Top Five Female Business Leaders
Canadian entrepreneurs come in all shapes and sizes, but to be the best in business you need to posses certain fundamental skills. Women at the top of the business world posses such talents and have additionally overcome societal discriminatory norms. The women at the top of Canadian business have excellent experience, business savvy, industry specific knowledge and a phenomenal rate of success.
President and COO of Solutions 2 Go Inc, Gabrielle Chevalier is a leading woman in the videogame distribution industry. As head of the Mississauga, Ontario based company, Chevalier has taken its business to new heights. Leading a company from nothing to earning three-quarters of a billion dollars in just six years, Chevalier’s success is based on her implementation of “master distribution” in videogame logistics. Credited with placing Sony games in Staples, Costco and Shoppers Drug Mart, Chevalier with Solutions 2 Go helped Sony expand to new markets. Promoting an efficient process of receiving and turning shipments around “accurately and on a dime” has additionally added to Chevalier’s success.
Coining the phrase “Food is Fashion,” Susan Niczowski, the CEO of Summer Fresh Salads, believes that food, like fashion, follows seasonal trends. Building the company from the ground up since 1991, Niczowski developed the idea for Summer Fresh Salads with her mother, thus creating a company that provides healthy gourmet dips, appetizers, salads and chef prepared foods. Guaranteeing nutritious and healthy food, Summer Fresh Salads employs microbiologists at their in-house laboratory, R&D facility and on their technical team. Starting the company in her parents’ kitchen, Summer Fresh Salads has grown into a largely successful company that is now headquartered out of a 43,500-square-foot facility.
Betty Anne Latrace-Henderson
CEO of Airline Hotels and Resorts, Betty Anne Latrace-Henderson is referred to as the torch bearer of the company’s values, vision and ethics. Latrace-Henderson took over the company in 2000 and transformed Airline into the corporation it is today. With Latrace-Henderson the family business has changed from a single property enterprise to a multi-property company earning $45 million annually in 2008. Airline Hotels, under Latrace-Henderson, runs by the mission statement “Respect, Integrity, Teamwork and Entrepreneurship.” Unfailingly committed not only to the company but the well-being of its employees, Latrace-Henderson is renowned as a President who brings a specialized, personal touch to leadership.
CEO of SIMAC, Superior Independent Medical Assessment Centres, Gloria Rajkumar has worked her way up through the insurance industry. Founding SIMAC in 2001, Rajkumar created a company that is an industry leader. Three locations, 22 employees and additional affiliations with more than 250 medical professionals, Rajkumar employs people who share her business vision for service and excellence. Growing from humble beginnings Rajkumar’s entrepreneurial success comes from her belief that it is a “content of character to want to be something better” and it’s clear by her determination that she lives by this motto.
Lisette “Lee” McDonald
Lee McDonald, President and CEO of Southmedic Inc., started the company in 1983. As a critical care nurse, McDonald saw unmet needs in the healthcare industry, specifically the lack of an Anesthetic Interlocking Device. That was just the beginning, now Southmedic Inc is a leading medical device manufacturer that lives by its passion statement “Innovative Manufacturing and Distribution Profitably.” McDonald’s leadership at Southmedic has led to annual revenues to $18 million and a worldwide reputation for quality speed and integrity. "It's our plan, and our pledge, to make a difference to Canadian healthcare," stated McDonald.
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.