s important to them can help you negotiate a deal that meets their needs as well as yours. For example, if you want to take on a new project and your manager wonders whether you’re ready, what checkpoints can you build into your plan to address their concerns?  

Knowing what’s important to them can also help ensure you maintain the relationship by focusing on the positive outcomes not just for yourself but for the organization as well.


“Knowing your priorities and where to draw the line can stop you from accepting an offer you’ll later regret”


Ask what is negotiable

Find out what’s negotiable so you know where to focus your efforts. Even if salary isn’t negotiable, something else may be, such as hours of work or certain benefits.


Establish your credibility

Do your research and  find out what comparable roles are paying.  Be clear on why you deserve what you are asking for — don’t assume it’s obvious. Focus on the value you bring: what you’ve done or can do to help them solve their business issues. Show them what’s in it for them using the language of business, which typically involves money or numbers.  

Consider your tone of voice and your language. Some women tend to raise their voice at the end of a sentence, making them sound unsure. The phrase “I believe” imparts more credibility than “I think”.


Negotiate in good faith

You can be honest in a negotiation without laying all your cards on the table.  People like to win, so be prepared to concede on some things, but don’t give too much too quickly. If you’ve prepared well, you’ll know where and how much you’re willing to compromise.  Avoid ultimatums –  you may damage your relationship, and if you give an ultimatum you may need to act on it or else lose credibility.

Recognize that “no” means “no, given how I see things today”.  Even if you don’t get what you want today there may be an opportunity to try again later.


End on a positive note

Close all negotiations by clearly outlining the agreement you have reached. Close on a positive note by reviewing progress made, how the solution meets the parties’ needs and so on.

Every day in our personal and professional business we have opportunities to negotiate.  Practising this skill leads to greater comfort and success in negotiating, creating mutually beneficial outcomes for all involved.



Marni Johnson is SVP of HR and Communications at BlueShore Financial. Want to know how – and why – she became an expert in the field of Human Resources and negotiation? Get to know her personally.




Five Tips For Financing Your Tech Purchase

In today’s business environment, you can gain a significant competitive advantage with the right technology investment. What do you do when you don’t have the funds to support the purchase? Follow these five tips for financing your tech purchase, courtesy of BDC.


By Marie Moore



As an entrepreneur, you know your talent and your ambition are limitless. You may find it surprising, then, that female-owned companies in Canada tend to be smaller and grow more slowly than those owned by men.*

And this lack of scale can be a limiting factor to your business’ success. To remain competitive, it’s important to wisely invest in your business — especially in the fast-evolving area of technology.

If you don’t have the cash on hand to invest in technology, these five tips can help you finance your IT purchase:


1. Create a budget that factors in all costs.

The first step in purchasing technology for your business is preparing a budget. To create an accurate estimate of the project’s cost, be sure to look beyond the sticker price. In addition to buying the technology, you’ll need to factor in implementation, training, maintenance and updates. You also need to consider how the IT purchase will impact your business. For example, a new website could generate significantly more sales, which will require greater spending on raw materials, production, and inventory – and which could create a cash flow delay before the sales dollars roll in.

2. Match the duration of the loan to the lifespan of the asset.

All technology has a lifespan. When looking for a loan, aim to have the payment period be equal to the expected lifespan of your new asset – the amount of time it should function optimally. Otherwise, you could still be paying off your loan when the time comes to replace your purchase. As a rule of thumb, computer hardware typically lasts three to five years, but do your research or ask your IT sales representative to help determine a reasonable lifespan, then look for a loan duration to match.

3. Understand what type of financing best fits your desired purchase.

The type of financing you qualify for will be impacted by the type of technology in which you are investing. Why? It comes down to collateral. A hardware purchase will offer you the most options, simply because the hardware can be used as collateral for the loan. In this case, your options include: an equipment term loan, which requires the hardware to be used as collateral; a working capital term loan, which may or may not require collateral; or a line of credit, which is most often secured by your accounts receivable. You may also be able to lease the hardware through the supplier or a financial institution. There are fewer options for software purchases or digital marketing projects, like creating a website, because, unlike with hardware, there are no assets that can be put up as collateral. Look into financing these technology purchases with a working capital loan or line of credit.

4. Go into your bank meeting well-prepared.

Before meeting with your banker to request a loan, be sure you have compiled all the information they’ll need to make a decision. That includes your financial statements, the thorough budget you created for the planned tech purchase, and your broader business plan — demonstrating what impact the IT investment will have. You will also need a personal credit score and a credit bureau report on your company. The process can be lengthy, so don’t approach your banker when cash is tight and timing is critical. Instead, reach out well before you need to make the purchase.

5. Consider options from several financial institutions.

While it’s true that increasing the amount of collateral you offer will generally lead to a lower interest rate, this shouldn’t be the only factor you consider when evaluating a loan. Reach out to a few institutions and see who can offer the best terms, from repayment options to required guarantees. You’ll also find variances in the amount of financing that will be made available to you.



The Cisco Women Entrepreneurs Circle addresses some of the obstacles female-led businesses face in building their tech capabilities. In partnership with organizations including the Business Development Bank of Canada, Cisco is connecting women to the expertise and knowledge needed for their entrepreneurial ventures to thrive. Are you a business owner? Fill in a short survey to register for the free virtual training from the Cisco Networking Academy, and kick start your journey towards business success.



* Canada Works Limited presentation of Women Entrepreneurs in Canada: Gaps and Challenges, Allan Riding, July 2014

Paying it Forward: How Personal Experience has Guided Lisa Citton-Battel to Make a Positive Impact on Women’s Careers

Lisa Citton-Battel, executive director of marketing, sales and services at 3M Canada, returned from her first maternity leave struggling with the transition of going back to work. A supportive manager taught her the importance of having an advocatea lesson that’s guided her own leadership style over the last two decades.


By Hailey Eisen



It was early in her career, 19 years ago, after her first maternity leave, that Lisa Citton-Battel realized the power of having a strong advocate within your organization. As a marketing supervisor at the time, she was still establishing footing within 3M Canada, where she’s now executive director of marketing, sales and services. After six months at home with a baby, she, like many, struggled with self-confidence as she transitioned back to work.

