WXN Blog Posts
Blog Home All Blogs

I am inspired and feel empowered to change the world

Posted By Reetu Gupta, Tuesday, March 24, 2020
Updated: Thursday, May 28, 2020

When I received the email that I was selected as one of Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 in the BMO Entrepreneur category, it was an unforgettable moment for me.

I was sitting in a boardroom with about 15 people, deciding on plans for a new development when I received the email from WXN that I was selected as one of Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100. I froze and re-read the email a few times hoping it said what I thought I read. I was suddenly immersed in a different world with two thoughts – I immediately thanked God and put myself into a state of gratitude to God and the universe. I then nudged my brother, Suraj, whom I share a very deep connection with. No words were exchanged, he just looked at me, shared an understanding and we both got up quietly and left the boardroom. We walked out, closed the door, he looks at me with concern in his eyes and said, “Reet?” I quietly yelled, “I GOT TOP 100!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Suraj is my best friend and the reason I am anywhere today. He has been so supportive of me and so it was only suiting that he was the first person to know. He hugged me and said “Dude, I knew you would get this!” We went back into the boardroom and tried to act nonchalant, while inside I was ecstatic!

I have grown up in an industry that has always been male-dominated. I started working at a very young age, in the hotel industry. At this time almost two decades ago, there were so few women in leadership roles, almost nil. I was always working against preconceived notions and judgements that were silently labelled on me, like a child had taped signs to my back that read “She’s the youngest in the room. She’s the only woman. She’s the boss’ daughter”. Dealing with this type of thinking from others at a young age, I taught myself very quickly that I will not work to prove myself to others but rather to prove it to myself. Always working hard to get ahead of the judgements placed on me being a South Asian Woman, this award for me, was the Universe saying, You Did It.

I had two thoughts when I was selected for this award – the first as I mentioned was gratitude. The second was a deep calling that I need to do more, more for women and more for society. I felt this honour is also a responsibility and I want to do everything I can to ensure that I give back and help elevate others. Being selected in the BMO category for entrepreneurs, I spent time with the BMO team and learned about different initiatives the organization has to offer. I was inspired by their efforts towards diversity and so, the day the award was announced, I also launched my company’s first Diversity and Inclusion Initiative. I have also created an internal mentorship program and hope to inspire others to rise in order to achieve their goals. I am inspired and feel empowered to change the world and to inspire others to do the same. I especially hope to inspire women to support one another, to elevate one another and to follow their passion and to achieve their dreams!

I have a Guru from India who has taught me so much when it comes to life and happiness. One of the best lessons I can share is to “Live life with Life”. We must not go through each day as a passing motion but rather live our lives with excitement, with passion, with life. I hope to continue to inspire others to also live life with life!

Reetu Gupta is a Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award Winner in the BMO Entrepreneurs category for 2019. She has been recognized as a woman who operates a thriving business in Canada.

2020 Top 100 Nominations are now open. Click here to learn more about Top 100 and nominate a powerful female or even yourself!


About Reetu:

Reetu GuptaReetu Gupta is President and Chief Executive Officer of The Easton’s Group of Hotels/The Gupta Group.

2019 Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award Winner

BMO Entrepreneurs

Under Reetu Gupta’s leadership The Easton’s Group of Hotels has become one of Canada’s largest private hotel development firms. The Gupta Group is an award-winning residential builder with five million square feet of mixed-used projects currently under development. Reetu is also the co-founder and chief strategy officer of Rogue Insight Capital Ltd., a private venture capital firm. She was recognized as a Top 40 Under 40 winner in 2017.

Tags:  Canada's Most Powerful Women: Top 100  CMPW Top 100  leadership  mentoring  powerful women  powerfully empowered  powerfullyempowered  Top 100  Top 100 Awards  top 100 winner  women empowering women  women entrepreneurs  women mentoring women 

PermalinkComments (0)
 

Step into your Power

Posted By Chioma Ifeanyi-Okoro , Tuesday, March 17, 2020
Updated: Thursday, May 28, 2020

Act as if it is Impossible to Fail, Stand on the Shoulders of Giants and Lift as Your Rise!

