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The Role of Mentorship in Creating More Female Tech Leaders

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As a leader, what can you do to help women in the tech industry succeed? How can you bridge the digital divide and lift others with you as you reach new heights?

Many women in leadership are asking these questions. After all, despite the myriad of life-changing technological advancements, a lack of female leaders in tech remains outdated. And although the percentage of women in senior IT leadership positions grew from 21% to 24% between 2018 and 2019, recent figures showed that women still have a small overall share of IT leadership jobs. Women account for only 16% of senior-level tech jobs and 10% of executive positions. This indicates that there are still significant gender gaps in tech leadership positions.

Of course, overcoming gender biases must be rooted in women who exhibit competence for the role. Large tech organizations seeking executive leadership candidates expect you to be able to apply the key tenets of organizational leadership in a very effective manner. This is because leadership tasks expect you to devise effective goals and develop policies that will progress the organization to greater heights in an already competitive tech industry. However, educational background alone is not enough to equip leaders for this daunting role. Any individual who wants to attain a top executive position must have additional mentorship experience to ensure they have well-rounded skills, regardless of gender.

In this article, we will discuss the status of mentorship programs for women in the tech industry and look into how to develop a female-focused training project that will help you retain and support your women talent.

Why Are Mentorships for Women Important?

Having a reliable mentor in the workplace helps you learn the tasks and responsibilities of the job quickly. This is because you get the chance to be exposed to real-life situations, allowing you to apply your skills and knowledge in solving them. If you’ve been mentored before taking a leadership position, you can consider yourself lucky since not everyone has mentors to guide them, especially women in tech.

A study on gender diversity in STEM disciplines revealed that 48% of women in tech felt that the lack of female mentors was one of the biggest barriers at work. In addition, 42% thought there was a lack of female role models in their workplace. These results are concerning because female mentors and role models can have a powerful impact on the feeling of belonging in the workplace, particularly in a male-dominated industry.

How Can Mentorship Programs Support Women in Tech?

If mentorship programs are available for female employees, the chances of more women entering the field and achieving leadership roles will increase. This is evident in an article on successful mentoring of women, which claimed that mentoring increased the retention rates of female employees and elevated their success in obtaining promotions at work. Moreover, mentorships helped them minimize their feelings of isolation and contributed to increased self-confidence and work engagement.

In fact, a survey from a Forbes article shared that 89% of women who participated in mentoring schemes felt empowered by the experience. It just shows that fostering positive feelings through mentoring in your workplace is a factor in encouraging and creating more female leaders in the tech industry.

How Can You Develop Female-Focused Mentorship Programs?

Developing an effective mentorship program requires you to consider your target demographic since this will help you create a suitable project that addresses the needs and characteristics of the mentees.

When designing a female-focused mentorship program, you must remember to involve your junior female employees in the discussion. Because who knows more about their struggles in the workplace than they do? Besides involving your employees, here are other tips you can do to develop a successful female-focused program:

  • Define your program’s goals and expectations.
    By doing so, you can start your program on a clear and strong foundation. This will make it easier for other women to know about your efforts.

  • Find and match potential mentors with mentees.
    Just having a mentor is not enough. For women to flourish, it’s important that your mentorship program take personalities and nuances into consideration.

  • Evaluate the impact of your program.
    Regular evaluations are crucial to ensure that your initiatives are reaching their goals. Through these you can continue to fine-tune your program and enhance your relevance.

Should You Mentor Your Fellow Colleagues?

Lastly, it’s worth considering having women leaders like you mentor junior women team members. Being mentored by women in senior positions allows female employees to realize from the start that gender has no bearing on business acumen.

This realization from early on in their careers gives women a broader and more rounded perspective, which is an advantage for growing their careers.

Similarly, in our recent interview with Esther Ayorinde-Iyamu, we shared more about the importance of connecting with fellow women leaders. This was specifically important for Esther, as she shares the lessons she has learned herself to help other women accelerate their careers and break through the glass ceiling.

As a woman leading in your field, you can also impact the mindset of female employees by being an example of a woman succeeding in tech.

Ultimately, mentoring your women colleagues in the tech industry will not only disrupt the male-dominated sector, it will also open opportunities for them to grow and lead in the profession they love, inspiring younger women to pursue a career in the field, too.

Jennifer Birch Author WNORTH

About the author

Jacquie Beller is a freelance writer and women activist. She believes that women have the power to become outstanding leaders in the corporate world. Today, she continuously writes articles about women’s empowerment to inspire fellow women to chase their passions.

How To Build Your Network When You Work From Home: Advice From Highly Successful Women Leaders

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I’ve grown to believe that networking is the lifeblood of career success. However, working from home requires us to lean on virtual connections instead of physical ones common in the office. So, how can we rebuild our work relations and forge new ones in 2022?

If you’ve noticed your network shrinking, you’re not alone. Harvard Business Review released shocking statistics on how the pandemic affected our close relationships. After five months without an in-person gathering, feelings of connection and closeness between friends plummet by 80%.

Now, imagine your professional relationships. A Yale study revealed a reduced network size of roughly 16% in 2021, or more than 200 people during the pandemic.

For many of us, pre-2020, we used events and conferences as a forum to meet new business connections, develop business opportunities and facilitate powerful introductions. The events industry went through a pandemic-induced technology boom, with hundreds of new software options hitting the market that assist with the networking aspect of virtual events. However, virtual events have not quite filled the void of in-person networking.  

You’ll have to get creative if you want to boost your contact list this year. The question is, how do women leaders at the top of their field build and maintain strong professional networks while working from home? I reached out to four highly successful women leaders to find out.

Pay It Forward

One of the most powerful ways to develop new connections is being a virtual matchmaker and paying it forward to someone in your network whom you highly respect. 

“Earlier this year, I focused on using my social platforms to spread recognition and impactful stories,” said Quyen Chang, Global Head of Revenue Enablement at Airbnb. “In March, during Women’s History Month, I shared daily appreciation posts of amazing women. Each day, I shared a story of gratitude to women who have impacted me. I am beyond lucky to have some of the best role models in my work and personal life.”

