Leadership: through one woman’s lens

In response to Keith Gerein’s article on June 1st, I feel compelled to speak up. Obviously, I’m disappointed with how I was portrayed as a female candidate. Keith is right, ambitious women often face unfair backlash.  

I shouldn’t have to write this and I certainly shouldn’t have to defend the choices I’ve made to better our city and grow our tech sector. When you’re committed to making hard decisions, you encounter resistance and oftentimes you encounter sexism. It’s not as rare as it should be. As a woman in leadership, you can prove your worth through your ambition, drive for results, deliver impact to a business and lead high-performing teams. And still, in some environments, you have to work harder than men to get credit for your accomplishments. 

From my experience, this is more prevalent in public-facing roles. It can be exhausting and discouraging. There’s a long list of women who have done it before me and are doing it now. I won’t stop fighting for the right choices (even when they aren’t popular), and I won’t stop fighting to build a city that works for all Edmontonians. Because that’s what it’s all about. You. I’m working for you and with you because this is the most meaningful way I can give back to my city.

I never imagined having this life. I come from humble beginnings. I was born here and grew up in the community of Beverly. Like so many Edmontonians, I know what it’s like to not have a voice, to not have choices. I didn’t go to post-secondary because it was simply not an option for me and because of that I learned many things the hard way and that taught me perseverance. 

I’ve worked hard my entire life, accepting help along the way and in return lifting others up. Making mistakes, taking responsibility for them, and learning through the failures taught me resiliency. I learned the importance of leading with a clear vision and making tough choices with transparency and humility.  This taught me to be accountable to those you serve. 

I built my career through opportunity. My past 20 years of work experience has been centered around tech innovation, strategic business transformation, and helping small businesses succeed in both private and public sectors. This began at IBM in the late 90s. I managed their real estate assets through Y2K. After that, tech giant Intuit recruited me to a team building a ‘first of its kind in Edmonton’ Silicon Valley tech campus. I went on to be part of a small team leading Intuit’s global expansion. I’ve created and led teams in 6 countries and built brand recognition and customer loyalty from nothing to market leadership.  

After 15 years with Intuit, I was faced with a decision to go to Silicon Valley or stay in Edmonton. I stayed. I joined the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation and recognized the need to catalyze our future economy, worked to transform the mandate of my team, and founded a division called Innovate Edmonton. 

Through our work, we raised the awareness of our city’s technology and innovation strengths, delivered programs that helped entrepreneurs create, grow and scale successful companies creating hundreds of new jobs. We came together as a community and co-created the YEG Innovation Compass - Edmonton’s Innovation Action plan and formed the Alberta Innovation Corridor, a first-of-its-kind partnership between Edmonton and Calgary. As a result of our success, I am one of the few Canadians to sit on the Startup Genome global innovation policy advisory group to share our learnings with other global leaders.

And yes, along the way I have made difficult decisions. Decisions that I’m sure, have angered people with vested interests. But isn’t that the point of being a leader? Making the tough choices that no one else wants to make? I have built my career on being a collaborative leader, but that doesn’t mean making everyone happy.  

I am proud of my career and the life I have built. I am proud of the example I am setting for my own daughters and other young women coming up beside me. And when anyone asks why we need to uplift women, I’ll reply that we need to think of those without voice and privilege that need a hand up. That’s who I stand for. 

I truly believe in Edmonton. This city has the potential to be a place that people from all walks of life enthusiastically choose, to plant roots and grow for years to come. Together, we can make Edmonton a city that works for all of us.

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