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Woman of the Week: Laurie Young

Caring is the word that first comes to mind when reflecting on my meeting with Laurie Young, CEO of Ogilvy & Mather. She has a strong handshake and a big smile. Not pretentious, rather a combination of thoughtful and spirited.

We met to discuss the #MeToo campaign in Canada and the role women leaders must take to bring about social change.

Young’s office is orderly and functional. In jeans and a blouse, she is relaxed and open. She told me about her family – two kids, aged 24 and 28, and her husband of 30 years (a rarity in the media industry). She describes him as “amazing” and explains that his hero status comes from his consistent and unwavering support through all the ups and downs in her career – “the cancelled vacations and 2 am talks.”

Laurie graduated with an Arts degree and was immediately attracted to a job in advertising, where she found the commercial and creative successes appealing. “I could use my creative side but it also fed my competitive side. And I was constantly meeting interesting people.” The advertising industry is all about building relationships and it is obvious that she enjoys getting to know people, but this isn’t what drives her.  “Others would say I am driven by success, and I am competitive, so I’d have to say they are right.”

I asked Young about the gender balance in the advertising industry.  She explained that the industry still has men dominating board positions, but she’s hopeful it will change as more women gain leadership roles.  Laurie spoke about a week-long conference Ogilvy held in Saville – their “creative cadre” – a meeting for their top offices from around the world to share their current campaigns. Each office presented their campaigns on stage and when it was Young’s turn to present, she decided to go off script… and focus on the fact that it was International Women’s Day. Her speech began “What has struck me today is the number of campaigns about domestic violence, sexual harassment and gender equality that have been presented from around the world, but especially from India, South Africa and Indonesia. On the eve of International Women’s Day, we should not only celebrate great work, but we should strive to ensure that these campaigns make it to market and that they change attitudes and behaviours, so that fewer of these are needed in the future.” The room was silent for a few very long seconds, but then one woman, followed by another began to clap and then the entire room suddenly broke out in applause.

Young isn’t afraid to lead on tough issues like sexual harassment and gender equality. She acknowledged that her industry still has a long way to go when it comes to gender equality and admits her desire to break down the barriers. As CEO of Ogilvy she hosts networking events for her women clients that are specifically designed to help them develop leadership skills.

We talked about how society still expects women to dismiss sexual harassment and assault, how women are still blamed if they speak out about it.  I asked Laurie to tell me about some of her #MeToo experiences. She remembered a time she was sitting in a boardroom full of her colleagues (mostly men). She had just landed a big client and was excited to share the news with them until one man joked that her male client signed on because he “wanted” her. Laurie remembered her raw anger and the snickering from all of her colleagues.

When I asked her if she had ever been groped, Young remembered a time years ago when she was 16 and backpacking. She was travelling by bus and had picked out a window seat. As she settled in a hand from behind her slipped in between the window and her body, grabbing her breast. She remembered her anger, jumping up and yelling at the man while people tried to calm her down. She remembered that the colour of the seats on the bus were blue. Our conversation touched on emotional moments and how they seem to embed themselves into your memory. To what extent do these embedded memories of harassment or assault cause women to lose confidence, hesitate, or pull back from experiencing the world fully? Young didn’t view her sexual assault as a #MeToo moment because she didn’t hide the experience, rather she had the courage to turn on the man and expose his actions. And that is what the #MeToo movement is about – women finding courage to expose men who behave badly.

Laurie Young has the courage to face adversity with confidence and grace. And whatever her next challenge might be, I know she will rise to it with a twinkle in her eye.

 

Ladies, do you need specialized Doritos?

Apparently, women are embarrassed by crunching and finger-licking. This is such a problem, that Indra Nooyi, the CEO of the Doritos parent company, PepsiCo, said they are looking into low-crunch chips that will come in special packs designed to fit in a purse.

“You watch a lot of the young guys eat the chips, they love their Doritos, and they lick their fingers with great glee, and when they reach the bottom of the bag they pour the little broken pieces into their mouth, because they don’t want to lose that taste of the flavour, and the broken chips in the bottom,” Nooyi told Freakonomics Radio.

“Women would love to do the same, but they don’t. They don’t like to crunch too loudly in public. And they don’t lick their fingers.”

