International Women's Day 2020

Each day at KBRS we are reminded of the abundance of outstanding women leaders – the tremendous possibility of their potential as well as the testaments of their accomplishments.

We are surrounded by inspiration – thanks to our clients, our colleagues, our advisors and the many leaders in our networks – from emerging young leaders eager to make their mark to the accomplished leaders who generously offer wise advice.

International Women’s Day gives us cause to reflect on the great strides that have been made toward greater gender balance at all levels of organizations, as well as how far we still have to go.

KBRS is committed to embracing practices that encourage greater diversity among the candidates we recruit and to challenging processes and biases that have historically disadvantaged select groups. In fact, in the past two years 45% of the candidates placed by our executive search practice have been women. We believe where there is focus and attention, there is the possibility for change.

In celebration of International Women’s Day, we asked a few of the women in our networks what inspires them to champion change and what advice would they give to aspiring change leaders.

What inspires you to champion change?

“For me, it’s not ‘what’, but ‘who’. I am so inspired when I speak with students – their energy, curiosity and thirst for knowledge is so inspiring. A day well spent is when I have been able to support them in finding ways to overcome barriers, to increase their confidence, or even just to be a ‘sounding board’.”
Denise Pothier, Vice President of Indigenous Relations, Stantec
Named among WXN’s 2018 Canada’s Most Powerful Women.

“When I think about the profound impact of the female leaders and mentors who have provided advice, encouragement and opportunities for development to me, I am inspired to pay that forward. As women, I truly believe we have a duty to play an active role in supporting the advancement of other women.”
Andrea Forbes-Hurley, Managing Partner, KBRS

“Change is a long process, and sometimes it can be very hard to see change when it happens, as these moments sometimes only become significant over time.  To give myself perspective, I think about the limited opportunities that my grandmother had for both education and employment; and the changes that I’ve seen in my lifetime.  This allows me to focus  my actions as a leader into ensuring that my daughter has even more opportunities than I had to pursue her path.”
Dr. Deborah SaucierPresident, Vancouver Island University

“I’ve always found there is reward, energy, excitement gained in championing progressive and worthwhile change.  I’m motivated by the risk balanced by the potential and by the desire to forge a legacy.  I’ve learned not everyone has the same enthusiastic response. So I find it essential to harness this drive with realism and carefully learn from others who are on the path but may be at a different place. “ 
Catherine J. Woodman, Associate and Elevating Women in Leadership Facilitator, KBRS

“Spending time in community and seeing first-hand how positive change can improve the quality of people’s lives.”
Christine Hanson, Director & CEO, Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission

"Although there is incredible growth and many pockets of prosperity in our community at the moment, there are many people left behind. We are not a truly prosperous community until every resident has an opportunity to be warmly welcomed to participate in such a moment of change, and that is the excellence and inclusion we all need to strive to achieve.”
Sara Napier, President & CEO, United Way Halifax

"I strongly believe that we need to pave the way for future generations and to build on the wins gained from previous generations. Citizenship means engaging in thoughtful and helpful ways to make the world a better place and it is through this lens that I live, work and play.”
Amorell Saunders N'Daw, Partner and Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Lead, KBRS

“As we learn and grow, whether about a specific topic or field of study or related to a particular job, we know there are ways to continuously improve – as individuals, as leaders, as organizations. The ability to see endless possibilities gives us the determination to change and learning helps us see why it is so important to do so.”
Bonnie Patterson, Past-President, Trent University, Academic Advisor to KBRS

“My inspiration comes from two things. First, the recognition that I have had strong female leaders in my life that have impacted me greatly. Not all women have these networks. I recognize this privilege and others that I have.  Second, I firmly believe that gender-based inequalities such as fewer opportunities, lower pay for equal work etc, should not exist in the workplace.”
Dr. Tamara Franz-Odendaal, NSERC Chair for Women in Science and Engineering, Mount Saint Vincent University

