The Women’s Business Network and mentoring

5 May

On Thursday evening, April 23, 2015, the Women’s Business Network (WBN) held its sold out 2014 Businesswoman of the Year Awards (BYA) at the Shaw Centre. Setting the mood for celebration, the aqua and white tapestry of tables, dais and crystal-strung room dividers shaped the open room. The elegant atmosphere of the evening was complimented hues of sunset through the faceted glass that fronts the building.

BYA Gala 2015

The atmosphere was inviting and inclusive. Earlier that evening in the reception area, while sipping from a flute of champagne, I introduced myself to an engaged group of women. They greeted me warmly and included me into their circle of friendship, success, and business experience. This is the kind of welcome I’ve come to expect at our WBN events!

The conversation oscillated from 34-year business careers to how WBN continues to serve as an indispensable mentoring place for businesswomen. Thirty years ago, WBN trailblazers had no mentors, and so this iconic group met and bounced ideas off each other.

Moving on during the reception, I met Judy Richards, owner of Davidson’s Jewellers, and her associate Bonnie Favilla with whom I brought up the same topic, asking who had mentored them, and we discussed the importance of creating a mentoring culture.

BYA Gala Marie BoivinLater during the event, I found out that Judy Richards was actually at the original meeting in 1981 that was held to determine if there was any interest in a group dedicated to women business owners. She, Anne Lal-Da Nada and a few other intrepid entrepreneurs decided to invite like-minded women to join them in the creation of a volunteer-based organization to facilitate networking for businesswomen in Ottawa.

Back in 1981, I had landed my first career job as the first woman sales representative at the French daily Le Droit. At that time, only men sold advertising at Le Droit but soon opportunities for more women in sales arose. It was a pioneering time for women in business – we had to be trailblazers. Amazing, then and for a long time after, banks required business loans to female entrepreneurs be co-signed by their husbands. (!) In such a male-dominated environment, can you imagine the spunk a businesswomen would have had to have to find a mentor?

Today, 34 years later, it’s still not uncommon to find women without a mentor. I was 52 before I reached out to the business community and was fortunate to have Nicole Beaudoin, a successful edge walker in the financial world, become my mentor. I consider myself very lucky to have her in my world. I wish that I’d figured out this mentoring thing much earlier in my career.

BYA 2015 Gala

During the gala, as the awards were announced, I saw how two teenaged girls looked proudly at their mom, Marie Boivin of Accu-rate Corporation and BYA finalist in the Company category. I’m sure that Marie is certainly mentoring her wonderful girls.

BYA Gala 2015 SocialAs well, I saw Genevieve Dowling hugging Caralyn Tierney of Caralyn’s Hair & Wig Design Inc., BYA Entrepreneur of the Year. Genevieve is Caralyn’s mentee and clearly it’s an important relationship to them both.

Being at the WBN gala shows me just how far we’ve come. Looking around the room, I saw all kinds of potential for businesswomen who mentor. Thank you to the trailblazers for the passion and hard work, for co-creating a solid foundation for today’s businesswomen to learn and share their wisdom.

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One Response to “The Women’s Business Network and mentoring”

  1. Dorothy Garlough (@Dorothy771) May 5, 2015 at 20:21 #

    Beautifully written Cam! Mentorship and championing mentorship is key for the advancement of all women!

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