6 opinionated CEOs + 1 spunky moderator = insightful and energetic conversation

When you bring together some of Vancouver’s most opinionated CEOs you expect an energetic discussion, and the group delivered on just that.  Moderator Judy Brooks started with one of the most controversial quotes that came out of the All-Male Panel Session at Beyond Pink: “Women are already equal in the workplace, so let’s move on and have fun.” – Cameron Herald

Not entirely surprising, the men and women shared a similar point-of-view, flipping typical steroptypes upside down. Tamara Vrooman observed that “men aren’t typically given enough opportunities to participate in the home, which would give women more of an opportunity to participate at work.”  Ken Sim supported her point by sharing his story – he left a lucrative investment banking position to start his own business because he wanted to spend time with his children and at home. “The barriers for starting a family aren’t necessarily just for women,” Sim

Outside of the barriers to starting a family, Chris Flett had a different perspective, “Being a woman is never and excuse in business. The business world is not fair – but everyone has a fair chance.” Flett encouraged women to be assertive, take control of their careers, and not wait for someone to notice their hard work – men are more vocal about their accomplishments.  Bob Elton shared a statistic, “A man will apply for a job if he has five of the ten required qualifications; a woman will apply if she has nine.”

Brooks changed things up again when she asked (specifically to Flett) what their thoughts are on crying in the workplace.  Flett’s opinion? “Don’t do it. Never in the workplace – it shows a lack of control. Crying is not wrong, but know that crying in the workplace sends a message.” His advice? “Remove yourself from the situation and control how you interact.  Go to the bathroom – the stall is a great place for you to gain control.” Anne Giardini added, “crying affects everyone around you and spills over onto others – people may start thinking that ‘someone must have done something’ and rumors start.”

Elton and Sim defined a different type of crying in the workplace and noted that employers need to uphold a level of understanding and acceptance that crying may take place in certain situations.  Sim’s belief is that “the future reality will be that it is okay to cry because you’re being authentic – you have to ask yourself if you work in an environment where it’s not okay to cry.”

Then came the question we knew would come up…maternity leave.

Flett provided advice for women planning a maternity leave. “Make it easy on your boss – don’t become their problem. If you’re going on maternity leave, come to me with a solution – how is it going to work? Are you giving me enough advance notice for me to plan for it? Manage your maternity leave – women don’t do this well.” Then Flett dropped the “B-word”. Breeder. “If you mis-manage your maternity leave, you’ll leave your employer thinking ‘oh god, another breeder’.”

Vrooman added that employers also need to consider how they can support their employees – it’s tough to find good ones, so how can you encourage them to come back and stick around. The discussion then turned to the positives of maternity leave – namely that after having children, a woman becomes a stellar employee able to take on more and get more done. “During the nesting stage, a woman can get an entire years’ worth of work done in three months,” said Cybele Negris.  Sim agreed saying that he finds he’s better off hiring a woman, “more loyal and higher productivity.”

Brooks then specifically asked the men what they’ve learned from working with women. Elton: “The more women I work with, the better feedback I get. Women give it to you whether you ask for it or not.” Flett: “I used to think that if I wanted something done right I had to do it myself. Now I know better.” Sim: “Our company is much more strict about living up to our core values. We got rid of a client that was 80% of our profit because they treated our people like s*** - once we did that, other problems went away.”

Beyond Pink 2009 Co-Chair Maya Kolaczynski asked the panelists to share their advice for what young people can do to be taken more seriously in the workplace. Vrooman summed it up saying, “take time to listen to the experience and wisdom of the people around you – recognize that you have a lot to gain from those who have had different experiences. Young people fresh from university are always so keen to tell you what they know – work on being more humble and recognizing that you have the opportunity to learn more.”

And then came the question of the glass ceiling. Why don’t women make as much as men?

Simple. “Because they don’t ask for it, “says Flett. Negris added, “A study was released a few days ago that there are women who have broken the glass ceiling.” Check it out here. Negris encourages women to ask for what they think they deserve. “And back it up,” adds Flett.

Why YWiB? Why this event? Basically, Brooks was asking why they were all here on a Friday afternoon.

Flett: “This isn’t a women only conversation – it’s a leveling conversation. Men and women have to ask themselves if they are going to be a part of the solution or if they’re going to stick with the problem.”

Giardini: “We have a moral imperative to show our voices and shake the world, and that’s what you’ve brought us here to do.”

Sim joked, “I heard there would be a bunch of women here!” And his ‘real’ response, “I too have a lot to learn from being here.”

Vrooman: “Specifically because we invited men to share in the debate. We are preaching to the choir here and not reaching out to enough men.”

Negris: “I would have benefited from an organization like this when I was starting. I work so much with men – I want the mix of interacting with women.”

Elton: “You get a group of men together and you get a very compartmentalized discussion. You get a group of women together and you’re making connections to other things and other topics. You get men and women together and you get a much richer conversation.”

There were definitely men in the audience who found the conversation engaging and beneficial – one of them being my cousin, who called me the next day to tell me how much he learned from it, and how happy he was to have skipped class to be there.  The lesson: invite more men to YWiB events!

While this provides merely a snippet of the insightful conversation that took place – the conversation will continue. We’d love to hear what you thought and what you learned from the conversation! And if you have a favorite quote that I haven’t included here – send it in to info@ywib.ca.