I love the sound of a good, crunchy potato chip, and I think many women do too. Because really, what’s the point of a chip if you can’t crunch it? Do I feel embarrassed when I have to lick my fingers? Not really — honestly, I use a napkin if one is around, but I’m not picky. While the idea of a purse-friendly chip pack is appealing, I’m pretty sure Doritos can simply label them as “travel-friendly” to hit all gender demographics.

“It’s not a male and female as much as “are there snacks for women that can be designed and packaged differently?” Nooyi asks. “And yes, we are looking at it, and we’re getting ready to launch a bunch of them soon. For women,  low-crunch, the full taste profile, not have so much of the flavour stick on the fingers, and how can you put it in a purse?”

As much as Nooyi says it is not a “male and female” issue, it absolutely is. Gender marketing and gendered products have circulated stores for decades, and apparently the #MeToo and TimesUp movement isn’t doing anything to change how people, even female CEOs, see women. Women are dainty. They nibble on their salads and carrot sticks while waiting for their husbands to return home from work. During the Superbowl, women aren’t the ones to gobble up nachos or get messy with a pound of chicken wings. They drink fruit smoothies, right?!

Come on. Innovation and inclusivity is great, but can Doritos agree that making crunch-less chips in purse-size packaging specifically for women is a bit sexist? Men have briefcases — wouldn’t they like a smaller-sized bag of Doritos? Sure, low-crunch chips are intriguing, but can you not market them as perfect for sneaking a bite in the boardroom instead of the perfect snack for easily-embarrassed women? Why does everything have to target a specific gender? The product is chips…shouldn’t the target demographic be “people who like junk food.” Trust me, that category is universal. You really don’t have to derail it.

There is no information about the specific product — so who knows? Maybe this is just the beginning of PepsiCos brainstorming on the matter and tomorrow, they will announce Nooyi was mistaken. Or, they could really go for it and make the Doritos pink!

Amazon prohibits salary inquiries for gender parity

Amazon is changing their hiring policies to ban managers from asking applicants about their previous salaries.

This is part of a US policy that is meant to reduce the gender pay gap. California, New York, New Orleans, New Jersey, Dalaware, and Pittsburg are a few of the states that have already implemented this policy. According to the Labour Code, the bill would “prohibit an employer from relying on the salary history information of an applicant for employment as a factor in determining whether to offer an applicant employment or what salary to offer an applicant. The bill also would prohibit an employer from seeking salary history information about an applicant for employment and would require an employer, upon reasonable request, to provide the pay scale for a position to an applicant for employment.”

The idea is that if potential employers don’t ask, then everyone entering the position will automatically be given the same starting salary based on experience and job title.

It’s an interesting concept, but there are many who believe the law could backfire and actually increase the gender pay gap. If previous salaries, or salary expectations, are not discussed, assumptions regarding the worth and value of the person being interviewed could guide the hiring process to offer certain people a lower salary.

For example, women could be offered less money than they earned previously, and be forced to either re-negotiate or accept the offer. The argument against this ban is that if women are able to firmly state their expectations and previous salary, the number in the original offer will be able to more accurately reflect their value.

The transparency element of this policy is admirable. Companies will have to provide a pay scale for the position to applicants, meaning those being interviewed will have an idea of what kind of salary they should expect.

While this is a state decision, national companies are now being forced to use this new hiring policy across borders.

It’s still a little early to determine whether or not a policy like this one will help reduce the gender pay gap or cause further challenges for women in the workplace. However, it’s an intriguing attempt by governments to take an active role in gender parity in business.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!

Geeta Sankappanavar joins WXN Hall of Fame

Geeta Sankappanavar is Co-Founder, President and CEO of Grafton Asset Management, a Calgary-based energy investment firm. Sankappanavar is responsible for managing $1 billion in capital, focusing on investments in oil and gas. Prior to founding Grafton, she worked with New Vernon Capital, a $3 billion asset management company.

Wednesday, Sankappanavar was inducted into the Women’s Executive Network (WXN) Hall of Fame after being named one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women numerous times.  This isn’t the first time she has been recognized for her work in emerging markets. She was also named one of Alberta’s 50 Most Influential People, and one of Calgary’s Top 40 under 40.

Question: How does it feel to be inducted into the WXN Hall of Fame?

Answer: Humbled. I have been honoured to be part of the WXN network and have had the opportunity to meet the incredible women leaders who comprise it. I am so honoured to join those amazing trailblazers in the hall of fame.

