• Entrepreneurship at UBC

#IWD2021: Leadership in a Time of Crisis

Adapted from our recent International Women's Day event, #IWD2021: Leadership in a Time of Crisis.


evolution is a podcast shining light on our ecosystem’s stories of innovation, impact and hustle throughout their venture building journey. Join us as we build community and knowledge related to entrepreneurship during the course of COVID-19.


In this episode of our podcast, evolution, we present to you an inspiring discussion unpacking the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on women entrepreneurs, leaders and innovators and learn how we, as an ecosystem, can move forward and take action. Featuring Kristina Bergman, Partner, Pender Ventures, Rohene Bouajram, Associate Director, Strategic IBPOC (Indigenous, Black and/or People of Colour) Initiatives at UBC, Nazneen Damji, Policy Advisor, Gender Equality, HIV, and Health, UN Women, and Michelle Sklar, Head of Brand and Marketing and EIR, entrepreneurship.


Listen to the 7th episode of evolution Season 2



To read a full transcript, see below:


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Michelle Sklar: I am so excited to get into this discussion. We've got, as I noted earlier, truly an incredible group of panelists with experience spanning venture building investing to policy creation and strategic initiatives here at UBC. So, today we are joined by Rohene Bouajram, Associate Director of strategic IBPOC. So, Indigenous, Black and or people of Colour initiatives at UBC, Nazneen Damji, Policy Advisor, Gender Equality, HIV and Health at UN Women, and Kristina Bergman, who is a partner with Pender Ventures, all of whom are here to celebrate with us today and discuss women and leadership in a time of crisis. As we get things kicked off here, we're gonna have each of the panelists introduce themselves in their own words, so we can learn a bit more about their journeys as innovators, leaders and entrepreneurs. We'll kick it off sort of alphabetically according to last name. We'll start with Kristina, then Rohene, and then as Nazneen. Kristina, for introduction, would love to certainly learn more about what it is that you're doing now, but what your journey has looked like, and what's driven you to do the impactful work that you're doing today.


Kristina Bergman: Wonderful. Thank you, Michelle, and thanks for all of you for joining today, I'm hopeful that this will be a really, really great discussion. So my journey has been almost entirely through software, working for startups here in Vancouver, working at Microsoft in Seattle. I am now in my second stint working in venture capital. I recently sold my software company this past summer in Seattle, and decided to take the opportunity to move back to Vancouver so that we can raise our kids here and have a semblance of safety and sanity somewhere north of the border. I mean, from my perspective, some of the things that I've done, they're probably less kind of broadly impactful than some of my co panelists, but they're, I would say they're micro examples that we'll talk a little bit more about today, and kind of what I've done within my own company, and then what we're doing at the venture level, to make sure that we're investing in much more diverse teams, and quite literally putting our money where our mouth is.


Michelle Sklar: Awesome, thank you, Kristina. Rohene, please go next.


Rohene Bouajram: Thank you so much, Michelle, and thank you, Kristina. Welcome, everyone. I think in the pandemic, now that we're all remote welcome to my home, where you get to see a backdrop of what I refer to as my zen and my living room.


I have worked in higher education for over 15 years and my roles have touched from working with international students to driving policy reform and revision that intersects with the Canadian immigration legislation to also taking on volunteer roles, such as being an executive member chairboard with the SIETAR BC organization also working with the Canadian Verb for International Education. I was thinking a lot about how I would introduce myself, and one thing that I wanted to share about my journey is that in all the roles that I've held,I've never necessarily relied on a title to back up my leadership potential. In part because in everything that I've tried to do, I've held myself and the work that I do to a standard our responsibility to make a difference. Having come from a family, who over generations had experienced their fair share of sacrifice and trauma and ambition. I always thought about positions and places where I could make an impact on not only the work that I do, but to also really draw questions of why for whom, and who have we excluded when we do what we do. So it's my hope I consider myself at a sort of a bit of a mid-career level right now. But it's my hope that I continue to challenge the status quo to think deeply about meaningful inclusion and belonging and joy for not only all women but individuals who come from marginalized communities. Thank you.


Michelle Sklar: Awesome, thank you so much Rohene. Nazneen, we'd love to hear from you.


Nazneen Damji: Great. Thank you so much. And thanks again for inviting me to be part of this panel. I'm looking forward to the discussions. I guess for me, I'm currently a policy advisor at the UN in New York for a new entity that was born 10 years ago called UN Women. It's such a proud moment for us to keep saying that. So I keep saying that. But I guess for me the journey started when I immigrated from Africa and for me, really, my desire to be part of the whole international development scene started there. And I continued through school working on political science, international development, and then I focused on gender equality and development for my master's, and all of it was kind of really about how can I contribute to some of what I have witnessed and what I have seen in terms of injustice. So it's really been this kind of process of, Okay, I think I kind of know what I want to be when I grow up and where I want to make a difference. Before working at UN Women, I worked in Kenya at the Environment Program and helped to try and understand environmental management from a women's rights perspective, which was not what I focused on. But it was something that allowed me to branch into an area to apply myself with the knowledge that I had, and slowly got involved in looking at how do we, in a venue of an intergovernmental space, try and make change. Always feeling like the outsider, because we, as UN Women, and mostly those working on women's rights tend to be affiliated more with the kind of movement, if you will, the women's movement, rather than feeling part of a big bureaucratic machinery. In all of it, as I was going along, I found out that work in HIV, where it was very, very difficult to say, well, women are actually also affected and infected and are getting impacted as unpaid caregivers, subsidizing health systems. We were not talking about that way back in 2001, when the UN had a big summit on HIV, no one was talking about that. So I found my niche. And since then, I've taken on the portfolio of health. And since then, it's been really about ensuring women's access to sexual reproductive health and rights, and all the stuff that goes along and the challenges that go along with that. nd I was just thinking about what made me want to keep doing this. And that is really, you know, the culture that I grew up in, and the communities that I was around, and this desire to serve and support in any way that I could. And that's what kind of brought me here.



