Local leaders talk about how women make a difference

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Two prominent women from the Petrolia area say women have an important role in leadership but say that’s not the only reason they succeed.

Carol Stephenson, the dean of the Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario, and Sarnia-Lambton MP Pat Davidson were the first two speakers in the Famous Five Speakers Series. The series, which started in Alberta, highlights the careers of successful women hoping to inspire others.

Stephenson was born and raised in Petrolia and Davidson began her political life in Plympton-Wyoming.

Stephenson believes she has been able to work at high levels of the telecommunications industry and in public service because of her listening skills.

“Women listen better and are a little more empathetic,” says Stephenson. “We know how to connect…I think we need that style of leadership. We’re tired of the hierarchy, the command and control style.”

Stephenson say her gender was never really an issue and the biggest struggle she faced was moving from the private sector telecom industry into the public sector university setting.

But she made the jump because of advise her father gave her many years ago; “He said, ‘pick something you like and do it well’….and ‘Don’t say no to an opportunity until you have had the time to think about it and what you love to do.’”

Stephenson says showing women in non-traditional roles “can be helpful for women to realize they too can do that…there are role models that have broken down the barriers already.”

Davidson, on the other hand, is not sure it is helpful to highlight when a woman takes on a non-traditional role, such as politics. She prefers not to bring gender into the equation and simply do the work she loves in a consistent manner.

“There were always some challenges but I don’t feel they were challenges that were gender based,” she says.

“By staying the course and sticking to my guns, these people who cause you grief caused grief to themselves,” says Davidson.

“Everyone should be proud they are a woman but no one should trade on their gender for favour. You should be accepted on merit.”

“Most women would far rather be accepted as a person than a statistic.”

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