I heard about the Top 100 Most Powerful Women award three years ago. That year, women like Julia Deans, Rhiannon Trail and Jodi Kovitz whom I consider absolute bosses were recognized. The following year, another incredible group of women in my network were recognized. In 2019, my mentor and sponsor, Natasha Walji, a past top 100 award winner, ensured that I applied for the award.

To say that seeing my own name on the list was a dream come true would be an understatement. I read the email from Sherri Stevens Owner and CEO of WXN|CBDC congratulating me on being named one of WXN Most Powerful Women, Top 100 in utter disbelief:

“ …We are honoured that you are a part of our influential community that now numbers over 1,100 remarkable women. You do not walk alone….

A few months later, my mom flew all the way from Nigeria to accompany me to the Top 100 Gala. The event was a much-needed reminder that dedication pays off.

My journey in Canada began 14 years ago when I moved by myself, to Baden Ontario, from Nigeria as a 17-year-old international student. I was completely unprepared for the fact that this very great country is also a very cold country. As I navigated my way through culture shock, I came up with a few mantras to guide me in my transition:

  1. To always show up with excellence and intention
  2. To dance through any situation, learn from my mistakes and stay grounded
  3. To be a blessing to others

My journey has been filled with many lessons and blessings. I joined the corporate world after completing my undergrad and then went on to successfully pursue my CPA designation. In December of 2016, I left a secure full-time job to become an entrepreneur and pursue my passion of connecting people with resources, tools and practical strategies to innovate, lead and show up as the best versions of themselves every day.

Launching my business, I was thrown into highly stressful situations like planning a conference for black youth that required thousands of dollars to execute while having only $20 in my personal bank account. I also experienced many wonderful highs, like closing the Toronto Stock exchange in the early days of my startup and standing in rooms with CEOs, Presidents of Countries and the former First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama.

These three principles have provided light to my path

  1.  You must act as if it is impossible to fail – Ashanti Proverb

 “I am invincible, unbreakable
Unstoppable, unshakeable
They knock me down, I get up again
I am the champion”

The WXN Theme song by Carrie Underwood and Ludacris really rings true for me.

I learnt a long time ago that I can convince my mind to believe anything. The one person we spend the most time with is ourselves. The most important conversations we will ever have will be held in our minds.  How often are we telling ourselves to play small so we can fit comfortably into the boxes that society has created for us?

Every time I am about to try something new that scares me, I remind myself about the wise Ashanti Proverb – “You must act as if it is impossible to fail” and then I #DOITAFRAID.

Saying these simple words to myself and convincing my brain that I can do anything has led to securing over 30 partnerships with major organizations including CIBC, speaking on international stages, getting featured in major publications and meeting incredible people whom I would only have admired from afar in the past.

There is a ripple effect of doing it afraid.

The next time you don’t feel motivated to do something because it scares you remind yourself – You must act as if it is impossible to fail

  1. “I come as one, I stand as ten thousand”- Maya Angelou

My journey has been guided by a village. This village is made up of people who were once complete strangers who have become my champions. My village includes over 100 people.

Women often ask me “How do I find a mentor or a sponsor?” My response is “You show up and offer value.”

Too many people are focused on what they can get from relationships. When you focus on what you can give you will be pleasantly surprised by the number of doors that will open for you.

Over the years, I have learnt that a good name is more valuable than money. A good name will get you into rooms that money cannot. Protect your good name, show up as a value provider and invest the time to cultivate your village.

  1. “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together” – African Proverb

Let your light shine and lift as you rise!

When I coach professional women on building their leadership and personal brands, I am surprised at the number of talented women including executives who are willing to downplay what they bring to the table to be seen as humble. Every time you downplay how awesome you are, you miss a chance to serve in a greater capacity, make a difference in someone’s life and inspire the generation coming after you who look like you.

Your journey is not just about you. Do not be afraid to let your light shine! You are a vessel through which others will build the inspiration to step out of their comfort zone.

.

“It is authentic
It is joyful
It is giving
It is not greedy,
It is helping others
It is giving your time, knowledge and skillset to other women and men to help them along their journey
It is brave and it is strong in the face of adversity
It empowers others to be their best…”

Sherri’s definition of power at the Top 100 Summit and Gala really struck a chord with me. The world is going through a series of changes. We need women who are bold enough to step into their greatness and fix some things around here because “a strong woman stands up for herself, but a powerful woman stands up for us all.”