Do you remember the first time you got on the list of top 100 powerful women?

Of course! I didn’t believe it! I immediately called my family. As immigrants to this country, my family has worked hard to build their lives here, and they have always believed that a focus on constant and continuing education and hard work was critical to success. I live by these beliefs to this day. They have been my strongest supporters my entire life. I was so proud to share this recognition with them, for it was their support that enabled my success. It was a heartfelt moment for us all.

You are speaking at the Leadership Summit Wednesday, with the theme “unbreakable”. Does that theme resonate with you – and how so?

Very much so. I think all leaders face and surmount great challenges to achieve success. I think women in leadership execute those same challenges with significant biases- conscious and unconscious that make their paths even more difficult. Leadership is not easy, and you have to really, really be sure this is the life you want. Leadership is exciting, fulfilling and challenging, but it is not easy and it is not for the faint of heart. I am so proud to be part of the incredible group of women in leadership that WXN is celebrating tomorrow. Sharing our stories, our successes and our challenges, WILL make it more commonplace to be a women in leadership for the next generation.

Why did you help found Grafton Asset Management, especially considering your highly successful career prior?

My business partner and I saw an opportunity to connect Canada’s energy sector to global pools of capital. Canadian energy companies need billions annually to fund their capital programs. This need, however, had not been able to be served domestically in Canada with the traditional sources of capital for this industry. We founded Grafton in late 2010 and quickly grew to ~$1B in capital and have built an incredible team to capture the opportunities we are seeing.

Earlier this year you said that Grafton would be exploring alternative energy sources – is this something you can expand on?

I think our greatest challenge as a resource nation is our need to expand our problem space from a producer of hydrocarbons to a producer of power, fuel and petro products. If we do that, it enables us to understand the greater market forces at play in our industry and invest accordingly, which we at Grafton have done.

What’s next for you professionally and personally?

Continue to build our business and support the great team at Grafton to continue to achieve success. And personally, (besides spending time with my family and our growing list of fur babies (we just got a great pyrenees puppy) it is to passionately support women in business and in leadership in any way I can. It is up to our generation of leaders to support the women in the next generation to achieve their successes. If not us then whom, if not now then when?

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs, especially women?

Entrepreneurship isn’t just about having a vision of where you want to go- Its asking yourself why not? -rather than just saying that something is impossible. And then it’s about assembling the team that wants to try and achieve it with you. It’s the willingness to take risks and not listen to naysayers. To ask yourself what is the right thing to do, and then doing it. It’s casting a compelling vision to motivate others while not being afraid to deliver the hard news or harsh feedback. So, I’d share some advice that has worked for me over the years:

1 – Be flexible- business is a rollercoaster, you need to be able to quickly adapt and pivot your business and your people as required to take advantage of opportunities that you identify,

2 -Hone the ability to assemble and rally a great team around your ideas. Build trust with each other in order to create and sustain a great culture- and I don’t mean picking the nicest people- I mean picking the people who have the courage to challenge you so that together you all get better.

3 – Persevere – Be unwavering, and unrelenting. You must have the belief that with the right partners, you can do the impossible.

For first-time winners, what advice would you give them to stay on the list and eventually be inducted into the Hall of Fame?

First of all…Congratulations!!!!! You have achieved great things professionally and Canada is recognizing and appreciating you for it. Secondly, you still need to be the best. You have to be unrelenting in your pursuit of self improvement. You must work twice as hard and twice as long as your male peers. You must be unforgettable. And when you get there, because you will, you will look around and be so humbled and so proud to be part of an incredible group of women leaders who are an inspiration for us all as well as for the next generation of women in leadership.

Featured image courtesy of oilandgascouncil.com

Woman of the Week: Kathy Milsom

When asked to use three words to describe herself, Kathy Milsom quipped, “ethical, high-integrity and committed to making a difference. That’s more than three, but these are hyphened words.”

Milsom was elected the new CEO of Toronto Community Housing (TCHC) nearly a month ago, and tries to run her office using the same mantra as mentioned above. Milsom is responsible for managing over 110,000 tenants as well as the maintenance of each building or facility, making her role one of the most challenging jobs in the city.

