It’s been an anomaly year!
Due mostly (not exclusively) to the lockdowns and other impacts of the pandemic, this has been a challenging year for Calgary business – as well as for Axis Connects, the Calgary non-profit established to connect, collaborate, champion and provide career development resources for women in Calgary.
“Our mandate is to strengthen diverse representation in Calgary decision-making roles and to unite more than 115 organizations focused on women’s initiatives,” explains the gung-ho Heather Culbert, board chair of Axis Connects and the CIWB Awards as well as vice-chair of Export Development Canada (EDC).
She is positive and upbeat about the increase of women in Calgary decision making roles. “The impact of diversification is demonstrated through the business results and success of the women we celebrated with the annual CIWB (Calgary Influential Women in Business) Awards.
“Of course, this year’s event had to be virtual and live streamed in mid June, but, led by the two CIWB presenting sponsors, National Bank and TransAlta, five outstanding female business leaders and one male champion were recognized in six CIWB categories.
Lifetime Achievement Dr. Elizabeth Cannon, board director and president Emerita, University of Calgary.
“The resilience of Calgary business owners across the spectrum is inspiring, particularly during the pandemic, speaks to the entrepreneurial spirit that is at the core of what makes Calgary a great city. The pace of new tech companies starting up here is amazing, and the creation of some unicorns playing on the international stage, which will increasingly be part of our economic ecosystem in the future.
“Over the past few years, the emergence of women founded and led Calgary companies has accelerated, and it bodes well for our city’s future. Numerous companies with a strong tech focus have emerged with great female leadership.
“Alberta is punching above its weight nationally in female-founded tech startups, and this has provided an expanded pathway for women to help shape Calgary’s economic diversification.”
Professional Services Melinda Park, partner, Securities and Capital Markets and past chair, Borden Ladner Gervais LLP.
“I have always believed strongly in the creativity that is deeply embedded in the Calgary business psyche. Calgary is having a strong post-pandemic recovery and one of the keys is harnessing the skills and enthusiasm of our young, the ones fairly new to the workforce. They will be the enablers of new and interesting ways of conducting business.
“Women have been making great contributions to Calgary business for many years and Calgary business is fortunate to have a strong and vibrant source of women – too often ‘under the radar’ and ‘out of the limelight’ – in many industry sectors. The more visible that women become and show themselves as industry leaders, the easier it is to normalize our involvement.
“Women helping women is visibility in a meaningful way. Support groups, such as Axios Connects, recognize the skills, expertise and talents that women provide in the workplace.
Large Enterprise Denise Man, chief technology officer, ATB Financial
“Looking past the pandemic, the future is bright! Although the economic recovery will still have its share of challenges, the pandemic has also shown us is that, in these times of crisis, as a community, not only have we been forged under the hottest of fires, but we continue to prove that the intersection of disruption and innovation happens best when diverse voices are at the table, so there is no better time than now for underrepresented groups to help lead our recovery and future.
“Over recent years, we have seen a meaningful increase in women representation on Calgary’s corporate boards and senior leadership positions across Alberta’s prominent sectors, including energy, health, finance and technology.
“Unequivocally, the Calgary business community is putting their full support behind eliminating systemic barriers and advancing diversity and inclusion to ensure a brighter, more equitable future for all Calgarians.”
Social Enterprise Salima Stanley-Bhanji, CEO, Humainologie
“The pandemic has had far-reaching effects on so many facets of Calgary life. So much challenge and so much hardship. But it has also brought levels of agility and resilience that I don’t think we knew we had. It’s a strength moving forward for our businesses, our people and our community. We have also seen the burgeoning of creativity, witnessing of Calgary’s entrepreneurial spirit and resilience.
“As our business community becomes more inclusive, not just in the case of women but for people from all walks of life, we create better conditions for all Calgarians to be able to contribute to the success and vibrancy of our city. The diverse views, approaches and experiences that come not just from different expressions of gender, but also other varied facets of our identities, are critical to the business sector’s ability to understand and serve our increasingly diverse community.
“The network of Calgary women who contribute to the business community and Calgary life are talented communicators who are compassionate, take a human-centred approach and have the capacity to lead Calgary into an era of promise, post-pandemic and beyond.”
Male Champion Jim Davidson, co-founder, FirstEnergy Capital and board member ATB Financial and Topaz Energy Corp.
“After a prolonged period of darkness caused by a severe downturn in the energy sector and exacerbated by the pandemic, we are finally seeing the sun rise over the province again. We not only survived but are rebuilding ourselves, demonstrating our resilience and ability to adapt.
“People are regaining our innate sense of optimism and looking to the future with less trepidation. It is still the best province to live in and better days are ahead.
“I’m impressed by the way women have pivoted to address the pandemic and juggled their many responsibilities during the rollercoaster of rule changes, while still performing well in their careers. Their ability to adapt so seamlessly never ceases to amaze me. It is another example of their leadership qualities.”
Small and Medium Enterprise Alice Reimer, CEO, Fillip and site lead, Creative Destruction Lab-Rockies
“Women are impacting business through ambitious innovation and by bringing diverse perspectives and experiences to the table. As more diverse perspectives find voice in the room, every business benefits. A byproduct of the increase in women in the workforce, entrepreneurship and in leadership positions is a natural diversification where women are finding growth opportunities in new, non-traditional Alberta sectors.
“Some examples: 28 per cent of Calgary’s tech startups are founded or co-founded by women. Women make up over 35 per cent of leadership positions and 37 per cent of all self-employed roles. By 2030, women in Canada will have 65 per cent of the nation’s wealth. Slowly, we’re starting to see businesses recognize the economic power of women.”
“Women are also changing the way we work, between finding affordable childcare and dealing with the impact of COVID, we’re seeing many women choose entrepreneurship as a flexible, non-traditional alternative to the conventional 9-5 job. Women need flexibility and are carving out their own spaces.”
The speedbump of the virtual award ceremony doesn’t deter Heather Cuthbert’s enthusiasm. “Profiling the CIWB recipients creates awareness about the high quality of Calgary’s female leadership and inspires others to come forward and be recognized, so we can celebrate our leaders and the diversity of Calgary workplaces.
“Calgary needs to use the innovation and agility that we have leveraged throughout COVID to radicalize the traditional work place to one with improved flexibility, technologies and policies that will embrace and recognize the qualities and value that women bring to the workplace,” she points out.
“This is a huge opportunity for Calgary to once again demonstrate leadership and our ability to adapt and realize the new reality and redefine the future of work.