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January 9, 2014I was thrilled to be named a Catalyst Canada Honours Champion for 2013. Catalyst Canada does an amazing job of truly inspiring corporate Canada, and once again there was a huge A-list audience in attendance at the Catalyst Canada Honours dinner. The audience was clearly engaged and perhaps expected Catalyst Canada Champions to cite the many hardships of being a woman in business. Instead, Champions talked about whom and what inspired them to be successful and attain those coveted senior leadership roles in business.

I’ve got to admit, I’ve always believed that being a woman in business has been an advantage for me. When I graduated from university back in 1982, I thought the world was my oyster. There were not a lot of senior women role models out there, but I had the education and the drive, and I was ready to earn my place. There were certainly challenges along the way, but there were also advantages, opportunities and supporters. Back then, being the CFO of TD Bank—a position I’ve now held for eight years—was beyond my wildest dreams, but one thing led to another, and I know that someday, when I retire from TD, being a woman (a qualified woman, of course!) will be a big advantage for me in obtaining important board positions.  

So part of my advice for women is: “Let’s change our language.” Throughout my career, people have wanted to talk about the barriers and obstacles to the advancement of women. I’m not saying that institutional barriers don’t exist—and as a leader, I’m committed to being a Catalyst to remove them. But the minute we shift our focus to talking about barriers and obstacles, we start to own them and believe in them. And for the next generation of women leaders, it can be a big drag to hear us talk about how hard it is/was. By all means, let’s challenge and remove barriers, but let’s put an equal amount of our time and energy into talking about the joy of a great career: we educated, ambitious women have everything we need to be a smashing success!

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the space below.

Colleen Johnston is a 2013 Catalyst Canada Honours Business Leader Champion and Group Head Finance, Sourcing and Corporate Communications & Chief Financial Officer at TD Bank Group.