She encouraged those in her network to connect with the women she featured, and the effect spurred hundreds of new connections. Moreover, the campaign inspired similar movements throughout her network and beyond. 

Build Trust Slow And Steady

April Hicke, Director of Product Operations at ATB Financial, started her new role in 2021, in the middle of the pandemic. This situation made it even more challenging to make new connections. “Studies show it takes three times as long to build connections virtually,” April shared. “As we say goodbye to the days of office chit-chatting and mingling, we have to be present, vulnerable, and intentional about creating time and space for our network.”

What does it mean? Whether you may be starting a role at a new company or simply trying to develop new connections, April believes it’s critical to look at virtual networking as a long-haul game. Otherwise, you risk getting lost in the sea of invitations to connect. What works for me is learning more about the person before adding them on LinkedIn. Dive into their recent posts. Engaging with them directly before clicking the “connect” button works wonders. 

Think Beyond Borders

Before the pandemic halted Carmen Bryant‘s hectic travel schedule, she often lamented about missing certain events in her home city of New York. “Being remote has truly globalized networking,” says Carmen, Director of US Marketing at Indeed.com. “I’ve expanded and stretched my network in less laborious ways than before the pandemic.” 

Those in more remote regions have also benefited from the globalization of networking through online events. Personally, I live two hours outside of a major city with two small children. Even before the pandemic, attending networking events in person had become more and more difficult. The normalization of virtual networking allowed me to double the size of my network in the past two years.

Choose Virtual Events Designed For Networking

Prior 2020, virtual networking was not a popular or common way to meet like-minded professionals. However, these events have grown in popularity in the last years.

“One of the ways to find new connections is through membership communities,” said Natalie Taylor, Senior Lead, Learning Strategy & Operations at Shopify. “These organizations take all the guesswork out of networking and provide a safe space and platform for connections to happen naturally.”

To build quality connections, it’s essential to seek international forums and virtual events where networking is facilitated — events people attend intending to build connections. More than two-thirds of virtual attendees go to an event intending to learn versus network, so select events that call out the opportunity to build your network. Be mindful of the variety of virtual events and choose one that meets your objective to network. 

Seek Connections Through Volunteering

Companies serious about developing and retaining their top talent must consider how they can best support their employees. This includes opportunities to establish new connections to maintain a healthy network during the pandemic. A healthy and supportive community should be considered an essential part of professional development, especially to ensure the career advancement of remote workers. 

Companies can also support their employees’ volunteer experience. These contributions allow like-minded individuals to connect based on their passions and interests.

“Some of the best connections I’ve built were by seeking out volunteer opportunities and events with boards, committees, and organizations that align with your values,” says April Hicke. 

In 2022, building your network won’t necessarily come naturally (or easily, for that matter). Still, engaging and utilizing some of these suggestions will result and form valuable and authentic relationships. 

Esther Ayorinde-Iyamu - GrowthQ - Supporting Underrepresented Overachievers through full spectrum wellness at work

Supporting Underrepresented Overachievers Through Full Spectrum Wellness At Work – Interview with Esther Ayorinde-Iyamu

By | Member Stories

Esther Ayorinde-Iyamu has been the backbone of the WNORTH community and one of our Founding Members. Esther’s energy is easily spotted in the crowd. Former NFL and NBA professional dancer, Esther’s background boasts 16 years in Tech across roles in Sales, Business Development, and Product Management. 

In March 2022, she posted a surprising update on her LinkedIn profile; “I did a thing! I’m putting on new stilettos as an entrepreneur.”

Esther has turned her burnout recovery into a mission to help underrepresented professionals feel empowered in the tech industry. She founded GrowthQ to make tech sales careers more accessible for diverse communities, weaving in wellness best practices and burnout prevention.

We sat down with Esther to find out how she transitioned from the corporate world into becoming a full-time entrepreneur and what we learned can help many women and people of color who are dealing with the challenges of burnout.

Esther, congratulations on taking the leap and founding your startup! What inspired you to do that?

I had two reasons to take the leap. Burnout and realizing the depth of true wellness at work. Women and working mothers were experiencing burnout at dramatic rates during the pandemic. In the UK alone, one in five mothers has quit their jobs over poor parental leave policies. In the US, a recent Forbes article cited Black Women aging 7.5 years greater than their peers due to Burnout from stress, microaggressions, and inequity in pay. Burnout is more real now than ever and costly to companies. 

My experience was no different. Though my career was accelerating and I enjoyed my work, the isolation of the pandemic coupled with a traumatic health experience took me over my limits into burnout. 

Why did you choose to leave the corporate world?

At the end of 2020, I suffered a 2nd Trimester pregnancy loss, which only happens to 2-3% of expecting mothers. I went back to work about a week and a half later, hiding it from those who weren’t close to me. 6 months later, I was rushed to a hospital with what was thought to be a heart attack. After an extensive cardiac workup, my doctors confirmed it was a panic attack, which has almost identical symptoms, and your endocrine system reacts in the exact same manner. My body finally said, “Esther, It’s time.” 

Thankfully, the company I’d worked for at the time was incredibly committed to the wellness of all employees. My boss, my team, and my peers were all highly supportive and helped me have the space I needed to take a step back and heal. 

During my time off, I researched technology that could help me measure all levers of my body, from measuring my sleep with a wearable to using my breath to measure my metabolism. I also spent introspective time rediscovering my ethos, clarifying my superpowers, and writing a new narrative for how I wanted to spend my life. It’s funny how a dose of mortality will redirect your focus to what’s most important. I’d realized I was working so hard, spending time doing things I was great at, and thus others wanted me to do more of but weren’t part of my life’s mission. I needed to rewrite the narrative of my career to fit with my ethos and superpowers.

I’d realized I was working so hard, spending time doing things I was great at, and thus others wanted me to do more of but weren’t part of my life’s mission. I needed to rewrite the narrative of my career to fit with my ethos and superpowers.

How has your burnout recovery shaped the mission of your business?

I heard a quote once that said, “You’re best poised to serve the person you once were.” I recognized an opportunity to share my story and create solutions to problems I’ve faced. Looking back, I needed two things: First, tools and support to help me navigate my physical and mental health to be in the best position to optimize my performance. And second, a support system to help me navigate this new high-performance lifestyle.