Toronto Community Housing has a mandate of providing safe homes for vulnerable people throughout the city. Before accepting the job, Milsom, looked at all the challenges the housing board had faced over the years and wanted to be the person who tried to help solve them as well as help make a difference in the community.

Milson has the benefit of international experience. She traveled the world with her parents, who were engineers, and learned a lot about each community and culture.  “I think it enabled me to be more independent when I was growing up and this helped me in my career,”she said.

When it was time for university, Milsom enrolled at the University of Toronto with the initial intent of studying medicine to become a doctor. Life threw her a curve ball when she lost both her parents. She found it hard to concentrate on medicine and therefore switched to civil engineering — just as a temporary change. This change, however, became permanent as Milsom re-discovered a fascination with buildings, design, and maintenance of structures. remembered why she was so fascinated with building, design and maintenance of structures.

“As a child or as a young person, I was always playing around with mechanical things. I was rebuilding engines of cars after I turned 16.” Civil engineering felt natural to Milsom.

 After working both full-time and part-time to put herself through school, Milsom began gaining as much professional experience as she couldMilsom has served as a chair of the advisory board for Direct Construction Company Limited, the Civil and Mineral Engineering Department at the University of Toronto, and was member of the Canadian National Exhibition and on their finance committee. Milsom is also been a member of the board of directors of the Greater Toronto Airport Authority since 2013. In 2016-17 she served as a director of Thermal Energy Inc.

But one of her most memorable shifts was just around five years ago when she stepped down as CEO at the Technical Standards and Safety Authority. Milsom worked for the TSSA for nearly eight years, managing 13 different sectors over Ontario. This experience taught her a lot about responsibility as she ensured the safety of citizens in public spaces.

“I enjoyed it because being a CEO for so many years,”she said. “I really came to value what a well-functioning board can do to constructively challenge you to be the very best CEO that I can be.”

When the opportunity to get involved with Toronto Community Housing came up, Milsom knew she wanted the job. Housing and community building was linked closely to her civil engineering background, and she was also ready to interact with different communities across Toronto.

Milsom was also excited to get er hands dirty. Her experience on boards didn’t allow her as much of an opportunity to interact with employees and customers.  “The higher up you go — the less you do hands-on,”she said. As CEO, she would be active in the organization

In her initial weeks as CEO, Milsom implemented new steps to ensure she was making a difference to all her employees as well as tenants. The first week was all about learning and getting out in the community to speak with tenants directly about some of their concerns. She also took the time in the first two days on the job to meet approximately 600 of her 1600 employees.

“I’m very proud of the people I get to work with,”she said. “I’ve met a good portion of them and I’ve seen some of our re-developments. For example, Regent Park, which I haven’t been by in a long time, as a citizen, but I went out there to see what the community is doing and I am extremely proud of what our team has created in partnership with the private sector, to really bring the community together.

What Milsom heard from her discussion with tenants and employees is that TCHC needs to communicate better and work towards faster processing and improved information systems. This means a better relationship with the tenants and the housing board, where there is a clear flow of information and where concerns are heard.

It is no secret that the TCHC has been plagued with a backlog of repairs. Billions of dollars are needed to help with the daily operations, maintenance, and general upkeep of the buildings. In response to this, Milsom said her main commitment is to provide clean, safe and well–maintained homes for tenants to thrive. It is a key priority and her board recently approved the request to the city for a $160 million budget for fiscal year 2018-2019 to deal with the repairs as well as prevent the permanent closure of any more housing units.  Milsom is hopeful that, if approved, this should help to solve a lot of the repair issues and complaints they have received over the years.

For the future, Milsom hopes the people of Toronto will recognize the Toronto Community Housing as an agency that everyone can be proud of. Milsom is also humbled to be in a position where she can mentor and guide people. She is set to be inducted into the Engineering Hall of Distinction at U of T this year.

 

Metrolinx announces Phil Verster as new CEO

Thursday afternoon Metrolinx announced that Phil Verster, an experienced rail operator hailing from the United Kingdom, would replace Bruce McCuaig as CEO.

“Mr. Verster has graduate degrees in both engineering and business and a post-graduate diploma in law,” Prichard said. “He has operated, built and electrified commuter rail. He has the expertise and executive experience we need to deliver on our ambitious agenda, leading the 4,000 employees of Metrolinx and working with all of our partners. We are delighted the Mr. Verster has chosen to join Metrolinx.”

