BLOG: Women in the workplace – why it counts
By Tanya Wick
By Tanya Wick
Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of blogs about women in the forestry workforce written by Tanya Wick, vice-president of people and services at Tolko Industries. Follow along as CFI publishes a new edition of Tanya’s blog on the last Monday of each month.
It’s not a new idea. Industries from tech to mining and electricity to forestry are talking about the need to increase numbers of female employees. There are solid reasons businesses need to be more attractive employers to women. At Tolko, our female employees have higher engagement at work, have established strong working relationships based on collaboration and trust, and are great ambassadors for the company. And, like all diversity, women enhance our workplace with different perspectives, work styles and ideas. As we continue to attract the brightest and best, we need to create a culture that is appealing to a broad range of potential employees.
There are many reasons why Tolko has developed a Women Strategy. But, truthfully, none of those reasons are why I’m so passionate about this project. As we have been setting our plans in motion and seeing the successes, I’ve felt reenergized in my job. The thought of seeing my colleagues empowered to build full, enriching careers is exciting for me, and enormously rewarding.
I see incredible potential in the women at Tolko and I am excited by the possibility of drawing more smart, talented women to our ranks. My goal is to ensure our workplace provides a safe environment with the right tools for every woman to reach her own potential.
I’ve been reflecting on the qualities I admire most in my female colleagues, both at Tolko and throughout my career. There is no magic formula, but here are a few things women can do based on some characteristics of empowered women as I’ve observed.
Own your experience
Ask for what you need. You never know, you might get it! Is there a course you want to take? Ask. Do you need a more flexible schedule? Ask. I’ve observed a tendency for some women to wait to be asked if they need help. When we don’t speak up, it can be interpreted that everything is going well. In reality, it can mean we don’t know how to ask. Take a risk and ask for what you need.
Honour yourself more. Your perspective may be different. That’s a good thing! Honour your own experience and qualities. As an individual, you bring unique talents. The more those show up at work, the stronger you are and the stronger we all are.
You will make mistakes. Expect it. When it happens, acknowledge it and move on. It’s not the failure that’s most important, it’s how you recover. No one is expecting you to be perfect.
Follow your arrow
Clarify for yourself what your values and boundaries are, and then stay true to them. There will always be critics and those with different opinions. That’s what makes life rich. Be specific about what matters to you and keep your attention there.
Know your strengths and weaknesses and get comfortable with them. For many women, we have an easy time pointing out our weaknesses but a difficult time talking about what we’re good at. The plain truth is everyone has strengths, and everyone has weaknesses. Make a list of yours. Be neutral about both and be deliberate as you look for ways to maximize strengths and build on weaknesses.
Find the balance that works for you. We all spend a large part of our lives at work. What do you need to do to make your life the most productive and meaningful it can be for you?
Develop a relationship with fear
In order to grow, we need to be a little uncomfortable. Every time you decide to apply for a new job, ask for a raise, speak publicly – you’re going to be scared. That’s okay. Accept it. Expect it. And then take a deep breath and keep going. If you want to move past the status quo, at some point you must be a bit uncomfortable.
Get clear on what you want
The more you understand your own internal motivation, the more meaningful your results will be. When you know what you want, you naturally shift from complacency to engagement. The rewards become more personal and lasting. Don’t wait for external recognition. If you think back on moments of growth and success in your life, they are most often connected to a deeply held personal goal.
Once you know what you want, take action. Don’t wait for things to shift on their own – do it. Ask for support and own your space.
Empower other women
It’s time we all shift from me to us. That includes me, and I hope Tolko holds me accountable to this promise. I have found real satisfaction in helping and supporting other women to achieve their goals. Look around. Who do you see that could use what you have to offer? It can be as career changing as becoming someone’s sponsor or mentor, or as simple as extending an invitation to a new colleague. Actively seek ways to support each other.
Imagine for a minute being in a workplace where everyone felt empowered. Imagine how that individual confidence would spark opportunity for collaboration and improve the odds of shared success. Together we can achieve something greater, for ourselves, for each other and for our company.
Tanya Wick is the vice-president of people and services at Tolko. This blog was originally published April 18, 2017. Republished with permission.