#MyFeminism: Reflecting on One Woman’s Journey at Eagle

Darcie James-Maxwell, Eagle’s Head of Canadian Operations, is participating on the CIBC Mellon WIN panel today celebrating International Women’s Day and the #PressforProgress.

Darcie James-Maxwell, Head of Canadian Operations

It is with great pride and gratitude that I am presented with the opportunity to be a part of International Women’s Day. As I reflect on my own career journey starting as an analyst, I am thankful for the women who paved the way for many of us to finally have a seat at the table. As a woman of color, I’ve had more than one obstacle to overcome as I pursued my passion for competence, credibility and leadership in the fintech industry.

Over the last year, women’s issues have been firmly in the spotlight. With companies across the world committing to closing the gender pay gap, it feels like we are closer than ever to achieving gender equality in the workplace and in our everyday lives. Movements fueled by women have inspired the women’s marches across North America while the #MeToo Movement has gripped social media, resulting in recognition and equality expansion. As a result, Canada has recently proposed an amendment that redefines its Labour Code to support women on equal footing in the workplace. Unfortunately, we still have a long road ahead of us. A quote from a recent report from the World Economic Forum states that gender parity is more than 200 years away. Therefore, the relevancy of this year’s theme for International Women’s Day – #PressforProgress – could not be any more appropriate.

As I look at my organization, management, and Canadian team, I am delighted to observe how progressive and supportive Eagle Investment Systems has been. Programs like the Women’s Initiative Network (WIN) encourages employees to come together and help each other grow within the organization – pairing women with mentors of all genders. WIN sits within Eagle’s Diversity Council, which also supports a number of other resource groups within the company to facilitate inclusivity. IMPACT, for instance, is focused on the recruitment, development and retention of employees across all backgrounds and genders to create a multicultural environment that benefits from our employees’ cultural and cognitive diversity, whereas HEART is a resource group that caters to our employees with disabilities.

Yet even with the power of large global movements and a company that truly appreciates the value of a diverse workforce, we must continually examine the roles we can play to take matters into our own hands and #PressforProgress ourselves. It can be something small, every day, to consider how our actions affect those around us who are different. Or it can be far larger in scope, such as becoming a mentor to proactively coach our younger colleagues by providing a conscientious ear or offering direction that inspires confidence and resolution. Because 200 years is too long for us to sit around and wait for change; we need a plan and we need to execute upon it.

It’s incredible to see the initiatives other companies are pursuing as a result of these movements. The traction made over just the past few months is proof that these efforts work. Just last month, Sheryl Sandberg launched the #MentorHer campaign, recognizing that many men who could be life-changing mentors to women are now uncomfortable in that type of role. This reflects the journey that has to be traveled to achieve gender parity, which won’t be navigated over a straight or direct path.

Though I now serve as Eagle’s Head of Canadian Operations, the road that led me here was a unique journey where I never rested on my laurels. Every day, I took progress into my own hands and as I look back on what has served me well, a few key strategies stood out that can likely apply to other women in a field that has traditionally been dominated by men:

Build Your Own Brand – It takes just seven seconds for someone to form an opinion of us. With such a short window to shape assumptions, our personal brands are critically important to how our colleagues view us. Are we taking advantage of that time to ensure people see us as an individual, not just a woman? How are we presenting ourselves so people will see us for what we can deliver and not just who we are? What language are we using and how do we speak to others? What are we adding to the conversation? For example, if you are the only woman in a meeting, think about how you react to this. Do you accept a lesser role being in the minority, or do you own your seat at the table and take advantage of it, making sure your voice resonates with the same frequency as everyone else’s?

The author Jim Collins in his book “Great by Choice,” described that we must pursue a 20-mile journey every day to build a consistent brand. And beyond helping our own careers, it sets an example for others to emulate. In fact, numerous women at Eagle, perhaps without realizing it, provided cues for me in building my brand.

Equip Yourself with Tools and Strategies – Eagle is fortunate enough to work with Bentley University’s Center for Women and Business, where I recently had a chance to explore strategies for dealing with unconscious bias in the workplace. When thinking about an equal and inclusive workplace, we must recognize that we may have unconscious biases—opinions that we form outside of our conscious awareness.

But there are tools we can use every day to open our minds and expand our perspective. It can be as simple as choosing to go to lunch with someone different each day. When we are in meetings, do we choose to call on the same people over and over, or do we allow other perspectives into the mix? Or when we are communicating feedback, are we only giving negative feedback or are we combining it with praise as well? A simple strategy for progress is to do something different each time we are in a given situation in order to force ourselves to change hardwired habits. Again, developing these strategies for addressing bias and inequity will encourage others to examine their own perspectives.

Seek Out Mentors and Champions – It’s simply not possible for anyone to do everything themselves. When I think about each rung on the ladder that I’ve climbed, I remember the person or people who were there to help propel me each step of the way. I began my career straight out of high school with a simple filing assignment at Frank Russell Canada. Both an early-bird and an avid reader, I would get into the office early and begin filing. As I tucked the information away, I took the initiative to also read and absorb the material being filed. As luck would have it, the senior head consultant also kept early hours, and began to notice my dedication and interest in the work. With his recommendation, the firm funded a university education for me—an opportunity I never would have imagined possible.

There were also champions, whom I’m indebted to, that encouraged me to take the Canadian securities course. This allowed me to land a job as a performance analyst. Future mentors also helped me recognize my true strengths, which guided my career from consulting to financial services technology. Fittingly, Mal Cullen, Eagle’s CEO, has been one of my biggest career mentors and champions. He hired me as a member of his team in the Canadian office and has never hesitated to provide guidance on what it takes to become a leader or lend a patient ear.

If each of us can all commit to doing all we can to press for progress—both our own and that of our female colleagues—we can unite our networks to gain even more traction toward gender parity.

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