Meet Dr. Catherine Chandler-Crichlow, a human capital expert and immigration champion

Dr. Catherine Chandler-Crichlow is the President & Chief Human Capital Officer of 3C Workforce Solutions. With close to 30 years of experience in human capital research and development, she has worked on a range of initiatives that span private, public and voluntary institutions in Canada, Central Europe, Latin America, South-East Asia and the Caribbean. An active volunteer, Dr. Chandler-Crichlow is Board Chair at Toronto Region Immigration and Employment Council (TRIEC) and also participated in the Ontario Ministry of Citizenship & Immigration’s Expert Advisory Panel, which led to the province’s first-ever immigration strategy that was introduced in 2012.





My first job ever was… As a high school teacher of science, chemistry and mathematics in Trinidad and Tobago.


I chose my career path because… I have a passion for human capital development. I love developing and helping others – both at an individual and corporate level – to achieve their full potential, whether this is in the area of education like math or science, or in areas of self-development and soft skills like in communications, negotiations, or problem-solving.


My proudest accomplishment is… The strong network professional leaders that I have developed internationally throughout my career in government, corporate and the non-for-profit sector.


My boldest move to date was… Taking the step to become an independent consultant and have my own practice. This has allowed me to pursue a range of initiatives including meeting amazing leaders in the human capital industry, academia, and government and the non-for-profit sector.


I surprise people when I tell them… I am an ardent sports aficionado! I love cricket, soccer, basketball, skiing, and Formula One! In fact, my favourite team is Arsenal F.C. in the English Premier League. I have their swag and have attended many of their games in London.


My best advice to people starting their career is… To focus on integrating their passion into their career and make an effort to not box themselves in to pre-defined roles. It’s easy for one to define their life by their occupation. But I say discover your passions, strengths, and expertise and start from there.


“It’s easy for one to define their life by their occupation. But I say discover your passions, strengths, and expertise and start from there.”


My best advice from a mentor was… To create a groundswell if I want to implement sustainable change within a corporate culture. And to create this groundswell, you have to immerse and learn their culture first.


I would tell my 20-year old self… To enjoy every single opportunity you get. Regardless of how bizarre it may seem, enjoy learning from them all! And I would also say, be present in each moment and learn wherever you are.


My biggest setback was… I would not call this a setback, but rather a hurdle: I was living in Trinidad and Tobago and really wanted to study and do a particular masters degree program at Harvard University, but the international student fees were very high. I had absolutely no idea how I would be able to pursue that dream.


I overcame it by… Doing two things: first, I created a vision of myself attending Harvard. Just being there. And second, I created a critical path of actions that I could take to make that vision a reality. I did extensive research in the library to learn about all the international scholarships available to foreign students that I would qualify for. I applied for and received a fellowship from the Organisation of American States and that’s how I was able to attend Harvard University. Again, you have to envision yourself achieving your dreams, create a plan and never doubt yourself.


Work/life balance is… An essential aspect of building a successful career, exploring personal goals, and having a strong family base.


I stay inspired by… Remembering that there is always an opportunity to learn from others and pay it forward at a community level.


The future excites me because… I see the energy, spark, and brilliance in the youth I meet from walks of life. What a tremendous opportunity to help build the leaders of tomorrow.


My next step is… To continue to find avenues in which I can contribute to strengthening the skills, competencies, and capabilities of youth and immigrants, especially with my work as board chair at the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC).

Women in the Boardroom

Women in the Boardroom is committed to advancing women in their careers and into the boardroom. WIB offers career-boosting programs plus Premium Memberships which assesses member skill-sets, critiques the board bio and helps make invaluable connections. Whether you want to become a better leader, increase your connections or get into the boardroom, participating in Women in the Boardroom’s face-to-face and virtual events will help you achieve your goals. All senior-management women are encouraged to connect with WIB as an opportunity to learn and network with other executives and board members. For those interested in WIB, please visit to find out how to get on the path to board membership.

How to Get on Boards

Develop your career and your community by serving on a board of directors.


Investing the time to make a positive difference in your community is one of the best career moves you can make. A great way to contribute is to serve on a voluntary committee
or board of directors. The personal dividends you earn can be reinvested into your career through renewed energy, leadership and problem solving experience, as well as a growing and expanded network of valuable contacts.


