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"Powerfully Empowered" isn't just our theme; it's our mission

Posted By Sherri Stevens, Monday, November 18, 2019
Updated: Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Every year, we pick a theme for our Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Awards.

It’s a challenging process because the theme represents many aspects of what we do. It reflects who we are as an organization, the accomplishments of our winners, the diversity and inclusion environment as it stands today, the challenges professional women face and the amazing work we’re all doing together to break down barriers for each other.

Picking this year’s theme, “Powerfully Empowered,” was no different. It’s about women who show their power not through their standing, but rather through the way they inspire and champion others, share their knowledge, create change and help others achieve their best. In short, it’s about celebrating women who don’t stand up just for themselves – they stand up for all of us.

As owner and CEO of the Women’s Executive Network (WXN) and the Canadian Board Diversity Council (CBDC), I often travel across Canada to speak with leaders across roles and industries. Through those conversations, I hear one thing over and over: “I don’t feel comfortable with the word power. I don’t feel powerful.

In fact, for many of us, we’re just plain uncomfortable identifying with the word “power” – we may even feel ashamed of it. We equate it to the car we drive, the office we hold, our physical strength, the money we have or the influence we exert. Some of us even attach negative connotations, especially when it refers to a woman.

Should we stop using the word? Quite the opposite – we should use it more, though in a different way. We need to toss out our old relationship to the word and start celebrating real power.

What is real power? It’s not how we lift ourselves up; it’s how we lift up everyone else around us. It’s quiet in its confidence. It’s unselfish and giving. It’s authentic, humble and honest. It’s kind and joyful. It’s shared, not hidden. It’s brave in moments of adversity and difficulty. It’s pushing forward when you feel like giving up. It’s the way we help other people feel powerful.

When I think of some of our most powerful leaders – leaders like Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Michele Obama – I realized they all have these traits.

And so does every one of the 110 winners of this year’s Top 100 Awards. They personify this kind of power, across our country and across arts, business, sports, science, entertainment, entrepreneurship, technology, the skilled trades and the public sector. They’re making an impact in their industry while inspiring and empowering others to follow in their footsteps.

Thank you to KPMG in Canada, an empowering organization, for their support and leadership as the Presenting Partner for the Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Awards. As with everything they do, KPMG gives 100 per cent of their support to the recognition and advancement of women. They also give 100 per cent in their partnerships and we are grateful.

This year, “Powerfully Empowered” isn’t just a theme. It’s a call to action for all of us to redefine the word “power” itself, to change the way we think about power in our lives and help others feel powerful in theirs.

Tags:  Canada's Most Powerful Women: Top 100  leadership  powerful  powerful women  powerfully empowered  Top 100  Top 100 Winner  Top 100 Winners 

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Why Sandra Stuart says diversity isn't a one-woman show

Posted By Women's Executive Network, Thursday, November 7, 2019
Updated: Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Sandra Stuart

Imagine you just moved to an office in a different country.

You’re in a business meeting with your new team and following along okay, though not great (you’re still learning the language, after all). Everyone around you is joking with each other – and you can’t shake the feeling that you’re on the outside looking in.

It might not be deliberate, but “it just doesn’t feel very good,” said Sandra Stuart, president and CEO of HSBC Bank Canada and the inaugural winner of the WXN 2016 Vanguard Inclusion Award.

The reason she knows how it feels? She’s been excluded before. Through her storied career that began in 1980 as a Saturday teller with HSBC, she’s held roles as far afield as Brazil and sat in meetings exactly like that.

“Your challenge is to figure out how you can belong, how you can fit into the culture,” she said.

Though she didn’t speak Portuguese at first, Stuart is thankful she found people who helped her find a way to belong. It inspired her to take action, too. “I don’t like how this feels and I know I can do something about it,” she said.

It’s been 18 years since her time in Curitiba, Brazil, but it put matters of diversity and inclusion on her radar. And for the last 9 years as COO and now CEO, she’s made great strides in making sure employees at HSBC Canada feel welcome, no matter who they are or where they come from.

Little by little

While Stuart’s proud that “balanced and inclusive is just how we are now,” it didn’t happen overnight. It’s been a concerted effort that grew little by little over the last decade.

“It’s not any one thing. It’s a combination of many things. It’s a combination of spirit, people, energy level, sponsorship, education, a deliberate corporate framework,” she said.

A standout from that mix is what HSBC calls employee resource groups.

“These are groups of employees who have a specific diversity theme, and it’s an opportunity to come together,” she said. “It’s an opportunity for them to educate the organization in terms of not what makes them different, but what differentiates them and how we can learn about it, how we can be inclusive, how we can understand and appreciate difference.”

