IWD | NSB Speakers Talk International Women’s Day

March 8, 2015
Each year International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated on March 8. The first International Women’s Day was held over 100 years ago in 1911. Thousands of events occur to mark the economic, political and social achievements of women. Organisations, governments, charities, educational institutions, women’s groups, corporations and the media celebrate the day. All around the world, IWD represents an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women while calling for greater equality. This years theme is Make It Happen, encouraging effective action for advancing and recognising women. NSB-Divider

Dr. Samantha Nutt | Humanitarian, Founder of War Child & Bestselling Author

Samantha-NuttWhat does ‘Making it Happen’ mean to you and how have you implemented it in your career to date?

It means having an idea, or a vision for something new or different, and seeing it through. In my own case, it was believing that when it came to international aid and development it was possible to do things differently – to not keep on making the same mistakes and to go beyond the usual “feel good” interventions that rarely change the status quo over the long term. You don’t have to know where you’re going to end up, ultimately. And you can’t control for every outcome or have a contingency for every disappointment. You just have to get up every day and be willing to try, and remain undeterred in the face of failure. A sense of humour helps, and surrounding yourself with the right people helps even more.

Gender-specific challenges you’ve faced in your chosen career?

Well, when I started, anything to do with war (and even the emergency aid sector) was almost entirely the domain of men. Foreign policy, whether you’re talking about those who make it or those who criticize it, is also entirely dominated by men. Even now, when I read foreign policy articles in print or online, or watch a Munk Debate, I groan at the way in which these things overwhelmingly perpetuate a Western, male perspective. Our sector needs a greater diversity of voices. The only effective way I know of to tackle this, as a woman, is to keep on writing and speaking publicly, and encouraging other women to do the same. And mocking the patriarchy. There are few things I find more delightful than mocking the patriarchy.

Woman you’d like to thank but never had the chance?

Well, if they are living, I make a point of thanking them, or I’d be a terrible human being. If I could travel back in time though I’d thank Dorothy Parker and Gertrude Stein and all the other brassy dames with a quit wit, perfectly formed wrinkles and strong opinions.

What advice would you give a young female in your industry today?

Run quickly, but never in a straight line because that’s where it gets interesting.

Who was your female role model & why/how did they empower you?

I have had countless female role models; I could fill an entire book describing them all. Female teachers who didn’t believe that “good girls” were quiet and who embraced my disruptive tendencies in their classrooms, encouraging me to make it more strategic and effective. My mother, my sister and my aunts of various generations who are strong and funny and relentless. My girlfriends in high school who never sought anyone’s approval for anything. And the most courageous, defiant, tenacious women you will ever meet in war zones overseas, some of whom I wrote about in Damned Nations.

What change in societies approach to gender equality are you most proud of?

We are getting better, overall, at not discriminating on the basis of gender. Nevertheless, the lack of women in senior executive positions, the disparity in pay between men and women across most sectors, the underrepresentation of women in senior leadership positions and on corporate boards, the abhorrent sexism and abuse directed asymmetrically at women online – all of these point to the huge, gaping holes that still exist when it comes to true gender equality. Being proud would be premature.

What is the biggest issue facing women in your industry today?

In war zones, it is security. Acts of violence against humanitarian workers are increasing around the world. Those who need aid programs are primarily women, children and the elderly. Without women in those key roles our aid approaches will be less effective.   For more on Dr. Nutt and how she can inspire your audience check out her Speaker Profile.   NSB-Divider

Nancy Vonk & Janet Kestin | Authors, Co-Founders of Swim Leadership Lab and the Women behind Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty

 

Janet-Kestin-Nancy-Vonk-HiRes1What does ‘Making it Happen’ mean to you and how have you implemented it in your career to date?