Michelle Sklar: Awesome, wow, such incredible backgrounds and journeys that you've all experienced. So once again, really appreciate you joining us today to share more about that. So, you know, our theme today revolves around leadership. And this is certainly a theme that we talk about often. And, you know, I think that despite the big strides that we've made, there still seems like there's lots of work to do. There's one thing knowing that you want to lead or that you really do want to lead, but then how you lead can be a challenge for people across different, you know, types of communities and backgrounds, if you will. And so I thought it might be interesting for us to maybe sort of kick off the discussion, to learn a little bit more about what your leadership approach or style is, and how it has also kind of developed and changed over time. I think that would be great to sort of give a little bit of a trajectory example as well. Rohene, maybe we'll start with you if you can share some of your insights.


Rohene Bouajram: Absolutely, thank you so much. I draw upon individuals that I look to as role models, so individuals like Michaelangelo, Oprah, and certainly Brene Brown, I think, with regard to two values that I'd like to share that really underpin my leadership style, and how I like to show up and, and these two values are around authenticity and vulnerability. Often, I want to be seen as a human who's capable of not only doing both good, but also making mistakes as a leader. And it's important to recognize, I think, as a leader that when you uphold values that these values are sometimes in contrast, or in contradiction to remnants of perfectionism, individualism, and also superiority, which still, unfortunately, are embedded within the systems and the structures that we show up as, as women. And so I do find myself constantly in an internal struggle, as I think about my leadership journey of wanting to stay true to myself while meaning this invisible bar of thou shall act this way. So I found three things that have been helpful. The first has been that I've really invested in my own inner work and understanding what fires me up what triggers me. And where does this come from? The second thing that I've done and might sound like a cliche, but I really, exercise, being gentle with myself and understanding that I had to do the things that I've had to do because they worked at a time. They've gotten me to where I am now. However, as I pause, and I've reflected on whether they're coping strategies or strategies to show up, I've had to ask myself with as much compassion as I can muster. Do they serve me now? And if they don't, how might I let them go? The last I would say helpful tip that I can share with my leadership journey is to surround myself with my people. And these are individuals who will lift me up, who will hold a mirror to my truth, and who will accept me as who I am, and not necessarily who I should be. I give a shout out to my colleagues, female colleagues who are part of our UBC Black Caucus executives, which is an all-female executive team. Because particularly in the last year, with the Black Lives Matter movement, we've had to step up in ways in which we've had to put our hearts forward, but also roll up our sleeves and find ways in which to muster strength and resilience, a word that I don't like, in order for us to really think about black excellence, and also to support blackness across many communities. So it's been an evolving journey, one that I imagine will continue to evolve. But it is also one that I'm excited about, and I think it's wonderful for us to be able to have this conversation about the evolution of leadership.


Michelle Sklar: Awesome, thank you so much, I really appreciate you know, your points around authenticity, and also just that being kind to yourself, so that you can give yourself the space to grow and breathe and process the kind of work that you want to do, but also around the importance of having that hive of having that community because, you know, I think that we certainly can all relate that that community you surround yourself with can really lift you up. Whether it's through good days or bad days, but that community is I know, for me, I find it really vital. That's what gives me energy, so I certainly can relate. Nazneen perhaps you can share some of your insights around your sort of leadership approach. I think the journey that you mentioned was really interesting. So I'd love to learn more about kind of how that evolved.


Nazneen Damji: Great, thank you so much. When I was thinking about my leadership style, I was kind of thinking when we work on women's rights, and I've been doing this now for over 20 years, it's really, it necessitates an inclusive approach.Because it's an issue that cuts across every sector and involves many actors. Inclusion is one of my kind of mantras. So for me, that's been really a critical piece to ensure that wherever and however, whichever team, whatever scenario I'm in, I'm wanting to make sure that all voices are heard. But then working at the UN, you kind of figure out also that not everyone's always on the same page, you're working in a multicultural environment. That means you also need to be thinking about inclusion, but also consensus building. How do you do that? You can have a variety of people at the table having many different views, but then you need to arrive at a point where you can move forward. So that's been a skill and I think that's been something that I've seen as something that is of value for us to do as women leaders. In my role right now, as a policy advisor, we provide support to our country offices, to our teams in the regions to within our interagency work with other UN partners. with senior management, in all cases, you have to adjust based on power dynamics of course. Last year, I was asked to take on the role of the lead for our COVID-19 Task Force internally for Policy Program and partnerships. And wow, that was an experience. And I found myself that, you know, really what I was doing was facilitating, I was bringing people around the table, making sure things got done. We had colleagues from different areas, different teams, communications, resource mobilization. I mean, at that point, it was really all hands on deck, whoever could jump in, was jumping in. And I was leading this group, but then at the end of the day, I was the deliverables were on me. I tried as much as possible to facilitate but I had to take responsibility. So I think the next thing that for me is really important for leadership is the willingness to take on responsibility and to be held accountable. Because ultimately, you can be as inclusive as possible. You can be building consensus, you can be driving things as a group, but you ultimately have to stand up and be able to defend the decisions that you make and be willing to do that. I think that that's something that I've learned about leadership. I've been exposed to different types of leaders as well in my journey, and sometimes you find leaders that actually don't want to take responsibility, and that's where things become a little bit tricky. So I think that's a really important component. Thank you.


Michelle Sklar: Awesome, I agree and I just wanted to. I was thinking just sort of back to Rohene’s point about the importance of authenticity. And I feel that accountability and authenticity are quite a sort of meshed together. If you will, because there are different styles and different approaches and Nazneen, I can only imagine building consensus with such a large group of people that you've got the intersectionality of where they may sort of feel they're coming from or where they want to go. But there are so many layers of diversity for people because it's the style in which they leave the pace in which they do their work, how they interact with people individually, so it can make for a very sort of complex situation. And so I think about accountability to a certain degree, can add some clarity or simplicity, as long as I can do the things that I say I'm going to do, my role as a leader will kind of start to speak for itself, because I'm delivering on what it is that I said I was going to do. So I just wanted to put that out there that made me think of that. Kristina, please share with us your thoughts around the approach to leadership?


