Pamela was inspired to create a network for female leaders back in 1997 because one did not exist. Over 15 years, she has grown the Women’s Executive Network (WXN) to 19,000 female leaders across Canada and launched WXN in Ireland. With a mandate from the federal government in 2009, she founded the Canadian Board Diversity Council (CBDC), now self-funded by the private sector, to increase board representation of members of women, visible minority groups and Aboriginal peoples among others. Last year, she was the only resident Canadian named as a charter member of Fast Company’s League of Extraordinary Women which recognized 60 women from around the world, including Hillary Clinton and Melinda Gates, for their dedication to changing the lives of women and girls.
My Definition Of Success | At Women’s Executive Network (WXN), we inspire smart women to lead. Success to me is all about my organization’s ability to increase equality in our workplaces, particularly at the leadership level. My focus is on ensuring that private sector companies, governments and non-profit organizations understand the business case for greater gender diversity and tap women in their organizations for leadership roles. There are not enough women in leadership roles and I want to change that! I think we will have a better world if we have more diversity amongst our leaders.
I Am Driven By | I had an amazing mother who died of cancer in her 40s. This was a devastating loss for me and my sister. She encouraged us to aim for the stars. She encouraged us to go to university and apply for jobs that I never dreamt I would ever have. She made it clear that many others will put barriers in front of you and so you don’t need to add to this! I think the other driver for me is when our family business went bankrupt in 1983. I saw what this did to our family and I vowed to myself to work hard and be successful.
My Highlights | I am really happy to be the mother of two amazing sons. I wanted to have four children but had to change my plans when my youngest was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis when he was 7 weeks old. I chose to focus my time on him and his older brother instead of dividing my time and attention amongst four children. My youngest and I have spent many years helping him recover from this illness. He is now 20, in college and is a great human being. I am grateful to be a mother and a leader in my country. I am also really proud of my team. Together, we are influencing how the world looks at women in leadership roles.
A Key Talent | A few years ago, I undertook an on-line test to identify my top strengths. I did this because self-awareness is critical for leaders—it is what we teach in our WXNWisdom mentoring program. My number one strength is my tenacity. My tenacity has definitely been a really important driver of my success. I stand on the shoulders of my grandparents, and their grandparents. In my family, my grandparents on my father’s side both survived the Armenian genocide in the early 1900s. My great grandparents on my mother’s side gave up everything they had to leave England in the 1860s and settle in Canada. They arrived just before the winter began and survived the first winter living in the woods on the edge of a lake. When I think I am having a difficult day, or a difficult project or situation, I think of my ancestors and realize that my challenges pale in comparison to theirs. I am very grateful for everything that I have.
Principles I Live By | Hard work, gratitude, curiosity and kindness.
Performing At My Peak | I take care of myself because if I don’t look after myself, I am really not much good to my children, my husband and my colleagues, am I? I aim to walk to and from the office at least two days a week (a mile each way). I aim to do a yoga close once a week to maintain my strength, flexibility and mindfulness. I also go to the gym once a week for a good cardio workout. I have a great group of friends and I enjoy spending as much time as I can with them. I like to cook, as I find this to be a great creative outlook and my family appreciates it. I like to go to bed at a decent time so I can be up early in the morning and begin my day.
Resources I Use To Stay Inspired | I think it is really important to be curious and try new things. My husband and I learned to scuba dive three years ago. This was really scary at first but when I did my first dive in the Pacific off the coast of Costa Rica, it felt amazing. I like to read both fiction and non-fiction. I also like to meet new people and hear about their lives and their careers. I always find it inspirational to hear about the decisions people have made in their lives.
Advice On Building Wealth | Great question and glad you asked. I think every women needs to be financially independent. No woman should rely on her partner to provide for her. I think this is so important for self-respect and for the practical reasons of having a comfortable life to which you have contributed for the sake of your family. To do this, it is really important to go onto college or university to further your education and to improve your earning power in the workforce. I also think it is vital to start saving as soon as you begin work. Since the age of 27, I have put about 10% of my after tax earnings into an investment account. I don’t miss the money but know it will be there when I retire. It gives me peace of mind.
I Am Inspired By | I find many of the women I work with both inside and outside my organization to be tremendous role models for me. I think like many women, I would have to say my mother was a fabulous role model. She taught me how to make people feel comfortable around me, to work hard and to give back to my community. She was a tireless volunteer and I suppose the same would be said about me. I also think of women who have been elected to public office to be very courageous. I find Angela Merkel and Christiane Lagarde in Europe to be very inspirational.