“It’s the power of the potential of a change that inspires me. It’s the excitement generated from asking yourself the question “why not” and realizing there’s a missed opportunity to better the lives of others if you don’t do something. When we have access to resources and networks, we have the power and responsibility to leverage the collective knowledge towards positive change.”
Katherine RisleyPartner, Meridia Recruitment Solutions

“I believe that with change comes opportunity. It energizes and inspires me to see the confidence change can bring to others as they understand their potential and become more open to the possibilities. I very much believe that if we are not changing we are standing still or falling back.”
Beverley Evans, Partner, KBRS 

"When Indigenous women thrive, Canada also thrives. Overcoming challenges and barriers has been possible for me because I maintained the principles espoused by my grandmother – valuing relationship building, the importance of reciprocity, and the need for ongoing processes for intergenerational knowledge transfer. These principles can ground us as they are based on our own way of knowing, being, and doing. As we move forward in the development of Indigenous women, we must continue to gather and share our thoughts, and to seek out opportunities to apply our grandmothers’ principles, so we can enhance the life, health, and well being of our people."
Judy White, Q.C., Assistant Deputy Minister, Intergovernmental and Indigenous Affairs Secretariat
Government of Newfoundland and Labrador

What advice would you give to others who want to support change?

“We need to be willing to use our influence and risk our personal credibility in our workplaces, at board room tables, and in positions of power to make sure that emerging women leaders are known, seen and heard to be capable and full of potential.”
Anna Stuart, Managing Partner, KBRS

“Be resilient. This means when you encounter an obstacle do not give up -- pause just for a moment to decide whether it is best to go over it, under it, around it, or through it.”
Christine Hanson, Director & CEO, Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission

“As a scientist, I am all about data collection. If you notice something not equitable, collect data. With data, you can present a stronger case and actions can then follow.” 
Dr. Tamara Franz-Odendaal, NSERC Chair for Women in Science and Engineering, Mount Saint Vincent University

"Pay attention to the people around you and listen deeply. Appreciate people for who they are and who they are not. It is an understanding of the range of ways we look at the world and approach it that will propel us toward change."
Jan Campbell, Associate Partner, KBRS

“If time is our only true currency, then I would suggest that we invest in the future now. Spend your time being an active agent of change – be a mentor, sponsor, and champion!  Collectively, we will reshape the mold.”
Denise Pothier, Vice President of Indigenous Relations, Stantec
Named among WXN’s 2018 Canada’s Most Powerful Women.

“Have a clear, focused, and animated vision and keep polishing it. Communicate that vision generously and frequently.  Your vision is your north star during the sets backs and push backs." 
Catherine J. Woodman, Associate, and Elevating Women in Leadership Facilitator, KBRS

“I'd encourage peers to continually think beyond self and have ambition for a greater good. Being welcoming, open, thoughtful, and compassionate are imperative if we are to create the best possible community for everyone."
Sara Napier, President & CEO, United Way Halifax

“As change leaders, it is important to test ourselves. Can we articulate and show why change matters and in so doing help others visualize what the change could look like? It’s critical to help others that need to be part of the change understand the case for change. Once you can do that, be clear about expectations associated with it, reinforce progress being made, capture the learning from the change and celebrate success.”
Bonnie Patterson, Past-President, Trent University, Academic Advisor to KBRS

“Moving forward with a change can be exciting, but it’s important to pause along the way and engage others to make sure you haven’t missed a potential outcome of the change you’re championing that you need to consider to make sure it really has the positive impact you hoped for.”
Katherine Risley, Partner, Meridia Recruitment Solutions, President of Canadian Progress Club Halifax Citadel

“Being open, optimistic, authentic  and values driven builds the trust necessary to lead and effect change. Don’t be afraid to take calculated risks, fail fast, and adapt as necessary.  Be relentlessly forward focused and proactively listen and learn. And appreciate the journey that is being undertaken with the end goal always in mind.” 
Beverley Evans, Partner, KBRS 

We all have the potential to be a catalyst for change in the life of another. We hope the inspiration you find today will motivate you to reflect on how you can use your influence to create change for the greater good.