Kristina Bergman: Yeah, well, I love Rohene and Nazneen’s journeys, I think they're fantastic. I think my journey around leadership has been much more of an internal struggle. And I would frame that up as deprogramming myself. Because, you know, growing up as a little girl in the 80s, you know, you look on billboards, and you see women's half-naked bodies used to sell ceiling fans to lawnmowers you turn on the radio, and you hear women referred to as the B-word or the or the WH word take your pick. And then you watch TV shows and movies. And you see women portrayed as beautiful sidekicks to an average-looking man's adventure. And it just makes you feel like you're worthless if you're not pretty. And you have to be perfect in order to have worth and in order to give yourself permission to lead. And it's been a journey because I wasn't aware of it in my 20s. Like, I was completely unaware of what the limiting factors were, for me that I was imposing on myself, like, forget society for a second, but just on myself. And then in my 30s, I remember the first time it really dawned on me was my first stint in the venture. I was an investor and sitting on one side of the boardroom table, and the CEOs of startups are coming in and pitching us for money. And it kind of threw me for a bit of a loop because I realized, these are really smart guys but they're not smart about everything. They don't know what they're talking about. And they might be excellent programmers, excellent coders, but they don't know the first thing about going to market. They don't know the first thing about finance. They don't know the first thing about 90% of what it takes to start a business, but they do have the courage to try. I remember that was the tipping point for me in thinking, why don't I do this, like, I don't know everything about everything. It's fine to be imperfect, you can be successful and not know everything. And you don't need to know everything before you try and you don't need to be able to do everything in order to have value as a leader. And that was the kind of tipping point for me, where I started to look around and think, Hmm, okay, I will give myself permission to try. I will give myself permission to fail to not know things to be imperfect, to ask for help, and to Rohene’s point to be vulnerable with people in positions of power, which is a hard thing to do when you're trying to be perfect all the time. And you conditioned yourself and spent your life trying to be perfect and trying to do your best and graduate on the Dean's list from UVic, like that was such a big deal for me, whoever the top 10% of the class Woohoo. But it was interesting because I ended up becoming really deliberate about surrounding myself with people who were on the same wavelength as I was. And so with my board, I felt very comfortable being vulnerable with them and saying, I don't know how to deal with this. I'm having this, this and this problem. I don't know how to approach it. Here's what I think. What do you think? Like helped me. And I was really deliberate about doing diligence about them before I took money from them. Two of them. I'd known for years in advance one I'd known for about eight months. But I called up other people they invested in and I asked them ugly questions like, have you ever seen them fire someone? What are they like when you miss two or three consecutive quarters? How do they react when things go poorly? Do they throw their laptop against the wall and get aggressive and angry and yell and scream? Or do they help you constructively solve problems? And so I think my journey and leadership has really been more around deprogramming myself from all the nonsense around, finding my self worth and my imperfections and realizing that that's not a flaw that's just being a person and that's good, and then just surrounding myself with people who who have that same philosophy. I realized that that’s putting myself in a bit of a bubble, but it's a bubble that's worked for me. Because it's put me in a position where I can now be in a position to influence others, invest in others, invest in other people's ideas and see their flaws as not negatives, which is kind of part and parcel of the whole game.


Michelle Sklar: I wholeheartedly agree, I was thinking, you know, around your comments around kind of giving yourself permission. It's like the mantra. So I thought, who here has a mantra that they kind of recite to themselves before they go into a meeting with either colleagues or other leaders or around decisions, but I certainly have sort of caught myself with this kind of little mantra, which can be important, because sometimes you sort of need to, in giving yourself permission, it also needs to be something that's, like, apparent and obvious, and almost kind of like talking yourself through something. So that you sort of feel that you're in the right place to then you know, kind of communicate what you're looking to communicate and cater to. So I was thinking that permission is really important. And then also, just your points around sort of the definitions of beauty or, you know, the standards around what we think about the standard of success are the standards of beauty are or how women are supposed to behave. And certainly, in this day and age, we still see examples, or maybe I mean, I know I've had experiences where it's kind of like, I can tell like, that's not how a lady is supposed to, you know, act type of thing, which, of course, you know, is very infuriating. So, I think it's important, the work that we do on ourselves, to break down our own kind of, I guess, sort of social constructs around those stereotypes so that we can really do the work that we know that we need to be doing. So I'm all very good. Sage words of wisdom, shall we say? So I wanted to move on to talking about power gaps. I know in our prep call, I'd mentioned I had been reading some of the articles that had been in the Globe and Mail recently around the gender pay gaps, in particular, looking at some of the law firms across the country. And that made me sort of think about this question a little bit more for our conversation today. And so the power gaps that we've seen sort of have been even more exacerbated by the pandemic. I thought that it would be great to dive into like, where are you seeing some of these power gaps show up in your work? And where or what are you doing about them? And what are maybe some of the recommendations you have for our audience today to think about if you're encountering a power gap, or you're thinking about a power gap, how do you address that? So, Kristina, maybe we'll start with you again because I know in our prep call that we were talking about some of the work that you had been doing within your own company to set the standards and bar around the things that are important to you, and would love for you to share that with the audience?