Within their organization, the groups are wildly successful, she added, since it’s a roots-up movement fueled by employee enthusiasm. “It was kind of lightning in a bottle and it still is on a lot of levels,” she said.

Then there’s the data. HSBC regularly reviews how specific designated groups are progressing, Stuart said, which leads to in-depth discussions about why problems exist and what they can do to correct their course.

About 10 years ago, for example, those numbers showed that there weren’t enough women in leadership and middle management. Digging deeper, they found that women often felt like it was tough to integrate back into the workforce after mat leave. HSBC changed their policies to allow for more flexibility.  They also set targets and she’s proud to report they’ve had a gender balanced board of directors and Executive Committee since 2013.

“The first thing you want to do is, you want to understand what your workforce looks like,” she explained. “Why don’t I have women in senior roles? What is the turnover and attrition rate? At what level do they attrite and what job family are they in when they attrite? That data allows you to have conversations that lead to policy and behaviour changes.”

They use scorecards to measure the results of diversity and inclusion as part of their performance objectives as well. Though the exact numbers are a trade secret, Stuart can share one thing: the goals are challenging, fair, achievable and thoughtful.

And they’ve seen results, she added – so much so that D&I is a given in their culture. Take the Pride lanyard that hangs around her neck, for example. “It’s the little things you do that continually reinforce your belief in the power of the diverse workforce,” she said.

Keeping up with changes

For Stuart, diversity isn’t just about gender.  She is trying to make her organization a place that people feel comfortable to be truly themselves at work regardless of gender, ethnic background, sexual orientation, disability or generation.  HSBC also supports mental wellness and provide access to a broad range of resources, too. It’s both the right thing to do and good business, she said.

After all, they’re a global organization, serving people from around the world. It makes sense to reflect that within their own teams. “When you’re on a phone call in HSBC, an international phone call, you see the power of diversity,” she said.

Winning the Inclusion Vanguard award meant a lot because it signaled that her organization is moving in the right direction, even if it took her by surprise.

“I was incredibly humbled. I was honored. And I thought, ‘oh my goodness, I haven’t done enough,’” she said. “You sometimes wonder if you’re making a difference, and when the market recognizes you with something like that, the whole team gets to celebrate it.”

She’s also proud that HSBC brought home the Government of Canada’s Sector Distinction & Outstanding Commitment, Employment Equity Awards for the past three years running.

She’s of two minds when it comes to awards like this. The first: she’s excited. Positive attention helps inspire others to do good things, she said. But she looks forward to the day when diversity is so baked into our organizations that it doesn’t need to be called out.

“Bringing positive attention and positive action is a good thing. But I’m sorry we still need them,” she said.

Still, all credit goes to her team who made the win possible, because they lead by example every day of the year, she added.

“The award represented the really hard work of the team around me. So it was something super positive that I could share with everyone.” No matter where they’re from.


We are proud to partner with Accenture for the Inclusion Vanguard Award, a prestigious part of our annual Top 100 Awards! In 2016, we honoured Sandra Stuart with the inaugural Inclusion Vanguard award for her work that she has done, not only with HSBC Bank Canada but towards diversity and inclusion in Canada-wide. At our 2019 Top 100 Awards on November 21, we will celebrate a new winner of the Inclusion Vanguard Award, recognizing a leader who has made a remarkable impact in driving real, lasting change. The Inclusion Vanguard Award symbolizes what we all strive to achieve: a stronger, more inclusive Canada!

To learn more about the Accenture Inclusion Vanguard Award and our Top 100 Awards, visit our Top 100 page.

Tags:  CMPW Top 100  D and I  Diversity & Inclusion  Diversity and Inclusion  Diversity Matters  EDI  Embracing diversity  Equity Diversity and Inclusion 

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Why Rich Donovan puts "delight" ahead of "diversity"

Posted By Women's Executive Network, Thursday, September 26, 2019
Updated: Wednesday, May 27, 2020

It was 2008 and Rich Donovan had just crunched the numbers on how many people live with disabilities worldwide.

The United Nations at the time reported the number around 600 million. His analysis pegged that population at 1.2 billion.

“I actually had to do the analysis three times because I didn’t believe the numbers. They were just too big,” he said. “It’s a pretty ballsy statement to make that the UN’s wrong by a factor of two, right?”

But he was right – and that’s the moment Donovan, founder of Return on Disability, author and past winner of the Women’s Executive Network’s 2018 Inclusion Vanguard Award, knew there was a huge, untapped opportunity touching 53 per cent of the world and worth an estimated $8 trillion.

