By Suzanne Bowness
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Centre for Research and Education on Women and Work (CREWW) which offers a part-time professional program for women to enhance their leadership and management skills. Graduates from the program will be profiled over the next few weeks.
At 58, Gail Pierre-Jérôme is established to the point where she doesn’t really need much training or coaching in her career. She’s already been vice-president of an international organization for a decade. Now she’s a senior executive and consultant, with clients in federal government and private sector. But when she was reading the newspaper one day and saw an ad for the Sprott School of Business Management Certificate for Women, it got her thinking.
“Even though I had reached a level of career success, I always felt that I didn’t necessarily have all of the tools that I needed to be fully equipped,” says Pierre-Jérôme. She also saw huge potential in the prospect of networking with smart women. “Not only can I benefit from their expertise, but I also knew that I could offer a lot of mine.”
Reflecting on the program a year after her graduation in March 2016, Pierre-Jérôme has no regrets. “The program met every single one of my needs. It was probably one of the best decisions that I’ve made in my life.”
Finding a More Collaborative Approach
Pierre-Jérôme is particularly enthusiastic about the program’s unit on self-discovery. She says it helped her to see new ways – even at this stage in her career – to interact with people. “I think from a communication and negotiating standpoint, I was always very severe in my stance. Looking at a more collaborative, negotiating approach is probably what I took away the most,” she says.
It was equally inspiring to hear the younger generation’s point of view on communicating with the older generations, a challenge most workplaces face today.
In terms of favourite assignments, Pierre-Jérôme recalls with fondness a capstone project where her group went above and beyond the task of evaluating a business to actually visiting the business and meeting the CFO. Of course, it didn’t hurt that their chosen business was Peller Estates Winery in Niagara. But she says equally as fun as the road trip was the ability to use all their newfound tools in analyzing the business.
Inspiration from Both Faculty and Classmates
Pierre-Jérôme is also enthusiastic about the inspiration she found from both professors and her classmates. “I think when you have those women in front of you, it makes you feel really good, number one about being a woman, and number two about looking at their accomplishments and saying, ‘wow, if you can do it, I can do it too,’” she says.
Pierre-Jérôme gave back to the program in her own way by applying her organizational skills to planning her cohort’s graduation party. She even invited the former clerk of the Privy Council Janice Charette (also a Carleton grad) as a guest speaker.
Now that she’s completed the program, Pierre-Jérôme has been recommending it to everyone she knows. “I don’t only highly recommend it, I insist that all women need to be sitting around and talking about these things,” she says. Pierre-Jérôme’s daughter and also her good friend will attend the program this fall.
“Never underestimate the value of substantiating your worth or your value in the workplace. I don’t have to question what I did right anymore, although I do recognize what I could have done differently. That’s certainly what this program has provided to me.”