Women Exceeding Their Vision!!

Posted on May 6, 2016

By Rosalind Lockyer

PARO Centre For Women's Enterprise, Executive Director

When asked to write, as a woman, and about women, I struggled because there was so much that I could say.  Where to begin, was my biggest challenge.  But I think that this is the story about women that I most want to share, ‘When women know what they want, and allow themselves to make the steps needed, and get the support they deserve, they have amazing potential to exceed their vision. ‘  young-woman-sitting-rock-looking-to-backpack-horizon-60778927.jpg

Yes, I strongly believe that women can exceed their vision of what they and others see as possible. I see it every day.

As the founding Executive Director of PARO Centre for Women’s Enterprise, I have witnessed this many times during our 20 years of operation.  That is why this year, we are celebrating the success of PARO, and awarding the’ Top 20’ Women over 20 years for their achievements in Exceeding their Visions, as business women, and as family and community leaders.   Also, in leading the growth of a women’s organization where women are asked to participate in a true spirit of collaboration, to start and grow their businesses, to be a part of PARO, and to serve their communities, I, too, have exceeded my vision of what could be, over and over. 

But I am not the only one who believes in the strength of women and what they can offer. In 2006, the province of Quebec passed a law that mandates that there be at least 50% of women on their corporate boards.  Also, if you do the research you will find many studies that show that where there are more women in governance and senior management positions, the countries and companies exceed economically and socially; they exceed their vision of what is possible. 

Why is this?  Why should we support women to be leaders in business, community, and in government? Why vote for women?

First I would say, why not?  Then I would add, because collaboration and equality is better for everyone.  But, let’s get down to the reasons that I think as I do.  Top on the list is my firm belief that when governing bodies, boards, and senior management are more diverse and inclusive, they are better able to understand what is needed by the people they serve, whether the people are the general public, or the clients or customers.  A more inclusive and diverse group of leaders will bring new perspectives, new ideas, will have known more and varied challenges, and therefore, have broader experience and, ultimately, this will lead to better decision-making.  So, yes everyone, encourage women to run for public office, hire women as senior managers, and encourage them to serve on boards, and do get out and vote.

Now let me focus on women in business?  Having more women as leaders in business brings richness to our northern communities, and this is significant to our economic and social future.   Watching successful women grow their businesses and organizations, I am constantly impressed, and I see them interact in ways that are different and more collaborative.   I think women leaders are successful because they believe that relationships matter.  They want to do what is meaningful to them.  I see them as they show interest in why issues and actions matter, who could be better served by a different way of doing things, how their efforts and those of others are valued or appreciated, and they demonstrate compassion, passion, and determination to get things done.  I like the way women are more likely to focus on strengths, are open-minded, and often, more flexible in how things should move forward.  They are more likely to take a breather, and then, decide what needs to be changed because of other things happening around them, but most of all they demonstrate a wonderful joy in working with others. 

I know all this, because the PARO team and I work with women across Northern Ontario, everyday.  And because of the PARO Team and Board, and all the wonderful PARO women, we will continue to exceed my vision of growing PARO.  PARO has grown from a small project to start a women’s community loan fund to become, 21 years later, one of the strongest women’s business development organizations in North America, well respected across Canada.  Travelling the northern highways via PARO on Wheels from our head office in Thunder Bay, plus one satellite office in Chapleau, PARO serves women from Kenora to North Bay, and by flying north to remote communities.  Last year alone, PARO touched the lives of 30.942 people, started 175 businesses, that created/mantained 873 jobs.  Since 2009, we have helped women acquire grants of near to $5 million dollars.  We have done all this by believing that by working together we can exceed our visions of success, and that collaboration and equality are more beneficial to all.