As public servants working with the business community, it is critical that we understand the needs of our key stakeholders and structure our work to help them achieve their business goals.
One of our priorities in this branch is advancing the success of business women in trade. To do that, we need to ensure we reach out to our multifaceted client group in different business sectors, in all regions of Canada. Networking in the government-business relationship is key.
Over the course of my career in government, I have always interfaced with the business community—from my time at Public Works, to Government Services, to Industry Canada and now at International Trade. Those positions were all focused on programs and services for the business community.
At International Trade, I’ve been privileged to work for a truly dedicated and successful group of Canadian entrepreneurs. Helping women succeed is what I am about, and I feel fortunate to work with a passionate and hardworking team. I am really proud of what we deliver every day to our clients!
I am also very proud to have played a major role in bringing supplier diversity certification to women-owned businesses in Canada. Bringing principles of diversity and inclusion to business and the workplace is increasingly being identified as critical. In that capacity I have worked with NGOs such as WEConnect, regional organizations such as the Newfoundland and Labrador Organization of Women Entrepreneurs (NLOWE), and the Organization of Women in International Trade (OWIT). They have done excellent work in promoting the interests of business women.
Building alliances with other organizations—whether nonprofit, for profit, or other government departments—has proved effective and been instrumental in building strong partnerships to help leverage the work of women-owned business. With 48 percent of small and medium enterprises led by women, this represents an important segment of the Canadian economy.
On the Importance of Doing the Inner Work
It is rewarding when you see companies growing their business as a result of our contribution. However, our contributions should go beyond our nine-to-five day. I firmly believe in paying it forward. I was one of the founding members of an OWIT Chapter in Ottawa, and I am pleased to say that the chapter is thriving.
I would strongly encourage women to give back to their community. We all have much knowledge and experience that can be used to help volunteer organizations who sometimes cannot afford to pay outside consultants. The rewards of volunteering are powerful and priceless!
On Knowing When and How to Make the Leap
In most cases, you never know where your career will lead, and often opportunities present themselves when you aren’t expecting them. I play women’s hockey, and as a hockey player, one of the things we have to look for is “open ice” When we see it, we have to take it and make the move. That’s kind of the way it has been in my career.
I’ve always been focused on networking and building relationships with clients in business. Many in government never get that opportunity. When I was asked to take on the businesswomen’s file for the department, I questioned why a program had to be tailored exclusively to women. The more I delved into it, the more I realized that women are an important part of the Canadian business landscape. The statistics are staggering—48 percent of small and medium-sized enterprises in Canada are wholly or partially owned by women, women are starting businesses at twice the rate of men, and 40 percent of their sales are generated via foreign markets.
I started my career in human resources. I’m a little surprised that I have ended up working with businesses. I really found my niche. Working with external client groups, such as business women in trade, is so rewarding and fulfilling. I have found working with business people to be most energizing. They are, of course, the backbone of our economy. They are also real people with real challenges, who are focused on growing their businesses. They do so in a professional and respectful manner and are a pleasure to work with and for. In the end, Canada benefits from the jobs and other contributions they make to our GDP.
On Finding Success and Staying Competitive
It is important to focus on delivering the services that our clients want. In my case, it is what we can do to help businesswomen grow their business internationally by focusing on opportunities in other countries via trade missions and other efforts. Assisting businesswomen in tapping into supplier diversity programs in the US, and generally growing their business network beyond their local communities and provinces has played a major role in facilitating growth and opening new avenues of trade.
Women business owners in Canada are making major strides internationally. It gives me great satisfaction to know that the program I manage plays a role in their success. We also need to be mindful of staying current with the trends. Last year we launched a LinkedIn group for Canadian businesswomen. It has proved to be a powerful interactive venue that enables entrepreneurs to connect with other like-minded members to share information, successes, and opportunities.
On the Importance of Role Models and Mentors
Early in my career as a public servant, I worked for several years as an executive assistant to a deputy minister (Georgina Wyman) who happened to also be a women. She was one of the first women deputy ministers in the Canadian Federal Government, and she was only in her early 40s. She showed that she could hold her own in a male-dominated environment—running one of the largest federal government departments in Ottawa while making time for her family and raising two young children. She went on to run a large, widely recognized multinational corporation based in Europe. She demonstrated that you can make a difference if you apply yourself to the task at hand.
When you have an idea that makes sense, see it through to the end and don’t let naysayers put up roadblocks. I was raised in a family of three kids by a first-generation immigrant mom from Denmark and a French-Canadian dad. My parents taught me from a young age to be independent, follow my heart, take chances along the way, and that the sky’s the limit! It was a good foundation that I try to carry on with my children.
On Facing Challenges
The hardest challenge has been dealing with people who don’t have the same passion and vision that I do related to work. People who know me know that I don’t like the words “no” or “can’t.” It’s my commitment to action. I live by the Nike slogan “Just Do It.”
Josie’s Advice to Young Women Starting Careers
It is important to make up your mind as to what you want in your life—a successful career, a sound family life, or both. If both, be cognizant there will have to be some sacrifices. I firmly believe that you can still have both—I have. I have a supportive husband and three wonderful kids.
Are there days when things get too crazy, and you wonder how you are going to get through it? Sure. Remember, we are women. We can juggle and multitask! And, as with everything, compromises have to be made.