“I had this manager who taught me a lot about my own potential,” Lisa recalls. “Sometimes it just takes one person to have 100 per cent faith in you, to recognize in you something you haven’t yet seen in yourself.”

Lisa went back to work and was promoted to marketing manager, a role she hadn’t envisioned herself being ready for at the time. “My manager said to me, ‘you have the ability, you can do this better than anyone else,’ and that was one of the most energizing and rewarding moments of my career,” she recalls.


“Sometimes it just takes one person to have 100 per cent faith in you, to recognize in you something you haven’t yet seen in yourself”


This invaluable lesson in leadership stayed with Lisa throughout her career, and has guided her own management philosophy. Coming off two-and-a-half-years as director of HR, she says her focus has always been on developing her team and the people around her. “While women tend to want to have all the qualifications ticked off before applying for a job, I’m always encouraging those I work with to apply for roles they may not have considered themselves for,” she says. “It’s important to support one another and remind people of their potential — to help counter self-doubt.”

And when you are given a promotion or offered a new challenge, Lisa advises not to be afraid to ask: why me? Why do you think I can do this?

Once you can see yourself from someone else’s perspective, it’s easier to believe in your own strengths and abilities. “As soon as my former manager told me why she thought I was right for the position, I jumped in with both feet. I didn’t want to let her down.”

Supporting women has always been on Lisa’s radar. These days she’s the host of a 3M “Lean-In Circle” within the company’s Canadian headquarters in London, Ontario. The purpose is to help women build courage and confidence in pursuing career aspirations and to discuss issues related to work life balance. As Lisa explains, it’s important for women to be able to lean on one another, to have somewhere to go for support and advice, and to encourage one another to embrace challenges and take risks.

“A key success factor for women in the workplace is to have a strong inner circle you know you can depend on at any time,” she says. “You want your circle to be made up of people who will give you good, honest advice and feedback you can trust.”

Within 3M, Lisa says she’s been greatly supported by the many managers she’s worked for, and the company’s flexible work program. “After my 29-week preemie was was born in 2000, I wasn’t able to go back to work right away for a variety of reasons,” she says. “I remember my VP at the time, who was male and didn’t have children, said to me, ‘3M will be here when you’re ready to come back, take the time you need.’”

In her most recent leadership roles, Lisa has always extended this same attitude to her team, knowing that when someone is happy and supported at work and at home, they always perform better. “I always try to make sure people are making the right choices for their current situation, if a child has a baseball game and you want to be there, work with your manager to ensure that’s possible — that additional stress doesn’t do anything for anyone.”

Lisa remains a strong advocate for flexibility, which is a priority at 3M, and she helps managers see the value in a work schedule that meets everyone’s needs. Whether an employee wants to spend a day working remotely, or shift their hours to balance other commitments, she’s open to making that work.

In her new sales and marketing role, which she began in early May, Lisa will continue advocating to create a work environment that’s supportive of women. When it comes down to it, Lisa says, you want employees to feel empowered in their development and supported in the work they’re doing.



Seeking Challenge and Adventure: Advice on Nurturing a Diverse Career Here and Abroad

Despite a 15 year tenure with the same company, Kelly Graham’s career has presented enough challenge and adventure to go around — in her case, around the world. The Vancouver, British Columbia native has leveraged her MBA to build a global career, from launching new products in India to leading a team on disruptive innovation in London, England. Here’s how her education and experience has broadened her skill set, mindset, and her horizons.


By Hailey Eisen



When Kelly Graham was transferred five years ago by Unilever to London, England, a world of opportunities unfolded. In addition to living for a short time in Singapore, Kelly travelled to Indonesia, Russia, India, the Philippines, Mexico, Argentina, and Turkey in her role as this multinational powerhouse’s Global Marketing Director.

“My job provides a great combination of creativity and business management,” Kelly says. Her role has had her uncovering consumer insights that have led to advertising campaigns and the development of new products. For example, she was recently involved with launching a deodorant brand in India. Her role? Taking a brand that wasn’t present in that particular market, learning about consumer practices, needs, wants, and customs, and then tailoring a solution that would fit.

“Over the years, through work experience and my MBA, I’ve learned to think outside the box, to approach problems in different ways, which is extremely important in this type of work,” says the Vancouver native. Currently, Kelly is leading a team on disruptive innovation, looking at new ways to meet consumer needs through different benefits, formats, and channels.


“Through work experience and my MBA, I’ve learned to think outside the box, to approach problems in different ways”


Unlike many of her peers, Kelly has been working for the same company since completing her undergraduate degree 15 years ago. “When I started with Unilever fresh out of school, I wasn’t sure where my career would take me,” says Kelly, who is now in her 30s. “Anything longer than a few years seems like a lifetime to a young student. But, I’ve been really lucky that any time I’ve become antsy in my role, usually around the one-to-two-year mark, they’ve been able to provide me with a new challenge.”

Challenge and adventure are key words in the story of Kelly’s career to date. She’s not the kind of person who is happy to sit still for long. She’s also not afraid of trying new things. In fact, she thrives on it.

I’ve worked across sales, local marketing, global marketing, and strategy at different points in my career, across several different brands and categories, and in four different cities. Not only did this breadth of experience give me a really solid foundation, it also helped to keep me really engaged with a new challenge every few years.”

One such challenge was her move abroad, leaving family and friends behind to start over in a new country. Another, prior to that, was going back to school, while continuing to work full-time, to complete an MBA.

With nearly eight years of work under her belt, Kelly had started to feel that her experience was somewhat limited having only worked in the consumer packaged goods sector. “I wanted to gain more exposure to thinking about things from the perspective of other industries, so I decided to enrol in the accelerated 12-month MBA with the Smith School of Business.”

For someone whose work would take her across the globe, Kelly says the MBA really helped broaden her mindset, introducing her to new perspectives which she continues to draw upon today. “I got the opportunity to meet amazing people from across Canada and gain insights from across many different industries, which proved to be very rewarding and beneficial to my career.”

