Muppies Toronto: 4th Annual Women in Leadership Development Forum

Women have come a long way in the working world- they are top earners, CEOs, hold senior management positions and are making their voice heard across the globe. However, for all the success that women have had, they are still underrepresented when it comes to senior management positions, there is still a gender pay gap and women are still viewed differently from men. Navigating the Canadian workplace is still a challenge for women. Negative perceptions, some of which are rooted in gender stereotypes, continue to hinder a women’s success. Society still raises questions such as: is a female candidate as competent as a male candidate? Do women take enough risks? Can women have a family and be high-achievers at work? Can a woman really “have it all”?

To discuss how women can address such perceptions and challenges, Muppies Toronto held its 4th annual Women In Leadership forum on April 14, 2016. The highly anticipated event hosted 100+ attendees. The panel consisted of four successful women with diverse backgrounds:

  • Fariha Khan, Physician & Director for Islamic Relief Canada
  • Hind Al-Abadleh, Associate Professor of Chemistry – Wilfrid Laurier
  • Luma Badran, Partner – Deloitte’s Enterprise Risk Services (ERS)
  • Nuzhat Jafri, Executive Director – Office of the Fairness Commissioner

Here is some advice from the panelists on how women can work towards overcoming negative perceptions and challenges and of course, create their own success:

  1. Be Good at What You Do: Your value at any job depends on your performance. Luma Badran says women need to “focus on building their own resume.” Job promotions are typically based on performance, attitude and potential for growth – if you are consistently an asset to your employer, you will get ahead. Hind Al-Abadleh says the reality is that “high achievements” are valued so it is important to “master your trade and profession” in ways that are apparent to your employer.
  2. Take Credit for Your Work: Working in a male-dominated field of chemistry, Professor Hind Al-Abadleh learned that taking credit for your work is important. Tooting your own horn can feel sort of gauche but in the workplace, not only is it appropriate, it is necessary. If you fail to take credit, someone else will. Al-Abadlehsays women need to “say no to being humble” and publicly take credit publicly for their work. Of course, you will not get credit for everything that you do so it is important to pick your battles and take credit where it really matters.
  3. Take Care of You: Being at peak performance means taking care of your mind, body and spirit. Fariha Khan reminded the audience that women should “never minimize the power of sleep, diet, prayer and exercise.” Nuzhat Jafri echoed that sentiment by saying she wants women to remember that “you don’t have to be superhuman and “asking for help doesn’t’ make you weak.”
  4. “Having It All” is Different for Every Person: Every individual defines what being successful means to them. To some women, having it all might mean having a high paying corporate job with a big enough office for them to pray in. For others, it might be having a big family and a sustainable work-from-home business. Jafri says the most important thing is to be “authentic and passionate” about whatever you do because that will come through to everyone around you.
  5. Picking the Right Partner is a Career Choice: You need to critically think about your career and choose a spouse that will be truly and unconditionally supportive. Culture and family can influence marriage expectations but it is important to know that your spouse will be your support system when it comes to the important things in life. Luma Badran and Dr. Hind Al-Abdaleh reminded the audience that women should “take their time” when it comes to finding a partner and really assess whether that person will complement her career goals.

There are challenges along the way to success- there always will be- but women can slowly and surely break down these barriers by being strong mentally and physically, putting their best foot forward, taking credit for their accomplishments and having a strong support system that will enable them to succeed.

Submitted by Muppies member Samar Warsi