Kristina Bergman: Yeah, absolutely. Um, so one of the challenging things about ventures is that you're dealing with tech and finance, and you're kind of at the intersection of bro town and dudes-ville. And so it's very heavily male-dominated. And it was not unusual for me to go to a VC conference and realize I'm the only woman in the room or one of two. It was quite funny because I have made more good friends in the women's washroom at BC conferences than I can tell you, it's like, Hi you’re the other woman, we're gonna hang out. And With that kind of complete gender inequality in an entire industry, bad behavior can run rampant, because there is a power imbalance that comes with gender imbalance, they tend to go hand in hand. And so it's depressing to say this, but it's the truth from my perspective. Every single woman I know who works in a venture has a story about sexual harassment in the workplace. I don't know one person who doesn't like I have yet to meet a person who doesn't have a story and it's depressing. And so when I, when I left my last firm and started my company, I thought the last thing I want is to have anybody in a position of power, who's behaving horribly towards me, and I can't get rid of them. I can't do anything about it. Because when you take venture funding from someone, you're more than married, it's easier to get divorced than it is to get rid of an ambassador. And I thought, okay, we've got to be able to deal with this somehow. So I asked my lawyer and I said, Okay, here's the deal. Here's what I want to be able to do. If somebody behaves badly, I want to get rid of them. And I said, tell me there's a clause somewhere that we can put in our founding documents that allow me to do that. And he went back and searched and he said, there's absolutely nothing in the software industry. He said, The closest thing I can find is in the movie and TV industry, where there are protections for actors, there are protections for talent, and you can remove an actor. And there's a kind of financial comeback if that happens. And I said, Okay, well, I want to have something in my documents, just because it hasn't been done before it doesn't mean it can't be done. And I said, I want something, I want a clause and I want to be able to get rid of them. So step number one was to go and talk to my incoming investors before I even wrote a line of code and I said, here's what I want to do, here's why I want to do it. And just to be perfectly clear, if I thought either of you would be problems in this regard, we wouldn't be having this conversation, I wouldn't have come to you for money. And I said, but this is what I want to do and why. And so I basically worked with them, and like multiple legal teams, my legal team, their legal team, and came up with a clause in our voting rights agreement, that allows me to remove a board member in the event of sexual harassment, and it's a very simple, very low, I would say, low touch way of dealing with it, where the investor keeps their board seat, but the individual has to be swapped out. So the firm still retains their seat and their rights that come with their investment, but the partner has to be removed. And it's a super, super simple thing, you know, nothing needs to be public, it's outside counsel that gets assigned to interview the people involved, a memo gets sent to the board, and then based on a majority vote, the bar is that there was a reasonable probability that it occurred. And if the reasonable probability bar is met, then the board votes, and out they go. And we extended that to protect not just me and employees at the company, but also other board members as well. Because for a while I had, one of the partners at the firm was a female board member, and we wanted to make sure it extended to her as well.


And the interesting part about it is that at the time, when we created it, it was for protection, so that I wouldn't have to deal with it, basically. And so we can just focus on building a great company and doing our jobs. But you know, the female taxes or minority taxes, you have to think through these future possible events and protect yourself preemptively in order to get the right to do your job. And so that at the time, it was just about I just want to do my job, I just want to have the same shot at it that everybody else does. But the interesting part is that moving forward, it became a great calling mechanism for future investors. Because I would always once conversation two or three, it happened, I would do the, oh, by the way, just so you know, your lawyers will flag this if we get to diligence, but we do have this clause that does bah, bah, bah, bah, bah, this is why, you know, I'm sure it's not a problem. We just wanted to flag it for you, because I know your lawyer as well. And so if you have any questions, just feel free to ask me. And it was great, because anybody who had any skeletons in their closet or kind of an iffy reputation, just backed away from the deal right away, because they knew there were teeth to it. And so it was great. It became a preemptive culling mechanism and something that I've shared quite broadly. And I think it got shared in the chat. There's a link to the article in geek wire, where I outline it. And if anybody ever wants the exact verbiage, I will happily share it. I would love it if more entrepreneurs, more people in executive positions, started insisting that this became a clause. Because if you have a way to get rid of people who behave like this, you get rid of people who behave like this, which is so good. And then we could just do our jobs. I saw something in the British Parliament. I saw a video this morning in relation to a woman who disappeared two weeks ago and her remains have been found, where the woman was threatening to implement a 6 pm lockdown for men. So men are not allowed out after 6 pm so that women can feel safe walking home, and I started to laugh. But at the same time, I thought, well, that's actually kind of nice, like one night a year just have like, 6 pm, where we can just roam the streets willy nilly. It's like, Take Back the Night. But anyway, that aside, the UK Parliament there, snarkiness aside, I'm very happy to share it. And I think it's a really good weeding mechanism.


Michelle Sklar: Awesome, thank you so much. I think that just that whole notion of like, being pre-emptive, around something so that you are in control of an initiative or project or adventure, or whatever the case may be because so much of these sort of like cultural components or understanding of how you're going to work with a group of people is established at the very beginning. Right. And so I think that's such a strong initiative. And there are lots of great comments here in the chat. I'm like, Oh, that's a really great idea. Right, this idea of being kind of preemptive. And, and sort of setting the stage for what is acceptable from the beginning, because it will weed out those that don't want to participate, and then it certainly can save some very uncomfortable conversations, but also potentially terrible situations that can happen. So thank you so much for sharing that. Rohene I'm going to turn to you next that certain systems of oppression are felt differently amongst indigenous black and people of colors as individuals, as groups like communities, and I would love for you to maybe share with us how we can create true inclusion because I think that's really important. We all have these different perspectives and intersections if you will, and you've done such great work that I think it would be wonderful for you to share some examples of like, what should we be thinking about when we're thinking about inclusiveness with the organizations we're working with?


Rohene Bouajram: Absolutely. Thank you. I just want to say I assume you're laughing Kristina at some of the comments you're making. And I thought, wow, wouldn't that be a fantastic initiative, if that 6 pm lockdown came into power. I think what you brought up which I really appreciated, Kristina, around the proactive piece of having something in place to, to really create a foundation of a culture is that you set the tone for how individuals are going to conduct themselves and that there is a standard of how we would show up. So thank you for that. Systems of oppression are something that is very dear to my heart, it's also extremely challenging emotional work because it requires a lot out of myself in the role that I play in them. And really the multiple roles that I've held in being able to separate my identity as a black woman from supporting the individuals, whether they're on my team or students, and being able to see the systems that are still oppressive, add higher educational institutions and seeing how systemic racism, whether it's anti-Asian, or anti-black racism that unfortunately, still exists. What I'd like to share is something that happened pretty early on in one of my, probably one of my first leadership roles, I was so keen and so eager, and so I would show up to meetings, having well prepared that there was an agenda topic, I had several articles that I had research journals that I had looked into, and I had ideas that I was ready to bring to the table. And so I would come to meetings. And these were meetings with various senior leadership individuals and I would find a way that moment where somebody asked the question, does anyone have something to say, and right away, my hand would go up. And I would share that idea. And I was finding over the course of several meetings that put my hand up, I would share an idea. And there'll be silence. And then we would move on to the next agenda topic. It got to a point where I was feeling unsafe, either I had really shitty ideas, or I needed to figure out a different way to communicate. Or what I was finding, as far as a pattern was that after the meeting, people in that many would come up to me and say, Hey, Rohene, you know what, that was a really good idea. I really liked it. And I would say, Oh, thank you. And the same thing would happen multiple times. Eventually, I said, Why didn't you say anything in the meeting, then? Because that would have been more helpful if you did that. What I've learned about that particular experience is that in many ways, that is what we call a spectrum of performative versus active allyship. Performative allyship is when an individual says I am so for this cause I want to break down barriers. And then when the time comes, and the heat is turned up, silence by but active allyship, is when you're in that moment, the heat is turned up, and you have the privilege and the power to say, hold on, can we just take a moment to just hear out Rohene's idea, because there might be something here we want to unpack. And so there are little things that we can do in our every day, whether it is in meetings, or at the grocery store, we see something that feels like an injustice, or we can go ahead and oh my gosh, Kristina, all the power to you to insert clauses, because it makes an impact on how people can be included, how they can see their worst, whether it's their ideas, their consultation, in the work that we do. And so it's my hope that these little wins and these little steps that we make will bolt to a larger society of inclusion. We're getting there, but we're far from where we can be. Thank you.


