McGill’s very own Desautels Women in Business (DWIB) held their Second Annual National Women in Business Conference on March 20th 2015. For those of us who may not know, DWIB is a student-led organization at McGill that ‘serves as a liaison between the female management student body and the corporate industry’.
A full day of listening to engaging keynote speakers, being inspired by fun and informative breakout sessions, and meeting empowering personalities made it an event that was not to be missed.
Some of us Her Campus writers attended the conference, held at Hotel Omni Mont-Royal. Among the keynote speakers were Executive Vice President for Client Strategy & People Development at National Bank Financial in Toronto, Susan Monteith. She kicked off the conference with an excellent message: as women in the male-dominated corporate world, one should work to achieve maximum potential by being visible, being vocal and speaking up, and by not giving up.
Other inspiring keynote speakers included the Consulate General of the U.S. in Montreal, Nina Maria Frite, and Catalyst Canada’s Regional Director for Quebec & the Atlantic, Coleen MacKinnon. These beautiful, ambitious and successful women set the bar high for all the other speakers at the breakout sessions.
There were three breakout sessions in total, each representing three corporate industries—from Finance and Marketing, to Big Data and Media, there was something to be learned for everyone. The breakout sessions were in the form of a question and answer panel of three to five women representing their company, with a member of DWIB who served as interviewer. Questions ranged from personal to advice-seeking, and participants (ourselves) were allowed to ask a few questions afterwards. Of course, if you found someone on the panel interesting, you could seek them out later for one-on-one questions and conversations.
At the Marketing session, I was immediately struck by the fun and intense personality that is Diane Ridgway-Cross of the marketing agency Marketel. A mother of two and an expert in marketing to women, Diane’s main advice was to “create your own space and personality”. As the only female in a senior position of her company, she learned that to thrive and survive in her position, she had to “figure out how to play the game, but also know what leadership looks like in my own way.” She emphasized that staying true to herself in the dog-eat-dog world was one of the most important ways to stay afloat and relevant.
Priya Kaliandasani was another equally striking individual. Young, ambitious and self-aware, the Multiplatform Media Strategist for Rogers Media spoke with a sparkle in her eye and a true passion for innovative advertising. She told her story about her quick climb—from arriving in Montreal with zero connections, to networking her way through the fashion industry and finally landing her coveted job advertising for Rogers Media.
The truly inspiring women, however, in my opinion, were the ones speaking at the Start-Ups breakout session: Jaimie Auger of Pvisio, Noemie Dupuy of Budge Studios, and Anne Marie Pacquette.
When asked about the things people should know before starting a business, Noemie said about her work as Co-CEO and Founding Partner at her app development company Budge Studios, “For fifteen years, I have never ever worked an hour after 5, or on weekends. Just because you work long hours doesn’t mean you are being productive.” She debunked the myth that to run your own business, you need to be a workaholic. “Striking the work-life balance was important to me, so I listened to my needs.”
Anne Marie Pacquette pushed the importance of “surrounding yourself with A-players (these being colleagues, friends, family).” Her most resonating message: “Going in alone is not an option.”
After the two breakout sessions, lunch was served. Chicken thigh and vegetable purée was followed by a perfectly flame-torched crème brulee. I can confidently say that if next year’s conference is at Hotel Omni, the food, if not the speakers, is a great incentive to attend!
Other speakers that were present included Aphrodite Salas of CTV Montreal, Senior Editor at Air Canada’s enRoute magazine Laura Obsborne, Senior VP at Rudsak Jaimie Goulakos, and Lisa Noto of her self-named beauty products company, among many others.
As the conference came to a close, participants engaged in ten-minute roundtable networking sessions with several speakers. These allowed participants to ask more personal or in-depth questions about the companies the speakers represented, from possible internship opportunities, to their most difficult experiences as a woman in the corporate world.
To wrap up a successful day of networking with corporate superheroes, us Her Campus girls were thrilled to hear that there would be raffles and prizes to be won (we do love our giveaways)! Prizes included a Rudsak handbag, David’s Tea, Mural facials, and a one-night stay at the Hotel Omni Mont-Royal—we couldn’t have been more excited.
Did I mention every participant received a swag bag too?
The National Women in Business Conference 2015 was a success in every way. Events such as this are crucial for the collegiette, and this is why: learning that being a woman should never hinder ambition, and that following your dreams as a woman has never been more accepted or encouraged in society as it is today – this is is something you don’t learn in your lectures. Professors don’t emphasize it, textbooks don’t teach it, and exams don’t test for it. The best way to learn how to realize your potential in a (unfortunately, still) male-majority corporate world, is to learn from experience. Because experience is something not a lot of undergraduates have, we must learn it from those who have been at the bottom, and know now what it’s like at the top.
Images obtained from:
and author’s own.