She actually credits one of her favourite classes, International Business, with sparking an interest to work abroad. “I remember debating dairy tariffs in Canada versus New Zealand and starting to really think about how things played out on a global scale,” she says. “It really fueled my interest in strategy and I took on an international assignment working on Global Strategy not long after.”

The diversity of Kelly’s work experience can be attributed to her commitment to always taking the unexpected next step. It began the moment she graduated in 2002, earning a Bachelor of Commerce degree with a specialty in Management Information Systems. The tech bubble had burst and finding work directly related to her field seemed unlikely. “I decided to take a leap of faith and try something different,” she recalls. Her first job as an analyst with Unilever led to a diverse and interesting career that continues to evolve.  


“You need to find the right balance between adapting to your new work culture, and not losing what has made you successful in your career to date”


For those with a similar desire for challenge and adventure, Kelly says the key is to remain open to whatever comes your way — especially travel. “Working abroad is an incredible opportunity and you really grow so much, both professionally and personally,” she says. “In order to make it work, though, you need to find the right balance between adapting to your new work culture, and not losing what has made you successful in your career to date. The balance is different for everyone.”

While she’s settled in London for now, Kelly says she remains open to new opportunities. She’d like to come back to Canada at some point, but would also go somewhere else altogether. “Living abroad is addictive,” she says. “Who knows where I could end up.”

Liked this? Read more articles on preparing for senior leadership.

Was That Coaching or Criticism?


We all rely on healthy constructive criticism in order to learn and grow as professionals. But what happens when coaching becomes straight up criticism? Christine Laperriere of the Women of Influence Advancement Centre is here to remind us all how heavy-handed coaching can backfire ― and how we can prevent our confidence from crumbling under the pressure.


by Christine Laperriere



As Lead Coach with the Women of Influence Advancement Centre, I often am tasked with coaching some of the brightest women in an organization. Recently, one of my clients called and asked if I could support her on a complex issue.

On our call she explained that her manager had decided in his effort to help her advance, he was going to give her “extra coaching.” To many of us, we’d be thrilled to have additional coaching to support our efforts to grow. But this manager had started to repeatedly point out this woman’s flaws in her leadership style ― she accused him of coaching “too much.”

One day he commented she came off as aggressive, the next day he noted that she interrupted someone. After a few months of working for him, she had completely lost her confidence. She said every meeting she went into she was thinking, “don’t be too aggressive” or “don’t be too dominating” or “be sure not to interrupt.” The storyline in her head was so busy telling her what she should not do, she had no focus on what she should be doing in the moment. Ultimately, as a result of coaching, she felt her performance declining and she was worried her career had taken a turn for the worse.


“As a result of coaching, she felt her performance declining and she was worried her career had taken a turn for the worse.”


This client’s story reminded me of one important component of fantastic coaching: the observation of “current state” behaviours with heavy emphasis and direction around what “future state” looks like. As I listened to a number of observations her manager had given her, I started to ask her what behaviours she should focus on doing more of.  Pretty soon she concluded that she wanted to be a better listener who focused on hearing another person’s full thought. She also noticed that she wanted to stay calm in discussions with other parts of the organization so she could better work with them. By the end of the conversation, she realized that if she could simply bring her attention to staying calm, curious, and listening more, she could perform so much better than focusing on what she might do wrong.

She called a few weeks later to say that she had found a few simple mantras that she’d often play in her head during tough meetings; “stay calm, curious, and listen” was her favourite. She said that making this simple shift in thinking not only helped her create a noticeable shift in her presence in meetings, it was actually making work much more fun and less stressful for her. I know that more fun ultimately means more success, so I simply encouraged her to stay on this path in the future.



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.

An Unconventional Path: How Valerie McKenzie-Flynn Went from Stay-at-Home Mom to Entrepreneur to HR Director

Valerie McKenzie-Flynn’s career to date has been anything but ordinary. But the human resources director with Oxford Imaging and mother of two wouldn’t have had it any other way.



By Hailey Eisen



Valerie McKenzie-Flynn’s work experience started much younger than most, when at the age of 12 she found herself running her family’s campground in Cape Breton — with the help of her younger sister — while both of her parents worked full-time. “My grandmother was an entrepreneur, and the campground was hers,” Valerie explains. “After she passed away we continued to run it, but since my parents both had jobs my sister and I ran the place, took reservations, managed and ran the on-site convenience store, cleaned the washrooms, mowed the grass — essentially from the ages of 12 to 16, we ran the show during business hours.”

Her adult career has continued to be anything but ordinary. Valerie’s first few jobs out of university were in human resources, first in insurance and then in a US-based high-tech startup. A layoff in the mid-1990s happened to coincide with her first pregnancy, so Valerie decided to take the time, and severance, to figure out what she wanted to do next.

She was starting to think about going back to work when her son was 18-months-old — and then she found out she was pregnant with her daughter. “All plans for work were postponed at that point, and I decided to focus on being a mom for a few years,” Valerie recalls. “While I had always been very career-driven, this was a fantastic part of my life and I’m very happy I made that choice to be home with my kids.”

While she did take on the occasional freelance project, and consulted many individuals within her network after layoffs or during career transitions, she spent most of her time being a full-time mom. After a few years, she started to crave a challenge and decided to look for something that would allow her to go back to work but also be there for her kids.

In 2009, Valerie joined the Guelph Business Enterprise Centre, and with the support of this local incubator she was able to take an inspiration born out of a dinner conversation with her friends, and turn it into a business.

Channeling her late grandmother’s entrepreneurial spirit, Valerie started This Box Rocks, a care-package assembly and delivery service that reached university and college students across Canada. Inspired by the wonderful care-packages Valerie’s own mom used to send her when she was in university, the web-based company allowed busy parents to customize care-packages online and have them delivered right to their child’s dorm. Things were going quite well for This Box Rocks — Valerie had earned some media attention, found a business partner, and had begun to partner with a few university residences in southern Ontario — but she was still investing almost all of her earnings back into the company.