Michelle Sklar: Wow, that was such an awesome response and just try to process everything to think about and thinking about how I show up to try to take all the things that everyone's talking about and thinking about how can I leverage these wonderful conversations and think about, kind of my own evolution and improvements if you will. But how we show up for our teams and how we show up for our colleagues and how we show up for the communities and things that we do that matter is so much more about just like kind of passively being in the room, but actually being proactive in that support, and how we show up, so thank you so much for that. Nazneen, I'd love to get your thoughts around sort of the power of the collective, which you sort of alluded to, you know, in your introductory remarks and sort of talking about those sort of the largeness if you will, of the organizations that you've worked with, and when we have that collective, what changes can we see happening within those organizations? I don't know whether it's in the organization or in the activities that the organization has come together on. But if you have any data points from any of the work that you've done, about what the power of the collective can do, I think that would be great to learn more about.


Nazneen Damji: Great, thank you so much. And, again, I just was thinking about the number of meetings I've been in that the same thing has happened. And I'm thinking, why? I'm going to come to that in a minute, I want to share some of the data that I post together based on what we do, just to say the Commission on the Status of Women, which is taking place next week, it starts next week, it goes for two weeks. And there The theme is focused on women's participation in decision-making in public life. And some of the new data which has just come out in the lead up to that the two-week session is around women in politics. And I just wanted to give you some of the data that I just got from my colleagues yesterday. So now we're looking at an increase in the number of women who are occupying the role of head of state or government to 22 countries, which was 20 in 2020. So we're getting there. But we're really, really slow. Just to say that as of January 2021 5.9%, of elected heads of state, which is 9 out of 152 and 6.7% of heads of government, which is 13 out of 193 countries are women, it's extremely slow. And then we also have now, unfortunately, fewer gender-equal governments that is the number of countries in which women hold at least 50% or more of the ministerial positions have dropped from 14 in 2020 to 13 in 2021. So clearly, we have to do a lot more to advance women's leadership. And I can give you a couple of examples. Now in terms of health, and particularly in terms of COVID. We know that women are 70% of the global health and care workforce. And when we did an analysis of participation of women in decision making in the COVID response, we found that in 87 countries, the National task force's there was only 3.5% that had gender parity of 3.5%. And women make up the bulk of the healthcare workforce. There's this need to really look at the numbers and really think about what are the strategies and as you were asking, so what's the difference when you put women around the table? So I found this really, really interesting study.


Again, a health example, there was a study done to try to figure out what was the connection between the number of women on the board and medical product recalls, it found that highly defective medical products and treatments are recalled 28 days faster, that's 35% faster when more than one woman is on the board of directors compared to all-male boards. So it is a question of when you think about product recalls, it is a question of life and death. It's also I think you would have heard and seen in the news too, in terms of COVID-19 the countries in the early days that seem to be faring a lot better, were those that were led by women leaders, and then an example not from health. We did an analysis of 40 peace processes that were held since the end of The Cold War, and it showed that women were able to exercise a strong influence on the negotiation process, there was a much higher chance that an agreement would be reached than when women didn't have a voice or had no influence. And then also that women's participation increased the probability of a peace agreement lasting at least two years, by 20%. And by 35%, of our peace agreement to last 15 years. So there is a change in results, there isn't that it's just for the sake of representation, we need women around the table making decisions that actually impact on results. One or two strategies I already mentioned, quotas are things that we always talk about when it comes to political participation. But I think we should be thinking about that across the board in any decision-making space, it seems that 30% is the tipping point, of course, everyone wants to always go for 5050. But 30% is the tipping point for any change to be happening. So you have that collective voice. And to come back to that kind of who's sitting around the table and who's giving that support is something that we really need to think about. In addition to that, you need to have that enabling environment. How are you creating the space for women to make decisions? And what are the kinds of capacities you need to build? And what is the kind of investment that's needed? And including things like changing the way that the media portrays women? It's just thinking back to what Kristina was saying about how she sees what she saw when she was a young girl? Well, how do we change that? How do we see women as leaders more than then they are now. And finally, just a piece of information that really struck me as I found out that at the World Health Organization, you're always seeing the people that are making all the big statements about what's happening around COVID, and the science and everything. But the second layer of management is across the board in terms of science, work, are all women, and you never hear about that. So just to say sorry to be so depressing with all this data and to be so long. But there's a lot of work that still needs to be done. Thanks.


Michelle Sklar: Well, that's certainly a lot to think about and to digest there. I know Allison's been very busy kind of capturing some of these things, so thank you for sharing all those data points that certainly help put a lot of things in perspective. So I was thinking about the results piece, right. And the stories that need to be told more and more about the results around things. So because that helps to position all of us for the kind of work that we want to do. So the stories and results I was thinking about were really important, but also your note around the 30% tipping point. Are you saying that at the point in which boards, for example, are 30%, women? That's where we're starting to see, like, change happening, right. And so not a reason to stop at 30%. But that's where we start to see that the dial moves?