This drove the birth of my company, GrowthQ. We are committed to closing the wage and wellness gaps for underrepresented high performers who want to do their best work in careers that showcase their superpowers. We do this by offering three things: 

  • Educational Content in full spectrum wellness: physical wellness, financial wellness, and job readiness
  • Human connection through intelligent mentor matching 
  • Diverse talent placement as fractional interview panelists or full-time roles

 

What other initiatives are you working on right now?

Outside of my work on GrowthQ, I’ve been getting deeper into investing in early-stage startups. Closest to my heart has been my Mentor Cohort which is a month-long intensive where I personally mentor and pour my experiences into Women and People of Color who may feel they have hit a glass ceiling. We focus on breaking limiting beliefs, identifying superpowers, and accelerating careers with the lessons I’ve learned over two decades.

Can you share some advice for women who found themselves at career crossroads?

  1. Build your Board of Advisors as a support system for your career. Your Board of Advisors should consist of a coach, mentor, sponsor, and peer group. Knowing the difference between each of those is important to empower them to support you.

  2. Listen to when or if your body tells you it’s burned out or uncomfortable. If you feel triggered, channel what your body is trying to tell you. Fear is a gift, it informs you ahead of pain or absence of safety. Jealousy is a gift, it’s informing you of something you desire but don’t yet have. Pay attention to your inner voice. It shows you your purpose and where to go.

  3. Financial wellness unlocks creative freedom and confidence. 77% of working professionals making a solid living struggle with financial anxiety. Can you believe that? And that’s not from not having enough, it’s often just from the intimidation of financial literacy. I was no different. Moving from a corporate role to being an entrepreneur forced me to become much more financially literate, but honestly, I didn’t have to wait until now. There are immense amounts of free, simple, and non-intimidating resources to help you learn the basics. Making small changes to your financial wellness does wonder for your confidence to focus on your superpowers. 

Overall, there’s never been a better time to try new things and build muscles to get back on the wagon. If you’re uncomfortable with the space you’re in right now, you can use this opportunity, fear, and discomfort to channel yourself into your purpose.

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  • Find a Mentor or Mentee at GrowthQ.co
  • Looking for tech sales talent or diverse interview panelists to help you hire the best? Connect with us at GrowthQ.co
  • Woman in business looking to elevate her career? Join Esther’s next Mentor Cohort; all participants receive a scholarship for a 1-year membership to WNorth Leadership. Contact iva@wnorthconnect.com

ABOUT

Esther Ayorinde-Iyamu

Esther Ayorinde-Iyamu - GrowthQ - Supporting Underrepresented Overachievers through full spectrum wellness at work

Esther Ayorinde Iyamu is Founder of GrowthQ, the Match.com for mentorship, diverse interviewers-aaS, and tech sales talent. Esther also recently joined as General Partner for VC firm, 1Flourish. Esther is a 16 year Silicon Valley tech veteran, a 7 year NFL and NBA Dancer, and investor known for her wellness advocacy, her connected tech industry network, and her Go-To-Market expertise. Esther was recognized as Diversity Women Magazine’s Power 100 executives and The Network Journal’s 40 Under 40 list. She was the first Black Dance Captain in franchise history of the New York Jets and started her first startup at 19 years old in her dorm room at Santa Clara University. As a Tech Sales thought leader, Esther has been a featured guest lecturer at Stanford University, UC Berkeley, Santa Rosa Community College as well as a guest speaker at companies like Facebook, Gong, Snowflake, Cisco, Clozd, and Braze. Her new company, GrowthQ is dedicated to helping close the wage and wellness gaps for underrepresented tech talent by succeeding in a career in tech sales.

Women, It’s Time To Invest Your Money To Build Wealth – Interview with Janine Rogan

By | Member Stories

Meet Janine Rogan, a CPA, Financial Advisor, Keynote Speaker, Podcast Host, and Financial Educator based in Calgary. A valued member of the WNORTH community, Janine established a niche in helping women become financially independent through financial education and training.

Passionate about coaching women on their financial matters, Janine has over half a million dollars invested, and works with women who want to grow their wealth to achieve their financial goals, such as retirement planning, investing for long-term growth, and managing a growing portfolio.

I had the opportunity to talk with Janine about her approach to helping women become financially independent, and the key financial lessons that she teaches her clients.

Hi Janine! Tell us a bit about yourself, where did your journey start, and where it is now?

My journey started during my studies at the University of Alberta. My friend lent me the book “The Automatic Millionaire,” which piqued my interest in personal finance on the notion that your money could make money for you. Since that point, I started doing a lot of research by myself because there was a lack of resources.

Fast-forward to the present. I’m passionate about building educational tools for women to learn how to build wealth. It’s something that people don’t talk about enough. 

Women, in general, aren’t encouraged to invest their money. Considering the fact that white women are paid 84 cents on the dollar for the same work as men, whereas women of color get only 62 cents – plus, women live longer than men – we have to start educating and empowering women to invest as one of the tools to close the Gender Gap.

Let’s talk about “Financial Feminism.” What is it, and what makes you passionate about it?

To me, the core of Financial Feminism means financial equality for all. Feminism means equality between sexes, which I want to see from the economic perspective. 

Sometimes, we forget that financial management is not just about saving more or spending less. As a society, we have to address many issues to get to the point where we can treat men and women equally when it comes to their finances.

What, in your opinion, are some common mistakes that women make when it comes to their money decisions?

The common mistake is that women don’t talk enough about money, and they don’t invest enough. One of the societal misconceptions is that we need to save more money for women to provide for their children. 

Specifically with the increasing cost of living and inflation, it’s dangerous to leave a lot of money sitting in your bank. You should have an emergency fund, but you’re never going to reach your financial goals by simply saving money.

Have you ever been guilty of any money management mistakes? If so, which ones?

