Women, Wine and Wisdom: Being Bold Recap
Women, Wine and Wisdom: Being Bold, co-hosted with the Ottawa Business Journal (OBJ), brings together women within the Ottawa business community to create connections, take part in candid conversations, and share their authentic stories.
Ahead of dinner, Sueling Ching, President and CEO of the Ottawa Board of Trade, and the night’s host and moderator, welcomed guests at the 9th edition of the event on May 3rd at the Brookstreet Hotel. In her opening remarks she highlighted a warning from the United Nations Secretary General, that gender equality is 300 years away and progress towards gender equality is vanishing before our eyes. These last three years, we engaged in a real life experiment to confirm where the burden of care and domestic responsibilities remains, despite women working full time for less pay, running businesses with less than 4% of the capital and representing a small percentage of leadership roles. And this is just in first world countries. She closed by saying, “The future is uncertain - but one thing is without question. We need women who are bold, ambitious, live fully, possess the will to lead and the ability to make a difference, more than ever. Tonight is about sharing stories and having conversations about the role and responsibility each of us has to advance equality.”
Following the meal, Michael Curran, Publisher of OBJ, introduced our panelists, Jenna Sudds MP for Kanata-Carleton and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth, Priya Bhaloo, COO of TAG HR, and Solange Tuyishime, President and CEO of Elevate International.
The panel kicked things off by sharing a bit about themselves and their stories. While each was unique a common thread among them was the desire to do more.
After a career in the public sector and having her children, Jenna expressed the need to do more. If she was going to be away from her kids all day it needed to be for something meaningful. She worked her way up from Executive Director of the Kanata North Business Association to Ottawa City Councillor and then finally representing Kanata-Carleton as their Member of Parliament. She shared that while at the time each pivot in her career felt scary, they were amazing experiences that now allow her to actively support her community.
Coming from an entrepreneurial family, Priya’s mom (who was in the audience) had her own placement agency and her dad’s family ran restaurants, she grew up with the day-to-day grind of running your own business. After having her first daughter, despite wanting to spend all her time at home, she felt that she needed to do something for herself that fuelled her mind. She sat on the Board of Directors for the Women’s Business Network for three years before joining the Ottawa Board of Trade’s Board of Directors. Priya’s main message to attendees? Everyone’s story matters. She elaborated by encouraging everyone to get involved, “if you're not doing something within the actual community or the business community, and something that you're passionate, if you’re not doing it you need to actually start and get involved in some way.
Born in East Africa, Solange became a refugee at age 11, moving around Africa before coming to Canada when she was 15. Prior to coming to Canada she made the commitment to herself that if she survived she would work to make the world a better place. During her time as Miss Canada she began to work as UNICEF Canada Ambassador and has actively advocated for children’s rights to a quality education and access to clean water. Now dedicated to fighting for women and children, she said, “The biggest issues in the world impact women and children and they’re rarely at the leadership table. I knew I wanted more leaders to understand why advancing women in leadership equates making the world better and I wanted women to understand why you should never sell yourself short because your leadership matters for the betterment of everyone.”
When asked about what bold leadership, Solange expressed that it evolves over time. To her, it means knowing your value, and that starts with you. Bold leadership in corporate spaces means speaking up, if you see inequality call it out right there and then.
For Priya, bold leadership is different today than it was for the previous generation of leaders. She looks to servant leadership saying, “The job of a leader today is to nurture and look after your team and your customers.” Bring people into the conversation that might not have been there, you can learn something from everyone.
Bold leadership starts with lifting others up and being a voice for those who don’t have one. In the daily proceedings of the House of Commons each member makes the commitment to “make good laws and wise decisions.” Jenna says, “I have to live up to what I say I am. When you own what you want to be you embrace those habits.”
The conversation closed with a discussion of legacy and each panelist sharing what they would tell their 25-year-old self.
Legacy for Solange will be when more women understand that their leadership will change the lives of many, if two or three women step up for leadership positions or start businesses. There are 130 million girls without access to quality education, if we can collectively do something we will make this world better. She would encourage 25-year-old Solange to go for it unapologetically, trust in your vision, and set boundaries. Know your value, the amount of people who will walk away more people will walk in because they will see you for you.
Priya shared that for her, “My most important legacy will be my two girls. I would be really happy knowing that I’ve had a positive impact on my family, my business and the people who worked with me, and the greater community.” When sharing what she would tell her younger self, Priya joked with Sueling saying, “I told you I would swear on the panel. I would tell myself F it and go for it.” You’re always going to find someone with doubts, but she encourages young women to just go for it, most people regret the things they didn’t do.
Something Jenna would tell her younger self is to slow down. Take the time to travel, enjoy life, and just slow down. For her, a successful life is one that has balance, whatever that means to you, and one that has impact. Legacy for Jenna will be her three daughters and making them proud. She says, “They’re the reason that I do what I do.” She also goes back to make wise laws and good decisions, “I hear this every day and it resonates. I hope at the end of this journey I can look back and believe that to be true and to be my legacy.”
Ending the night, Sueling thanked our sponsors RBC, Casino Lac-Leamy, and Oakwood Designers and Builders for their ongoing support of our events. She invited guest to join us for more meaningful conversations about our businesses, our community, the next generation, economic growth and our future on May 18th at the next Mayor’s Breakfast with guest speaker Her Excellency Yuliya Kovaliv, Ambassador of Ukraine to Canada at City Hall, Networking 3.0 with Michael J. Hughes on May 25th, and at the upcoming Forty Under 40 Gala on June 23rd.
Finally, she thanked the business and community leaders who attended the event saying, “Thank you for being here, for showing up and sharing. Thank you for the work you are doing in our families, in our community, and in our businesses. Thank you for the work you are doing to advance women, equality, diversity and inclusion. Thank you for leading by example, being bold and supporting others to do the same.”