Women of Recipe: How our female leaders today are paving the way for tomorrow

Women of Recipe:
How our female leaders today are paving the way for tomorrow.

On March 8 we celebrated International Women’s Day by looking to our own female leaders across the business. Hosted by Christy Clark who sits on Recipe’s Board of Directors, Laurie, Deanne, Ambreen and Amy brought their own unique perspectives and spoke to how they #breakthebias in their careers and everyday lives.

As an opener Laurie Allison-Jones shared some staggering stats that set the tone for the conversation and gave a glimpse into women in the workforce.

  • The Canadian population has 38M people and women represent roughly 50% of the population1.  However, women only hold 25% of Vice President positions and 15% of CEO positions in Canada2

  • Visible Minorities represent 22% of the Canadian population3, but a study demonstrated that Visible Minorities only hold 5.5% of board roles in Corporate Canada4

  • The Black population in Canada is 3.5%5, but Black people represent less than 1% of corporate leads6

  • The Zero Report was a survey completed in 2021 featuring many of Canada's top corporations7.  One of the conclusions was that there was no representation of Black female executives in Canada and that Black women are absent from the pipeline to Canada's C-Suite8

Ready to meet the panelists?

Laurie Allison-Jones, Vice President, Marketing • Swiss Chalet
As a proud Black woman she is breaking the bias by challenging the stereotypes around Black women and using her voice to remove the obstacles that currently exist for women of colour.

Deanne Myschuk, Business Development Manager • Swiss Chalet
Deanne is an advocate for recognizing and celebrating women’s accomplishments, as well as pushing the boundaries of routines in order to learn and grow.

Ambreen Sarai, Franchisee and General Manager • Kelsey’s Original Roadhouse
Ambreen has experience mentoring and empowering women and hopes to continue supporting them through her new venture as a business owner.

Amy Nhan, Director of People & Culture • Fresh
Amy’s experience with people management and nonprofit work with women and children have helped her amplify female-identifying voices and is proud to mentor them throughout their careers.

Now that you’ve met the panelists, read on to learn about their experiences and how they try to break the bias for women and the BIPOC community.

This year the theme of International Women’s Day is “Break the Bias.” What kinds of biases have you had to overcome throughout your career as a black woman?

Laurie:  “When we get into the biases that exist, we have under-representation, feeling like you don’t have a voice, not necessarily getting the same pay as men, or even as other people that are not visible minorities and feeling like you can’t succeed. It’s hard walking into the boardroom and being the only woman, now imagine walking to the boardroom and being the only Black woman. Everyone that knows me, knows that I don’t knock on doors, I bust them down. I’ve challenged every single stereotype imaginable, I am a black woman within the corporate world, I got myself a solid education and educated myself and used my voice to mentor others… in particular women of colour. That’s how I’ve helped shatter some of these biases. If you really think about it, there’s no reason why these stereotypes exist, they’re not true. It’s up to us to prove them wrong.”

Your mom was your biggest influence, in particular in your work ethic. What sorts of barriers did you see that a single mom had, when she was also dealing with the challenges of being new to Canada.

Amy: “I didn’t particularly see a mentor that looked like me and I looked within and saw my mom as a role model. She experienced barriers with child care and we can see how women still face that as a barrier right now. She had to choose a job that allowed her to work from home so she could walk my sister and I to school. I remember waking up and she was sewing from day to night, all the time for very minimal pay because she needed that flexibility. Another barrier was language. Our primary language at home is Vietnamese. It was difficult for her to navigate, even me going to school and what my teachers were saying and what I was supposed to be learning.”

Many people believe Canada is a very comfortable place for immigrants to come to, but in reality it is a lot harder. Can you share with us the difference between Canadians' perception of ourselves and the reality for new Canadians?

Amy: “When I was younger I had to grow up fast and my relationship with my mom, even though she was my mother we were definitely partners. Growing up I had to translate every letter and everything that came through our landlord came through me, as a 10 year old. I had to learn to be resourceful because my parents didn’t always have the answers, so I had to look to my teachers, friends, online and the library.I think that there is a strong diverse community in Canada but there are microaggressions that individuals might not know they’re putting off even through compliments. My mom had to take care of the children but also had to find work and to navigate a culture of how you find that job, while not necessarily having everything.”

Did you always believe you could always just do it?

Ambreen: I believe it's a mindset. As a single mom I did not want that definition to hold me back and I just went for it. You have to have that mindset and not let the stereotypes and barriers hold you back. My partner said to me go big or go home and now we own a Kelseys. It doesn’t come without hard work and being grateful for where we are, just don’t give up. 

Each of you is a successful woman and fought to get where you are. What would be the one thing you would do to help other women who might not have the same opportunities as you, get to the position where you have?

Amy: Something I actively do is try to memorize everyone’s name, down to every dishwasher, every server and host. Currently that’s about a team of 250. I’m not always right, but the effort is there and I know that instead of saying “that server told me this” being able to put a name to someone…being able to give women the know that they aren’t only their jobs, we have interests and hobbies, responsibilities outside of work and how to recognize people for them.

Deanne: Letting people know that the possibilities are endless and helping them find the resources to help get there. Whether it's helping with resume writing, what to wear to an interview or what questions to be ready for. Letting them know the resources and support is there so they can see themselves as they look forward in their career. 

Ambreen: I am passionate about working with the vulnerable sector. Everyone deserves a chance and I am now in the position to be able to support women who need that opportunity and who need that break and that chance to be hired, trained and given the opportunity to succeed. That’s what I want to do, I want to reach out to the shelters and support women and give them the opportunity to come on board at my restaurant, to train in skills they’ll have for life and the resources they need to succeed. 

Laurie: It’s important to speak out, early in my career I could have been more outspoken with respect to some of these issues and as I’ve gotten older I’ve realized it’s important to have a voice and speak out because there are people who may have been how I was 15-17 years ago that were afraid to speak out.

If you could have dinner with one inspirational woman, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

Deanne: I’d love to go back in time and have one more dinner with my grandma. She was strong, the most current 100 year old woman you’d ever sit and have a conversation with. She had political opinions and many opinions about the goings on in the world and I know she would have some interesting perspective and opinions of what’s gone on in the world in the last few years.

Ambreen: Oprah. She never gave up and never said no. I grew up watching her show and loved it. She’s so successful and real, not afraid to show her emotions and be vulnerable. That is crucial in being who you are, and she’s always kept it real.

Laurie: Michelle Obama. She is the most amazing woman I have ever seen on TV. I read her book Becoming, it was so inspirational for me. She comes from humble beginnings , and her guidance counselor told her she would never go to Princeton and she did. She went to Harvard law and then she became the first lady. She’s done all these things and shattered every stereotype.

Amy: My grandmother. Mostly because I know she would have tremendous stories because she lived through the war twice. She had to escape China to go to Vietnam and she was the mother of 11 children so they all went on a boat and came to Canada, landed in montreal. My family was the biggest family to come to Canada all at once.