Of course! I made a lot of mistakes, and I still make mistakes sometimes. For example, early on, I didn’t understand the Contribution Room reset limit for the TFSA – it resets every January 1st. I thought you could pull money in and out as you please. And then, I received a letter from the CRA saying that I’d gone over my contribution limit and had to pay a fine. I remember being like, “Oh God, I shouldn’t be making mistakes like this. I should have known that.”

One other mistake from when I was getting started was not understanding investing in general. I pretty much just trusted the guy at the bank to do it for me. And that was a mistake. A couple of years later, I realized that those investments were not in line with what I wanted to have in my portfolio.

Where is a good place to start with investment?

Education is the foundation for everything, from books to educational content shared online. There are a lot of free resources available, whether it’s on YouTube or Instagram, or Facebook groups.

It might seem overwhelming, but I want to caution everyone – you don’t have to go from 0 to 100 in one day. Try to learn one thing at a time, whether learning how to set up an automatic savings transfer or following a Finance Coach on Instagram. One thing at a time will help you move forward.

I teach an investment course called The Wealth Lab, where I walk women through how to start investing. I cover investing from the very basics, like what is a stock, what is a bond, what is a TFSA, all the way to executing your first trade.

Can you tell us more about The Wealth Lab course?

Yes! It’s a 6 module, 40 + lesson course that walks you through everything from the basics of investing to creating a profitable, safe, and sustainable investment portfolio.

Many people are worried they’re going to lose all their money in the stock market, but the entire stock market would have to go to zero for that to happen. If it did, we’d have more significant problems as a society because money would lose all its value. It’s a very abstract concept, so I’d say – don’t worry about that and know that the stock market’s average return has been about 10% per year. So, if you’re not running close to that, it’s time to start looking into getting an investment education.

The Wealth Lab is there to walk you through easily digestible mini-lessons – you don’t have to sit there listening to me for an hour – unless you want to. The course provides you with worksheets, a Facebook support group, and live sessions with questions. I’m supporting participants every step of the way. 

You just recently released your TedX Talk! Tell me about it. It’s so exciting!

It was super exciting – and super nerve-wracking! I pitched TedX in 2019 on this topic. But due to the pandemic, all TEDx talks were postponed. At the end of 2020, I had my baby, and I still haven’t heard from them. And then I completely forgot about it!

Early 2021, they reached out to me and asked if I wanted to participate – they loved the topic and thought it needed to be heard! It was a really exciting discussion. I enjoy talking about the issue of Millenials and Money. I am a Millennial myself, and we face different barriers in building wealth than our parents’ generation did.

I think that Millenials, and Gen-Z, too, often feel pressured to buy a house – because that’s what our parents did. And that’s not doable for everybody, and it’s also not always the way of how we can build and accumulate wealth as the next generation.

If you’re thinking about investing in real estate, there are other ways of doing it. Instead of investing all your cash into one asset – a house or a condo, you can invest in real estate investment trusts with companies like Addy Invest. These are trades in the same way as ETFs are. You can invest anything from $20 for a unit without building a million-dollar property.

I started looking into them and invested in two projects, one in Toronto and one in Calgary. They’re longer-term projects, it takes about two years to see a return, so I’m curious to see how it will go. 

You’ve got a one-year-old son at home. When do you think it’s a good time to start educating children about money, and how?

As parents, we have to be mindful that we talk to our children about money early on. I’ve seen many people NOT talk about money or think that their kids are not picking up on it, but kids are smart. If they see you always paying with this magic card at the store, they think that you can have anything you want for free. They don’t understand the concept of money, cash, and how you get it.

My good friend, Robin Taub, based in Toronto, has written a book called “The Wisest Investment,” which is all about teaching your kids about money. She breaks it down into what you should be teaching children at various stages of their childhood. It’s powerful and impactful. Start there.

Susan Steffens: After Losing My Job, WNORTH Was a Game Changer

By | Blog, Member Stories

Susan Steffens loved her job in the events industry. As she watched the pandemic unfolding and events canceling at a rapid rate, one thing was clear to her – the entire industry was going to take a harsh hit.

Early in spring of 2020 Susan unexpectedly lost her job that she was deeply devoted to. Losing your job is emotionally draining and devastating, but to go through it in the pandemic environment of heightened uncertainty adds additional stressors to the mix.

Susan’s story has a happy ending. Not only did she bounce back, but she also elevated her career, her leadership skills – all while finding a community of women that supported her through the difficult transition.

Susan is our inspiration – and so, we’ve decided to sit down with her to find out how she managed to make the shift over the past fifteen months.

Hi Susan! Tell us a bit more about who you are and what you do.

I am a Mom to two boys, I am a wife and I have a deep love for family, friends, music, and wine! I work in the live events industry as a Sales Director. I have worked in this industry for about 25 years – I can’t believe it, wow! My past position involved booking concerts, family shows, film, and trade shows into arenas, amphitheaters, and buildings.  I worked in the non-profit world for a few years as well, organizing fundraising events.

By far, the biggest professional challenge was being unexpectedly let go from a job that I loved and poured my heart and soul into.

I am now working back in the live events industry as it slowly ramps back up.

WNORTH Member Spotlight Susan Stefens events

What is your take on networking and building relationships through community memberships?

I have always loved networking in the business world. Connection means everything to me on so many levels.

This is actually only the second time I have been involved with a community membership.

I have found being a member in WNORTH has been so rewarding and inspiring to connect with like-minded people and generate ideas and have meaningful or poignant conversations.  

What is your experience with The Members’ Club at WNORTH?

An industry colleague told me about WNORTH a few years ago and she raved about the annual Whistler Conference.

During the pandemic, I was looking for connection and inspiration and it was important to me to connect with women specifically, so I decided to check out the first online conference (called Pivot). I found it inspiring, the speakers were so engaging and the range of topics was relatable and timely.  I was hooked!  I promptly signed up for an annual membership.

The advantages of the membership, especially during the pandemic and without a job, really helped me mentally by connecting with like-minded women. I felt like it was a safety net that provided me with inspiration and new ways to look at where I am on my path and how I want to define it going forward.  

Tell us a bit about the connections you’ve made inside of the membership - do any of them stand out?

The connections inside the membership have been fantastic.  Last winter, I was involved in the Leadership Mastermind Program with Deborah Stellingwerff as a facilitator.

