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Women in Strategy Executive Panel Highlights


Women in Strategy Executive Panel Highlights

In June, as part of Level5’s new Women in Strategy initiative, we had the privilege of hosting an Executive Panel, which brought together over 30 women from various industries, including retail, entertainment, financial services, construction, real estate, lottery, CPG, and regulators. The event provided the opportunity for an engaging conversation on various topics relevant to women currently in or looking to enter roles in strategy.  

Moderated by Level5 Managing Partner, Alexa Nick, the panel included Lesley Gallinger (President & CEO of IESO), Susan O’Brien (Chief Brand & Customer Officer of Canadian Tire), and Suzie Yorke (CEO & Co-Founder of The Better Chocolate).

Reflecting on the event, we wanted to share some of the key learnings and insights we heard.

On the art of strategy…

“When you go back to what strategy is all about, you’re ultimately looking to create value and that value comes through customers. It comes through understanding the customer and always looking to try to find ways to create enhanced value for the future.” – Susan

“Strategy has to turn into flawless, unbelievable execution. […] The majority of new brand startups fail.  A big difference between the entrepreneurs who launch brands in packaged goods that are successful and not is that last execution part. Being scrappy, and practical, and understanding how it goes all the way to the end.” – Suzie

“We’re using strategy to navigate the complexity of the many priorities on our plate… government policy, consumer choice, technology evolution, our organization is at the epicenter of all of those issues. […] So, how do we make choices as an organization? We work through three very strong pillars of strategy to allow us to prioritize and ensure an orderly transition to a decarbonized future, by putting our focus on the right things execution-wise, when they need to be done. That’s the art of strategy for me, […] making order out of chaos.” – Lesley

On approaching strategy…

“The secret sauce is there’s no secret. It’s boring, hard work. It’s really hard to make big strategic changes just on gut without data. You have to go through the checklist.” – Suzie

“You really have to understand your culture. Talk to people and understand how this strategy is going to land within the organization. I think what gets missed, especially in a big, large organization, is that you can’t make every decision for every employee. You need it to be that they understand the purpose of the company, and you are enabling and empowering them to make good decisions every day. Because those decisions add up to the culture and frankly, they’re the driver of your strategy” – Susan

“Thinking about the constellation of business processes that have to help in execution, whether that’s your business planning, you risk allocation, your performance and measurement, all of those things have to align behind the execution of your strategy. If they’re sending the organization off in different directions, you’re going to be challenged to deliver” – Lesley

On being a woman in strategy…

“I do believe what makes women special, in a lot of cases, is a tendency to want to hear a little bit more from folks around the room. There’s a pulling in of ideas and thoughts. And that’s a really good role to be playing in strategy. Women tend to be able to ask a lot more questions and feel comfortable doing so. Not always needing to know the answer, bringing in those diverse thoughts.” – Susan

“I think in being curious and being open, and not being afraid to enter conversations that we don’t know the answers to, we have a great ability to connect the dots. […] It helps form a greater understanding of the businesses that we all work in. It helps us add value to those businesses. Having had those conversations, we’re stepping outside our functional areas, and when we focus on exploring opportunities, […] we’re able to make those connections more easily” – Lesley

“How we lead, how we present, how we come across, women and men often have different styles. […] At the end of the day, unfortunately, when little funding goes to female-led startups, that’s a problem. You need money to be able to make the right strategies and build brands. We have another high bar to overcome. All these things are connected. And then support, we don’t have the big support networks that have existed for years and years. […] Now I’m trying to help founders [access funding and support], and hopefully, do something for female founders, because these are realities that you need to know, and it’s what we can do when we’re in positions of influence to start changing the dynamics.”  –  Suzie


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