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Women in Leadership Series | Part 1: Tanya Thomson

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Gender diversity in leadership has measurable benefits for organizations and is linked to stronger financial performance, heightened innovation and enhanced client insight. Nevertheless, women continue to be under-represented in leadership positions in virtually every industry. For any issue that defies resolution, we must avoid complacency and open the conversation in order to disrupt the unconscious bias that pervades business environments. In an effort to contribute to the conversation and empower female business leaders, the team at Redstone is excited to release the first segment of a three-part series featuring interviews with three inspirational female leaders.

Meet the first Interviewee…  

Redstone Presents 3 part blog series

What are the key qualities of a successful leader and how did you develop these skills?

First, a leader should have a competitive and driven nature so he/she can motivate their team to deliver the best result. My ability to be a natural leader stems from my background in sports. My Dad competed as a sprint kayaker in the 1984 Olympics and encouraged me to follow his path. I competed on the national kayaking team for Team Canada at the World Juniors, which is the root of my competitive and driven character.

Secondly, from my experience as a coach, I learnt that to be an exceptional leader, you must be flexible in your approach and adapt your leadership style based on each individual’s preference for receiving instruction and feedback. It’s essential to have an open conversation, listen to each individual’s needs and adapt your leadership style accordingly.

What advice can you provide to junior female professionals who are striving to become business leaders?  

Have the confidence to be vocal about your goals and ambitions. When I first graduated from Carleton University, I knew that I wanted to build a career in sponsorship marketing and I had the confidence to be vocal about that goal. At my first position at Boston Pizza as a Regional Marketing Manager, I was keen on transitioning onto the sponsorship team and made a concerted effort to volunteer to offer support to the sponsorship lead and to constantly ask questions, demonstrating that I was eager to learn. It never hurts to put your hand up, this is how you learn and progress to the next role.

In ‘Lean In’, Sheryl Sandberg cites a 2011 study that demonstrates that while men are promoted based on potential, women rely on past accomplishments to progress. What advice can you provide to women who may be dealing with this biased reality?

Try not to compare yourself to others; if you focus on what you can’t control, you’ll always end up dissatisfied. Focus on yourself and your own abilities and do everything in your power to succeed. However, with that being said, I do believe women need to be more bold and push themselves beyond their comfort level. That means put your hand up, take advantage of every opportunity, and be vocal about your ambitions and the unique skills that you can bring to the job. And finally, we all have our own part to play in gender equality. We have to ask and push for promotions and raises, rather than just accepting what’s given (or not given) to us.

The sponsorship marketing / sports business industry is traditionally a male-dominated industry. Have you seen improvements in terms of diversity? What can the industry do to further eliminate barriers?  

The representation of females in the industry is certainly improving, however, the representation of female keynote speakers at forums and conferences is lacking, I believe this is in part due to the unconscious bias that men are more confident in commanding and capturing the attention of audiences. Due to self-doubt, women in the industry are more hesitant than men are to present in front of large audiences. There is a lack of professional development programs that are catered to women and overcoming this unconscious bias. The industry would benefit from courses that cater to women’s need and desire to develop confidence in their personal brand and public speaking abilities.

What advice can you provide to women who may be struggling to strike a balance between the demands of work life and personal life?

Take the time to determine the balance that works for you because everyone is different – understand yourself and your own work ethic and be true to that. When I was fresh in my career, I felt the constant need to prove my worth, determination, and preparedness for the next role. I eventually burnt out and realized that I needed a change because I couldn’t maintain the unrealistic hours that I was working. There’s always more work to be done, but you need to realize the importance of giving yourself a mental break; leave the office and enjoy dinner or a work out in order to clear your mind. You need to give your brain a break and allow yourself the time to relax and have fun.

Redstone would like to extend a sincere thank you to Tanya for participating in this interview. As a group of aspiring female leaders, the team at Redstone is grateful for the opportunity to share the insight offered by an accomplished female leader.

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