A client once called Anne NoDelaide’s boss after their first meeting and asked if he could work with another banker – preferably a man.
The audience nodded as they heard NoDelaide’s account. The story was familiar.
NoDelaide, now managing director, banking at RBCx, told this story to a packed crowd at Hub350 last week, while on a panel at an event called ‘Women who mean business: How to take your seat at the table.’ The event was to mark International Women’s Day and included women in heavily male-dominated fields.
NoDelaide was joined by other Kanata women-in-business, Sarah Scullion, Brewer at Big Rig Brewery; and Erin Crowe, CFO, at the Ottawa Senators, each recounting their own experiences as women in senior positions.
Luckily for NoDelaide, her boss at the time of the incident was firm – she would remain the client’s representative. As a woman just starting out in her career, she made it her mission to win the client over.
“My last name is No. I don’t take no for an answer,” she said with a smile.
She succeeded. When she was promoted later into her first leadership position, this same client sent her flowers and a note to congratulate her. NoDelaide gave credit to her leader, who realized she was young, but gave her a chance.
Years later in her career, she says she works hard to hear all voices at the table, including those who might be quiet during a meeting.
The panel’s moderator, Heather Tyrie, chief talent officer at Fullscript said key advice she liked to give to women was to ‘be brave, not perfect.’
Tyrie suggested the adage offered a lesson for working women. “Boys are told to be brave and girls are taught to be perfect. We perpetuate this expectation that we have to be good at it all.”
This led to a discussion between panelists and the audience on how to balance professional and personal lives.
As an example, Tyrie said she didn’t enjoy – and wasn’t good at – doing crafts with her children.
“But hand me a spreadsheet, and I’m golden,” she said, as the room filled with laughter.
Crowe, who talked about returning to the Senators a second time in her career as the CFO said that her balance with family was important to her. For her, this means using meal prep services to help out.
“I don’t need to be the parent doing everything,” she said after talking about dropping the parent group at school. “I can be the parent who’s doing the best they can,” Crowe said.
The road to equality is a shared path
All of the panelists talked about the pressures they faced in industries that are male dominated.
Crowe said that the NHL has a lot of women in its leadership positions, and needs to highlight that more.
When asked by an audience member if she deals with unconscious bias, Crowe said she experiences it a lot in her role.
“I don’t say anything about it, for me it’s not about asserting my role. But I feel over time people recognize you have the knowledge to help them,” she said.
“I have to also realize that sometimes I’m the one with unconscious bias,” Crowe added.
For Big Rig’s Sarah Scullion, this meant watching the many women in the brewery industry acknowledge the sexual harassment in the workplace during the pandemic.
“It was brewing’s ‘me too’ moment,’ she explained, and spoke of her experience as a woman working as a master brewer in a male-dominated field.
“I’ve always looked at it like ‘why can’t I do that?’,” she said. She explained that shortly after arriving in Ottawa from New Zealand, she “talked her way into beer,” telling the owner of Ottawa’s Beyond the Pale that with a background in microbiology, she brought a unique perspective to brewing. He took a chance on her, and gave her a break.
Scullion also pointed out that being more inclusive for women isn’t something women can shift alone.
“It’s great to have so many women in the room today, but it’s important for men to be here too, to hear these stories,” Scullion said. She thanked the men who attended the event, noting that to see real change, we all need to work together.
Article by Melanie Coulson