Isabelle Duchaine is the director of the Business/Higher Education Roundtable.
What advice would you offer women pursuing leadership positions in their fields?
Don’t wait until you’re established in your career to become a mentor. There are always people – new grads, university students, first-year students – who are looking for advice on navigating their next steps. Be open and give the advice you wish you’d gotten. In a few years (or decades!), they’ll be your colleagues and your biggest supporters.
What is your definition of success?
Being successful means having a reputation as someone who is smart, competent and empathetic. When you have to make a tough decision – one that will upset people – and you get to the point where people say, ‘I don’t agree with you, but I understand why you’re doing it,’ that is a true sign of success.
If you could start your career again, what is one thing you would do differently?
Spend less time worrying about if my emails were the appropriate tone. I’ve never judged anyone for the number of exclamation marks they have in an email, so they probably don’t care about what I do!
What has been the greatest challenge you have experienced as a leader and how have you overcome it?
Standing up for your convictions sounds like a no-brainer, but it gets tough when you realize that your outspokenness will probably have an impact on your reputation and your career. Don’t let your pragmatism get in the way of your values.
What are the keys to advancing equity, diversity and inclusion in business and/or higher education?
On a macro level, advancing equity, diversity and inclusion requires fixing the structural issues that prevent people from certain communities from accessing the services that others receive implicitly. On a micro level, it requires keeping the door open to others after you walk through.
Universities Canada celebrates International Women’s Day 2019 by recognizing the achievements of Isabelle Duchaine and her unique path to leadership.