On July 5 at the Women’s Worlds Congress, female leaders from the public and private sector convened to talk about women and leadership in politics and business. The panel, made up of a group of successful, dynamic women, spoke to the audience about their path to success and the challenges they faced along the way.
Clare Beckton from Carleton University chaired the panel, which included:
Four impressive women, four different paths
Sheila Copps kicked off the panel, speaking in English and French, about the fact that breaking ceilings is an individual effort and a collective effort. This is something that she demonstrated as the first Canadian Member of Parliament to have a baby while holding political office. Over the course of her career, she experienced numerous scenarios where her work and her voice were diminished in the patriarchal political environment, including being called “baby” by another Member of Parliament in the House of Commons. Ms. Copps emphasized that when the younger generation is afraid of calling themselves feminists, we know we have a battle ahead of us. Her words of advice for women focused on three elements: Don’t put each other down, lift each other up and drill up to the collective that is women by working toward common goals.
Next, Sharon Ramalho, the Ontario Vice President for McDonald’s talked about her experience rising through the ranks at McDonald’s. She started with the company as a summer student when she was 15 years old and has worked her way up over the past 28 years, making her the first woman in McDonald’s Canada to make it from the crew room to the boardroom. She never experienced challenges and innuendos that Ms. Copps experienced and credited the work environment at McDonald’s for that, saying that women should “choose a company that you can go home at night, put your head on the pillow, and be proud that you work with them (not for them)”.
Addressing the audience in Inuktitut and English, Premier Aariak told the audience how she got where she is today. A lot of women are so busy being mothers, caretakers of home, volunteers in their community and so on that they do not have time to enter into politics even if they feel ready. Once her youngest child was 15 years old, Premier Aariak decided to see what type of a difference she could make in her territory. The government of Nunavut is a consensus style government and the members of the legislative assembly choose the speaker, the premier and the ministers from among the elected representatives. Premier Aariak was the only woman elected to the legislative assembly and she was chosen by her male colleagues to be the Premier and to lead their territory.
Dr. Mamta Gautam is a psychiatrist and owner of a business called Peak MD. She works with people in the medical community on issues of leadership. Early in her career as a psychiatrist, Dr. Gautam was asked to speak to a national meeting of a group of medical professionals on the topic of depression. She really connected with the audience and several doctors in attendance asked her if she would work with them as their psychiatrist. This led her to start a business, Peak MD, to help leaders in the medical community to prepare themselves mentally for the challenges that they are taking on. “Remain open to opportunities that come your way and embrace them,” was Dr. Gautam’s advice to the audience.
Each of the four women faced some challenges as they built their careers.
Photo credit: Annie Urban
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