Today young women from across the Lower Mainland and beyond gathered at the Hyatt Regency for the second day of Beyond Pink, a two-day conference organized by Young Women in Business. I was lucky enough to attend the all-male panel at lunch along with media and bloggers covering the event live. Just before the panel discussion began, organizers invited us for a quick private Q&A with panel members.
From left to right: Matt Corker, Cameron Herold, Phillipe Desrochers, Mike Desjardins, Bob Elton.
The panel included:
- Chris Flett, founder of Ghost CEO, who advised women to ask for what they want
- Bob Elton, CEO of BC Hydro, who acknowledged that there are still issues women face in the workplace
- Mike Desjardins of ViRTUS, whose involvement with Beyond Pink stems from a desire to impart his own insights as an inspiration and a mentor
- Cameron Herold, founder of Backpocket COO, whose main message was "The past is history--get over it"
- Jason Pires, weekend sportscaster with CTV, who spoke encouragingly of the opportunities in media for women
- Matt Corker, alumni relations manager for UBC's faculty of science, who maintained that women have more to offer in the workplace than merely their gender
...feminism and the struggle for equality?
Chris Herold: "Get over it." Namely, activism and the aggressive, public struggle for equality were things of the past and women should move on. Nowadays, such politicized rhetoric actually impedes businesses rather than helping achieve results.
...achieving work-life balance?
Bob Elton: "In a large company, they define a job in a way that excludes a lot of people." The old 9-to-5 regimen won't work for employees who are increasingly focused on quality of life and priorities outside of their jobs. Companies will have to catch up to the times to retain their skilled workers, particularly female workers who value work-life balance.
...the impact of pregnancy and maternity leave on a woman's long-term career prospects?
Cameron Herold and Chris Flett both agreed that pregnancy should not impede career growth as long as women plan for it professionally. In Flett's words, "You can have a family if and only if it doesn't affect your boss." Both men advised women to be upfront in speaking with their managers and to make concrete plans for how their workload will be handled in their absence.
...how an ambitious woman can avoid the "bitch" label?
Matt Corker argued that being called a bitch or dragon lady isn't exclusive to women--men who excel in business are called assholes and derided, but the difference is that men have had centuries to get used to it whereas women are just dealing with it now. Meanwhile, Flett offered these words of wisdom: "Aggressive and assertive are not the same thing. Passive means you’re going to be someone’s bitch. Aggressive means someone who’s scared of being passive and so they get in people’s faces. An assertive woman is the most powerful type of person in business."
...why women are consistently paid less than men for the same job?
Almost all panelists agreed that women won't speak up for themselves or ask for raises whereas men do. Said Flett, "The reason why women make less is because they’ll work for less. When you stop accepting less is when you’ll get more."
...breaking into the old boys' club?
The panelists stressed being intelligent, knowledgeable about what you do, not playing the sexuality card, and building relationships with members of both sexes.
Bloggers tweeting and live-blogging at Beyond Pink, from left to right: Rebecca Bolwitt, Ishra Sharif, and Sunny Shum.
There were many more insightful comments made during the panel session, too many to relay all of them here. A big thank you to YWiB and Beyond Pink's organizers for inviting me to an invaluable learning experience!