NV: Making it happen, for me, has meant mentoring in several channels, including writing a long-time career advice column (Ask Jancy on ihaveanidea.org), a book based on the column, Pick Me, and now our new HarperCollins book for women, Darling, You Can’t Do Both (And Other Noise To Ignore On Your Way Up). I’ve always enjoyed coaching and mentoring people on their career journeys, and it was a hallmark of my leadership style when I was co-chief creative officer at Ogilvy & Mather Toronto along with Janet. It’s rewarding to help people in this way, and also a big learning experience for me. What’s not to love? JK: So many ways to interpret this statement. I’ll borrow from Chinese philosophy and say that a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. Change is hard. Taking action is scary, which is why I think I’ve had to take that single step a thousand times. I never found it easy to put myself out there: ask for raises or promotions, accept speaking engagements, say no to someone who wanted to hear yes. But every time I took that step, it shored me up and helped me lay down breadcrumbs for someone else. It took the form of mentoring in person and online, of sharing ideas on a stage larger than my front porch, supporting others’ careers and goals. The first step creates all the others.

Gender-specific challenges you’ve faced in your chosen career?

NV: I didn’t acknowledge gender bias was an issue until well into my career. Like many women, I had a blind spot. I had done well so I assumed any woman could. It wasn’t until I attended an event where the global creative leader of my network spoke that it was right in my face, impossible to ignore. During Q&A, when this ad industry guru was asked why there are so few female leaders in the creative departments of ad agencies, he replied that they don’t deserve those jobs because “they aren’t committed”, and “give them a chance and they’ll just run off and suckle something”. I finally got it. And I’ve been paying close attention to gender bias ever since, using my voice and actions to help shine more light on it for people like me. (My first act was to write a rebuttal to that leader’s words online, that went viral. He resigned from his job not long after.) Without pushback from women and men when we hear bias from a colleague, peer, family or friend, change won’t happen. JK: A year into my advertising career, the marquee account was beer, and I wanted to work on it. When I asked the account director, I was told that I could no more understand beer than he could understand tampons. I asked again. And again, until he said yes. It was a small victory, but the clients didn’t believe girls should work on beer, so I wasn’t allowed into the meeting. When I was offered my second job, I was told that there were no women in the creative department, because there weren’t any that were good enough. Trust me, there were plenty with more experience and better portfolios than mine. I didn’t take the job. I started then, to look at why there were so few women in senior roles in creative departments. When I wrote my first article on the subject, I interviewed a bunch of male creative directors. Without malice, they said things like, “I can’t find any good ones” and “Most of the great artists in history have been men. Maybe we have something to learn from that.” Really? Happily, I do see the world changing at last, in advertising and almost everywhere else, thanks to the initiatives of smart women, like the 3% Conference’s Kat Gordon, Sheryl Sandberg, of course, Anne Marie Slaughter, Hillary Clinton, Malala. And everyone else who is having the conversation – loudly.

Woman you’d like to thank but never had the chance?

NV: I’m mindful to thank people who have helped me, but the famous ones who don’t have a clue who I am include role models like Gloria Steinem, US senator Elizabeth Warren, Malalia Yousafzai…the list is endless. JK: Of course, the long list of trailblazers: the suffragettes, the Famous Five, the women who marched, were civilly disobedient, spoke out, started magazines where women had ideas rather than wardrobes. But most days, when I’m stuck, I say, “What would Judy do?” My friend, Judy Elder, was my spirit guide, and the most ambitious, warm, smart, adventurous woman. The first to go to the Amazon and swim with piranhas (not metaphorically), first to achieve significant success, to have a baby, to design a rich life of clear priorities and live by them, to fearlessly change careers when the one she had was no longer working for her. Who led by example, guided with humour. Judy died young – 13 years ago – but she still whispers in my ear, daily.

What advice would you give a young female in your industry today?

