International Women’s Day is a day to reflect on the progress made, recognize the work left to be done, and to celebrate the incredible achievements of women in all facets of life. Creative Group is proud to be an organization full of creative, intelligent, resourceful superwomen who embody our core beliefs each and every day. We caught up with just a handful of these women to discuss female leadership and provide some inspiration for the next generation of female leaders.

In the words of Martina McBride, “this one’s for the girls!”

Janet Traphagen, President

What does being a woman in business, and your role specifically, mean to you?

Janet (J): Being a woman in business and specifically in a senior role, provides me with the opportunity to (re)shape what leadership looks like. Bringing both feminine and masculine energy into decision-making, balancing both head and heart, and demonstrating that vulnerability is a strength.

Which women are you inspired by (locally or globally), and why?

J: I’m inspired by female leaders who are confident in the value they can bring while simultaneously remaining curious and open to continuous growth.

What is the most important message you want to send out to young women thinking about their careers?

J: Comparison is the thief of joy. Comparison to a peer. Comparison to past performers. Comparison to some old definition of leadership. Know that you are enough. You belong at the table. Your authenticity is beautiful.

How important is it for women to lift each other up, and what does that mean to you? 

J: It’s important that we all lift each other up, whether male or female. As a senior leader, it’s important to have the courage to look someone right in the eye and acknowledge their worth. Equally, it’s important to be clear when the mark is missed. As author, Brené Brown says, “clear is kind”.

Maritza Zaenger, SVP, Organizational Effectiveness

What does being a woman in business, and your role specifically, mean to you?

Maritza (M): As a woman in business, I have the opportunity to help grow other leaders and use my skills to help a company reach its goals, while creating a culture where employees feel cared for. Women bring a different set of eyes and mindset to the business world from our male colleagues. Empathy, open-mindedness, our ability to handle pressure and multitask, and open communication are some of the innate traits we bring to the table. We are as equally able to lead a company in profitability and innovation as our counterparts.

Which women are you inspired by (locally or globally), and why?

M: Michelle Obama and Ruth Bader Ginsburg come immediately to mind. Michelle Obama because she is so clear on her values and has a strong moral compass. Ruth Bader Ginsburg because she was a moderate consensus builder who advocated for gender equality and women’s rights.

What is the most important message you want to send out to young women thinking about their careers?

M: Make sure you have an unwavering set of values. Stay true to who you are and find your passion. You will encounter prejudice but don’t let this stop you. Your values will always guide you in determining what is right or wrong. It will help you look in the mirror and still like who you see.

How important is it for women to lift each other up, and what does that mean to you? 

M: It is important for women to lift each other up because the business or political worlds will always be harder for us. Lifting each other up means mentoring others and sharing our secret sauce (knowledge and experience). It also means being good leaders as we grow in our careers to show other women how to lead others in the future.

Diane Alexander, Director, Operations Canada

What does being a woman in business, and your role specifically, mean to you?

Diane (D): As a woman in business and as a Director, I see it as my responsibility to empower those around me to strive for the best for themselves, both professionally and personally. What that looks like for each person is different, and I try to set a positive example of how to be successful on your own terms. This includes acknowledging when I’ve made a mistake, owning it, and working to change my behaviour because we all make mistakes and it’s how we recover from them that makes the difference. I also work to set the example that it is ok to prioritize my personal life and not feel guilty about it. As a working mom who used to travel a lot before COVID, I had to actively set boundaries around my availability when I needed and wanted to focus on my family. As women in business, it can be challenging to do this without feeling guilty or that an opportunity would be missed if we’re not available all the time. This is applicable to women who do not have children as well, because they should be empowered to achieve success in their work while also having a healthy life outside of work. Finding that balance while managing conflicting priorities is something that I strive to help my team achieve.

Which women are you inspired by (locally or globally), and why?

D: The women I am most inspired by are those who have faced incredible challenges and yet continue to fight for what they believe in. Hillary Clinton (all politics aside) has pushed the boundaries and opened doors for so many women in the face of serious personal attacks. Malala Yousafzi has been incredibly brave and inspiring in her pursuits for education and children’s rights, which has made her a target of violence. Brené Brown has made it ok for us to be vulnerable, something that many women have struggled with when trying to “make it” in a man’s world. There are so many women around the world showing bravery and determination and they inspire me to champion the causes I care about while not facing half the challenges they are facing. Within our own industry, there are SO many incredible women that I am inspired by both within Creative Group and beyond. They lead with confidence and intelligence, but also with heart. Women who express emotion and are caring have been discouraged, even disadvantaged, in business in the past and it’s very uplifting to see that not only is this becoming the norm now, but it is also considered a value that women bring to the table.