Nazneen Damji: Yeah, absolutely. That's just that's exactly it. And that's why sometimes you hear about political participation and quotas and making sure that at least 30% of ministries, our positions are held by women. It's because of that tipping point.


Michelle Sklar: I'm just noticing the time here. I know, we've got like, a couple more minutes for actual discussion, and then we'll roll into the q&a, I do have a few more questions. So I'm going to go to one of my questions, and then we'll see what sort of other time we may have. Certainly, over the summer, we saw incredible momentum and movement around Black Lives Matter in response to the terrible racist processes that have been happening, I mean, everywhere and in the US forever. But momentums get spark or movements get sparked. And we start to, you know, things catalyze, and we start to see some real energy around that. I come from a background in my youth of being an activist, that was the way in which my brain operated around making change, I must be an activist, I feel like I probably am not as true to that ideology in my later years with the myriad of responsibilities and whatnot. But movements themselves are incredibly important. And I think that there's different ways in which we can engage in movements. And I was hoping from the three of you, if you had some perspectives to share on do movements make a difference. What else can we be doing to create transformative change, thinking about kind of the inclusive component around that? Kristina, well, we'll kick things off with you and then we'll work from there.


Kristina Bergman: I'm sure I mean, I think I, my preference would be to cede my time to Rohit on this one. I think that the only thing I'll contribute is a great description of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion that someone shared with me, diversity is inviting everybody to the dance and inclusion is asking them to dance. And so that's the one little snippet I'll add in there that I thought just helped me really kind of gel in my head, what my role is and what my responsibility is and all of this, but I think I'll defer to rookie and if that's okay. On the Black Lives Matter movement.


Rohene Bouajram: An absolutely resounding yes, I think movements like black lives matter, but also the me to movement, and many others, I think they are catalysts to just raise a collective consciousness around issues that are just no longer acceptable, and things that we have to as a society, and I think globally need to address and no longer sweep under the rug and hope that it will never ever come up again, what I'd like to use is a bit of a spectrum, in my answer. And the first is that, in the journey of any movement, there are going to be early adopters, individuals who are very new to the space and the scene, the cause becomes something that connects with their heart with their experience with what they're seeing happening to friends and family. And there is almost a sense of, I want to do something. And that's fantastic. Do whatever is within your purview on your power beyond like, beyond quick Tick Tock video, really get involved in understanding, not just the movement, but the history, the underpinnings of why black whites, what makes it so critical in terms of everyday behavior, and what that means around the black person and what they have to constantly think about day to day about how they show up and how they may be treated, and how they may be accepted, or in some cases, lack thereof. Those are early adopters. And then we have individuals who are sort of in the mid middle point they've been here they've been doing the work, in fact to them when they see that moment where, Yes, with the tragic death of George Floyd being the pivotal point, in many ways they say, but what about Breonna Taylor? What about other individuals who have been killed? What makes George Floyd so important for others to finally notice. And I have been doing this work for so long. And often I think there are times when either you receive, you receive this renewed sense of, I'm going to be involved, I'm happy that finally there's more of the strength in unity or this sense of jaggedness that I've been doing this, and nothing seems to be shifting and changing. And then there are other individuals on I would say, on the sort of extreme end who have been doing this, and to some extent, actually need to take time to allow others to step in. So what can we create for transformational change, I think is a recognition of where you are on that spectrum. And what you might need to do for yourself to stay connected to the movement, because the movement is going to continue to happen, as long as people continue to champion the change that's required. But if we have an early adopter, who says today, I know I'm going to say something, but starting tomorrow, I'm going to take a step back, then we're going to lose people and lose sight. And so I offer that it really comes down to what is required of you day-to-day. And I bring up the example that I had brought up earlier, what you say in a meeting, how you say it, what you do at the grocery store. When you're put in front of a panel and you use a platform? How do you share a key message when you are a judge in front of individuals who are pitching to you an idea to change a potential way in which a community is supported? How do you view that as successful in comparison to a group that looks well more polished, and might become a supportive community that you are connected with where you may not necessarily understand. So there are lots of things that can be done. But movements will only continue if there are individuals to back it up and support it.


Michelle Sklar: Awesome. Rohene, thank you so much for your comments. Okay, so just looking at the time now and wanting to make sure that we have an opportunity to get into some questions from the audience here. And then if we have a moment, we'll come back for maybe one, one last question. There's just been so much gold and all these discussions here that I don't want to stop asking the questions that I have, but I want to make sure everyone has an opportunity to contribute to their thoughts as well. So I was like I see one question here in the chat, but I've seen some other comments. So I'm not sure if you can kind of help kick things off with getting our first question asked by whoever the contributor is


Alison Webster: Yeah, absolutely. This has been so fantastic. And I know Nina Mei at FinTech Cadence has posted something. So Nina, what I'm going to do is I'm going to ask you to unmute yourself to ask your question to our panelists.


Nina Mei: Hi, everyone. Thank you so much. I'm a FinTech, Cadence, like we're doing a lot of work internally to see how we can foster diversity. I'm on this journey myself. And working with what you were saying resonated very highly with me, it can be very exhausting at times to have these conversations. But anyway, to keep it short, my question to you guys was just to say, so I work in FinTech, a lot like, Kristina, you're talking about what the intersection of bro and I'm in that I'm with you, girl, I like the same space. So how can we effectively navigate all the now everybody wants to invest in black businesses and women businesses, but like, it's, I'm having a hard time finding the right balance in, do I want to collect these funds and just say, I'm gonna take that ball, run with it and do what I believe is best with it, or I just don't genuinely believe that these companies, they're not necessarily reflecting these values themselves. So in your opinion, what's the best way to kind of navigate all these great initiatives, and just understanding where the pull-up fund is coming while supporting these underrepresented communities? It’s a tough question, isn't it? But I want to hear you guys on this, please.


Michelle Sklar: Okay, all right. Popcorn away my friends.