To help supplement her income, Valerie decided to seek out part-time work. It was around this time she came across an HR Manager role with Oxford Medical Imaging, a Kitchener-Waterloo-based startup with 25 employees, focused on diagnostic imaging. “It seemed like the perfect opportunity to work part-time while continuing to run This Box Rocks,” she recalls. “The only glitch… Oxford ended up growing explosively and my job very quickly turned into a full-time position.”

While she had offers to purchase This Box Rocks, she couldn’t bear to let it go to someone else, so she parked the business. Her focus was on growing Oxford Medical Imaging, which very quickly became a mid-sized, GTA-based corporation with 200 employees across Central and Southwestern Ontario.

With her strong human resources background and startup experience, Valerie was able to bring a great deal of knowledge to Oxford. She worked closely with the company’s CEO to build the management team. She also created and launched a performance management program and in-house training program, and implemented ADP’s Workforce Now system, including the Payroll, HRIS, and Applicant Tracking Systems. Within two years she was promoted to HR director. “I’ve been really lucky to be part of this company, to be able to watch it grow and evolve, and experience success — I’m really glad I chose this route.”

Valerie’s kids are now 9 and 11, and she’s managed to find a new balance that works for her family. “There were times when the company was in high-growth mode, that I wasn’t able to handle it all well, but I’ve learned to be proactive, to get the support I need to ensure things run smoothly at home, and to pick my battles, and focus on what really matters.” It’s been an exciting career, and there’s lots more to come. “There are lots of changes happening at Oxford all the time,” Valerie says. “You never know what’s going to happen next.”



In partnership with ADP, we’re highlighting the importance of strong leadership in finding, attracting and inspiring the talent to move organizations forward. Our evolving workplaces succeed when diverse voices and passionate leaders come team up. By celebrating Canada’s inspiring leaders, we can understand and nurture what it takes to build a better workforce. ADP provides the technology and expertise that helps Canadian organizations of all sizes to build and inspire the workforce they need to succeed.


How to Answer the Question, “So, What Do You Do?” when You Have a Multifaceted Career


Being equally good at and passionate about several different things is no longer a detriment to building a focused, strong, and sustaining career. Emilie Wapnick, speaker and author of How to be Everything: A Guide for Those Who (Still) Don’t Know What They Want to Be When They Grow Up has a few tips for how to explain your own “multipotentiality” to those who might not understand what it means to have a non-linear and multi-faceted career. 


by Emilie Wapnick



These days, many of us have multiple professional identities. We might hold a few different jobs, freelance in multiple capacities or occasionally transition between industries. It’s no secret that careers are far less linear than they once were. And, for some, that is a good thing.

I’m a career coach and writer who works with people who have many passions and creative pursuits. I refer to these people as “multipotentialites”. (Hint: I’m one of them, too!) Multipotentialites are curious about a number of unrelated subjects and require variety — along with financial stability — in their lives to be happy. They often diversify their income streams or intentionally choose to have, say, three very different part-time jobs instead of a single full-time job. Multipotentialites feel at home in interdisciplinary fields like filmmaking, A.I., or environmental policy; you almost always find them wearing multiple hats at work.


“Multipotentialites are curious about a number of unrelated subjects and require variety — along with financial stability — in their lives to be happy.”


When your career is multifaceted, it can feel nearly impossible to explain it to other people. Here are a few different ways to answer that popular cocktail party question, “So, what do you do?” when what you do is many things:


Option #1: “I do several different things.”

Lead with your plurality and be up-front about the different facets of your career and other endeavors. The key to getting a good reaction is conveying confidence. Instead of sounding apologetic, share your enthusiasm for your different roles and projects. This approach will lead to a conversation, so only use it if you’re in the mood to talk about yourself for awhile.


Option #2: Use an umbrella title

Is there a broader term or category that encompasses much of what you do? For instance, instead of responding with ”I’m an actor, painter, and musician,” you could say, “I’m an artist.” Or instead of saying “I’m a geography teacher, a docent at the zoo, and a health coach,” you could call yourself an educator.


Option #3: “I help _______do _______.”

Leave your medium and title out entirely! Instead, talk about the people you help and what you accomplish through your work. Saying, “I help youth feel empowered,” says a lot about who you are and what you’re doing on this planet without mentioning specifics. This could apply if you’re a dance teacher, a motivational speaker, or if you work at a nonprofit that provides health services to homeless youth. It would also (maybe especially) work if maybe you do all three. If the person you’re talking to is interested in learning more, they’ll ask. And then you can elaborate and get into the specifics.


Option #4: Drop an easy to understand answer that doesn’t encompass everything you do

It’s okay to choose not to share your entire work portfolio. Sometimes the person asking is only doing so to be polite, and getting into a lengthy conversation about your professional life would actually be inappropriate. Other times, you might simply not be in the mood to open up. It’s okay to answer with just one of your professional identities, or to simplify. People can learn about your other facets and the nuances of your career as they get to know you over time.


It isn’t always easy to be someone who doesn’t fit neatly into boxes. The world doesn’t always understand. But things are changing. Whether out of necessity or due to genuine passion and curiosity, more and more people are developing a multitude of skill sets. And yet, I think we can all agree that a better question to ask when you first meet someone might be something like, “So, what are you excited about these days?” Wouldn’t that be nice?


Emilie Wapnick is the founder, creative director, and resident multipotentialite at Puttylike. She believes that instead of picking one thing and denying all of our other interests, we can find ways to integrate our many passions into our lives. She created Puttylike in 2010 as a way to help people build dynamic, multifaceted lives, in practical and sustainable ways.











Why I’m Finished with Leadership Buzzwords


Recognizing when our unconscious personal bias is influencing how we perceive our leaders is crucial. Leah Parkhill Reilly of the Women of Influence Advancement Centre urges us to base judgment on facts rather than feelings, and stay on high alert for meaningless buzzwords.


by Leah Parkhill Reilly



When I was in corporate HR, we would conduct talent roundtables to assess the readiness of the next levels of talent to move forward in the organization.