NV: Ignore signals from the culture that say, be demure. You must use your voice, and get what you need to succeed. That starts with equal pay. There’s an invisible rule that holds true today: “Don’t ask, don’t get.” From your first job forward, do your homework on what the position pays, and ask for it. (Women are way behind men in asking for the right amount, and often don’t ask at all, just accepting what’s offered.) Get in front of the boss, armed with your achievements (which he or she are often unaware of) when you want the promotion. It’s not going to land at your feet, which most women assume. It’s not a meritocracy. Make yourself visible, be your own champion. JK: Raise a little hell. Ask for what you want. Don’t take off your wedding ring to please an interviewer. If you want to have a baby, have a baby. And if you don’t, don’t. Don’t allow your job to define everything else in your life. Work where they want you to succeed; expending all your energy banging your head against the wall in a place where your ambitions aren’t supported, will just slow you down and give you a headache.

Who was your female role model & why/how did they empower you?

NV: My mother is at the top of a long list. She set an amazing example by always being true to herself, being unafraid to voice an unpopular opinion (and in a way people could hear—she was reasonable, down to Earth and funny), and by putting a lot of energy into helping others. She empowered me by being supportive of my goals, making me feel I was heard, and with her unconditional love. JK: Joan of Arc, Scarlett O’Hara, Amelia Earhart, Cleopatra, Nancy Drew were my childhood heroes. They led lives of freedom and adventure, flew planes, solved crime, took roads less travelled, fought alongside men. They didn’t conform to the societal norms or accept their assigned gender roles. They chose their own paths, worked around the rules, bent or outright ignored them. Whether real or fictional, they were achievers and that was thrilling. They made me want to be a pilot or a detective. They had dreams and goals; they stretched higher, and reached further. They were – deep breath – ambitious and I loved them passionately.

What change in societies approach to gender equality are you most proud of?

NV: I’m most impressed by the example being set in Scandinavian countries that have mandated 40% of boards must be female (Norway) and both women and men must take mat and pat leave (In Sweden if the dad doesn’t take his allotted time, mom won’t get her full entitlement). They’ve worked hard to eliminate the stigma of flex time and 90% of companies offer it. JK: The Scandinavian countries seem to be outstripping everyone with their insistence on leave for both parents. Apparently, Sweden was no different from the rest of us before this was put into play and now they live in a world that’s as close to equal as it gets. I’m overwhelmed with admiration. I’m a fan of the “comply or explain” regulatory approach being used in Britain, and now Canada, among others. There’s ample evidence that if we wait for things to happen in their ‘own good time’, it’ll be another century before we see true movement. The Athena Doctrine (How the future belongs to women and the men who think like them), by John Gerzema and Michael D’Antonio,, shows in spades that the female traits like empathy, intuitiveness, and collaboration are desired in leadership around the world, even in places you’d least imagine. Changing a point of view is the key to authentic change.

What is the biggest issue facing women in your industry today?

NV: Ongoing bias at the top. The men in charge still hire people like them into the most senior jobs (or women who lead like men). This is true across industries. I’m hopeful though, because the research is in: the companies that have significant numbers of women at the boardroom table and in senior jobs have the best financial results. This is because women’s style of leading is so different. The terrific book, The Athena Doctrine, outlines the qualities of a female style of leadership that drive better outcomes, including smarter risk management and a collaborative approach with less ego at play. Nothing drives change like the opportunity to improve the bottom line. JK: That people don’t think there’s an issue.   For more on Janet & Nancy, and how they can inspire your audience check out their Speaker Profile.   NSB-Divider

Evanka Osmak | Co-Host of Rogers Sportsnet Central

 

evanka-osmak-sportsnet-torontoWhat does ‘Making it Happen’ mean to you and how have you implemented it in your career to date?

Making it happen means formulating a plan and setting it in motion. Most importantly is seeing it through to the end, no matter how many stumbles and how much hard work it requires. There are so many times it would have been easier to just give up on television broadcasting. I had no contacts, no experience and a ton of rejection letters. Instead I kept working on my tape. I kept contacting news directors. I used the letters as motivation until eventually I got one that was accepting. No matter how low my confidence dropped I kept knocking down doors until I made it happen.

