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WNorth taps into female influence

Conference highlights women's leadership and ideas

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WNorth, an annual women's leadership conference, will hold its third forum in Whistler from April 19 to 21 with a panel of female business leaders for keynote addresses and workshops.

Tracey Riley, managing partner, assurance at PwC Canada, will address the conference on how women's perspectives improve the bottom line.

Pique caught up with Riley via email in advance of the conference to find out about the changing role for women in business.

PIQUE: Is this your first attendance at WNorth?
Tracey Riley: Yes, I'm looking forward to both learning from a diverse group of women in leadership and sharing my own experiences.

Pique: This conference and those similar to it: Is this a concept that is gaining traction among women: a gathering of female executives to share ideas?
TR: I think conferences such as WNorth give women a reason to come together, share stories, and network with like-minded individuals. It's important for women in leadership to learn from others in similar positions and feel supported as part of a community. I think that's why these groups are gaining popularity. I'm honoured to be a part of it.

Pique: Your address at the WNorth conference on how women's perspectives improve the bottom line: What are the key points of this?
TR: The conversation around women's perspectives improving the bottom line has been taking place for some time and now research is supporting the notion with data. The statistics show that diverse teams are more innovative, remain more objective, have higher retention rates and ultimately perform better. You have to utilize your entire team to win the game.

Pique: Is this idea a new phenomenon in the business world?
TR: I think many companies are placing a greater focus on the number of women on their board and at the executive leadership level, but of course, there is still room for improvement. I am fortunate that at PwC Canada, diversity is part of our DNA. The firm is committed to achieving 50/50 partnership intake by the year 2020 — an equal representation of men and women. The company's values align with my own, so I can bring my whole self to work every day.

Pique: Do you get the sense the business world is still — for lack of a better descriptive — a man's world? Or has this been changing? And how?
TR: I think there are more and more remarkable women wherever you look in the corporate world. The tide is changing, but we need to make sure that women have the support and guidance to get to the top. I have had some truly supportive male mentors in my career who have only wanted to see me succeed, so men have a huge role to play.

Pique: As an executive, what do you think women need to know to move ahead — perhaps something that they don't realize?
TR: Mentors, both male and female, play a huge role. Giving and receiving advice, encouragement and guidance is essential on your journey — no one does it well alone.

Continually move yourself out of your comfort zone. You have to be willing to learn new areas, take on new challenges and be agile to adapt to changing environments and expectations. Don't be afraid of stepping up — challenge yourself. And of course, use your mentors to help with this!

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