This is your canvas. Here is your paintbrush. PAINT!

There will be good days and there will be hard days. I have learnt to be grateful every day.

My journey to greatness has just begun and I know yours has too.

So STEP INTO YOUR POWER and let the painting begin!

#PowerfullyEmpowered

Chioma Ifeanyi-Okoro, award winning speaker and strategy consultant, is a Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award Winner in the Champions category for 2019. She has made describable difference to the advancement of women in the workplace.

2020 Top 100 Nominations are now open. Click here to learn more about Top 100 and nominate a powerful female or even yourself!


About Chioma:

Chioma Ifeanyi-OkoroChioma Ifeanyi-Okoro CPA, CMA, is an award-winning speaker and strategy consultant.

2019 Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award Winner

RBC Champions

Chioma Ifeanyi-Okoro CPA, CMA (info@chiomaio.com) is an award-winning speaker and strategy consultant focused on delivering leadership, strategy and  personal brand building workshops to executives, professionals, women entrepreneurs, large enterprises and professional associations across the world.

She is also the founder of My African Corner, a platform dedicated to advancing its community of 3000+ black professionals and entrepreneurs spread across Canada, United States and Europe through providing access to education, networks and resources in partnership with global brands.

She has been recognized as one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women by WXN, one of 80 Women in Canadian Tech worth following by BetaKit, A Dial Mover by Move the Dial and TD Canada, a Leader in the Canadian Innovation Ecosystem by Elevate Tech Fest, been nominated for a Toronto Region Board of Trade Business Excellence Award for Young Professional of the Year, received the University of Toronto African Alumni Association African Scholars Social Innovation Award, and the Points International Ltd Points for Good award for outstanding commitment to community.

Her work has been featured in Globe and Mail, What’s Your Tech, GlobalLive Media, Now Magazine, PayPal Blog and more.

She currently sits on the CPA Emerging Leaders Advisory Board, Civic Action’s Future of Work Champions Council and was a founding executive of Black Professionals in Technology Network.

Twitter – @Chiomaio
Website – Chiomaio.com

Tags:  Canada's Most Powerful Women: Top 100  powerful  powerful women  powerfully empowered  powerfullyempowered  Top 100  Top 100 Awards  Top 100 winner  Women leaders  WXN  WXN Top 100 

PermalinkComments (0)
 

Real Power Lies in Empowering Others

Posted By Samra Zafar, Thursday, March 12, 2020
Updated: Thursday, May 28, 2020

It was a quick stop at Tim’s to get a sprinkles donut for my 2 year old daughter on the way back from her drop-in play school. I stood at the counter after ordering and dug into my coat pocket to retrieve the toonie I was sure I’d put in there. But I couldn’t find it. My embarrassment was ratcheting into panic as I frantically turned my purse inside out. I never had any money on me. I didn’t need any, according to my husband, since I never went anywhere without him. But every once in a while, I tried to squirrel away a few coins, like the one I thought was hiding in my purse. Palms sweaty and face heating up, I started to move away from the counter when a man behind me offered to pay for the donut. His eyes were kind and his tone was sympathetic. Seeing my daughter had already bit into the donut, I had no choice but to reluctantly accept. I pushed the stroller outside and sat on a dusty bench, feeding small pieces of donut to my daughter as tears overtook me. I wanted to be grateful for the man’s generosity, but all I felt was stinging humiliation. What kind of life was I living that I didn’t even have two dollars on me? And what kind of person was I that people took such pity on me? The answer was obvious. I was poor. I was powerless.

 Samra Zafar IWD CelebrationThat afternoon in 2003 was a pivotal moment in my life. A fire was ignited in me to do whatever I could to gain bits of power over the next several years. I finished my high school courses through distance learning, playing the good wife by day and studying in my room at night. I knew my husband would never let me leave the house to earn money for university, so I started a home-based babysitting service. And though I had to turn over my earnings to my husband, I managed to sock away a few hundred dollars here and there.

