Earlier in April, I spoke at Laval Université’s annual governance event. I was thrilled to see how many women had gone through the governance education program. Before and after my speaking engagement I had the wonderful opportunity to interact with both men and women who currently serve on boards. I was elated to sense the rich perspectives that all could bring to the highest level of authority for our organizations.
While at the event’s cocktail mixer, I had the pleasure of connecting with many women from whom I felt a vote of support and for whom I readily wanted to offer mine. Instinctively, I wanted them to know that I was interested to hear about their journeys and what they envisioned for themselves going forward, particularly for their engagement within boards. I sincerely cared for them to know that I was a resource that they could count on if I could be of help. I made it clear to them that I was accessible.
I have always been a minority throughout most of my life. Having studied Pure Sciences and pursued an education in Computer Sciences, as well as a career in high tech and international business, I didn’t see being a minority as a woman a handicap. I have learned to collaborate with men and to be a trusted ally they could look to for support. I enjoy working with men, getting to know them as well as understanding their differences with me and with women in general. My experiences as a minority have broadened my perspectives and helped me truly understand how different we really are. Grasping the differences that exist between us has given me an opportunity to grow and to not be afraid to help men progress both professionally and personally. I have made it one of my commitments to not try changing men but to bring out from them what I know can be. I have helped male coworkers and leaders embrace my and women’s differences since for all of us to effectively coalesce, we both must respect and learn to see things from both sides. It is ok to be different, but we must acknowledge that it is ok, that we know that we are different and know that we can be amazing leveraging these differences for stronger relationships.
As women, we might be alone in different stages of our personal and professional journeys, but we are all together in that solitude. When we are confronted with challenges, it is an opportunity for us to be in touch with what makes it so difficult, assess if what is blocking us is a self-imposed limitation and to reach out to someone (to another woman) we respect and trust to ask for help.
Let’s offer what we wish to have received and receive from another woman. Each woman should know that while she is unique, our essence as women should enable us to relate to one another. Many of the pains, fears, sadnesses, and disappointments that you experience or have experienced have been felt by another woman.
Let’s tune in to a woman’s needs in times of despair, fear and successes. While we might be able to relate to the challenges and obstacles that one woman has, the complexities of her journey often mean that her needs must be approached with a true and sincere sensitivity to her circumstances. Let’s indeed celebrate the successes of a woman. Don’t assume that anyone is celebrating with her and that she doesn’t need further support.
Let’s come with the sincere desire to help: to unselfishly serve other women. You must learn to truly see other women and support them, even if it doesn’t obviously advance you along your path.
Let’s avoid labeling, judging and gossiping. Women can hurt each other’s professional journeys by unfairly making negative comments about another woman, not even knowing her. Generally speaking, women can be harsh in their criticism towards other women and sometimes wrongfully dismiss the potential of other women who might have changed or could change.
Let’s increase the awareness that we are available to help. Don’t shy away from making more women visible and successful. Follow up with the people you have helped. Reach out and ensure that these people are making progress and overcoming obstacles, and that they are on the path of realizing their dreams.
Let’s actively promote diversity in hiring, advancement and leadership. Look where you are and check in with a younger woman, an emerging leader or an experienced leader to offer your support.
- Within engineering
- Within customer support
- Within marketing
- Within human resources
- Within finance
- Within our boards
- Within our communities and for our women entrepreneurs.
When women ascend to leadership positions, they have a real opportunity (some would say a responsibility) to help other women travel the path they have blazed.
I am a strong advocate for diversity in leadership and in the boardroom, and I applaud any leader who takes the steps necessary to accomplish this. As a woman, I have striven to help other accomplished and ambitious women succeed, and I have been blessed to be inspired by my mother. We must all accept the challenge to promote and encourage diversity in the varied/various ranks of business and academia. I invite men and women to be loyal ambassadors to make tomorrow’s leadership landscape diverse and strong.
Photo by Philippe Casgrain