I would occasionally hear the comment that “so-and-so” lacked “gravitas” and was not ready for the promotion or a more challenging assignment. Often, the person lacking “gravitas” was female and the individual who was providing the opinion was a male executive with many years of experience.


This is not to say that the opinion was unfounded, but when I would question the individual on tangible evidence of what “gravitas” looked like, and examples of when the person being assessed was found lacking, often they had nothing to share. It was purely a gut opinion with nothing to validate it. Occasionally, it was a comment that the person had heard through the corporate grapevine. Opinion had become fact, and actual evidence was no longer relevant. This admittedly was an extreme example, and thankfully didn’t happen on a regular basis ― but it did happen, and still does.


“Opinion had become fact, and actual evidence was no longer relevant.”


We are all susceptible to unconscious bias, and part of the work that I did was to be very aware of this bias in these settings. In another example, I encountered a leader who wanted to hold back on an assignment for a female colleague because he thought she was considering having children. His implicit association was that if you’re female, then you’re going to be the primary caregiver and thus would not be interested in the next level of leadership. Thankfully, the discriminatory view of this dinosaur did not stand, and the female colleague did receive the assignment.


If you’re curious about the concept of unconscious bias and implicit association, one of the best sites I can recommend for further exploration is Project Implicit and the associated Implicit Association Tests. Project Implicit is an international collaboration between researchers run out of Harvard. The focus is on understanding our own social cognition: the thoughts and feelings outside of our conscious control.


You can complete any number of tests ― on age, gender, sexuality, and race, all in connection to career and the workplace ― to better understand the hidden biases that might affect your own decision-making process. If you’re really keen, I’d also suggest reading Blind Spot, which dives deeper into the causes of stereotyping and discrimination.


This is the time of year when performance assessments have been completed, but soon enough, mid-year talent roundtables will begin and it’s important to have your own radar on alert for the buzzwords that are flung around. As strong leaders, it behooves us to dig into the comments and understand what lies beneath the surface.


If someone “lacks presence,” tell us an example of when this failing was observed, give a comparative example of what it should look like in the firm, or provide options for how that person can develop their “leadership presence.” We can’t just readily accept opinion without actual supporting evidence. Leadership comes in many shapes and forms, and we need to be aware of our own biases of what leadership “looks like” ― instead focusing on the actual work, and impact within the organization and beyond.


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.

When perseverance pays off: Terry Sugar lacked education and experience, now she’s VP of Business Development and Finance

When Terry Sugar was a young mom of two with financial troubles, she told her father she’d take any job in the family business that he would give her. She had a tough road learning the ropes as bookkeeper, but thirty years later she’s earned her CMA and the title of VP of Business Development and Finance.



By Hailey Eisen



There’s a widely-circulated statistic that while men will apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, women will only apply if they think they meet all of them. If this had been the case for Terry Sugar, she would never have started working at Farmbro Inc., and she certainly wouldn’t be in the role of Vice President Business Development and Finance today.  

Founded by Terry’s father, Al Farmer, in 1983, Farmbro supported The Ford Motor Company with upfitting solutions and mechanical expertise in the commercial and truck fleet sales industry. Around the time the company launched, Terry recalls that she and her then husband were experiencing financial difficulties. She was a young mom of two with a high school education and little experience under her belt. “I remember calling up my dad and saying, ‘I need a job, I’ll do anything.’”

Terry was thrust into an accounting role, handed the general ledger, taught the basics of bookkeeping by her uncle, and left to figure out the rest. For the next two years, she learned the ropes at work while juggling her kids’ programs and activities and working around her husband’s unusual schedule as a skating coach.

Inspired by the need to support her family and her drive to learn everything she could about accounting, Terry was moved to seek out a formal education. In 1988, after giving birth to her third son, she enrolled in a CMA program via correspondence. “I didn’t have a university degree, but I found a way to get into a CMA program that I would complete over the next three years.”

Studying every morning and every evening while continuing in her role at Farmbro took a great deal of commitment. But she was dedicated to the advancement of the company and wanted to bring everything she could to her role. After all, nearly everyone who worked for Farmbro at the time was a member of her family.

“Working with family means you have a very strong bond — love, loyalty, and dedication to one another,” she explains. “But because family businesses can destroy families, you have to be very careful and respectful of one another too. It’s a fine balance”


“Working with family means you have a very strong bond — love, loyalty, and dedication to one another”


Terry’s commitment and dedication paid off in spades. Today, at 60, she stands at the helm of Farmbro alongside her brother. Her father, who’s 90, just retired a few years ago. The family owns three businesses in total and has nearly 100 employees. Throughout the years, her three brothers have all worked for the company, as have her mom, aunt, uncle, and her own three sons.   

About a decade ago, Terry’s brother went from a VP role to that of President. While the option presented itself for them to divide up and each lead one of the companies her father owned, she made a decision to stick with her brother and continue working collaboratively. “Working together we have a great synergy, and I wanted to maintain that no matter what.”

Today Farmbro has an extensive product and service offering providing work vehicle solutions for individual needs and high volume uplifts for some of the largest fleets in Canada. As a woman in this industry, Terry has learned, above all else, that the best way to succeed is to not be afraid to ask questions. It’s the same philosophy that allowed her to take on, and succeed in, her accounting role with no prior experience. “I’ve been very lucky that I haven’t run into too much chauvinism,” she says. “My brother and my father were always very supportive, and the respect they showed led others to do the same.”  

Through asking questions and exploring new areas of interest, Terry has come to realize that her true passion lies in communications and people management. “Sure, there were times when I would think, maybe I should venture out on my own and find an industry that’s more aligned with my interests,” she says. But ultimately, her commitment to family and the advancement of their business, even during hard times, always won out. “Today I’m drawn to the strategic planning around people, bringing our staff together to ensure everyone is happy and that they want to come to work and drive the company forward.” She’s worked with ADP to bring in speakers and organize information sessions for the Farmbro staff to shed light on these areas.

While Terry has learned to leave work at work on the weekends and enjoy life, whether it be hiking, traveling, or taking dance classes, she’s still as committed to learning and growth as she was when she started over three decades ago.