Gender-specific challenges you’ve faced in your chosen career?

The obvious challenge in my career, sports broadcasting means I’m working in a male dominated field, talking about mostly all male sports and to a predominantly male audience. It seems to be a challenge I gravitate towards. I was one of a handful of women in my engineering graduating class and one of the first girls to be admitted to a formerly all-boys grade school, Appleby College.

What advice would you give a young female in your industry today?

Be yourself and read everything. You can never be over prepared for either.

Who was your female role model & why/how did they empower you?

There have been a lot of women who have helped me along the way, personally and professionally. One woman that can never be thanked enough is my mother.

What change in societies approach to gender equality are you most proud of?

At Sportsnet there’s no discrimination between male and female broadcasters. We’ve all earned our right to be there and are treated as equals.

What is the biggest issue facing women in your industry today?

There are still no or very few women doing play by play and colour commentating. I would love to see (and hear) more women in this role.   For more on Evanka, and how she can inspire your audience check out her Speaker Profile. NSB-Divider    

Natalie Panek | Rocket Scientist, Explorer & Advocate for Women in Technology

Natalie-Panek-LoRes2What does ‘Making it Happen’ mean to you and how have you implemented it in your career to date?

Making it Happen’ is challenging what is expected, pushing myself outside of my comfort zone, and a willingness to try new experiences. I am and always have been motivated by a dream of space exploration. My plan is to be an astronaut; it is the epitome of exploration and what it means to dream. I think the most unexpected yet rewarding aspect of this pursuit is that my experiences can inspire the next generation to also pursue STEM careers.

Gender-specific challenges you’ve faced in your chosen career?

The gender-specific challenges I have seen in my career are the retention of women and minorities in engineering positions and their advancement into leadership and decision-making roles. Diverse and multidisciplinary teams are a key to a healthy culture within an organization and help foster creative thinking across boundaries. Success in the tech industry or any industry really, relies on collaboration with several schools of thought in the pursuit of a common goal: innovation.

Woman you’d like to thank but never had the chance?

Lieutenant Colonel Maryse Carmichael, first female Commanding Officer of the Canadian Snowbirds who was my mentor through the Women’s Executive Network, and Athenia Jansen, my Flight Instructor. I was affected by their lessons learned in a similar industry, their challenges, and triumphs. It was just empowering to see women succeeding in non-traditional roles and I am grateful for that.

What advice would you give a young female in your industry today?

Dive head-on into challenge. See challenge and risk as a means to life-long learning and as valuable opportunities to push your limits. You can learn a lot about yourself by participating in situations outside of your comfort zone, particularly in the science, engineering, and technology fields. Dream big and dare to achieve the impossible.

Who was your female role model & why/how did they empower you?

As a young girl dreaming of space exploration, Canada’s first female astronaut Roberta Bondar was an inspiration. She was pioneering exploration and carved out the importance for the participation of women in the sciences. I am grateful for a number of mentors throughout my career as they taught me the value of curiosity and in following the road less traveled.

What is the biggest issue facing women in your industry today?

A lack of visible and accessible role models is an inherent obstacle to young women pursuing STEM careers. We need the next generation to perceive STEM fields as attainable by anyone. Paving the way for future generations of female engineers and scientists could be as simple as ensuring that the majority of youth can identify a female scientist or engineer instead of a reality TV star.   For more on Natalie, and how she can inspire your audience check out her Speaker Profile.   NSB-Divider    

Farah Mohamed | Social Entrepreneur, Founder & CEO of G(irls)20

 

Farah-Mohamed-2What does ‘Making it Happen’ mean to you and how have you implemented it in your career to date?

Making it happen is like any other platitude unless you back it up. And backing it up means taking risks, believing in yourself, and working hard. It also means knowing when to lead and when to follow.

Gender-specific challenges you’ve faced in your chosen career?

