Women in Leadership: The Untold Stories

Recently, I took on a new position as Vice President of Consumer Health and Lifestyle here at Argyle. After 15 years in the industry, I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity this presents for our firm and me.

However, being a consultant, leader, colleague, wife, mom, daughter and friend – all at once – can take a toll. Expectations from society and oneself can be both motivating and suffocating. Finding the right balance can make the difference between sinking and swimming.

It’s all coming at a time where leadership is needed more than ever. Our teams are struggling with the same challenges we are and the one thing we all need is authentic leadership, a topic covered by the Scotiabank Women Initiative.

This all takes a huge toll, and a recent study noted that in a COVID-era, ‘burnout is being felt by women at all levels.’ Women have picked up the extra burden at home, forcing many to forego formal employment, even at the most senior levels. And yet, it is a side of women we often don’t see at work.

As International Women’s Day approached, I spoke with a few Argyle clients, all women in communications leadership roles. I wanted to learn about how they manage the all-too-real emotions and struggles and the importance of preventative care in their lives. Preventive care encompasses everything you do, from the food you eat, the exercise you choose, your sleep, stress, and personal time. It all contributes to your present and future health.

The response was overwhelming. These inspiring leaders share insights you won’t find in TED Talks or on bookshelves, but you will see how these women quietly work behind the scenes to manage it all.

On leadership & life challenges

“Two challenges come to mind and both centre on decision-making. The first is around the sheer volume of decisions that need to be made every day and the complexity of those decisions. Working for Facebook, one of the most highly scrutinized companies in the world means that even small decisions can have an outsized impact. I am reading Barack Obama’s book right now, and he talks about “holding the tension of opposites.” Two sides can disagree about something, and both can be right at the same time. In a leadership role, you have to get comfortable choosing the “least bad” option, and that’s hard. No one likes to let people down.”

Meg Sinclair, Corporate Communications, Facebook Canada

“Listen with the goal of learning. If experience has taught me anything, it’s that I don’t have all the answers. Slowing down to hear the perspective of others is critically important to getting a job done well, and this is something I consistently work on.”

Kate Hanna, Associate Director, Communications, Novo Nordisk

“When you are on a management team – you need to understand what keeps your colleagues awake at night, the basics of their function. Otherwise, you are an individual contributor, not a member of a management team.”

Eileen Murphy, Director, Communications, AbbVie Canada

“I want to do it all and be the best for my team and my family. As a woman, I have believed that I can take on the responsibilities and demands of being a CEO while being an amazing wife and mom. Balance looks different for each person. Knowing that I am making a difference in the lives of others is what inspires me to be the best I can be, no matter what I am doing.”

Susan D. Marshall, Chief Executive Officer, Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada

“It is a challenge every single day to walk that line of being a strong woman in a leadership role with a peer group of strong men and to have a voice that is heard. I am a passionate person. I believe that is a good thing, it means I care, but men can often see that as emotional. It’s not fair, but it’s reality, and I wouldn’t change my passion for anything.”
Margot Somerville, Director, Product Marketing & Communications, Crayola Canada

“I find the most challenging aspect of leadership is being true to yourself. We are often pulled in so many different directions. However, if you stay true to yourself and honour what you value, while the choices can still be hard, you lead from a place of truth and alignment with yourself.”


Advice for female leaders

“Surround yourself with female leaders that inspire you and who build collaborative, productive teams. Ask them questions and soak up as much as you can. Personal values are important; identify opportunities that fit with your values. For me, it’s that kindness and strength can exist together. Celebrate your strengths and look for places where you use them often. As a communicator, I take a lot of pride in helping those around me shine; this has led to my own personal growth and development.”
Kate Hanna, Associate Director, Communications, Novo Nordisk

“Guilt is a mindset, something that is very hard to change, but it IS in our power to change. Women often feel guilty about everything – not spending enough time with family, not spending enough time on their career. Once you remove guilt from the equation, you not only forgive yourself, but you live your life with less regret.”

Kulsum Qasim, Chief Marketing Officer, Prodigy Education

“If you have a seat at the table, contribute meaningfully and go beyond your role. How you articulate your ideas and contributions is important. Make time to read and learn about your function, your industry; actually carve out time on your agenda.”

Eileen Murphy, Director, Communications, AbbVie Canada

“I am very fortunate because I have many strong role models and mentors who encouraged and challenged me. While I was learning and developing who I wanted to be as a leader, I was given opportunities to try new things and fail. I encourage other women to take chances, stretch yourself and don’t be afraid to go outside your comfort zone. You will grow in your leadership and as a person.”

Susan D. Marshall, Chief Executive Officer, Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada

“The world needs so many different types of leaders. Having women at the table is so important. We see the world differently, and that perspective is needed. And, if you can find a mentor within your company, another woman in a leadership role that you respect, it is so great to share experiences and knowledge.”
Margot Somerville, Director, Product Marketing & Communications, Crayola Canada

“Look after yourself first, as hard as it may seem. Be your own cheerleader (positive self-talk instead of beating yourself up). Be in a mindset of learning, not knowing.”


Continuing the conversation

Each day, through the work we do, the Argyle team has the privilege of partnering with clients who seek to make a real impact on their organizations, their communities and their world. From fostering disease understanding to highlighting the importance of preventative care and a balanced lifestyle, it all starts with communication and conversation.

Health matters, and you are your own best advocate! Let’s chat if you’re interested in learning more about today’s top health and lifestyle news, experts and trends.

About the Author

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