In partnership with ADP, we’re highlighting the importance of strong leadership in finding, attracting and inspiring the talent to move organizations forward. Our evolving workplaces succeed when diverse voices and passionate leaders come team up. By celebrating Canada’s inspiring leaders, we can understand and nurture what it takes to build a better workforce. ADP provides the technology and expertise that helps Canadian organizations of all sizes to build and inspire the workforce they need to succeed.


How to create an award-winning RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards application

With the nomination period for the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards closed, it’s time to begin putting together a winning application. Official Due Diligence Sponsor, Deloitte Private, offers the top items to consider for this crucial next step.



By Marie Moore



In Canada, just 15.7% of entrepreneurial businesses are majority-owned by women. Fortunately, the number is increasing. Self-employment among women has been steadily rising, even though self-employment overall has been relatively flat since 2009.


Why is this segment so important? Women entrepreneurs are contributing fresh ideas, capitalizing on new opportunities, and creating jobs in their own community ― and beyond. The continued success of female-led businesses is crucial to economic growth in this country. They need to be supported in their ambitions, and celebrated and appreciated for their accomplishments.  


The aim of the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards is to provide this much-deserved recognition. As official Due Diligence Sponsor, Deloitte Private has had the privilege of being an integral part of the RBC CWEA program for several years. Each year, we are introduced to a new set of unique businesses and their high-quality offerings. With the required minimum of three years in operation, they all have a proven sustainable model ― one that comes from a history of designing and implementing effective solutions. They exemplify what female entrepreneurs are capable of.    


With such an impressive group, what can make your organization stand out? Here are the top four items to consider when filling out your application.



  1. Surround yourself with a winning team.

This is not a process you need to complete alone. Tap into your talented employees who understand your business, and don’t be afraid to seek outside help. By involving others in the application process, you’ll be able to get a broader perspective. What seems normal to you might pop out as really outstanding to someone else ― and worth emphasizing. “This is one of the key insights we have drawn from our experience,” says Lorrie King, the Deloitte national co-lead for Best Managed companies program. Deloitte, Canada’s largest professional services firm, established this platform for recognizing excellence in private, Canadian-owned companies in 1993. The Best Managed program includes valuable coaching from experienced professionals of Deloitte and CIBC that help applicants take a step back and look at their business through a new lens.


  1. Focus on your accomplishments.

While it’s both exciting and important to think about your future growth opportunities, these awards are designed to recognize your accomplishments, not your aspirations. The application should therefore be largely focused on what you have done, not what you are planning to do. The adage “show, don’t tell” applies here as well. For each achievement you want to highlight, from a growth in sales to reaching profitability, ensure you have quantifiable evidence that backs it up.


  1. Get your books in order.

A solid application begins with up-to-date, organized financials. Be sure you understand your numbers well enough ― or have someone on your winning team who does ― to be able to demonstrate how well your business is doing. Providing tangible evidence of your success through your financials is key to moving to the Finalist stage.


  1. Be ready for the next step.

When we engage in the due diligence process with each finalist, our main purpose is to validate the information that has been provided in the application ― but it’s not as simple as checking your numbers. An in-person meeting with your assigned Deloitte Private practitioner is critical, because it gives you the opportunity to speak to the success of your business beyond the balance sheet. Be ready to discuss your business successes, such as how you have applied creativity or innovation in solving problems and overcoming challenges. The goal is not to oversell your business or offering, but rather speak to your strengths, focus on what you do best, and ― most importantly ― always be able to provide tangible evidence.



For more than 150 years, Deloitte Private has been assisting entrepreneurs in transforming Canada’s economy. We know that the journey to success requires strategic decision making and being opportunistic at the right moment. As Canada’s largest professional services advisor to private clients, we are passionate and committed to your future success — always looking ahead to anticipate your needs and prepare you for any unforeseen challenges ahead.  


How We Can Engage Men to Push for Gender Equality at Work and Beyond

This article was first published on the EVE Blog. The EVE Program is an international intercompany leadership seminar for women and “enlightened men” to take more risks and move upwards in the company.


By Michael Kaufman



Recently I was speaking to a vice president of a major bank. He was concerned about the slow pace for the advancement of women in his own company and beyond. He worried about the safety of his daughter who was at university. And he was horrified that some people are trying to roll back the clock on the empowerment of women. He wanted to do something about it. The problem was he felt isolated and simply didn’t know what to do.

I’ve heard similar stories from many men: professional athletes, workers on the shop floor, fathers, young men in university. They are among the hundreds of millions of men who now support women’s rights. But they either don’t realize the importance of speaking out for gender equality or, if they do, they are hesitant to take the first step. Or simply, they don’t know what that first step looks like.


“He wanted to do something about it. The problem was he felt isolated and simply didn’t know what to do.”


Similarly, after my talks at conferences and meetings, I’m meeting a lot of women who say that the time has come to fully engage men as their allies. Through their courageous efforts, women have made incredible progress in recent decades, but men still hold disproportionate social, economic, and political power. That means that some men can continue to block change. Or, conversely, it can mean that good men can have a big impact. But, many women tell me it’s not clear how they can successfully engage men.

For the past decades, I’ve been arguing that to successfully reach men, we need to take a positive approach. We won’t get far by shaming men or waging a scolding finger. We actually have an evidence base from around the world that says that if we can find positive ways to challenge men and invite men in as allies, we will be more successful.


“If we can find positive ways to challenge men and invite men in as allies, we will be more successful.”


Part of the trick to doing this is for us to realize two major things:

One is that although we know that men enjoy power and privilege in male-dominated societies, the very nature of privilege is that it is invisible to those that have it. Furthermore, inequality in power is not only between men and women, it is also among different groups of men (and of course also among women.) As a result, many men might not realize the many ways they actually do enjoy privilege.

What this means is that we can’t just assume (and can’t just lecture) but must find ways to help men understand the nature of inequality. Yes, we need to challenge men. But we need to do so by making a strong case to men about how their workplaces, their communities, and their families will benefit from equality. And we need to make it personal: that the girls and women they love will be far better off.

