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Art by UN Women/Yihui Yuan

Celebrating Leadership and Advice That Has Shaped Our Careers

Happy International Women’s Day! To celebrate and honour all the women who are changing the world, day by day, we asked our team to share a few personal stories about the female leaders in their lives. The call was “share a time when a female leader inspired you in your professional career or gave you a piece of important career advice that you still remember to this day.” Here are our stories.

I See Your Potential

Early in my career, in my second professional management role, I had an excellent, competent, and progressive leader to learn from. Arlene led with ethics, clarity, and intelligence. She also bestowed me with her precious time and mentored me. To this day, I am grateful for the lessons learned from her. Lessons ranging from kind but straightforward communication, to intelligent reflection on complex issues and how to analyze and transform this reflection to business practice. As I have my undergraduate degree in psychology, the natural progression for me felt like a master’s degree in psychology or social work. Arlene expressed to me that my business potential would be missed – and to earn my MBA. Admittedly, I thought this very smart women was quite wrong about this. However, as I carried on in a career whereby business was not always a competency that was connected to the work I was engaged in, I continued to be “that person” whom people depended on with business-related tasks. I am grateful to have learned people-management, employer-related union issues, contract-management, and systems management early from such a remarkable woman; I will always be appreciative the gifts from her that I continue to draw on today. Happy International Women’s Day to ALL!

Alison Marshall
Principal Consultant

Designing Change

My story would be about my former boss, Dr. Moura Quayle. I worked for her when she was the deputy minister of advanced education. She came into government determined to change the post-secondary education experience in BC. She brought in ideas and approaches that were unheard of in the bureaucracy – building post-secondary education around the needs of students and introducing design thinking as a way to reimagine how the ministry developed policy. She confronted a bureaucracy that was used to doing things a certain way and wasn’t ready to accept her unconventional approach. But despite all of the resistance, she led fiercely, fearlessly, and with tremendous class and humour.

John Kay

Good Leadership Knows No Age or Gender

I’d like to highlight two young female leaders from Canada’s Emerging Co-operators (CEC) that I’ve had the pleasure of working alongside over the past couple of years. Joanna Hausen is the Chair of the Impact Committee and Sarah Jensen is the Chair of our Congress Committee. We recently had a meeting where we had some rapid breakthroughs and then all of a sudden, we just stepped back for a minute and realized just how much we have accomplished and how much respect we have for one another as colleagues and friends. It’s impossible to capture just how much these two incredible people have taught me, but something that stands out to me is that good leadership knows no age or gender. It has everything to do with seeing potential in people, enabling them to dream big, and providing support along the way.

Maggie Miland
Community Activation and Facilitation Lead

You Deserve Fair Recognition

For me, it was my supervisor Dawne at one of my first jobs. Even though it was a temporary role and teams were randomly assigned, she still took the time to learn about my goals and passions outside of work. I’ll never forget how she was the first person to tell me it’s ok to know your value and that especially as a woman, to be unafraid to push for what you believe is fair recognition of what you bring to the team when negotiating contracts. Even though it still took time for me to build up my confidence, I’m grateful to Dawne for telling me that fair recognition isn’t just a nice bonus thing to have but something I, and everyone else, deserve.

Samantha Lee
Marketing and Communications Manager

scrabble tiles spelling out "in lifting others we rise"

Leading and Inspiring By Example

Alison has been my most influential and empowering supervisor and mentor. She is so inspiring for me in terms of how she works with clients and our internal team, brings humour into tough situations, and can be direct in a kind and thoughtful way. She is always there for me when I need her and can be counted on to give me (and her clients!) valuable insight into blind spots and advice on how to continue to grow and develop. There is a power in this kind of compassionate leadership that I will always aspire to achieve, and I’m so grateful to be able to learn from her.

Gillian Harper
Organizational Development Consultant

Compassionate Leadership

For me, it was while working for a Municipal Government. In a heavily (or all) male dominated department, my lead, Florence, was a great leader, and compassionate person. She had a much more holistic approach to management and leadership, with tools such as flexibility, performance based management, and team collaboration. While seemingly common sense, most of these were missing from the other areas in the same department. It made coming to work refreshing, more enjoyable, motivating, and fun.

Brad Boyce
Finance Director

We’re Not Surgeons

One thing that comes to mind is from my first “real job” when I was first exposed to the fluctuating stress and tension levels of an office environment. A colleague, and friend of mine, Chelsea would calmly remind me that “we’re not surgeons, we’re not saving lives”. Those 7 words have inspired my entire working style, became my life mantra, and I will be forever grateful I learned this lesson so early on.

Too often we allow ourselves to get worked up and stressed over an issue that is either out of our control or over a mistake we made that can’t be undone. Unless you happen to be in the field of medicine, those mistakes are not a matter of life and death and more often than not the issues are minor and can be easily fixed. All you need to do is to stay calm, accept the issue for what it is and get to work on rectifying it so that you can move on.

Jessie Madden
Project Management Lead and Executive Assistant to the CEO

These are just a few examples of ways we have all been led, inspired, and supported by female leaders. What stories do you have to share?