November 21, 2012 by Deborah Gillis
I always look forward to The Catalyst Canada Honours as one of the high points of the year. But the energy and commitment of the business leaders who attended the conference and dinner this year surpassed my expectations. This year’s Catalyst Canada Honours included a half-day conference to highlight the importance of sponsorship to the advancement of women and to the health of an organization. We were especially fortunate to have each of the Champions share their insights and experiences with the conference participants. And we’re fortunate that Jeannine Pereira, Inclusiveness Flexibility Leader with Ernst & Young LLP in Toronto, who attended The Catalyst Canada Honours Conference and Dinner, agreed to share her impressions and thoughts with CanCon.
I woke up excited on the morning of The Catalyst Canada Honours, looking forward to a day of celebration. I was thrilled to be attending an event that would recognize Ernst & Young’s gender equity leader, Anne-Marie Hubert, and felt privileged to have worked alongside her for many years.
We started at noon with The Catalyst Canada Honours Conference. I could feel the energy and passion of the Conference participants: these people were there because they wanted to be. We were active listeners and speakers, dedicated to gender equity and inclusion.
I found the Champion chat particularly inspiring, especially Anne-Marie’s comment about sponsorship. She recognized that if you try to get somewhere on your own, you may get squashed. You need to surround yourself with sponsors and people who will support you and tell you the truth.
As a visible minority, female, Canadian-born mother with young children, I feel lucky to live and work in Canada. Canada’s diversity gives us a competitive advantage. We just need to determine how best to take advantage of this competitive edge.
Our table discussion reinforced what I consider to be an important factor in the success of corporate sponsorship programs: embedding sponsorship elements into current processes rather than adding on a program. Too often, "add-ons” can become “drop-offs" when difficulties arise.
We also discussed an increasingly important principle of today’s workplace: curiosity is the new competency. This is what will give us an innovative advantage. Embracing curiosity is so important for expanding opportunities within the workplace, and for understanding the needs and attitudes of a changing customer base.
After enjoying a drink at the cocktail reception with Catalyst Chair Jim Turley, meeting so many of my Diversity and Inclusion colleagues, sitting between my CEO, Trent Henry and my Managing Partner of People, Steve Shea at the dinner, and listening to all the award recipient speeches, I felt that—after several years—we are making progress. And everyone at this event was committing to make a change and take a stand. It was overwhelming.
My favourite quote of the evening was from Anne-Marie: “Success at work is important for success in life, but success at work is not success in life.”
Although we have much to celebrate, we must persevere in our commitment. People want change when they become uncomfortable with the status quo. The challenge for today’s business leaders is to recognize that when the status quo becomes uncomfortable, it will already be too late.