The research is in. When women lead the way, companies, organizations, and communities all benefit. Study after study has concluded that having more female leaders in top positions is correlated with increased profitability and performance. When it comes to public office, there is evidence that having women in elected seats impacts the whole community–women and girls, but also boys and men.
The reasons behind these benefits are many.
Decades of research has pointed to the importance of encouraging and having a diversity of voices. Diversity makes people and organizations smarter, harder-working and more innovative. When it comes to solving problems, the greater the number of voices, the better the solutions. A review study looking at leadership traits found that women out-performed men on almost all of them, including taking initiative, building relationships, collaboration, motivating others and championing change. The importance of women in leadership roles, and the business case for this, is clear. If we want to strengthen our communities and advance the economy, we need more women leading the way. And yet, women are continually not represented in these roles and are less confident in their abilities to be leaders. What’s holding them back is not a lack of capability, but societal and individual barriers that we need to collectively bust through.
In late November, Yukon’s first ever women’s leadership summit will take place with the aim of breaking down these barriers. With two days packed with opportunities for skills development, mentorship and confidence-building, the summit is all about supporting women across the North to lead and to promote leadership in those around them.
“Over the past 30 years, I have seen a rise of and support for women in leadership and business,” said Patti Balsillie of the summit’s advisory committee. “I believe we have a tremendous responsibility to nurture our sector for tomorrow’s women leaders, potentially our daughters and their daughters.”
While often we see leadership as being something that only happens at the top (as a boss or high up in the hierarchy of an organization), being a leader is much more than that. Leaders are entrepreneurs, students, volunteers, advocates, parents, executives and mentors. They solve challenging problems and they break barriers. They lead in business, government, communities and families.
“One of the most important things you can do as a leader is support others to find their strengths where they thought they had none,” said Jess Stone, program coordinator of the Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre, one of the organizations behind the event.
The summit brings leaders from across the country to Whitehorse for two days to share their expertise, strengths and to help all women realize that they have a leader within. Wondering what to expect? Four of the featured speakers share what leadership means to them.
Erin “Kothetty” Pauls, Director of Education for Champagne and Aishihik First Nations
“As a leader your work ethic sets the tone,” said Pauls, who will be leading a session on succeeding under pressure. “You must lead by example by working hard all the while being transparent, understanding and open-minded.”
In her session, Pauls will be sharing “a unique story as a First Nation woman and mother, a story of resiliency when faced with pressure and adversity.”
Ruth Unrau, Leadership Development Coach (pictured above)
“Leadership means that you’re in your power, that you’re true to your values, that you know how to stand by your beliefs, use your voice and take action. As a leader, being grounded in your strengths and values allows you to see gaps and opportunities and then do the right thing.”
Unrau will be leading the session Up Your Game: Identifying and Leveraging Strengths. There, participants will have the opportunity to fully appreciate which strengths they possess and explore how they can spend time developing not only their own strengths, but those of the team around them.
Tracy Theemes, Financial Advisor and Co-Founder of Sophia Financial Group
“To me leadership has changed. The fact that we’re all so public now with the new digital world means you really have to be willing to be a public figure. You really have to be willing to be noticed–you will be both adored and unpopular,” said Theemes. “So now more than ever, leaders have to be willing to exercise their biggest selves. Look at the women who are leaders now. They are fierce, they are formidable, they are humorous and smart. Their resilience and ability to handle criticism is greater.”
Theemes was awarded the International Alliance of Women Global 100 Award for her work in empowering women through education. She is the author of “The Financially Empowered Woman,” which won the Bronze prize for the Living Now Awards for finance and economics and the Axiom Gold medal in the category of personal finance.
At the summit, Theemes will lead two sessions of Women, Money, and Power and Negotiation: How to Ask For What You Want. These sessions are built on recognizing that while money is the currency of modern life, for many women, it can be a source of anxiety, fear, or irritation. Women often charge less, work longer hours for lower pay and are frequently overburdened by conflicting role expectations between home and work. Through her sessions at the summit and in her role as a mentor at the speed mentorship hour, Theemes will financially empower attendees.
SHE/ZE Leads the World is hosted by SMRT WOMEN and the Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre and will be held Nov. 19-21. Event details and tickets are available at YukonLeadershipSummit.com