I finally started university as a 26 year old mother of two. It had taken me nearly 10 years, but I’d gone from victim to survivor. I was being respected at school for the very things I was being ridiculed at home for – my goals, my ambitions, my intelligence, my individuality. I secretly started attending counseling on campus where I learned that I was trapped in the vicious cycle of abuse. I wanted to break that cycle to give my daughters a better life. It took me several days and multiple trips in my green minivan to pack my belongings in garbage bags and move to a tiny student housing apartment on UTM campus. It was small, there was no AC, and it had the ugliest green carpet. But it was mine. For the first time, I felt safe at home. I could wake up when I wanted, invite friends over, eat my favourite foods, and breathe freely. For me, that freedom was power. That year, I juggled five jobs to stay afloat. I worked as a TA, a researcher with the City of Mississauga and a student mentor. I did night shifts at the student information centre on campus, and sold home-made biryani and butter chicken to fellow students.

Two years later, when I graduated as a top student, I knew that a key ingredient to my success was the community that lifted me up and the people who showed me that there is good in the world. That kind man at Tim’s, the woman at the drop-in play school who reached out when she saw the signs of abuse before I even knew what to call it, the friends who bought my butter chicken and then showed up with ice cream when I had rough days, the professors who spent their office hours motivating me, and my mentors who believed in me so strongly that I had no choice but to start believing in myself. All these people taught me the biggest lesson of my life. That with success, comes responsibility. And true power lies in empowering others.

Samra Zafar book releaseI knew that my story was not just mine. It was the story of millions of women and girls around the world who continue to suffer in silence. I felt a deep fire in my belly to break that silence – for the millions of silences still waiting to be broken. And when I saw the impact my story made on people’s lives, I found my purpose, my why.

My why is the man who read my story and canceled his teenage daughter’s wedding to send her to school. My why is that woman who hides in Indigo to read my book because her husband won’t allow her to buy it. And my why is that 16 year old girl in St. Andrews, New Brunswick who watched my videos to move forward after sexual assault.

1 in 3 women in North America are affected by domestic violence. 1 in 2 experience some form of physical and/or sexual harassment. 12 million underage girls every year are forced into marriage. Over the past few years, my advocacy work has taken me across the globe and I have heard thousands of similar stories to mine – from Indigenous communities in rural Alberta, immigrant neighbourhoods in Toronto, young girls in Africa, and accomplished women in the executive towers of Bay Street. Gender-based violence is the most hidden, and most universally prevalent barrier to gender equity. As we speak about breaking glass ceilings and having gender equality in boardrooms, it’s also important to remember that so many of us are still struggling for basic rights to safety, education and respect.

My life mission is now to give voice to these issues and help develop solutions for change. This year, I am launching my nonprofit organization, Brave Beginnings, which is a mentorship program to help women build better lives after escaping violence. I’m also working on developing courses and workshops to raise the level of mental health education for young women so they can develop greater resilience and self-worth. And I’m collaborating with key partners to develop training for workplaces to play a key role in supporting women affected by domestic violence.

Samra Zafar ZimbabweJust like that 2003 afternoon at Tim’s, winning the WXN Top 100 Award was another pivotal moment for me. As I was overwhelmed with gratitude, the award also gave me immense validation for my work. The day after the awards gala in November, I went to Zimbabwe as an ambassador for Plan Canada. As I spent time with young girls living in poverty, facing the threat of sexual assault and child marriage, and still walking up to 10 kms each way just to go to school, I saw myself in each of them. I am a childhood sexual abuse survivor, a child marriage survivor, and a domestic abuse survivor. I was never supposed to make it. I was stripped of my power for years. Today, seeing my name among the most powerful women in the country adds more fuel to my fire – to raise my voice even higher, touch more lives, and keep living my purpose to help empower women everywhere live theirs.

Because power is not about job titles, hierarchies, and material success. I believe that real power lies in empowering others, sparking dialogue for change, and taking action to leave the world more equitable than we found it.

Samra Zafar, Speaker, Author, Human Rights Advocate for Samra Zafar Inc, is a Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award Winner in the Champions category for 2019. She has made describable difference to the advancement of women in the workplace.

2020 Top 100 Nominations are now open. Click here to learn more about Top 100 and nominate a powerful female or even yourself!


About Samra:

Samra ZafarSamra Zafar is a Speaker, Author, Human Rights Advocate for Samra Zafar Inc.

