To celebrate Women’s History Month, CAMSC President and CEO Cassandra Dorrington spoke with two phenomenal women business leaders Nina Gupta, President and CEO of Greenlite, and Aneela Zaib, Founder and CEO of emergiTEL for March’s “On the Couch with CAMSC”. Together, they discussed their career journeys, what it’s like to be a woman in business, gender bias, and the benefits of diversity in the workplace.
“Pursuing excellence”, “finding your niche” and “creating a space to mentor women” are key drivers of the success and the legacy that they will leave for the young women entrepreneurs of tomorrow.
“I was an engineering major in my undergrad, which was not very popular for girls in Pakistan,” said Aneela. Once graduated, she moved to Canada to pursue her masters, all while raising her 11-month-old son. She eventually secured a job as an engineer in the testing/implantation department of a telco company, configuring cisco routers.
“The department was male dominated, and the general attitude from them was to double check the things that I had worked on, as if they weren’t sure I could do it right.” She continued, “I worked hard to excel to prove I was worthy of the position, and soon gained their confidence.”
Aneela’s response to gender bias is to pursue excellence in whatever you do. In 2006, she started her business emergiTEL from her home. EmergiTEL is an HR Solutions firm and one of Canada’s fastest growing and best managed companies. “As a working mom and an entrepreneur, my success was not only measured in terms of my company’s growth, but also on how successful of a mother I am,”, Aneela shared, adding that she is fortunate to be able to break those biases with success from both worlds.
Cassandra explains how she was inspired to start her own consulting firm at a point in her life when it was clear that the corporate world presented more barriers for her than her male counterparts no matter how much she achieved or how hard or how fast she ran. “As I began my entrepreneurial journey, I recognized that female mentors weren’t there when I needed them. For that reason, I feel it is important that we act as mentors for other women. While being a woman brings strength and a range of competencies to any position, it is also crucial to identify where the advice and lived experiences of other women are beneficial to your business and personal growth.”
Nina is the President and CEO of Greenlite, a company that has manufactured LED lighting long before the status quo that’s evolved to dominate the efficient utilities industry. “My business was started when I was 18, It has grown very conservatively, but it has been very successful with growth every year.” Under Nina’s leadership, Greenlite has seen significant growth since its inception. The key takeaways she’s learned in her career journey include to find the market share that works for your business, and to take the path that’s right for you. Next, “follow the money, if you see the gaps, bridge them,” she says. And finally, “Find your sweet spot, you don’t have to be everything for everybody.”
Despite the work or achievements accomplished by woman, many still face micro and major biases. “When asked what advice she would give to female entrepreneurs Aneela says, “Don’t be afraid to question. The day you stop questioning, you will lose your reasoning. Once you lose your reasoning, you will never be able to qualify the right people who need help around you, whether it’s for securing jobs, or with any other help they need to grow in their careers and lives.”
Each woman brings a unique perspective to their separate industries, but they all agree that for your business to be healthy and to grow you need to evolve with the needs of your customers, and always be looking ahead.
“As a female BIPOC entrepreneur, I wanted to create and lead an organization where talent is valued over other biases,” Aneela continued, “My goal now is to continue growing my team and kindle the quality of entrepreneurship among many women capable of making a mark on tomorrow.”
Diversity and inclusion continue to become the focus for more and more organizations each year. It is an asset to be a female-led business, and as we look towards a more equitable future, we are eager to see the contributions and innovation that women will bring to a more inclusive and diverse supply chain.