Today, the number of people with disabilities has grown to 1.7 billion people, yet it’s an entire market that’s historically been overlooked. “From my perspective, this is the reason why every company that faces an end consumer, every government that faces an end citizen, should put [disability] at the core of their experience design,” he said.

That’s why he’s changing the conversation.

Building a new approach

In a world where companies talk about diversity and inclusion, Donovan is talking about something else entirely: markets and delighting customers.

Not surprising, given he used to manage about $6 billion in equity as a Wall Street trader. “The trader in me decided to treat disability as a market. I went about doing the analysis as I would for any other trade,” he said.

Trading is where his diversity journey starts, first through Merrill Lynch where he helped with on-campus recruitment efforts for women and visible minorities. “But we weren’t recruiting people with disabilities. In fact, nobody was. And so we decided as a group to add disabilities to that recruiting process.”

That led to Lime Connect, a third-party recruitment organization he founded in 2006 that grew out of those efforts. They connected with other big names like PepsiCo, Google and Goldman Sachs. It’s also where Donovan learned a key lesson: “It’s not about numbers and quotas; it’s about people. And people have desires to be the best that they can be.”

Therein lies the problem with a lot of diversity and inclusion programs, he said. “They haven’t taken the time or the effort, or made the investment, to really understand how those dimensions impact their revenue formula. They haven’t started to build these changes in demand into their product mix, their R&D mix, their customer experience.”

Now, with Return on Disability, he’s leading the charge on a new way of approaching the conversation. “This is more about, how can we best serve our customers? How can we best delight our customers?” he said.

“And the way you do that is you deliver to them what they want.”

Building momentum

Donovan’s decision to start a business focused on that premise was a huge risk, especially since no one else was having those conversations ten years ago.

“When you take a risk like we did, leaving a pretty good job and building something that was totally out of left field at the time, you realize that not many people do that,” he said.

We have honoured deserving recipients with the Inclusion Vanguard award annually, at our Top 100 Awards, since 2016.

That made winning the Inclusion Vanguard Award that much more meaningful, he added. It honours Canadian leaders, both male and female, who champion change and outstanding commitment to a broader diversity agenda within their organizations, clients and communities.

“At the end of the day, professionals don’t do things for awards; they do things for rewards. They do things for profit. They do things to better their business. But between today and the realization of the market, which could be ten years, you need some steps along the way to say yeah, you’re headed in the right direction.”

The award also signals that the conversation he started is becoming mainstream and reduces risk for others who want to follow his lead.

“It’s helpful for other companies to see this is something that you too can be successful at,” he said.

Building the future

Today, Return on Disability has 15 clients globally, ranging from multi-national banks to governments that embrace people with disabilities as valuable customers who drive growth and revenue.

Donovan’s also become an author, publishing Unleash Different last year, which chronicles his journey to Columbia Business School and beyond as a person living with a disability himself.

When he looks back on his accomplishments over the past 13 years, he’s encouraged by the change he’s seen… even if it’s slow-going.

“Organizations and brands are incredibly complex. They’re full of people with different needs, they’re full of corporate mechanisms that we navigate,” he said. “Change on this scale is a very difficult thing to do.”

He’s seen change pick up pace for those 1.7 billion people with disabilities worldwide and the people in their lives, in products like Google’s autonomous car, Amazon’s Alexa and even Disney characters that put accessibility first. He’s seen it in his own work and the work of his clients, too.

“We’ve proven our model and our work…Our clients have put packaging and commercial machinery and technology on shelves globally,” he said.

But there’s still work to do in the market – and he’s ready to do it. “We’re still talking 15 companies out of 5,000, and that doesn’t even include government. So the opportunity’s still there.”


We are proud to partner with Accenture for the Inclusion Vanguard Award, a prestigious part of our annual Top 100 Awards! In 2018, we had the absolute pleasure of honouring Rich Donovan for his extraordinary and notable actions towards diversity and inclusion in Canada. At our 2019 Top 100 Awards on November 21, we will celebrate a new winner of the Inclusion Vanguard Award, recognizing a leader who has made a remarkable impact in driving real, lasting change. The Inclusion Vanguard Award symbolizes what we all strive to achieve: a stronger, more inclusive Canada!

To learn more about the Accenture Inclusion Vanguard Award and our Top 100 Awards, visit our Top 100 page.

Tags:  CMPW Top 100  D and I  Diversity  Diversity & Inclusion  Diversity and Inclusion  EDI  Equity Diversity and Inclusion  Inclusion  Top 100  WXN  WXN Top 100 

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Become a More Effective Leader with Wisdom Mentoring

Posted By Rachel Aldridge, Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Rachel Aldridge header

Meet Rachel!