2019 Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award Winner

RBC Champions

Award-winning speaker, and human rights advocate, Samra Zafar’s book A Good Wife, based on her personal story of escaping gender-based oppression to pursue her education, became an instant national bestseller and is to be adapted to a TV series. The books is name as one of CBC’s best books of 2019. She serves as a governor for University of Toronto and a celebrated ambassador for Plan International. Her work has been featured extensively in global media. In 2019 she received a Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Award. She is a board member at Women’s College Hospital Foundation.

Tags:  Canada's Most Powerful Women: Top 100  Empower others  powerful  powerful women  powerfully empowered  powerfullyempowered  strong women  Top 100  Women Leaders  WXN  WXN Top 100 

PermalinkComments (0)
 

Top 100 winners share: 6 ways we can all be powerful

Posted By Women's Executive Network, Tuesday, December 10, 2019
Updated: Thursday, May 28, 2020

Top 100 Lessons Learned

Power. Is it your physical strength, the amount of money you have or your title within your organization? Or is it the way you give unselfishly, meet adversity with bravery and stand up for others?

“Our mission and challenge to you today is redefining what power means to you,” said Sherri Stevens, Owner and CEO of WXN and CBDC. It’s a call-to-action she shared with all of us during this year’s Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Awards Summit and Gala at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on Nov. 21, 2019.

And to help us all on that mission (should you choose to accept it): our Top 100 Winners, who shared their stories and knowledge with a crowd of over 1,200 women and allies.

So what can we do in our daily lives to be powerful and make that mission a reality? Here are six lessons from our speakers and winners.

1.      Learn it, earn it and return it

Success doesn’t happen in a silo. When one person succeeds, we all succeed, said Rola Dagher, president of Cisco Canada and 2019 Top 100 award winner. Hence her philosophy of “Learn it, earn it and return it” – no matter where you are in your career, if you’ve been blessed with an opportunity, use it to support and uplift those around (and those who follow in your footsteps).

2.      Quit that stinkin’ thinkin’

People fear what they don’t understand, said Victoria LaBillois, a Mi’gmaq entrepreneur, president of Wejuseg Construction, owner of Wejipeg Excavation, mentor for Indigenous women and 2019 Top 100 award winner. That’s why we have to do everything we can to create opportunities for other people, be bold and step into our power.

3.      Know who you’re fighting for

It’s a basic truth of life, said Melissa Grelo, co-host of CTV’s The Social and 2019 Top 100 award winner: we can’t know what we’re fighting for if we don’t know who we’re fighting for. Those of us who have privilege must understand that many of our sisters start their fight from a different level. How do we fix that? Stand next to them, but never in front of them. Help make their voices heard. 

4.      Leave the armour behind

“Can you think of a situation where you’ve seen a leader step out with courage and vulnerability?” asked Jenn Lofgren, founder and executive coach at Incito Executive and Leadership Development and 2019 Top 100 award winner. It starts with understanding what it really means to be vulnerable and accepting (even embracing) that things are going to be uncomfortable sometimes. Now that’s courage.

5.      Break the silence

Samra Zafar, author of A Good Wife: Escaping the Life I Never Chose and 2019 Top 100 award winner, knows what it’s like to be silent. Married as a teenager to a much older man, abused throughout her marriage and denied access to the education she desperately wanted, Zafar was not alone – there are millions living the life she used to know. That’s why it’s up to us to break the silence for those silences that are yet to be broken.

6.      Think seven generations ahead

Mohawk wisdom teaches us that, in the decisions we make today, we must not focus on the impact to our own grandchildren but rather on our great-grandchildren’s great-grandchildren – the seventh generation to come. That philosophy fuels WXN Hall of Fame alumni Roberta Jamieson’s goal of making sure every Indigenous youth graduates school through her organization, Indspire.

 

Congratulations again to all of our winners, past, present and future – and thank you for sharing your wisdom!

Tags:  Canada's Most Powerful Women: Top 100  powerfully empowered  stand up for diversity  Top 100  Women  Women Leaders  WXN 

PermalinkComments (0)
 

"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 

PermalinkComments (0)
 
Page 2 of 2
1  |  2