I see my gender as an ace – women are amazing – strong, resilient, innovative, the list goes on. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t challenges – when G(irls)20 first started to raise the issue of female labour force participation as a key to economic growth we were the first, if not only global social enterprise to make this point. Now, everyone from Prime Minister Abe, Christiane Lagarde, the World Economic Forum and World Bank and countless others are talking about it.

Woman you’d like to thank but never had the chance?

Although we don’t share the same politics I would thank Margaret Thatcher – she took a lot of crap so that women today are taken more seriously in politics.

What advice would you give a young female in your industry today?

Take pride in what you do, do it with passion and if you need inspiration and can’t imagine taking a risk take a look at what Malala has done – one girl can indeed make a difference.

Who was your female role model & why/how did they empower you?

Wonder Woman and my mom. They both save lives and look great doing it.

What change in societies approach to gender equality are you most proud of?

We are not there yet but I am encouraged by the move toward eradicating the practice of early force marriage. There is absolutely no reason why an 11 year old girl should be forced to marry. No reason whatsoever..

What is the biggest issue facing women in your industry today?

There is not just one issue – they are all connected. Education, economic independence, to live in a safe and clean environment, to have independence of thought and action and in some places, to have mobility. I find it impossible to choose just one.   For more on Farah, and how she can inspire your audience check out her Speaker Profile.   NSB-Divider    

Kelsey Ramsden | Canada’s Top Female Entrepreneur, two years running

 

KelseyRamsdenhighresWhat does ‘making it happen’ mean to you and how have you implemented it in your career to date?

Making it happen – first, means knowing what you want and why you want ‘it’ …. then making ‘it’ happen is much more likely to come to fruition because the thing you are striving for is not an arbitrary goal. I went from founding and running a multi-million dollar construction business to coaching, writing and teaching about personal entrepreneurship….because my ‘it’ changed after having cancer and 3 kids. Making it happen starts with a ‘why’ that is clear and rooted so personally that giving up means ceasing to exist.

Gender-specific challenges you’ve faced in your chosen career?

A 28 year old woman starting a construction company – yes. I’ve never seen gender obstacles as negative. I’ve always seen them as an opportunity for disruption. We all know disrupting industries is where big value is created and it is how I took traditionally female ownership qualities and applied it to a mans business to grow a big and strong business.

Woman you’d like to thank but never had the chance?

I’d like to thank Maggie Thatcher for taking it on the chin and doing what she needed to do although it was unpopular and unfair for many.

What advice would you give a young female in your industry today?

Don’t worry about how a door gets opened or what others are thinking about you…get in the door and deliver results. Respect will happen when results are delivered. Until then, ignore the background noise of those who tell you you can’t, it is not possible or use words like ‘never’.

Who was your female role model & why/how did they empower you?

My mother. She did not finish high school but to this day, she takes on challenges and opportunities in life with a figure it out mentality. She has started successful businesses, run companies, raised children and done it all without any training (she did not even have a mother figure to look up to as her mom died when she was 8 years old). She empowered me because she always said – if you do something with integrity and intention I’ll be behind you all the way. Thank heavens for her belief in me and not the norm…..if she believed in the norm I would never have become the person I am or have been able to define success on my own terms.

What change in societies approach to gender equality are you most proud of?

I’m most proud when women who reach places they want to get to are recognized for their work in getting there with ought the word ‘woman’ in front of it. When the success of a female is highlighted because of the success, not because of the bra. When what we choose to remark upon is the result and not the gender. that is when the equality piece has happened in a way I am most proud of.

What is the biggest issue facing women in your industry today?

In construction the biggest issue is recruiting women, because they think it is a difficult or anti female environment. For coaching and training it is almost the opposite, the biggest issue is in it being ok to openly value traditionally female parts of all of our intelligence and use those traits toward getting results and success no matter gender you are.   For more on Kelsey, and how she can inspire your audience check out her Speaker Profile.