We had such a wonderful group of talented, fun, honest, and supportive women, I was so excited for the weekly Zoom sessions and to explore where we were at individually and collectively.

Through these sessions, I decided I wanted to dig deeper and hired Deborah as a business and life coach and that has been a game-changer for me on both a personal and professional level over the last 6 months – I am truly grateful for the opportunity and connection!

What are some of the features of the membership that you enjoy the most?

Definitely, the Mastermind group is a wonderful and inspiring feature that I want to participate in again. 

Also, having the ability to go back into the WNORTH online library and experience some of the sessions that I am not able to attend in real-time is beneficial.  

I really appreciate the range of topics offered in the live sessions, I always leave them inspired. 

Plus, Heather, the CEO, is a gem; I love her energy, insights, perspectives, and her commitment to providing consistently timely and relevant topics, as well as incredibly talented and inspiring presenters.

If you could give advice to yourself 5 years ago, what would it be?

Be gentle on yourself, trust your instincts and get yourself out of the weeds so you can lift up the women coming up behind you.

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Amy Robichaud: Dressing Women for Success – And More

By | Blog, Member Stories

During this year’s Gender Equality Week, we took an opportunity to speak to women who have contributed to the growth, development, and identity of Canada & beyond; and to celebrate the significant achievements and accomplishments made in advancing gender equality.

The first powerhouse of gender equality we introduce to you is Amy Robichaud, the Executive Director of Dress for Success Vancouver & our valued Member of The Members’ Club at WNORTH.

Hi Amy, tell us about the work you do to help achieve greater gender equality in the world. What area of assistance are you most passionate about?

As the Executive Director of Dress for Success Vancouver, I lead a community of economic first responders helping women in need with gender intelligent pre-employment and job retention programs. This means that I spend my days (and sometimes evenings and weekends) working with others to empower women into the workforce – we lift as we rise.

We empower women into good jobs, financial independence, and personal success. This is critical work since a resilient and recovering economy must be inclusive of everyone.

This work is always ongoing and starts with trust. Our clients may come through our doors looking for a job or an interview outfit. However, they find that and so much more: a community and network of support and care that grows with them and because of them.

Amy Robichaud

What do you wish more people knew about the fight for gender equality?

I wish more people understood the economic impact of gender equality. 

In 2020 alone – in the midst of the pandemic – the collective economic value of the wages earned by Dress for Success Vancouver clients who found employment was $2.7 million.

What, in your opinion, should all employers do to positively impact gender equality within their organizations?

Run a gender analysis of your corporate benefits packages. Do your benefits cover all forms of contraception? Do they include flexible care options for families and leave options for caregivers? Is parental leave applicable to both parents? Do you have a loss of pregnancy leave for both parents? Do you have systems and care support for gender transition? Are your care days flexible for use and provided adequately? Have you asked your employees what benefits are most valuable to them?

And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that there isn’t any singular action to impact gender equality that is enough. We need systems and cultural change within our corporate and business communities and organizations. This will take time. This IS THE WORK. And it is worth it for us all.

amy robichaud

What do you enjoy the most about your mission and your work?

Working towards gender equality is a daily practice. I’m honored to do this work with Dress for Success Vancouver – we have an amazing and diverse staff, volunteer, and supporter family. A group of gender equality champions who lift as they rise. 

What I love most about this generous and ambitious community is that when you walk into a room with them, you simply cannot tell who a client, volunteer, or donor is – they are merely women surrounding each other with support and powerful opportunity.

None of us can do the work of achieving gender equality alone. My superpower is my community – all of you – my family – and the women and champions who keep going each day.

Connect with Amy & Explore Dress for Success

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About Dress for Success

Founded in 1997 in New York, Dress for Success is an organization dedicated to assisting the women in our community who need help to make ends meet. Its mission is to empower women into the workforce by providing professional attire, career services, and skills development programs. And they do just that – since the start of their organization, Dress for Success has helped more than a million women worldwide.  

Their work entails so much more than just a brand new outfit. What starts with appearance goes on to building womens’ confidence, defining what success means to them, and helping them tap into the knowledge that they have the full power to rebuild their life.

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Carrie Gallant Conversational Secrets

Just Published: Carrie Gallant & Conversation Secrets for Tomorrow’s Leaders

By | Blog, Member Stories

"If everything happens through conversations, then why not master it?"

Carrie Gallant is an executive leadership coach, a negotiation strategist, and our very own Mastermind Member at WNORTH. On top of leading The Gallant Leader™ Institute, she is also one of our Leadership Mastermind Facilitators, where she helps women leaders find more significant influence through impactful conversations. 

We sat down with Carrie to learn more about her newly published book Conversation Secrets for Tomorrow’s Leaders: 21 Obvious Secrets That Leaders Don’t Use Enough.

Together with Dr. Mindy L. Gewirtz and Steve Hamilton Clark, Carrie shares 21 “not so obvious” secrets to help tomorrow’s leaders embark on a journey of leading effective conversations – at work and at home.

Hi Carrie, congratulations on publishing your book! What made you choose the theme of conversations?

My co-authors and I have worked with numerous leaders throughout our careers – from emerging leaders to established CEOs. And, regardless of the client’s problem, it always comes down to how they’re managing their conversations.

In fact, research shows that more than 75% of work gets done through conversations. And yet, we find ourselves blocked in our conversations or afraid of having them. Because of that, we aren’t achieving the results we want. And so, we decided to bring awareness about conversational intelligence out in the world.

This book was written to empower leaders to build trust, spark innovation and bring people together. We wrote it for leaders who want to leverage the power of conversations into their leadership.

Carrie Gallant

What can we expect to learn from the advice shared in the book?

All of the 21 secrets illuminate the journey that a leader can go on as they develop throughout their career. The book is broken into three chapters – trust, connection, and collaboration. We see those as the fundamental parts of conversations. They leverage off of one another – we don’t get to collaborate effectively if we don’t build trust. And, there’s no trust if we’re not making connections with others.