The second key concerns the strange reality of men’s lives in male-dominated societies. When I speak, I tell a lot of stories and provide analysis about what I’ve called the paradox of men’s power. This refers to the strange price that men ourselves pay for the ways we raise boys to be men and set up cultures of men’s power. In other words, although men will lose forms of power and privilege, men actually will benefit from gender equality. That’s why I talk about healthier, new ideals of manhood.

Again, the evidence base from around the world tells us that campaigns, initiatives, advertising, and programs that challenge the narrow box we put men into and hold out new ideals of manhood are the most successful approaches. That’s one reason why new laws and programs to encourage involved  fatherhood are so enthusiastically received by men.


“The evidence base from around the world tells us that campaigns, initiatives, advertising, and programs that challenge the narrow box we put men into and hold out new ideals of manhood are the most successful approaches.”


From there we get into the nuts-and-bolts of how to do it. Here are just a few points:


  1. We must invite men to make a personal commitment to be workplace leaders for gender equality, for harassment-free workplaces, and for family-friendly policies. This isn’t an add-on to leadership. This must be a key part of any leadership position (for men and women.) And that leadership isn’t only in the C-suite, it extends right down to those on the office or shop floor.
  2. We need to help men understand the often subtle ways that sexism and discrimination get passed on in the workplace. We need to equip men for the opposition and resistance they’ll get from some other men.
  3. We need to help companies develop the practical tools to get the job done: Policies (hiring, advancement, ending sexual harassment, family-friendly initiatives, and those concerning the impact of violence against women.) Good training of managers to enact these policies in smart ways. Mentorship programs. Good training of staff. Ongoing efforts that involve men and women at all levels to monitor and measure.
  4. Make a public commitment for our companies, unions, and professional associations to be leaders for gender equality. In part, this can be done by linking up with women’s organizations and with male-focused efforts like He-For-She, White Ribbon and


The world is in a very troubling moment. But I’m very excited about one thing. In the next few years, in spite of those who wish to roll back the clock, we’re going to see some tremendous advances in the engagement of men to support gender equality and to build healthier and happier lives for both women and men.




Michael Kaufman, Ph.D., is a speaker and writer focused on engaging men and boys to promote quality between men and women and positively transform the lives of men. Over the past three-and-half decades, he has worked in almost fifty countries, including extensively with the United Nations, numerous governments, corporations, NGOs, women’s organizations, and universities. He is the co-founder of the White Ribbon Campaign, the largest effort in the world of men working to end violence against women. Michael lives in Toronto, Canada.


Women’s Top Obstacle to Career Advancement

Earlier this year, we conducted a survey to get a better sense of our WOI community — who you are, what you’re interested in, and what challenges you face as professional women.

We were ecstatic to receive so much candid feedback from our intelligent, successful, and engaged community of women. Thank you to all who responded!

One of the questions we posed was: “What would you say are the top obstacles in your career advancement?”


42% of respondents said that a “lack of mentor or sponsor” is the #1 obstacle preventing them from making gains in their careers. Other top obstacles included maintaining a sense of work/life balance, and having a limited professional network.


It is not surprising to hear that what women feel they lack the most are meaningful connections with senior leaders who can not only help guide their careers with advice, but also advocate on their behalf, opening up opportunities for advancement. In a study Women of Influence conducted in partnership with American Express Canada, over 1200 women from both the corporate and entrepreneurial world were asked about mentorship and sponsorship. Only 27% of respondents had a mentor, and just 8% had a sponsor. And gender certainly has an impact; according to Harvard Business Review research, women are 54% less likely than men to have a sponsor.



What’s the solution? One tactic is simply communicating the need to potential mentors and sponsors, and creating opportunities to bridge the gap between these successful leaders and ambitious entry- and middle-level women. Initiatives such as #GoSponsorHer are aiming to do just that, using social media to encourage both male and female senior executives to identify and put their support behind high potentials in their organization.


“What women feel they lack the most are meaningful connections with senior leaders who can not only help guide their careers with advice, but also advocate on their behalf.”


If you are interested in learning more about the benefits of sponsorship, as well as how to find (or become) a sponsor, join us at our upcoming Luncheon on June 21st at Toronto’s Arcadian Court. The panel discussion will be entirely focused on the subject, with a variety of perspectives ― from research that supports the impact of sponsorship, to personal stories of creating and developing these crucial relationships.


Inviting a junior team member to an event like this one as a guest is a great way for them to meet women they otherwise wouldn’t, and demonstrate a sincere investment in their professional growth. Do you have a sponsee? Buy your tickets today.


How a trailblazing female doctor is working to improve Canadian healthcare

Women’s College Hospital is all about closing gaps in healthcare. In fact, its very beginnings came from the desire and the need to close gaps in the system when it came to women.


By Marie Moore



When Dr. Emily Stowe opened her private medical practice in Toronto in 1867, she was the first female doctor in the country to do so. Having been denied admission to medical education in Toronto because of her gender, she earned her degree in New York City.  It’s fitting, then, that she would go on to spearhead the creation of Woman’s Medical College, a Toronto-based medical school for women that opened in 1883. The aim was not only to give women the right to study and practice medicine in Canada, but also to improve the delivery of women’s healthcare in the country.


Dr. Stowe’s legacy lives on today. The Woman’s Medical College she fought for evolved into Women’s College Hospital, which has carried on her trailblazing spirit and her dedication to closing the gaps in women’s health.


“Inequity of access for women and other groups is one of the healthcare systems greatest gaps.”


This spirit and determination is very much alive within Dr. Danielle Martin, a practicing family physician and Vice President, Medical Affairs and Health System Solutions at Women’s College Hospital. “As a family doctor, I see the cracks and challenges in our health care system every day, especially for women,” she says. “Inequity of access for women and other groups is one of the healthcare systems greatest gaps.”

Despite the striking biological variations between genders, several drugs and treatments are still in use today that have been tested primarily on men and not designed to meet women’s needs.

“This means we can’t always give women advice about how to improve their health with the same degree of confidence we give to men,” says Dr. Martin. “And that is a gap that needs to be closed.”

