By Jennifer Bessell
As I sit at my computer, contemplating what to write, I can’t help but feel as though I am harkening back to my school days and preparing to write an essay . . . something along the lines of “What Leadership Means to Me.”
Women in leadership has been a hot topic lately, and with good reason. You do not need to look very far to see some amazing women stepping up in leadership roles and paving the way for women leaders, innovators, and influencers. Women leaders in business, politics, and community engagement are changing how we interact as a local and global community - and that is good news.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is an excellent example of a fierce leader who embodies both strength and compassion. Vice President–Elect Kamala Harris demonstrates that while there are still “firsts” to be reached, grace and grit will ensure success if we keep persevering. And closer to home, we have been inspired by the level-headed leadership shown by Dr. Janice Fitzgerald as she guides us through this unprecedented global pandemic.
With so many women to admire and celebrate for their leadership, it baffles me that there is still so much work to be done. Despite the evidence demonstrating that companies perform better and achieve greater success when they embrace diversity at senior management levels, women are still vastly under-represented in corporate Canada.
Limited access to networks and role models has been identified as one of many barriers for both women in leadership and women entrepreneurs. Women need mentors. Women need champions. Women need strong examples and advocates who will continue to inspire and pave the way for advancement.
Too often, we neglect to celebrate the wins in favour of focusing on all that lies ahead. Yes, we need to increase access to funding for women looking to start and grow their businesses. And yes, we need to encourage the private sector to embrace diversity and commit to programs that will propel more women into executive and leadership roles. We need to remain vigilant in fighting both conscious and unconscious bias and gender stereotypes.
We also need to celebrate the wins!
Recently NLOWE presented awards to seven remarkable women at our NLOWE Entrepreneur of the Year Awards. These women represent grit, perseverance, talent, and bravery. These are our mentors and role models. These are the women who will inspire others, often without even realizing it.
That is why NLOWE’s Entrepreneur of the Year Awards event is so much more than just a feel-good news story. We need to celebrate the achievements of the phenomenal women business leaders all around us. We need to make space to tell and share their stories. We need to listen and learn from them, even while they listen and learn from one another.
These women, and many more just like them, are out there achieving great things and blazing trails for others to follow. There is still a lot of work to be done - let us remind everyone of that fact by celebrating success . . . loudly.
Jennifer Bessell, Chief Executive Officer at NLOWE, is passionate about assisting women and youth in realizing their entrepreneurial ambitions. Jennifer is vice-chair of the Women’s Enterprise Organizations of Canada (WEOC) and enjoys volunteering as an advisor for the Company Program with Junior Achievement NL.