To come up with genuinely innovative ideas, we need to feel safe to do so. Often, people have an addiction to “being right.” With that, we shut down others, and more so – we shut down ourselves. Trust in communication creates a safe environment to share yourself – to be innovative.

The 21 Conversation Secrets we share in our book aren’t rocket science – they’ve been around. That’s why we call them “Obvious Secrets’ – because people might know of them, but they aren’t using them enough. Their true secret is how powerful they are.

Tell us more about your journey to becoming the communicator that you are today.

I have a strong history in conflict resolution. I spent many years as a lawyer and mediator, bringing parties in conflict together. As a Leadership Coach, I’m certified in conversational intelligence and authentic leadership. I coach leaders to level up their careers by navigating their conversations, managing conflicts, and having effective conversations.

All three of us brought our unique points of view and experience into the book. All of our levels of expertise are layered on each other. I based my parts on what I have learned as a mediator and my conversational intelligence practice. 

My co-authors and I saw conversational secrets as a way to lead productive conversations – because if everything happens through conversation, then why not master it?

What's your advice on building powerful yet authentic conversational skills?

We learn how to communicate as children. Looking back, did I learn productive things while growing up? Absolutely. Did I learn unproductive things? Absolutely!

The key is to unlearn those unproductive things and replace them with effective ones. Personally, I learned a new way of communicating in law school – specifically an advisory communication style. Mediation exposed me to another form of communicating because all of a sudden, I was in the middle, trying to bring people together.

I always say to my clients that if you’re learning to be a better communicator in the work context, then use it in your personal life, too. The more you use it, the more natural it becomes. I am a big believer in bringing authentic leadership to the table. And the only way we can be authentic leaders is if we are the same person in all of our interactions.

Knowing your own system of values is a crucial factor of authenticity. If something bothers you, it’s likely because your values are being challenged. I encourage everyone to identify their top five values – and repeat this practice throughout their life. Authentic leadership starts by knowing yourself – and your values – well enough.

Which one of the 21 secrets is the closest to you and why?

The one that is particularly close to me is called “Yes, and..”, which is shared in the Collaboration Chapter.

“Yes, and…” comes from the improvisational theatre. It’s a powerful trust-building exercise where we accept the truth of the person we’re talking to and build upon that.

Think about what happens when you say, “Yes, but..” – what does the other person think? Human beings are wired to notice the negative. So, when we change the “but” to “and,” we look at ways to build something – and that’s when we get to start being creative.

When we bring this technique into the business world, we allow ourselves to show up as our best selves and cooperate with others.

Virtual Book Launch Conversation Secrets for Tomorrows leaders

Share with us more information about your Virtual Book Launch Party. Where, how, and what's to be expected?

I’ve just received the copy of the book, and it’s so exciting – it exists! Writing this book has been on my bucket list, and it’s a significant milestone for me.

I posted an unboxing video on our YouTube Channel, 21 Conversation Secrets – and it was a really fun way to share my excitement. In this YouTube Channel, we will be releasing insights into all Secrets over time, so keep it on your radar! 

I would love to invite everyone to our Book Launch Party: “Conversation Secrets for Tomorrow’s Leaders.” It’s a free event happening on Thursday, September 23, 2021, at 9 am PST and 12 pm EST. You can register on Eventbrite

Along with celebrating the book, we’ll also share people’s adaptations of these secrets – so that you can see how they’re used in practice. 

Those who join us at our Virtual Launch Party will get exclusive access to super-valuable bonuses that go together with the copy of the book – as well as a chance to win a signed copy! 

Where can we buy the book?

I’m pleased to say that all major publishers in the US, Canada, and beyond have picked up the book. The best way to get hold of the book, our Masterclass, and some freebies, is to visit our website 21conversationsecrets.com for more information.

If you’d like to leave a review in the future, visit our Amazon page and let us know how these secrets are showing up for you and how you’re working with them!

The last thing I’d love to share is that our book is not a long read – but it’s certainly a valuable one. One of the significant perks of the book is that you don’t have to read it all at once – you can always go back to the one secret you want to apply to your current situation. I’m confident to say that the book will be an invaluable ally to you as you’re managing conversations throughout your entire life. 

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Deborah Gillam: It’s not who you know. It’s who knows you.

By | Blog, Member Stories

Through our WNORTH Member Spotlight, we share unique insights and advice of our Members with you. 

Meet Deborah, an Entertainment Coach of 25+ years specialized in coaching professionals in the entertainment industry to move their careers forward. 

Since joining WNORTH in June, she’s become an incredibly insightful member of our community. As a warm welcome on board, we sat down with Deborah and asked her about her career and development – both professional and personal.

Hi Deborah! What brought you to our community, and how is WNORTH treating you so far?

I fully align with the mission statement: Elevating Women in the Leadership Pipeline. The slogan has caught my attention right away, along with the amazing networking opportunities.

The courses and workshops all provide a safe and productive space to grow and refresh your focus, leadership skills and build foundations to work things out with like-minded women that really encourage you to do well and help celebrate your achievements.

We’d love to know more about the work you do. How did you get into your field of work?

My work has many layers, but all seem to be related in one way or another. Over the past 35+ years, I’ve been extremely passionate about Career Coaching. I launched my career in the fashion industry, which sparked my interest in starting a Model & Talent Agency – I was only 19 at the time!

A few years later, I moved to Vancouver and started a Film/TV Extras Agency that built itself into the prosperous Principal Talent Agency that it is today.

I have built a reputation for helping people achieve their dreams and aspirations both in front and behind the camera. I retired as a Talent Agent at the age of 45.

Now, I’m working as a career coach within the entertainment industry.

Have you had any career setbacks that have made you stronger or wiser?

I don’t relate to the word “setback” – I call them “roadblocks”. Roadblocks are helpful because they redirect our attention and push us to adopt a different approach – an approach that usually allows more doors to open up. 

When you hit a roadblock, I strongly recommend you to join a Mastermind – a group of like-minded people who can help you overcome it. It works wonders.

What is your opinion on the future of work post-lockdown?

I believe that offering a hybrid approach, such as allowing people to choose the way they want to stay connected and receive services, is the best way forward. 

