Denise Young started the Okanagan Chapter and now is the lead for one of WIL’s key project, Bridge to Gender Equality Project. Denise is also the CEO/Founder/Consultant of Tiger’s Eye Advisory Group which offers EDI, Leadership and Communication workshops. Denise is a keynote speaker, professional facilitator and instructor. Denise brings empowerment and creates collaborative work spaces where “everyone is at the table” to everything she does. She has a Bachelor of Management and a Masters of Arts in Communication and Technology from University of Alberta.
Why are you leading WIL’s Bridge to Gender Equality Project and what does equity, diversity, and inclusion matter to you? I am honoured to be leading the Bridge to Gender Equality Project. The reason I took on this role is I feel I can make a difference and I want to be part of shifting changes. I grew up in a multicultural home. My brother and I were both adopted (from different families and we are both mixed race). I had no idea until about three years ago as I started developing and teaching Equity, Diversity and Inclusion programs and workshops, how much discrimination and racism that we faced. Today I still get comments of “but I think of you as white”, or if a racist comment is directed at my race and I call them out, I get the comment, “oh but you are different”. I faced anger and some resentfulness but realized that we need to start where people are at and need to start educating and creating an awareness from a place of not shaming nor blaming. Inclusion is including those who have been excluded in the past while not excluding those who are currently included… to simplify it is about adding not subtracting.
Who is your greatest role model?
I have several as I find I have them for different reasons. If I was to name one, it is one of the most courageous, powerful and gentle women I have the honour to work with. I did not get her approval to name her here so I will highlight her qualities of why.
She has faced hard, difficult situations as recent as last year yet she chooses to still be kind and grateful.
She is a “formal” leader but chooses to lead from a place of “empowerment” rather than “power”
She is funny and down to earth and we can have “real conversations”.
She will call out what she feels and knows is not right in a respectful way.
What is your greatest accomplishment in your career trajectory?
Taking a risk and starting a business consulting firm in 2017. I left a six figure paying job, moved to a city I loved and started my business. From a young age, I was always thinking of business ideas and tried so many times but when the last step came of making the final commitment, my self-confidence got the best of me. I knew this was my path from a young age. Five years later after starting my business, I have not looked back despite losing all my work during Co-Vid. I absolutely love being my own boss and if I am having a bad day, I talk to my boss and sometimes she is nice and compassionate and other times, she is not so nice and pushes me to get it done☺
What advice would you give to women who are building their careers?
Here are my top 10:
Everyone has value and surround yourself with people who uplift you and believe in you.
Invest in yourself (hire a business coach, personal coach or sign up for a mentorship program). They help guide you as to what you want, how to stay focused and what are your personal strengths and also what are some beliefs about yourself that could be hindering you.
Never stop learning and nothing is above you or beneath you. At 33 years old, I started over in my career and went to a whole new direction. I went to school and had to take a co-op position but I advanced quickly and even though it pained me I was doing things that I thought were “below” me, I keep a good attitude and did what was assigned to me and gave it 100%.
Set clear boundaries personally and professionally. “NO” is a complete sentence
Take risks and do not look at them as “failures” if it does not work to your favour. When I was offered a contract to design and deliver an instructing job, I thought “I am not a teacher” but I tried it and realized that is my passion and what I am good at. Other opportunities did not have this “successful” outcome but you only find out by trying.
Ask for what you want, the worst case scenario is it is a no, well in this case you are no better off, and no worse off. Consider this when asking for a raise, negotiating benefits etc.
Ask for help. I had an “I can do it on my own” but once I started asking for help, I progressed so much further.
Be open and try as many new things as possible. I used to think that having so many experiences would hinder my career growth. But running my own business, these experiences has elevated my business as clients want me to do a diverse range of projects.
One of my mentors provided some of the best advice to me on success:
Need to have a superior complex (to have enough confidence to take risks)
Need to be insecure (to keep us compassionate)
Do not be a squirrel (to stay focused). I still struggle with this one☺
What do you think is the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind you?
I believe my biggest challenge that I faced will be the same as the generation behind me. It is our self-confidence. It is important to understand that friends/family/partners put expectations on us that has been driven by society “norms”. It comes from a place of caring but you know yourself the best and if it is something you really want go for it! I was told that I did not have good enough grades to get into University so I didn’t go as felt I was “stupid”. But at 33 I said, I can do it and I did (and excelled at it) and then went on to getting a Master’s degree.
Connect with Denise:
LinkedIN: Denise Young
To learn more about the Bridge to Gender Equality Project, go HERE.