A board of directors is a group of elected or appointed members who jointly govern the policies and activities of the organization. The best boards are comprised of members who share a passion and commitment for what their organization does. Board members should have a good understanding of fundraising or be very comfortable approaching those in their network about donations and fundraising. Overall, networking is key. Board members must be able to build rapport, make friends and expand the community of their organization. Most boards need and value diversity — members who bring different backgrounds, expertise and ways of thinking to the board. This can help facilitate balanced decision-making and checks and balances within the board. Finally, a good board of directors is comprised of doers and implementers. That is, taking a can-do attitude and getting things done. If this sounds like you, you will be in great demand.


Depending on where you are in your own personal and professional development, you have some combination of five things to offer: time, energy, ideas (drawn from your professional experience and elsewhere), influence and financial support. You can think of the process as a job search: you want to make sure you can make a valuable contribution, build a long-term relationship with the organization and stand proudly as its ambassador. Pick your passion by starting with what interests you. No matter what
gets your juices flowing — the arts, city-building initiatives, social justice or healthcare concerns — there will be an organization to match. Start your research with some due diligence. Read the organization’s annual report and financial statements. Attend a community meeting or special event. Talk to those within the organization. Get a sense of the organization’s role in your community and in the work being done. When you’re ready, ask for a meeting with the organization’s volunteer co-ordinator or executive director.
The right ‘fit’ is vital to both parties.


Before you agree to volunteer, understand the terms of the relationship. Do they want you to attend monthly board or committee meetings? Pitch in with hands-on help? Is there an
expected financial contribution? Every single opportunity will be different, so be clear on what you both need and can offer. Serving on a board or committee is a fulfilling way to build your career, contribute to your community and have a wonderful personal experience along the way. Get involved and enjoy!

Finding the right volunteer organization and opportunity will take time and effort. Talk to friends and colleagues about where (and why) they volunteer.

TIP: Online and retail bookstores will have an abundance of books to help your research and learning. Enter key words into search engines, browse the selections and further customize your search. You can also formalize your training and preparation. For example, the Institute of Corporate Directors offers an excellent course called Governance Essentials Program for Directors of Not-For-Profit Organizations.


As someone who has mastered the value of networking, being involved and making a difference, Gillian Hewitt Smith is president of the board of directors for The Stop Community Food Centre and co-chairs the Art Gallery of Ontario’s Next program, in addition to sitting on 15 other boards in the community and in addition to her full-time job as a CEO. Currently, she is executive director and CEO of the Institute for Canadian Citizenship. Formerly she was the senior advisor of Corporate Affairs and head of communications of Capital Markets Canada at RBC, and former manager of Corporate Reputation at Aeroplan. She is active with each venture she participates in and is stellar at time management. To understand the importance of sitting on a board, we asked Gillian to share her expertise with our readers to help realize the how and why of this important career move.

The Future of North American Business

Senior executive women at the senior executive and board tables


As a Senior U.S. Mergers & Acquisition attorney in the late 1990’s, I had the opportunity by my mid 30’s to run and contribute to the negotiation of multi-billion dollar deals both in New York and Boston. I hit the market during the dot com boom, when U.S. firms were hungry for M&A lawyers – attorneys that loved the deal. We ere all well known as deal junkies and we took pride in the title. It takes one to know one – and to this day I can recognize one a mile away. I quickly earned a seat at the table, and I didn’t stop for a moment. In those days when we were billing every six minutes in our dockets, I was billing 24 hours out at a time, days upon nights when deals were hot, going home in the morning on day 2 or 3 for a shower while my driver waited (that’s the plus of living in NYC) – the years flew by quickly and I absolutely loved it. It was a very exciting time, adrenalin flowing, deals flowing, each step of the deal quickly reported in the New York Times. I was in my element. When I started out, more than 50% of my law school class consisted of terrifically talented women. Somewhere during all of these deals – and I will never forget when it hit me – as I was sitting in a Boardroom in Manhattan, when

I took a look around the room of the 25 Investment Bankers, Board Members, Attorneys and Senior Executives on both sides of the deal, all of a sudden I realized that I was the only woman in the room. Where did they all go?

There were early signs of the inherent challenges facing each of us while I was coming up – when I arrived in the Boardroom and the CEO of the company we were acquiring asked me to pour him a cup of coffee with cream and double sugar, which I graciously did, and then let him know, that we were now going to negotiate the terms upon which our client was going to buy his company – which we very successfully did.

