Saturday, March 17th

Saturday, March 17th

Name + title: Judy Thomson, CA, Chief Operating Officer, Shepa Learning Company
Vice-chair, Women’s Leadership Circle Advisory Council, Director, Women’s Enterprise Centre


Why it's important for women to support one another: When women support each other we have a stronger voice to facilitate change. And, since we are globally connected, that support can come from anywhere in the world, which makes it even more powerful.  In BC and Canada, we are fortunate to have so many amazing women’s organizations that provide the infrastructure and information to support women in achieving career success. And though these organizations do great work, we need to continue to bring more men into the dialogue. For example when research organizations such as Catalyst bring out their studies on how women in the C-suite and at the board level make a substantial positive impact on the bottom line, the room is often filled with women. We know this stuff; we have seen the research. Let’s bring more male leaders into these conversations. Change will happen faster when we know each other better.

How Judy is making a difference: My passion to support women began over thirty years ago when I was articling to become a chartered accountant. Most of my colleagues were men, so I recognized the importance and need for women role models and champions. I spent twelve years in that industry, recruiting and mentoring many women in both the professional and administrative side of the business.

Today, my business partner, Gayle Hallgren-Rezac, and I teach the skills of connecting and conversation and we have a passion to help women build networks that are diverse, rich, supportive and strategic. We have had the privilege of working with groups such as the Women's Series at Microsoft, Women’s Executive Network (WXN), Organization of Women in International Trade (OWIT), and the TELUS women’s network: Connections.While women have natural skills as team builders, we see two areas that women still need to work on—to make it a priority to build their network and finding the time to do it. When there is an opportunity to go to a luncheon networking event, women often look at what’s left on their to-do list and decide it is much better for their career (and sanity) to stay at the office and get more done. But, we know from research that those face-to-face connections are the most powerful as it is how rapport is built and how a woman raises her profile. Trust us, men get up from their desk and go.

Since its inception five years ago, I have been Vice-Chair of The Vancouver Board of Trade’s Women’s Leadership Circle® (WLC) and had the opportunity to work with a fantastic group of women (and men) who want to help women succeed and make a difference. At the WLC, Gayle and I offered our All Access™ events to stimulate dialogue. Instead of listening to a ‘talking head’,the attendees at the tables do the talking and everyone participates. We pick a topic, everything from ‘what have you feared, and how have you overcome it’ to ‘what have you rebelled against in the past and are rebelling against now’. The collective wisdom that is shared is powerful and inspiring. We also introduced the concept of WLC tables, hosted by a WLC Advisory Council member so women who want to attend events, but may be attending solo, have a safe ‘landing pad’ and can join a table of dynamic women businesspeople.

Since 2008, I have been a director of the Women’s Enterprise Centre, an incredible organization that has assisted over 50,000 B.C. women start, grow and succeed in their small business.You can read some inspiring success stories on the website.

Words to live by: Madeleine Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State, once said: “There is a special place in hell for women who don't help other women.”   While those are strong words from Madeleine Albright I think they are an excellent reminder of the things that we can do to support other women. I believe we could all make more of an effort to have a ‘show of force’ when successful women leaders are speaking.

“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” –Maya Angelou.  This is a quote we often share with our networking workshop participants, because it is such good advice.

Judy's recommends: We are very lucky to have so many terrific women’s groups in this city such as YWIB, FWE, PWN and WLC. The Women’s Enterprise Centre has done a great job to help women in this province to start, grow and build their businesses, through mentoring, skills development and business loans.


How Remarkable Women Lead by Joanna Barsh and Susie Cranston.  Their centered leadership model which focuses on Positive Framing, Connecting, Engaging, Meaning and Managing Energy is a great one for women (and men) to incorporate into their lives.

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