Want to have it all? Put a hand up for yourself, and a hand out for others

“Procuring and teaching the right people to work together to get things done enables great things to happen”

 

By Liz Bruckner

 

When Donna Venable speaks about helping others, it’s clear it’s an important part of who she is. “I believe that giving back is a responsibility we all have. My parents instilled this perspective in me as a child, and my husband and I worked to do the same with our children.”

It’s no surprise then that Donna has achieved huge success in the field of human resource management. Serving as Executive Vice President, Human Resources for Ricoh in the Americas since 2008, she oversees approximately 31,000+ employees across Canada, the U.S. and South America, has amassed almost 25 years of management experience in her industry, and has set many impressive standards as a champion of women’s business initiatives and inclusion throughout her career.

A graduate of Franklin and Marshall College in Pennsylvania, Donna’s foray into management came through a nationwide retail and property management brand. After joining the company during a time of marked growth, she says it quickly became apparent that a shortage of talent was undoing the brand’s success. “There were numerous opportunities for growth, but we were at a loss because the talent needed to achieve our business goals was lacking.”

It was realizing the necessity to recruit and train the right people that caused Donna to branch into human resources, and ultimately set her burgeoning career in motion. “Having studied political science with a focus on business, what was compelling to me about this sector of business was seeing first-hand the importance of selecting a great team. Procuring and teaching the right people to work together to get things done enables great things to happen,” she says.

Of course, her job-related triumphs haven’t come without struggles. “Having organically merged into a facet of business without a solid knowledge base, I’ve made it vital over the years to earn after-hours certifications and take courses to build on my understanding of the human resources function, and to positively impact the level of talent being procured.”

“Ultimately, there are so many opportunities that come our way that taking the time to help others is vital, professionally and personally.”

Dealing with gender-related stigmas was another obstacle she encountered. “Earlier on in my career, it became apparent that, because of my gender, bringing my skills to the table had the potential to be difficult. That said, I never let it stop me, and my experiences—good and bad—have been integral to my drive to propel talented women forward.”

Donna is now passionate about championing women’s initiatives within Ricoh worldwide. “This is going back a number of years, but I vividly recall attending a luncheon held by a successful female executive. She hosted it to discuss how women can bring value to their jobs, and how management can support and propel them forward.” During the chat, Donna recalls the executive talking about how men will strongly pursue a job that they may not have all the qualifications for, while women tend to wait “until they feel they’re ready, until they have all the qualifications. It’s this self-imposed difference that prevents many women from stepping forward and letting their talent shine.”

The result of this discussion, Donna says, was her becoming keenly aware of the need for women to think differently, to be confident, and to recognize and grow their talent. And she’s dedicated to helping them on that path. Working for a company that enables and supports these efforts is something she’s very grateful for—it’s her personal definition of having it all.

“I’ve been fortunate to work with some incredibly strong leaders that happen to be women, and I’m thrilled and proud that the Ricoh brand is so willing to encourage women into these roles,” she says. “Ultimately, there are so many opportunities that come our way that taking the time to help others is vital, professionally and personally, and being a part of a brand dedicated to creating a corporate social responsibility has been incredibly rewarding.”

 

We’ve partnered with Ricoh in engaging our community in important discussions about the advancement of women, focusing on “having it all.” How you define it, what factors enable you to achieve it, and how you have worked differently to meet your goals. Ricoh is a global technology company specializing in office imaging equipment, production print solutions, document management systems and IT services.

A new view of “having it all”

Mary Anne Turcke

“In the workplace, we need to be asking, ‘How do we get better at helping everyone spend time the way they need to when their loved ones are in need?’ It ought not to be a women’s issue.”

By Shelley White


When it comes to women’s work-life balance, Mary Ann Turcke wants to change the conversation.

It shouldn’t be about “women having it all,” it should be about “families having it all,” says Mary Ann, president of Bell Media and one of Canada’s most influential leaders.

“Balance for me is my whole family’s balance,” she says. “No matter who you define as your family, everybody [in that family] has to ‘have it all.’ And in the workplace, we need to be asking, ‘How do we get better at helping everyone spend time the way they need to when their loved ones are in need?’ It ought not to be a women’s issue.”

As the head of a multimedia giant, Mary Ann is an example of just how high women can rise in the workplace. An engineer by trade, she began her career as a district manager for the Ministry of Transportation in her hometown of Kingston, Ontario, working in highway operations. A move to Toronto and a series of management positions in the private sector followed, until she joined Bell Canada in 2005. At Bell, Mary Ann took on executive positions in customer experience, operations, and sales before landing the top job in 2015.

It has been an enviable career path, but Mary Ann vividly remembers when her two children were young and juggling work and home life was a challenge.

“My husband and I both struggled. I remember many days, waking up and one kid is sick and they have to go to the doctor and us shooting ‘rock-paper-scissors’ to see who will take them,” she recalls. “It was tough, very tough, but we somehow managed.”

“Balance for me is my whole family’s balance,” she says. “No matter who you define as your family, everybody [in that family] has to ‘have it all.’”

By working together and being open about what they needed, Mary Ann says she and her husband were able to balance those work-life challenges. She also wasn’t afraid to “make the ask” at work when it came to important moments with her kids.

“I managed to find the pockets, where if I really wanted to do something, whether it was to go to school to watch a volleyball game or driving home from school with my kids, I made sure I did it,” she says. “I didn’t do it all the time, but I made sure I got to do those things and I worked for people who were very, very supportive of that.”

As her children have grown, Mary Ann says that openness has continued to be a vital part of keeping their family balance in check.

“I have a 21-year-old and a 16-year-old — two girls — and when they want me at something, they are open about that,” she says. “When we need each other, we make the time to be with one another.”

Mary Ann says that her children have also come to recognize that they enjoy certain benefits of having top executives for parents (her husband is Gordon Mcilquham, senior vice-president at Shaftsbury Films Inc.) and understand the trade-offs they’ve all made.

“For my kids, the trade-off was, if your health card is expired, you figure out how to take the subway down to Service Ontario and fix it. If you forgot your lunch at home, don’t do it again tomorrow, you’re only going to be hungry,” says Mary Ann. “We’ve had help and caregivers which obviously eases things on the home front, but I think they’ve ended up being quite independent and confident in what they want to pursue.”

When her family spends time together, they make it count, says Mary Ann. One of the special activities they enjoy together is sailing.

“We get on a sailboat, we depart the whole world and we have a great old time,” she says. “We’ve done everything from pretty intensive racing as a family to cruising in the Caribbean. There’s a lot of time on the boat where you’re not in connectivity with the world, so it’s fantastic.”

She has this advice for families trying to “have it all”: Find your own balance.

“What people want in their own heart in terms of spending more time at home or at work, it’s different,” she says. “One family’s balance isn’t another’s.”

 

We’ve partnered with Ricoh in engaging our community in important discussions about the advancement of women, focusing on “having it all.” How you define it, what factors enable you to achieve it, and how you have worked differently to meet your goals. Ricoh is a global technology company specializing in office imaging equipment, production print solutions, document management systems and IT services.