If it makes more sense for someone to work remotely, it should be accepted on all levels. After all, “lockdown” does not mean “shutdown” – the important thing is to remain connected. In the past year and a half, we’ve all learned how to use the tools we need to stay connected.

Have you drawn professional inspiration from other women?

I am constantly inspired by other women. I have a strong support system and have always tried my best to be around positive people. People who not only encourage me to do well, but allow me to be of service to them when they need help.  

One particular woman who has inspired me is Nastasha Baron. She’s a successful film writer, and one of my clients. She’s always had a real passion to direct, write and produce. We teamed up in the late ’90s to produce film projects. I worked with Nastasha for many years and it was her passion and dedication towards her goals that really kept the fire lit in my career.

What advice would you give to the next generation of female leaders?

l would advise women to be active listeners. Ask people to share their concerns by asking “What do I need to know?”.

Once you ask this question, listen with the intent of hearing them out – rather than planning on how to respond. Sometimes, people just need to be heard in order to figure things out.

What is your greatest achievement to date?

I’ve been fortunate to score many professional achievements along the way. But, to share one of the most meaningful achievements in my life, it’s the blessing of having a partner, best friend, and soulmate along my side for the past 30+ years. When going through any roadblocks, he has been there to help me grow stronger and wiser.

What is your motto or words you live by?

“It’s not who you know. It’s who knows you.”

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Maria Decotiis interior designed in Vancouver posing in her office

Maria DeCotiis: Our Home Environment Plays an Essential Role in our Well-being

By | Blog, Member Stories

Through our WNORTH Members Spotlight, we share unique insights and advice of our brilliant Members with you. 

Meet Maria DeCotiis, the Owner and Principal Designer of Maria DeCotiis Interior Design, a full-service residential design firm based in Vancouver, BC. Through her work, she helps her clients elevate their “every day” through the beauty, clarity, and confidence that comes from a well-designed home.

Maria specializes in merging both modern and traditional styles to create a California-French aesthetic that blends the effortlessness of West Coast living with the sophistication of classic French design. 

Maria first joined WNORTH to expand her network before the Covid-19 pandemic. She soon realized that, aside from networking, there are so many other ways to utilize her membership.

“WNORTH is a platform where I can genuinely connect with other women that inspire me and encourage me to continue to grow as an individual and a business owner. I love most how comfortable I feel at the WNORTH events, both virtually and in person. I have always felt very welcomed and free to be my authentic self,” she shares.

We sat down with Maria to talk about her entrepreneurial journey, the challenges and opportunities presented to her throughout the pandemic, and the difference we can all make for women-led businesses.

Maria Decotiis interior designer based in Vancouver dressed in pink coat and white shirt working at her desk

Hi Maria! You've recently redesigned your brand and business strategy. Tell us why you decided to do that and what steps have you taken?

When Covid hit, I knew I needed to step things up. I needed to make changes so that my brand and business strategy supported my vision. 

I hired a business coach to help me get on the right course. With her help, I’ve grown my business and started to see that I’m on the right path. I want everything in my business to represent my purpose and values and showcase how important client experience is to me.

The first step was to fully define my brand. Through a series of questions and interviews, my business coach helped me define my brand and figure out what makes my company unique. My new website is under construction now. Thanks to the work I’ve done on my brand, I am confident that it will represent my brand voice and the message I want to send out to the world. 

My goal is that my clients have a wonderful experience from the moment they land on my website, during the design process, and all the way through the final reveal of their new home.

What advice would you give someone who wants to elevate their business?

I’d recommend everyone to hire professionals to provide you with guidance. It is challenging to assess your brand and narrow down your “why” without having someone with an outside view assisting.

I’m a true believer in hiring people that have the skills that I lack or I don’t enjoy. Investing in rebranding and reevaluating my purpose has been invaluable.

What were some of the challenges and opportunities that you faced during the pandemic?

At the beginning of the pandemic, I felt pretty scared. I struggled with the thought that interior design was not a necessity amidst the tragic events happening in the world. However, the more time we all spent isolated at home, the more evident it became that our homes are more than just four walls. 

Having a well-designed, inspiring, welcoming, and safe home is now even more critical than ever. Our home environment plays an essential role in our well-being. It should be our retreat and the place we choose to escape to – not escape from. 

I’ve experienced some silver linings during Covid, too. I have been able to reach out and connect with inspiring and empowering people thanks to virtual meetings and WNORTH.

Maria Decotiis interior designer based in Vancouver dressed in white blouse standing in a kitchen holding a mug in front of a table with cakes

What quotes, entrepreneurs, or women leaders have had a significant impact on you?

Oprah has undoubtedly had a great impact on me. I admire how authentic she is and how she is truly living her purpose. Many of her quotes have motivated me on my personal and entrepreneurial journey.

This quote, in particular, inspires me to continue along my path; “Create the highest, grandest vision possible for your life because you become what you believe.”

Also, I found this quote years ago, and it has been something I go back to and read many times to stay motivated. 

Do what you love
Any adaptation of it
Find it
Do it well
If you don’t know how to do it, learn
Know that it will rough you up a few times
Bring you to tears

Do it to your best ability
You’ll have no other choice
You will find there is no end 
No real one anyway
It’s a journey
A long one

But you will forever be changed
Once you give it a go.

And finally, how can we best support women-led businesses?

I am very fortunate to have become friends with other interior designers who run very successful design businesses. Not only do they inspire me, they also encourage me when there are challenges along the way. 

We can support women-led businesses by investing in them, referring them to our circle, or utilizing their services and purchasing the products they offer. 

Whenever I am outsourcing, I always try to hire women-led businesses because we all win when we support each other.

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Lotte Davis wearing a light dress speaking in a microphone

Goal Setting with Lotte Davis: The Key to Unshakeable Self-Confidence

By | Blog, Member Stories

Through our Woman-to-Woman series, we bring you interviews with accomplished women who share their key advice for women in leadership. Our first article of the series welcomes Lotte Davis, Canadian entrepreneur and philanthropist, who speaks about her advice on confidence building.