What is the most important message you want to send out to young women thinking about their careers?

D: I would love for all young women to understand that the best way to advance in their careers is to seek out those who came before them and absorb as much from them as possible. I have been fortunate to have several outstanding mentors throughout my career and I continue to pursue knowledge from those that inspire me. Don’t be afraid to approach someone in a more senior position both within and outside of your company. While the desire to excel and grow in business is important, being humble and learning from others is also key. Also, get comfortable with networking and then become an expert at it. Building genuine relationships is fundamental to success in any industry and you never know where your paths may cross with someone you’ve met. Opportunities come to those who pursue them and having a solid network will not only help you find your next adventure; it will also enhance the one you’re currently living. And finally, the ability to communicate effectively will set you apart from many, so get comfortable having difficult conversations in a kind and productive way.

How important is it for women to lift each other up, and what does that mean to you? 

D: I live by the belief that I do not compete with anyone, there is room enough for all of us to succeed. How I define success is different from everyone else and that is a good thing. We are all more successful when we help each other. Women supporting women is a growing movement that I’m inspired by daily. We are all dealing with a multitude of challenges, and what we need most right now is to champion each other to succeed in spite of it all. Success is so broadly defined on any given day; it can be landing a new client, executing an outstanding event, helping your child manage difficult emotions, or even just getting out of bed in the morning. When you’re navigating through so many competing priorities, it truly does help to have the support of other women who are experiencing similar stresses. I’ve learned over the years that a good talk with a friend or colleague (sometimes they’re both 😊), can make all the difference in how I manage my own reactions and emotions to different situations. It is also highly rewarding to give support to the women around me; it fills my bucket to know I’ve made a difference for them no matter how big or small.

Shelley White, VP, Customer Experience West

What does being a woman in business, and your role specifically, mean to you?

Shelley (S): For me, being a successful woman in business means being unafraid to be my authentic self and feel confident in my abilities to contribute, no matter who is in the room with me.

Which women are you inspired by (locally or globally), and why?

S: I was fortunate early in my career to be surrounded by powerful women who held leadership roles that empowered and lifted others around them. Under their leadership, I learned that I could be many things, a powerful and influential leader, a mother, and a trusted mentor.

What is the most important message you want to send out to young women thinking about their careers?

S: Don’t limit yourself. You are in control of your destiny – don’t let someone else define it for you. And that you can have it all – the career, motherhood, a fulfilling life. The key is balance and believing that you don’t need to be defined by only one thing.

How important is it for women to lift each other up, and what does that mean to you? 

S: I believe in lifting up those around me; it makes us all stronger in the end. I find it very rewarding to see those around me growing. There is nothing better than knowing that you might have had a small part in their growth and to share the knowledge that someone imparted to you at one time.

Ellie MacPherson, SVP, Operations Canada

What does being a woman in business, and your role specifically, mean to you?

Ellie (E): I have the opportunity to lead differently perhaps from a male counterpart. I believe women tend to lead with both head and heart and are generally not fearful of showing emotion and empathy. Being a leader means I have the chance and I believe also, the obligation, to give back to the industry, be a mentor, and assist other women to grow and excel.

Which women are you inspired by (locally or globally), and why?

E: It would be easy to mention famous women who have done great things and overcome formidable obstacles, but I will choose differently. When I started in this business more than 30+ years ago, women simply did not hold senior positions. I would celebrate the women who over the years have persevered and attained C-Suite and Executive roles in every facet of our industry. We finally see this in cruise lines, hotel GM’s at the luxury level, DMC’s and incentive/motivational companies, like our own, which is led by a woman!

What is the most important message you want to send out to young women thinking about their careers?

E: Find a mentor! Mentors can share lessons and skills, but equally important, they can open doors to networking. Forbes states that great mentors share five specific values: Accessibility, Authenticity, Objectivity, Continual Learning and Values.

How important is it for women to lift each other up, and what does that mean to you? 

E: As a leader it is extremely important to guide and mentor other women. I love a quote from Rosalynn Carter: “A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go but ought to be.”

Here’s to women making ‘herstory’.

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