Rohene Bouajram: Nina, you're raising such a critical question. Because part of I think these movements are well-intentioned individuals who then want to do a lot more. And so I'll give you an example. In the summer of last year, I presented as part of a panel speaking about allyship. And it was fantastic. It was a powerful panel. And we were asked to come back and do more sessions. And that was fantastic, and we were a group, we wanted to certainly be able to provide more in with the community. But the one question that we asked is before we did that was what are you as an organization committing to as part of the work that you are going to do around anti-racism, equity, equity, and inclusion. I can say it was a mixed bag. And I'll just sort of leave it there in terms of the experience. And as a group, we actually decided to not pursue any panels further, because we wanted the organization to come up with the values and the actions that they would commit to before we would what felt like being put on display, here again, to share more around our pain and our experiences of being black indigenous in persons of colour. I give that example because, at some point, I think we need to come up with what our values are as we operate in this space. And when we have a clearly defined list of values, we then need to look for organizations who for that will align with that. Because if there is no alignment, we find ourselves in situations where we start to question, are we actually staying true to what it is that we believe? And that is hard? Because when you see that, that becomes a bit of an unraveling situation of questioning, why did you do what you did in the first place?


Kristina Bergman: Yeah, something I would add to that is at least in the investment community, it's really easy to check what people are saying versus what they're doing. One of the things that I did when I was doing diligence on my investors is I would look at who they have invested in? And if it's nothing but 20 year old white boys from Stanford, then I've got my answer that there's no weight behind it, and it's lip service. Whereas if I look at their portfolio CEOs, and I see, you know, pops of colour, I see some women and I think, okay, okay, like, great, you know, you clearly are doing something and it's not just BS. I think the interesting thing about at least with the investment community is when you're writing a check, there's real data behind it. And you can do research and it's over the course of two years but decades, typically And you get a real indication. You can also look at the investors themselves who're sitting around the table. Like at our firm, the two partners are women. And we have a black principal, we're probably the most diverse fund, you're gonna see, certainly on the west coast, because most funds around don't look like us, like, we stand out, we're different, and that's great. And we look at that as an advantage. And when we're looking at companies to invest in, we look at that as an advantage to not just in us, but in the companies. Because if the company we're looking at is completely homogenous with people in decision-making powers, we view that as them having giant blind spots, because there's different backgrounds, different assumptions, different cultural contexts, different levels of understanding that whether you're dealing with artificial intelligence, or some other form of enterprise software, those all come into play. And if everybody's working for a shared context as they all went to the same eight Ivy League schools, they all watch football, they're all male, they're all the same age, they're going to have massive blind spots in terms of opportunity. And I think that the data points that Disney shared were terrific. companies that have more diverse executive teams and more diverse boards tend to make better decisions. I remember seeing a report that showed that when there were, I think I may have been the same one. Now that I'm thinking back on it, at least two women on the board, the financial performance was 15%, better on top-line revenue, and 25%, better on net income, like financially outperformed, and then you start layering in people on colour, and the financial results go up from there. And it's because you've got people in positions of power, challenging assumptions that could be wrong. That's a really powerful thing when you're looking at companies to invest in is the diversity of opinion, because that diversity of opinion will challenge assumptions, which will help you see blind spots, and it'll help you build a better business. And so it's a real asset, from our perspective, to have that diversity. And it's something that, you know, you can go and check on, you can look it up. That's what I did when I was looking for my investors, looking at their investment list. I'm like, who do you have? What have you done? And then you know.

Alison Webster: So we have another question from Martina. So Martina, I'm going to ask you to unmute and ask your question to our panelists.


Martina: Thank you all for sharing all your experiences you were all very kind. So I've been recently getting a lot interested in a lot more into women and percentages of women in leadership roles, especially because I am in the engineering field. So also we are less than 20% right now as an average of women in engineering roles. From my point of view, I think that, one of the main obstacles to women developing leadership roles is, as you said, that most of the time we expect ourselves to do everything to be perfect in everything. So we want to have a leadership role. And family, which somehow in some cases, seems to be like, an obstacle. So I wanted to know more about how you manage the two, as Kristina mentioned, she has kids, how will you manage to consolidate these two things? And what do you think could be, like, done in terms of do you think that women are still seen as a leader just in the family and can be an obstacle for developing leadership roles for themselves.


Kristina Bergman: So I get asked a fair bit. How do you do it? I've got a four-year-old boy and a one-year-old girl and had both of them when I was doing my company like I was three months pregnant with my son when I was fundraising, my first round of funding and feeling like dirt and all of that fun stuff. And it's funny because I always kind of laugh when people say that to me, because I don't know how they do what they're doing. And the reason is that I'm not doing everything you think I might be doing is kind of the blunt answer. When I started my company, we're in the States. And as we know, there's just abismal family leave, slash none, you're told to take vacation days in the States. And Nazneen probably got some great data points that are excellent slowly. I think it's one of the three countries that doesn't have maternity leave. But so I took a month and then my husband took two months. And then with my daughter, I planned on taking three, but we ended up you know, going through a transaction. So I ended up taking like one and a halfish, and my husband took three.