Dr. Martin is also a national health policy leader, and, much like Dr. Stowe, she has spent much of her career passionately advocating for improvements to Canada’s public healthcare ― at the system level, as well as at the individual level.


“We can’t always give women advice about how to improve their health with the same degree of confidence we give to men, and that is a gap that needs to be closed.”


Dr. Martin was launched into the public eye after a 2014 presentation to a United States Senate Subcommittee about the Canadian health care system ― a testimony that has now been viewed by nearly 2 million people ― but her interest in and commitment to Canadian healthcare policy began long before that. In 2006, her first year in practice, she helped launch Canadian Doctors for Medicare, a voice for Canadian physicians who believe in “a high quality, equitable, sustainable health system.” She’s also the co- founder, along with Dr. Sacha Bhatia, and a Senior Innovation Fellow at The Women’s College Hospital Institute for Health System Solutions and Virtual Care (WIHV), which is focused on finding the root causes of inefficiencies in healthcare, and coming up with solutions to create a more effective, sustainable system.

“WIHV works with other healthcare providers and institutions, patients, leaders in government as well as experts with backgrounds in business, engineering  and computer science to make healthcare more convenient, more effective and more affordable,” she explains. “WIHV’s solutions strive to address questions around how to design care that takes into account the social determinants of health, such as a person’s income, housing, social support networks, coping skills and personal health practices, so that the right care is offered at the right time. They help others to navigate health apps to decide which of the tools actually help patients improve their health. These are the gaps we are trying to fill.”

Danielle’s compassion as a family doctor as well as an advocate have guided her policy work and research, which is particularly focused on closing the health gaps that vulnerable Canadians face. She outlined her recommendations for bettering our Canadian system in her first book, Better Now: Six Big Ideas to Improve Health Care for All Canadians. Published this January, it’s a platform to engage Canadians in a national conversation about achievable change. From a national pharmacare program dedicated to ensuring that all Canadians can access necessary medications, to a basic income to protect the health of low-income citizens.  

“For almost any Canadian in our health care system, it’s clear that there are aspects that need to be reorganized. With an aging population and the rise of chronic disease on the horizon, we need to reorganize services to keep people out of hospital, out of the emergency department, and better supported in their homes. This should not always require more money – we can do much better with the resources we have. Developing systems to support spread and scale, rather than just supporting one-off innovative programs is critical. And I truly believe this is where we are headed to heal healthcare and I am extremely proud of the role Women’s College is playing to make this happen.”




For more than 100 years Women’s College Hospital (WCH) has been developing revolutionary advances in healthcare, and working to close the health gap that exists because women’s unique needs are not taken into consideration. Today, WCH is a world leader in the health of women and Canada’s leading, academic ambulatory hospital. It focuses on delivering innovative solutions that address Canada’s most pressing issues related to population health, patient experience and system costs.


For more information about how WCH and WIHV are transforming patient care, visit and To find out how you can give and get involved, visit

Overcoming the Imposter


You probably don’t have to think too far back to recall the last time you diminished yourself and your work, brushing off moments of success as simply “good luck”. It’s called the Imposter Syndrome, and it is real, and it is rampant — an estimated 70% of people will experience it at least once in their lives. So how do we move past it and own our triumphs? Leah Parkhill Reilly of the Women of Influence Advancement Centre has some tips. 


by Leah Parkhill Reilly



Have you ever had a day when it seems like the stars are perfectly aligned for you? When someone has reached out and hit the easy button on your behalf? I had one of those days this past Friday and it was brilliant, everything managed to fall into place and several people offered some much-needed support to make the day successful.


My initial reaction to the day falling into place was “what a stroke of luck, thank goodness things happened that way.” But when thinking about things again I realized that there really was no luck involved. Friends stepped up to help out because I had done the same for them many times before. I was offered a project for my business because I had established a track record and proven my worth. My initial reaction of “wow, what luck” diminished the work and my own capabilities that had led to a brilliant day.


How many of us do this on a regular basis? Diminish ourselves and our work and brush it off as luck? As it turns out, a whole bunch of us do. There have been numerous articles written about Imposter Phenomenon, and a study from 2011 asserts that “…it is estimated that 70% of people will experience at least one episode of this Impostor Phenomenon in their lives.”


The person dealing with Imposter Phenomenon can be summarized as an individual who attributes the success in their life to external factors and internalizes the failures within their life, and they experience some degree of fear at being discovered as an intellectual fraud. They may tend to discount their success if it’s not a match to the ideal standard that they’ve envisioned for themselves. They may discount the success that comes with hard work and perceive it as not being due to their innate ability, or they may just attribute their success to luck.


Some have asserted that there is a correlation between the Imposter Syndrome and success, as it drives a cycle of ambition. Anxiety over failure leads to hard work and preparation, leading to success, leading to positive feedback which is discounted, leading to the next task that will prove capability and debunk fraudulent feelings and so on. However, a cycle of ambition based on fraudulent feelings doesn’t feel like an ideal long-term approach to managing a career or life.

So how does one manage the fine balance of accepting one’s role in the successes in life without tripping too far over the other side of the line of having a whopping big ego? I’m not a therapist but in thinking through this for myself I’ve come up with my own list and think it might be helpful for you.


  1. Acknowledge Success: accept that you’ve had some part in your own success and that hard work counts just as much as innate skills.

  2. Reinforce and Reward: create a reminder for yourself of your positive accomplishments, such as a journal, tweet, text, or celebratory token – the point is recognizing it in yourself.

  3. Be Proud but Humble: for me, part of the unwillingness to acknowledge is not wanting to be seen as boastful, but there is a balance between openly showboating and feeling an internal sense of pride in accomplishments. Find that balance and try to stay on the side of humble.

  4. Learn from Failure: the point of this post is about owning both your successes and failures, so ensure that in your process of acknowledging, you identify what can be learned from the failures along the way.



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.

When Deviance Works to Your Advantage

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


By Alan Morantz



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

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

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


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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


Liked this? Read more articles on preparing for senior leadership.