Rachel Aldridge portraitRachel Aldridge participated in our 2018 Wisdom Mentoring Program. Here's her story:

"My top takeaways and highlights from the program was the insights section, where you learnt more about the type of person you are; not only how you can use the strengths identified to further your career, but also what areas to focus on improving in order to achieve your goals.  I have become a more effective leader with this course by becoming more assertive in my direction and actions.  I have become clearer in my communication, and in my expectations of others in my team.

The mentorship aspect of the program I found was really great to have a person that was impartial to the things we talked about, so they could give their honest thoughts and advise without being affected by the outcome.  It was really great getting another person’s unbiased experiences, to give you another perspective on things.  My mentor was able to give me very useful advice on problems I was facing in my role.  We were able to talk freely, and in confidence about all aspects of my job.  The feedback I received from my mentor was very valuable.  I have noticed that I adjusted my leadership style after speaking, and working through problems with my mentor.  I have been able to take my mentor’s advice and implement their suggestions in my leadership style, which I believe has improved the type of leader I am becoming."

The Wisdom Mentoring Program matches women with influential mentors, who can help them make their ambitions a reality.  Join the community of over 1000 women who have already taken their careers to the next level through this unique development opportunity.

Learn more about Wisdom Mentoring!


About Rachel:

Rachel Aldridge is the Manager, Canadian Value Chain for Husky Energy.

Husky Energy logo

Tags:  Mentoring  mentoring matters  mentorship  wisdom  wisdom mentoring  Women empowering women  women mentoring  women mentoring women  women mentors  WXN 

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My mentor brought a new perspective on the challenges I was facing

Posted By Chelsey Goossens, Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Chelsey Goossens header

Meet Chelsey!

Chelsey Goossens portraitChelsey Goossens - Controller and Interim VP of Finance/Chief Financial Officer for W.I. Woodtone Industries Inc, participated in our 2018 Wisdom Mentoring Program. Here's her story:

"My top takeaways from this program was a new sense of self. I always knew I had accomplished a lot, but my mentor really brought that out of me and improved my self-confidence. My mentor brought a new perspective on the challenges I was facing and gave me coping mechanisms for dealing with stressful situations so that I didn’t end up reacting without thinking through the situation first, and learning how to pick and win my battles. I got matched with a mentor who took this process very seriously and did not just give me the minimum requirements of this program. We talked or video conferenced every two weeks for one hour, and have continued our relationship since the program ended, albeit at a lesser frequency. I felt like she became my champion because she took the time to really get to know me and advocate for me. Another takeaway was meeting other great women facing similar challenges in the classroom sessions and gaining their different perspectives as well. A lot of us were facing the same challenges, while others did not in their industry. I gained a few women in my network that I feel confident reaching out to in a time of needed guidance.

Mentoring to me is sharing the experience you have with someone else in hopes that they can achieve their goals and become a better person, whether personally or professionally. A mentor can share where they went wrong and how they overcame an issue, or how they succeeded, but ultimately they have to care about their mentee and the relationship has to be built on trust. You need to be able to share anything with your mentor and not feel judged for feeling or reacting a certain way."

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The Wisdom Mentoring Program matches women with influential mentors, who can help them make their ambitions a reality.  Join the community of over 1000 women who have already taken their careers to the next level through this unique development opportunity.

Learn more about Wisdom Mentoring!


About Chelsey:

Chelsey Goossens is currently the Controller and Interim VP of Finance/Chief Financial Officer for W.I. Woodtone Industries Inc., a prefinished building materials manufacturer based in the Fraser Valley, BC and Washington State. She has been with Woodtone since 2011, transitioning from the role of Accountant to Controller in March 2018, and assuming interim VP of Finance/Chief Financial Officer duties since November 2018. Prior to this, Chelsey held the role of Accountant/Controller for an Edmonton-based roofing contractor for five years. Chelsey has numerous certifications, including a CPA, CGA Designation, ACCA (UK) designation, Bachelor of Commerce Degree, Diploma and Certificate in Accounting, and is actively pursuing an MBA Degree. In 2017, Chelsey completed the CPABC’s Controller Program and in 2018 Catalyst Training’s Front-Line Leadership Program. She has also had the distinct privilege of being selected and participating as a mentee in the WXN Top 100 Most Powerful Women Mentorship Program in 2018. Chelsey is an avid hockey fan, spending most of her free time watching games, doing yoga, traveling, and spending quality time with her family, friends, fiancé and their five pets.

Woodtone logo

http://www.woodtone.com/

Tags:  confidence  Mentoring  mentoring matters  mentoring monday  new perspective  self-confidence  sense of self  wisdom  wisdom mentoring  Women empowering women  women mentoring women  women mentors  WXN 

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