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My First ‘Canada’s Most Powerful 100 Women Summit’

December 2, 2011

I attended my first Canada’s Most Powerful 100 Women Summit, put on by the Women’s Executive Network, on December 1, 2011. I didn’t know quite what to expect – other than lots of women attendees!

From the moment I sat down at the luncheon and was surrounded by a group of inspirational and wonderful women at my table, I knew there was no other place I would rather be that day. You see, I have spent most of my career in the automotive and financial services industries, working at a senior level (vice-president). I have been surrounded by men throughout the majority of my career. And many of these men were wonderful to work with, but there was something I have always been missing. I was finding that the higher you go up on the totem pole, the fewer women you find there. I wanted to change this. I felt this desire so much so, that I actually resigned from my job last year to create a life and career development firm, Potential Unlimited, that specializes in executive coaching for women and stress management for women in leadership positions to help them go the distance in their careers…and their lives. I wanted to help women who were surrounded with men, like I was at the executive table, to support them and to help them flourish in their roles and go to the C-suite if that is what they so desire. And most importantly, I didn’t want them to lose themselves along the way.

I have learned throughout my career, particularly after the birth of my two daughters, that having an executive career and being a mom doesn’t have to be an ‘either or’ decision. Life is never that black and white. Sure, we have to make some sacrifices along the way, but I learned that there are ways to outsource the things you don’t want to do so you have time to do the important stuff – like being a mom and an executive. Beth Wilson talked a bit about that during her Connected Leader session.

When I spoke with many of you at the Summit, I asked what your number one challenge was to being a woman executive. Astoundingly 100 per cent of the women I spoke with said you feel overextended and like you are trying to be all things to all people. Funny how we know that doesn’t work in business so why do we put ourselves through that in our lives?

The reality is that many of us try to be super women. Often, we  have a whole different set of rules that apply to our own lives versus what we expect of others. And we think we can do things better than anyone around us can.  And while that may actually be true (here is my bias coming through for women leaders!!!), the reality is that we are only human. And when we start to pull ourselves in many directions, what ends up happening is we put ourselves at the bottom of the list.

Ladies, I strongly encourage you to commit to moving yourselves up on that list. I have seen over and over again with the women leaders I work with through my Women in Leadership coaching program and when I take groups out on The Ultimate Retreat – a retreat designed for women leaders held at a destination fitness spa in the US focusing on stress management and helping women create and maintain healthy lifestyles while they are in top positions – that when you reach the point of burn out, it is tough slugging to get yourself back out.

I want to leave you with one of my favourite motivational readings.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves,”Who am I to be brilliant gorgeous, talented and fabulous?” Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to manifest the glory that is within us. And as we let our light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Nelson Mandela, 1994 Inaugural Speech

Thank you to Pamela Jeffery and your team for putting on such a wonderful Summit, and for your vision Pamela, to create an organization which connects women executives to strengthen our support of one another. Also, thank you to the panelists yesterday in The Connected Leader (Beth Wilson, Loreen Paananen, Isabelle Hudon and facilitator Tatiana Fraser) as well as those who led Taming the Wild Wild Web (Panelists: Cybele Negris, Mia Pearson, Mat Wilcox and Facilitator Andrea Belvedere). I really enjoyed your sessions. A special thank you to all of the sponsors of the event yesterday. This was my first WXN event, but will not be my last!

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