Or when many of my colleagues chose to get out of law all together as they wanted some semblance of life balance and couldn’t see how to do it as a Partner in a firm. Even then, I still didn’t truly get it. Just what we were up against and how few of us would make it through and what we’d have to do (or put up with) to make our mark.

Fast forward two careers later, I am now a Senior Client Partner of an Executive Search and Consulting Firm (and the first woman Partner in 30 years at my firm), leading our Board, Legal, Health Care, Not-For-Profit, Leadership Advisory and Strategic Consulting Practice areas – with much work in For Profit, primarily at the CEO and Board level. My job, everyday, is to interact with Board Members and CEO’s across North America. Needless to say, in Executive Search, I see the statistics we are all aware of, as I am faced daily with the everyday reality that is it is a SLIM number of Senior Executive women at the top.

This has led me to become a passionate advocate to do something about this – as I fundamentally believe that the future and success of North American business both at the Board and Senior Executive level will be very positively influenced if we do. It’s without question, just smart business. There are numerous statistics and studies to support this view. The Washington Post in July 2009, noted in their article, “Fixing the Economy? It’s Women’s Work” that at least half a dozen studies, from a broad spectrum of organizations such as Columbia

University, McKinsey & Co., Goldman Sachs and Pepperdine University, have documented a clear relationship between women in senior management and corporate financial success.

“Pepperdine found that the Fortune 500 firms with the best records of putting women at the top were 18 to 69 percent more profitable that the median companies in their industries. McKinsey looked at the top listed European companies and found that greater gender diversity in management led to higher than average stock performance. Catalyst, a research firm focused on women in business, found that Fortune 500 companies with three or more women in senior management positions, scored higher on top measures of organizational excellence. In addition, companies with three or more women on their Boards outperformed the competition on all measures by at least 40 percent.”

The statistics are clear: More women at the senior executive and Board tables is just smart financial business. The Post article also suggests there is value in diverse views in the room to get to better decision making: “The studies rounded up show that women make the difference between economic success and failure in the developing world, between good and bad decision-making in the industrialized world, and between profit and loss in the corporate world.”

Why is this? As an Executive Search Partner and Strategic Consultant, my job is to understand an organization’s business strategy, their business and growth plans, organizational culture and Board and Executive team dynamics and to assess both their existing and future Senior Leadership requirements in order to provide the right Executive solutions for their business.

I work with large, complex organizations, complicated politics and personalities and most regularly with the Boards and Selection Committees that lead their CEO searches. In this role, I have learned a lot about just why, and how, Senior Executive Women and Women on the Board of Directors can make a difference to their organizations – and how they can effectively influence decision-making at the Senior and Board level – and have seen it done many times.

The first observation is that diverse views at the table, which inherently come from diverse backgrounds and experience – be it functional, multi-cultural or gender – clearly and simply get to better decisions at the Board and Executive table. With multiple and diverse lenses to see a problem and all its potential solutions, a richer conversation takes place. Different questions are asked, different paradigms and solutions are developed – and different CEO and Senior Executive candidates are hired as a result. Women challenge. They aren’t afraid to ask the difficult questions and are most often interested in a different result for their organizations – they don’t want the same solutions – they want new ones.

The way this is done, is equally interesting. The most effective Senior Executive Women Leaders and CEO’s are exceptionally capable of making tough decisions, are able to chart the course and communicate the new direction and vision for their organizations. What’s unique is how they do so, and how they do not.

At the CEO and Senior Executive level, I have observed that for these leaders, it’s about understanding the issues and connecting with the people that support their businesses. It’s about seeking input and collaborative engagement, from all levels of the business. It’s about strategically assessing and evaluating the fiscal and operational issues, identifying synergies and opportunities and then charting and efficiently implementing the organization’s strategic plan to deliver results. It’s about transforming culture and getting the right people in place, optimally aligned to deliver on the strategic plan. It is most often not about what’s best for them individually, it is not about ego or politics, (although they are extraordinarily familiar with both, as they have had to navigate and work alongside it for years to get where they are), it is consistently about getting the smartest people to the table to provide the best insight into the decision-making process for the business, and about getting to the right decision that is best for their organization.

In 2008, Betty DelBianco, Executive Vice President and Chief Legal and Administrative Officer at Celestica, a US $6.1 billion dollar global electronics manufacturer, became the first woman to be appointed to one of the top five positions at the company.

“This is still a male-dominated industry for the most part,” says DelBianco, “but that is changing. Our CEO is a strong advocate of putting women into senior management positions. Some of the most effective leaders he has worked with over the past 30 years have been women. We operate in an increasingly competitive environment where effective collaboration and faster decision-making is critical to our success.

