Copperleaf™ CEO Judi Hess sat down with the Women’s Executive Network (WXN) to discuss being selected as a WXN Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100™ Award winner, and shares her advice for future leaders.
How did you feel when you learned you were selected as a Top 100™ Winner?
I was thrilled to be included in this year’s list of outstanding Canadian women leaders. It’s wonderful to celebrate the success of Canadian women and the advances we’re making in the business world, and organizations like WXN allow female corporate leaders from a diverse range of industries to share knowledge and ideas.
How will you use your status as a winner in the coming year to inspire those around you?
I want to build a movement that will empower future generations to reach their fullest potential. I’ve always had a passion for driving more diversity in our field and I hope that increasing the visibility of women in leadership positions will help attract a more diverse workforce and inspire the next generation.
How can we achieve gender diversity in STEM?
Renowned writer and social critic, James Baldwin, once said, ”You are formed by what you see.” That’s why it’s so important for young women to see strong female leaders in their environment. In this age of the #MeToo Movement, it’s imperative for women in STEM to find their voices and realize that they belong here too.
Attrition of women in STEM fields is severe. In high school in Canada, girls make up around 50% of mathematics/physics students. By university, the percentage of females majoring in engineering is around 25%, and in the professional world, women comprise less than 13% of the engineering workforce after five years in practice.
It is vital to actively hire and retain more women in male-dominated industries so we can compete into the future. It is possible to change this trend. When my father went to law school in the 1940s, there was only one woman in his class. Today, two generations later, women constitute around 50 percent of law school students in North America. We need to strive to have the same representation in STEM, because diversity brings success and enhances our workforce.
Do you have any early and lasting lessons you can share?
Determination and believing in yourself are hugely important for success. When I was rising up the corporate ladder, I was often the only woman in the room, but I never let that make me feel like I didn’t deserve to be there.
I’ve also learned a lot from failing. Failing is okay as long as you learn from it, and those early lessons helped to make me more resilient in the long run.
What advice would you give someone who aspires to become a leader?
Seize opportunities when they are presented to you. If anyone asks you to take on a leadership role, just say "yes". Most women have less confidence than they should in their abilities, so if a leader sees potential in you, you should probably trust them and go for it!
This interview also appeared on the Phasenyne blog. WXN is a member of the Phasenyne network of companies.
As one of the fastest-growing software companies in Canada, Copperleaf is always looking for talented individuals to join our team! Explore our current job openings here.
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