Verster is an engineer with vast experience in infrastructure management and operations for passenger rail systems. Prior to joining Britain’s Network Rail in 2011, he worked with Southeastern Trains and the UK division of Bombardier Rail. He also spent five years at Irish Rail, including some time as Deputy CEO.

From 2015-17, Verster ran Scotland’s ScotRail, overseeing the delivery of $3 billion of new electrification and has served as managing director of Network Rail’s East West Railway.

For Metrolinx, the decision to hire Verster was an easy one. According to Rob Prichard, Chairman of the Metrolinx Board, the Board itself was looking for someone with deep expertise in the field and significant executive experience delivering infrastructure.

“What stood out to us the most is what [Verster] has done successfully exactly what we need to do, which is to operate, expand, and build services and infrastructure, and to do that while maintaining existing services at the same time,” Prichard said.

Prichard also clarified that Metrolinx was not “searching the world for a politician.” For Verster, the politics behind the transit-agency is not his first priority. His first priority is to listen and get to know the people in Ontario and Toronto.

“My number one priority is to listen,” Verster said at the press conference. “And not only to listen to our different levels of management, but to listen to the front line people who day in and day out deliver for us on an ongoing basis.

“I’ll spend a lot of time getting to know the local politics and local communities. In the end, we as Metrolinx aren’t political. We serve only one master and that master is our passengers,” he said.

Verster was chosen unanimously by the Board of Directors of Metrolinx. He will start his new position on Oct. 1 2017.

Why should you send your kid to summer camp?

It’s that time of year again! The trees are starting to bloom, the birds are chirping, and grass is getting greener — yes, it means school is almost out.

Have you given any thought about what your kids are going to do in July and August while you are at work? Sure, they can stay home and watch television, but why not sign them up for a summer camp instead!

It can be a bit traumatic, to send your young child to summer camp for the first time, but the overall benefits of this type of experience are immeasurable. Kids will spend a week (or a weekend) playing outdoors, building lifelong friendships, developing their creativity, and experimenting with their leadership skills. There is also something to be said about getting away from technology for a week and enjoying life without being glued to an electrically charged screen.

Jackie Carmichael, the managing director of programs at Muskoka Woods, started going to camp when she was nine years old — and she loved it so much she never truly left. It was, however, a rough start.

“My parents sent me and my brother to camp for a week and I absolutely hated it. I was homesick. I did not do well. I had fun during the day, but night time was really hard.”

“The next summer I loved it though! I started going longer. I went until I was 15 and then at 16 I did the leadership program called CEO.”

The Challenge Experience Opportunity (CEO) is a month-long intensive program offered at Muskoka Woods that focuses on leadership and personal development. It can even be applied to a grade 11 school credit!

For kids younger than 16, there are a number of fun and exciting summer camps being offered this year, and there is something for everyone. Muskoka Woods alone offers over 50 different types of activities from sports, crafts, photography, culinary, and video production.

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Photo provided by Muskoka Woods

It’s always going to be tough the first time you send your kid to camp, but after that first experience they are bound to come back home with lots of energy and a better understanding of who they are. The best part about summer camp, Carmichael says, is the confidence it gives kids at a young age. Being told they are good at a certain activity, being allowed to experiment and try new things — all of this is important for child development and generates positive attitudes.

“Our vision at Muskoka Woods is to inspire youth to shape their world. We really like to celebrate that and recognize kids who are doing wonderful things. At the same time, we would feel so much more excited and happy if they walk away saying they feel more like themselves. That’s a success for us.”

One of the great thing Muskoka Woods has to offer is something called CITYCAMP, a mobile day camp that spends a week in 15 different locations across Ontario throughout the months of July and August. Kids participating in CITYCAMP will have the opportunity to try archery, skateboarding, paintball, nature experiences, and even have a bit of portable waterslide fun! This way, kids who can’t make it all the way to the Lake Rosseau resort will have the opportunity to have the camp experience.

It can be nerve-wracking leaving your kids at their first overnight camp, but the benefits certainly outweigh the anxiety it may create. Sometimes, kids just need to be on their own to realize their full potential. Summer camp is the perfect outlet for this type of experimentation.

For more information about CITYCAMP, or any of the other summer camps offered by Muskoka Woods, visit their website. Prices range from $240-350 per week, depending on location.  Registration is now open!