My experience has been that women are natural collaborators. The more perspectives you can bring to an issue, the better the decision. I also feel that team dynamics improve when a woman leader is involved – as women are more interested in what is right than who is right. When egos are getting in the way, women can often diffuse the situation and get the discussion quickly back on the right track.”

At the Board level, Carol Hansell, an experienced Director and a seasoned advisor to numerous Canadian and U.S. Boards and a Senior Partner at Davies, Ward, Phillips and Vineberg LLP, notes, “In looking at the governance landscape and as we move further away from the epicenter of the financial crisis, the change most commonly looked for is a change in culture at both senior levels of management and in the Boardroom. While many lament the lack of real change in corporate culture since the Enron crisis, it is at least worth noting that this coincides with a lack of real progress in terms of the number of women on Boards. Will more women on Boards change corporate culture in a positive way? While it’s impossible to know, it certainly seems more than a reasonable chance to take.”

In an economy that has required all businesses and organizations to creatively find solutions, with little money or funds available, it is often about the ability to effectively influence buy-in from multiple stakeholders, and how to build synergistic alliances or partnerships for their organization’s broader good.

Gone is the autonomous “my way-or-the-highway, fear-based leadership.” Instead the focus is on inspiration and motivation to ignite their teams to deliver what’s best for their organizations.

Bonnie Adamson, one of the top CEO’s in the Canadian Health Care system, put this culture/leadership shift into practice in her organization this way: “We moved from a culture of blaming to accountability; from command and control to stewardship; from bosses to coaches; from silos to systems; from individuals to teams.”

This is future-focused leadership, not seeped in past networks or systems. It is truly transformational change leadership – and there is no doubt in my mind, that women are uniquely qualified to deliver and contribute to this, to the betterment of businesses and organizations everywhere.

What I was particularly good at as an M&A lawyer was not to bang my fists on the table but to actually listen to the views around the table and to intuitively understand what mattered beneath these positions, and why they did, and to bring all these views, inclusively and collaboratively, together for the success of all.

An exceptional work ethic, the ability to multi-task effortlessly, and the energy to get things done and done on a tight timeline, with a focused view to the bigger and most importantly, strategic picture, certainly helped.

Passionate and enthusiastic, and always wanting to learn, I sought out mentors, men and women, and worked to mentor those on my team. These qualities too, I consistently see in the many women CEO leaders I interact with and while not in any way unique to women, there is no question that every successful senior executive woman leader I have ever met shares them.

There are other qualities and competencies of successful leaders, but there are some that I consistently see in women leaders that all organizations could benefit from.

These consistently include the ability to communicate effectively, to inspire and develop buy-in for the vision, both internally and externally, and with multiple and key stakeholders and to effectively impact their organizational culture and operational and fiscal performance excellence by and through a transformational new way of doing and leading. They engage, they connect, they recognize talent and inspire and drive performance at all levels of their organizations.

This leadership style is getting noticed and is now mirrored and replicated within the leadership of the most innovative organizations throughout North America, by both men and women – it IS the next generation of leadership.

There is no doubt that there is a tremendous need, for what we, as Senior Executive Women, bring to both the Senior Executive and Board tables and that the time is now. Having had the pleasure to meet and work with incredibly talented women at the Board, CEO and Senior Executive level on both sides of the border, I am inspired, and encouraged, that we are, and will be, part of the next generation of leadership, and have much to contribute to it.

At the end of the day, this is nothing more than just smart business. In this economy, this is what our complex businesses and organizations need. The future of, and solution to, North American business and transformational, innovative leadership is a wealth and variety of exceptionally talented leaders, and this certainly includes more Senior Executive Women at our CEO and Board tables.

Lisa Heidman, LL.B., Senior Client Partner,The Bedford Consulting Group, North American Director of Bedford Legal, brings over 15 years of Legal, Board and Executive Search experience working with Boards and their Senior Leadership teams, placing Board, CEO and C-Suite Executives across functions. Appointed to the Board of Directors of Women of Influence in 2009. Lisa can be reached at,

Women on Corporate Boards

Research from Catalyst has found that on average, Fortune 500 companies with the highest representation of women directors had stronger financial performance than those with the lowest representation. Despite this compelling business case that women board directors support stronger financial performance, women continue to be significantly under-represented on corporate boards in Canada.

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