The thing that I always point out to people is that there's a great study series of studies that were done by a Stanford professor, and I'm blanking on her name right now, but I'll need to look it up, where she looked at what happens with the gender pay gap, pre, and post-kids and pre-kids, there's no pay gap is what she found post-kids, you start to see this, where men get a benefit, they get a bump in salary when they have kids because they're perceived as having more responsibility. And they get, you know, more pay, whereas women are perceived as being less committed to their jobs, and therefore penalized on pay. And so the gender pay gap happens when kids happen, and that study was just eye-opening for me, because I thought, Hmm, I wonder what causes that. And then I went to a talk that she did. And she said it's because when women have children, they take time off to have those kids and they start taking on the responsibilities of the home, arranging playdates, washing clothes, cooking meals, cleaning the house, and then they go back to work. And that job doesn't leave because it becomes an expectation and part of the daily family routine. Whereas if men, the dads take parental leave when the child's born, they take on those responsibilities. And then when they go back, it ends up being balanced, and that gender pay gap disappears. One of the things that I thought was just wonderful. So you know, sitting from the States and watching Canada lustfully from afar, was the introduction of parental leave where dads and moms can take parental leave. And I thought that's genius. Because what that does is it balances out the workload post-kids, like my husband and I, we take turns getting up with the kids, we take turns doing laundry, we take turns cooking, we take turns cleaning, we take turns kissing boo-boos, the kids have their favorite at any point in time, they'll run to one of us or the other. And if because we're equal partners, and when there was an incident a couple of years ago, we were trying to hire this really senior female engineer, she would have been a principal architect on the team, just outstanding technical talent. And we put an offer in front of her and she called me and she said, You know what, I'm gonna have to decline. And I said, Why, like, Tell me, did we do something wrong? Is it us? You don't like the role? Or we're not paying you enough? Like, what? What is it? And she said, well, I feel like I have to take a step back from my career, because my husband's got a really demanding job, and who else is going to look after the kids but me, and I was sitting there and I was eight months pregnant with my daughter, and I was rubbing my belly listening to this just going, tell your husband to cook a meal, tell him to pick up and tell him the author with their homework. And I had to bite my tongue. And I said, Okay, here's how my husband, I divvy it up, it's 50/50. And I said, I don't know how you divide it up in your house, you know, different cultures do things, different ways. And I get that there are differences. But you know, at a certain point, if you want to pursue your career, you need a partner, and your partner has to be a true 50% partner. That doesn't mean you're doing 80%, they're doing 20, you need a partner. And so that's how I've dealt with it. In my world, my husband is truly a partner to me, in every sense of the word, and he's an equal parent to me. And without that, I wouldn't be able to do what I do. So I don't know how other women do it when they don't have that 50/50 relationship with their partner.


Michelle Sklar: Awesome. Thank you so much. Kristina, I would have to say that the family dynamics and the support and partnership within the home, actually factors into this probably as much as any of the other discussion items that we've sort of noted today. We just have a couple more minutes left. And so I guess I just kind of want to quickly take an opportunity. I don't see, I saw lots of comments. I think people are like, in on amazement, with this discussion here. So I'm gonna leverage on that. And Nazneen I was hoping maybe just to sort of like thinking of some closing comments here. I wanted to hear I was hoping you could share with us maybe like some of the things from a global perspective on that when we're thinking about sort of transformational change or thinking about movements or thinking about any sort of the trends I would love, if you've got any kind of global perspectives, that would make sense for us to think about how might we apply that in our own local communities?


Nazneen Damji: First of all, this has been so interesting in such great questions that were asked. And I was just thinking to myself, it's all coming down to the whole issue about transforming norms and changing the way people understand relationships and power dynamics, isn't it? It's really about how do you, at a very young age, try to shift a little bit how we're presenting the issues around gender and gender inequality? And how do you transform those? What is it? What is the magic formula? So I think, you know, there's so many things, and I'm just thinking about how, for us, UN Women, we're kind of, so we're not and we're not a for-profit entity, we're a public entity, but we kind of have the same tactics in terms of what we need to be doing. We need to be showing how well we're doing so that donors will continue to invest in supporting our work to support the communities that we serve. And how do we take some of the lessons that we've learned and make sure that they're upscaled in a way that takes root? I don't have a magic formula, but you kind of need to see everything translate into the ways in which governments have policies that have to be responsive budgets that have to be responsive. Measurement, you have to be checking, how are women doing? What is the kind of analysis that's being taken? We still and I can't believe it's 2021. And we're still asking people to disaggregate data, disaggregate your data by at the very least sex and age, and race. And, you know, so how are we doing so that we can make sure that we're actually shifting the needle a little bit more, and it's things like that. It was really nice this week that for international women's day that we heard the Canadian government announce this task force is an all-women task force that's going to actually ensure that the budget includes the support to working women. When we did our work on looking at the stimulus packages, there's been $10 trillion dollars that have been put into stimulus, and 15%, less than 15% actually mentioned anything about support to survivors of violence, anything around, pay for women who are out of work, any kind of social protection support. So I mean, the kinds of things that actually are going to make this transformation happen, happen at a national level, they happen at the community level, they happen at the individual level, and it all requires a different way of thinking. It happens with the media with all of the kinds of stimulation that you get from the outside, you have to be making sure that you bring in all of those actors into the conversation and in order that people see the difference. The only way to do it is to capture the right data, and then make sure that people are doing the investment. Because if you're not going to invest in any kind of transformation or any kind of equality, it's not going to work. And the main one is really putting women in the decision making I mean, you really pick the right topic to say, we really need to be getting women in those spaces where it's not always going to be women are going to feel good and talk about everything about women and everything that women need. But there is definitely going to be a different diverse way of doing things. So I'll stop there, I could go on and on. But I think I'm taking up too much time.


Michelle Sklar: Well, I wish almost that we would have more time. It's actually 1:30. So I do, unfortunately, need to bring the discussion to a close here. And I just cannot thank you enough. Rohene, Nazneen. Kristina, that you took your time and shared your insights with us, I feel like I will be forever changed. And I'm very happy that we recorded this. And Allison, I think it would be great if we actually included the recording in our email that's going to go out sharing the links because I really think that they're such valuable insights in here that we can all really maybe take some time to process and think about how we'll bring them into our work or our communities or into our families. And certainly, you know, with entrepreneurship@UBC, you know, diversity, equity inclusion is top of mind all the time, but it's not a light switch that you turn on. As soon as you walk into the office in the morning. It really is ongoing work. And these kinds of conversations are so important because they're so informative of what can help our thinking and what can help our actions to really be transformational as we're supporting entrepreneurs through their journey and how can we in positions of power also make sure that we're doing our part to remove, you know, barriers. So there really is a kind of action around the work that we're all doing. So, this has been truly amazing, and thank you all so much and thanks to everyone, you know who joined us today from so many different places. Lots of really inspiring comments here. So this was definitely an awesome, awesome opportunity. So we'll get her to share that information. Our next entrepreneurship@UBC event that's coming up is April 6, our community Town Hall, more information will be available about that soon, I think that Allison is going to be sharing some additional information and contact information as well. So by all means, if there are more conversations that people would like to have, at the very least, if you want to get in touch with UBC, and then we certainly can connect you with our panelists today. Hopefully, if they have time to engage in some additional one on one conversations because this was golden, and there's still so much work to be done, and so wonderful.




Want to learn more about this event and our takeaways? Read our recap blog here with key themes and resources referenced by our panelists.





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