My name is Joanne and I help women embrace their power

My name is Joanne and I’ve been a boss since I was a little girl. I grew up on a farm in rural Manitoba, where I routinely put my little brother and the kid across the road to work on projects I would dream up. But I was always a different boss from those I encountered when I actually started working. My leadership style was rooted in a recognition that every person brought their own strengths, weaknesses, and lived experience to a job. I recognized that it was my job to help them grow into excellence – by meeting them where they were, and walking beside them as they grew.

My favorite thing in the world is helping highly-empathetic women spread their wings and fly. The truth is that women experience different leadership challenges than men. We need to learn how to leverage our empathy in negotiations and partnerships, to effectively lead teams that we formerly were members of, and to make and communicate difficult decisions. We need safe spaces where we can explore what leadership means and try on different strategies to learn what works best for us. Although we naturally wear our hearts on our sleeves, we need to define our boundaries with kindness to ensure our teams see us as leaders, while still appreciating our embodied approach to leadership.

A long and rewarding career in service

I spent the first 20 years of my career in the public service. I started at the very bottom, climbing my way patiently to my dream role as the executive leader responsible for transforming the culture of the entire Manitoba public service. Throughout my journey, I had many incredible leaders who encouraged me to take risks, challenged me when I became complacent, and always had my back.

I remember those leaders with fondness, because there were even more who occupied seats of power and privilege because they played the game, leveraged their position for their own gain, and benefitted from ambitious women like me who believed I needed to remain humble and grateful to earn a space at their table. In most cases, these people were old white guys in identical black suits.

Although I’d love to say that the power, politics, and privilege was only leveraged by old white guys, it broke my heart to see many of the female leaders I had looked up to (from a distance) leading in this same way.

Your leadership style is shaped by your experiences

I know those women came through the same sexist ranks that I did. They endured mansplaining, bias in opportunities, and misogynistic remarks that made them work twice as hard as their male colleagues – just for that next promotion. Some of them turned out like me. They came through a demoralizing system and vowed to use their power to change it. Sadly, as you may have experienced, some of them took a different path.

As I look back at the first half of my career, I observe that I had as many great female leaders as I did male leaders (to be clear, I have never had the privilege of working for an openly transgender or non-binary leader…yet). Sadly, the vast majority of my terrible leaders were women.

The truth is, until boardroom tables are comprised of all of the genders that exist in our world, bias will continue to be prevalent throughout the systems that those boards govern. I believe deeply in diversity, equity, and inclusion training. But I believe even more deeply in deliberate recruitment to get diversity in those seats as soon as possible.

My job is helping you be ready

One of the greatest challenges women leaders face is reconciling what they know to be true about leadership with the cultural norms in their organizations. They sit around tables with mostly male colleagues who lead in a command and control style, consume all the air in the room, and demand aligned behaviour.

The irony is that contemporary leadership training teaches the skills that come naturally to women. It focuses on core values. It helps men grow in their empathy toward others. But this is not what women need. We already operate from strong core values. We have been socialized from the time that we were little to be empathetic and compassionate.

We make terrific natural leaders.

We just need to develop the confidence, knowledge and strategies necessary to lead with conviction.

Blue sky wihs a few whispy clouds

It’s time to change the world

The world will be a better place when ambitious and empathetic women take their seats at the boardroom table. We need to create mores spaces at those tables, and we need to build new boardroom tables that prioritize spaces for diverse voices who care deeply about improving the lives of others.