Born in South Africa, her family relocated to Canada when she was a child. Together with her husband, she co-founded a hair-care business AG Hair in 1989. Years later, her company was profitable, stable and her daughters were grown up. That’s when Lotte decided to follow her calling – fight against gender inequality. 

One day, Lotte attended a dinner party with a few friends. All of a sudden, she heard herself saying: “I want you to know that I am going to start building schools for girls in Africa, and I will work in gender equality.”

In 2008, without any prior charitable experience or contacts on the continent, Lotte founded One Girl Can. A Canadian and Kenyan registered charitable organization, One Girl Can is breaking the cycle of poverty and works to achieve gender equality through education and mentorship.

Lotte shares what role confidence plays in elevating the lives of young women, and her number one confidence-building tip for women in leadership.

Lotte davis wearing a white shirt standing next to a girl in blue shirt and a man in pink shirt pointing on object in the distance talks about self-confidence

Hi Lotte. What difference does building self-confidence make in young girls?

Lotte Davis: It’s all the difference in the world. Confidence is the foundation for success. In underdeveloped countries, girls don’t get asked what they want to be when they grow up. When we ask girls what they want to be, many can’t answer. They never looked into career opportunities, because it’s presumed that they’ll have multiple children and work as labourers. 

Our high-school workshops start with envisioning exercises. We ask girls to close their eyes and imagine their future conditions and environment. We ask them questions like: “What do you like doing? What do your loved ones say about you? What do you think you’ll be studying?”, or “How old will you be when you get married?”

The first round of workshops is called “Empower me,” the second is “I want to be,” and the third is “I will be.” The fourth year of high school is all about career development. We bring in successful business women who act as mentors and help girls navigate their career choices and craft a plan to get there.

Everything we do is based on goal setting. Goal setting is the only common denominator between a privileged white women leader from a peaceful, prosperous country and a girl living in extreme poverty in rural Africa. We can all move our lives forward by setting goals. If you start planning where you want to be in four years and then break it down into individual years, months and weeks, you begin to see progress. And, the progress gives you confidence. 

Goal setting has become highly successful with the girls – just as it does with women leaders. They realize that with vision, a goal, and a carefully constructed set of plans to get them to where they want to go, there is nothing they can’t do.

What's the best confidence building technique for women leaders?

Lotte Davis: Everything we do is based on goal setting. Goal setting is the only common denominator between a privileged white woman from a peaceful, prosperous country and a girl living in extreme poverty in rural Africa. 

We can all move our lives forward by setting goals. If you start planning where you want to be in four years and then break it down into individual years, months and weeks, you begin to see progress. And, the progress gives you confidence. 

Goal setting has become highly successful with the girls. They realize that with vision, a goal, and a carefully constructed set of plans to get them to where they want to go, there is nothing they can’t do.

How difficult does it come for girls to get started with building confidence?

Lotte Davis: Initially, it’s very hard. If a girl tells me that she wants to become a nuclear physicist, I go deeper and ask her, “Okay, how are you going to do it?” 

“I’ll work hard,” she answers. But, that’s not enough. I push her to go deeper by asking “What does it mean you’ll work hard? Can you break it down?”

Eventually, they start to understand that it is not about working hard. It’s about making specific goals to get where you want to go. And now, when girls are graduating, they come to me and say; “It’s the goal setting. That’s what makes the difference.”

Lotte Davis surrounded by Kenyan girls of her program One Girl Can teaching self-confidence to future women leaders

What advice would you give to women in leadership who want to become more confident in their careers and personal lives?

Lotte Davis: You need to put one foot in front of the other. It’s frightening to take the first step to launch a massive initiative or a new goal. But, if you break it into bite-sized pieces, you’ll be able to figure it all out – little by little.

The first step is to ask yourself; “What do you need to do tomorrow to get closer to your goal?” You’ll never get to the end result if that’s the only thing you’re focused on. 

Secondly, don’t take “no” for an answer. People might tell you that something can’t be done, and if you believe it can, then just keep going. Look for those answers, don’t stop when someone tells you it can’t be done. Generally speaking, it can.

And thirdly, act with conviction. I have never met a man who has as many doubts as a woman does. Men go after what they want without weighing up all the consequences and implications of potential failures. 

Go with what your instincts tell you to do – I learned this lesson a long time ago. You’re going to make mistakes along the way, but personally, I’ve never regretted anything I’ve tried. Failure is just a temporary roadblock, and you’ll find a way around it. There are so many roadblocks to becoming successful. Remember that there are so many ways around roadblocks, too. You need to go for it. Don’t overthink it too much.

Can you recall a time in your life when you struggled with self-confidence? How did you overcome it?

Lotte Davis: Like many other women, I suffered a lot with a lack of confidence in my life. But nothing has ever stopped me from moving forward. For me, the fear of failure is not nearly as great as the anxiety I get from not following up on my commitments. 

I am the type of person who has to get things done, and staying at home worrying about something is way worse than trying and failing. So, don’t fear failing – there’s no such thing. You need to keep moving on.

Lotte Davis wearing white dress and blue shirt hugging a smiling Kenyan girl future woman leader

What happens when you don't follow up on your promise?

Lotte Davis: I believe that my personal power is that I get things done. That’s what’s given me my confidence my whole life. And so, not following up on my promise has terrible consequences on my self-confidence.

I didn’t have much when I started, I come from a dysfunctional background. If I didn’t make the commitment to get things done, I’d never have been able to get where I am now. I wouldn’t have been as happy and confident as I am today. So, don’t be afraid to make commitments in front of people! I committed to making a difference for girls in Africa, and one day, I got on a plane to Kenya with a bunch of self-help books and I figured it out. Honestly, it wasn’t as hard as it seemed before I started.

If there's one thing you can do every day to become more confident, what would it be?

Lotte Davis: Goal setting. Every single day. Make lists, set goals, envision what you want to do, and start developing a plan. But, don’t spend too much time on crafting a perfect plan. The plan can be as simple as a to-do list for every day. And then, check your accomplishments off one by one until you get everything done on your list.

I guarantee you that you will get where you want. Once you realize the true power of everything that you can do, you’ll enter a stage of unshakeable confidence.

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