TORONTO — More than 200 delegates from more than a dozen of Canada’s top tech companies descended on Toronto’s Guild Inn Estate in Scarborough last week for the 2018 Women in the IT Channel Recognition Luncheon. The event’s hosts, ITBusiness.ca parent ITWC president Fawn Annan and Ingram Micro Canada country chief executive Bill Brandel presided over an event which was filled with all manner of speaking guests, including the inaugural honourees of ITBusiness.ca sister site CDN’s new Women in the IT Channel Hall of Fame. Read on for insights from the event’s guest speakers and award winners, including representatives from FedEx, HP, Ingram Micro, and more!
(All photographs for CDN by Paul Darrow.)
ITWC president Fawn Annan welcomed guests to the event Thursday and introduced the theme of this year’s luncheon – superpowers. “This event is all about us. It’s about women and the power of women,” she said to everyone. “We’re not talking about x-ray vision. We’re talking about the talents that only you can bring to the table.” She also acknowledged the 57 other women who are in ITWC’s Women in the IT Channel Hall of Fame. “That number will continue to grow, and each year, our hope is to bring a focus on to the people who are making a huge difference and helping us in our quest for equality.”
The luncheon’s other co-host, Bill Brandel, country chief executive for Ingram Micro Canada – a founder and sponsor of the event – echoed Annan’s comments, adding the annual luncheon is always well attended by the channel community. In a brief interview with CDN, Brandel said the gender split is 50/50 overall across Ingram Micro Canada, but shared his regret that only 20 per cent of women have a role at an executive level. The company is actively trying to improve that statistic, he said, by ensuring everyone has an equal opportunity when a position opens up and ensuring the hiring pipeline is full of diverse candidates. Brandel also voiced his disappointment around the misconception that the #MeToo movement introduced new rules to the office. “There are no new rules. It’s simply about treating everyone equally.”
One of the first speakers of the afternoon cleverly weaved together her top five superpowers into an acronym that represented their theme. Jennifer Villers, senior manager of marketing for Ingram Micro Canada, listed nurturing, optimistic, authentic, multitasker and wise as her top five superpowers – which, she revealed, spelled the acronym “WOMAN.”
“We all have many different superpowers and we should be proud of them and work with them together as a team,” she said.
Mary Ann Yule is one of the most recognizable members of the Canadian IT channel. The president and CEO of HP Canada Co. took to the stage Thursday afternoon and shared stories about her journey through the channel community, the ups and downs along the way, and her current leadership vision. Prior to joining HP, Yule led the team at CDW to become the top solution provider in Canada, one of the top workplaces for women, and one of Canada’s Top 100 employers as well. “We worked hard and played hard,” she said. “We had tremendous growth. My mantra was ‘be your best, and do whatever you’re doing marginally better every single day.’ After a year, you’ll have 365 marginally better experiences, and all of a sudden you become way better at what you’re doing.”
Another very recognizable member of the Canadian IT channel took to the stage after Yule to introduce the Women in the IT Channel Hall of Fame. Deanna Thomson, Dell EMC’s director of channel sales, said a diverse workforce helps them make better business decisions. “It’s part of the company’s DNA,” she said. “We promote diversity and inclusion within our organization because we believe that this approach helps us drive and accelerate business and employee growth. And quite frankly, the numbers prove this.” Thomson said that 29 per cent of the company’s workforce is women, and 23 per cent of managers are women as well. “As Michael Dell often says, we’re pleased but not satisfied.”
Audience members at this year’s CDN Women in the IT Channel Recognition Luncheon burst into a round of applause after hearing FedEx Canada’s president passionately reiterate that women shouldn’t have to choose between a family or a career – they can have both. “I tell women that all the time,” said Lisa Lisson, Thursday’s guest speaker at this year’s luncheon event. Lisson, who began her career with FedEx Canada as an entry-level marketer, discussed her ascension up the corporate ladder during the event. Her story was filled with loss and resilience. The sudden passing of her husband at a young age didn’t stop her from continuing to raise four children while building a successful career. “I’m still a firm believer in optimism, but I understand that it has its limits,” she said.
Four new Women of the IT Channel Hall of Fame honourees were introduced at the end of the afternoon’s program. The honourees were:
Reem Gedeon, senior vice-president of sales for CompuCom
Donna Wittmann, partner and DX consultant for VMI Collective
Gillian Morton, chief financial officer for Blair Technology Solutions
Jaime Leverton, General manager and vice-president of Canada and APAC at Cogeco Peer 1.
Two additional special awards were handed out as well. Gail Mercer-MacKay, president and chief storyteller at Mercer-MacKay Solutions, was this year’s Mentor of the Year award winner, while Erika Moll-Richardson, ProServeIT’s business development manager, took home Rising Star. Pictured above from left: Morton, Wittmann, Leverton, MacKay, Gedeon and Richardson.