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News@Ivey · Dawn Milne

Celebrating and supporting female leaders

Jul 24, 2019

LAMP panel

(L-R) Jana Seijts, Nan DasGupta, Krystyn Harrison, Shannon Lundquist, Puneet Mann, and Karen Simpson

It has never been more important to invest in the development of female leaders.

That’s why Ivey’s Ian O. Ihnatowycz Institute for Leadership launched its inaugural Women’s Leadership and Mentoring Program (LAMP) event on July 23, in conjunction with MBA Leadership Day. Called Women Leading Change, the event gave female MBA students a chance to learn from and network with distinguished women leaders and celebrate their success in the workplace. It also included the launch of a mentoring program to provide the students with ongoing support.

The numbers say it all. Quoting statistics from the World Economic Forum, Kimberley Milani, Manager of the Ian O. Ihnatowycz Institute for Leadership, said it will take more than 100 years to close the gender gap and 200 years to close the gender pay gap.

“For us as an institute, these numbers are simply unacceptable and, even more so, remaining silent on the issue is unacceptable,” she said. “It’s critical and imperative to focus on the leadership development of women in an effort to accelerate the rate of change.”

A changing landscape

Ivey Lecturer Jana Seijts founded LAMP after becoming aware some of her female students had unique needs in terms of leadership development. She was inspired to create LAMP after witnessing some students’ reaction to a speaker in her Giving Voice to Leadership course. The students were surprised when the speaker, who is Muslim, revealed she turned down a chance to be partner at a major firm because it would infringe on family time. Family is highly valued by her culture.

“We don’t often talk about these personal struggles people face. Seeing how the students reacted to the words of this leader really moved me and told me something is missing. The discussions we have in business often don’t echo the reality of the demographic changes in Canada,” she said. “We need to talk more about gender and intersectionality because the Canadian landscape is changing.”

A leader’s journey

The event featured a discussion, breakout sessions, and networking opportunities with a diverse panel of women leaders. It also included a conversation between the only two women to lead Ivey as dean. Ivey Dean Sharon Hodgson spoke with former dean Carol Stephenson, O.C. about her journey as a female leader and the ongoing issues women experience in the workplace and in pursuit of leadership roles.

The goal was to expose the students to a broad cross-section of women at various stages in their careers, representing different industries, cultures, and voices.

We’re in this together

“We wanted to provide our female students with the opportunity to see themselves reflected in our guest speakers, and to learn what other women have experienced within their own career journey – the struggles, the opportunities, and the balance,” said Milani. “Events and programs like this are critical because there is a comfort and a forward momentum in being in this together.”

Katherine Quan, an MBA ’20 candidate, said she was inspired by the success of women in leadership roles across a variety of industries.

“Being able to see, connect, and understand how women move through their careers to arrive in leadership positions is incredibly important in helping students build the confidence to take on leadership opportunities as they are presented,” she said. “This event demonstrates Ivey’s commitment to advancing women in the workplace.”

Mentors matters

At the end of the event, female leaders were encouraged to sign up as mentors. The Ihnatowycz Institute is recruiting mentors from across Canada to provide ongoing support to female MBA students. Seijts and Milani said they’re hoping to have future events for other student groups related to women’s issues, communication, and the Institute’s leader character work.

Broadening the lens on leadership

Seijts said LAMP was intentionally launched on MBA Leadership Day as a complement event that looks at leadership development from a larger lens.

“I think it’s important that we highlight female leaders because there are special challenges that we can discuss beyond the business decisions and strategies and there are particular issues that resonate with them,” she said. “It’s also important for men to become advocates. I hope we can draw men to some of the events as well as to be mentors. Unless we have everyone pushing change, nothing is going to happen.”

Key takeaways from the LAMP panel

Be the change – Nandini (Nan) DasGupta, MBA ’96, Managing Director and Senior Partner of the Boston Consulting Group, Toronto

“How slow is change? It’s unbelievable … I tried to take it in context. The world is not moving fast enough so I’m pushing this change and driving this change. I am the change. I’m making this normal.”

Develop your soft skills – Krystyn Harrison, HBA ’12, MBA ’15, Founder and CEO of Prosper

“Eighty per cent of us work in teams today so being able to come up with ideas and work together are skills that are going to set you apart.”

Be optimistic – Shannon Lundquist, Chief of Staff at Deloitte Canada/Chile

“Have the confidence to say ‘yes’ to something you might not know 100 per cent about and then surround yourself with people you can work with to make it happen. Understand that you can do it. You can make it happen.”

Invest in yourself – Puneet Mann, Vice President of Customer Experience at Scotiabank

“When you get caught up in work and life, it’s very easy to ignore that time … make it a priority every week so you can continue to be in the driver’s seat of your career and where you want to go with your life.”

Be the architect of your life – Karen Simpson, Senior Talent Inclusion Partner-Women in Leadership at TD Canada

“You have to be introspective and make decisions as phases in your life are happening to keep happy and stay happy, to feel fulfilled, and to have a greater purpose.”