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Posted by Jackie Brown, Director of People and Culture for the Americas, on Thursday, Mar 10, 2016
Michelle Bourque is Vice President, Product, Marketing and Access Strategy at Bell Canada. As leader of a dynamic team of product and marketing professionals, Michelle is accountable for growing the wireline and cloud services portfolios for business markets as well as the wholesale markets in Canada and internationally.
Over a 25-year career in telecommunications, Michelle has held progressively senior leadership roles, including Director-level positions in Corporate Programs, Voice Planning and Engineering, Marketing Portfolio, Project Management, and Operations and Business Planning. In 2015, Michelle was named as one of the top 50 women to watch in telecommunications by Global Telecoms Business.
Did you always aspire to reach a leadership role in your career?
I was always interested in challenging myself and taking on different – often difficult – roles. I enjoy working with individuals and teams to collectively drive success and being a coach, mentor and people leader has been a passion of mine throughout my career.
In your opinion is there a difference between how men and women plan to progress in their careers?
Although everyone is in the driver’s seat of their own career, development is a two-way street. Employers can help empower women to reach their full potential by providing targeted development opportunities. In addition to our Women at Bell network, Bell offers leadership programs like “Taking the Stage” where women can build on existing strengths to develop their leadership skills. In doing so, they create a stronger “personal brand” that can help move them forward in their career. Even in workplaces where formal programs like this don’t exist, women can grow their professional networks through participation in employee-led groups or by seeking out mentors.
Have you encountered any gender specific challenges or obstacles in your career?
Everyone experiences challenges in their career and women can face some unique obstacles. For example, one of the roles I had early in my career involved leading a large, mostly male, non-managerial work force. As a new leader to the group, and one of the first women to manage the team, it took time for team members to get to know me and my managerial style – beyond being “the women in charge.” I did this by establishing trust, raising awareness, ensuring respect, and placing a strong focus on alignment of goals and objectives.
Globally, 48% of women do not think they have the same career opportunities as men. What do you think about this?
I understand why some women feel they don’t have the same career opportunities as similarly qualified men, but I’ve been lucky in my experiences and I believe constantly being open to new challenges has been a key factor. I learned early on in my career how to seize opportunities and roles that have allowed me to progress. It hasn’t always been easy, but with the support of my professional network and employer, my accomplishments speak for themselves.
Globally respondents (both male and female) believe that flexible work practices, education, and highlighting female role models will have the biggest impact on gender diversity in the workplace. Do you agree?
Companies need to recognize that our world is becoming ever more connected and support flexible work models for their employees. Their ability to attract top talent – female and male – often depends on it. As with all organizational behaviour change, support from the top of the organization is required to drive the right culture and support employees who choose to adopt flexible working practices.
Education is important, but it’s more important for companies to commit to developing high potential female talent through mentoring, coaching and sponsorship of programs. At Bell, these are offered through access to programs offered by the International Women’s Forum, Women in Communications and Technology and The Judy Project. By investing in diversity, we drive our employees’ innovation and creativity, which in turn, allows us to deliver best-in-class services to our customers.
Highlighting female role models in all levels of the organization is key to fostering a supportive climate in the workplace. Starting with senior executives and with the support of our Diversity Leadership Council, Bell champions gender diversity at all levels of our organization. Our executives have blazed the trail for women in communications in Canada, like Bell Media President Mary Ann Turcke, who previously led Bell’s Field Services team.
Globally, 64% of respondents, both male and female, think there is equal pay between genders. Does this surprise you?
At Bell we use salary benchmarks to help determine equivalent positions across the industry, eliminating gender bias in compensation. This is just one method employed to help ensure we deliver on our commitment to pay equity.
Do you have any advice for female professionals who are in, or are looking to work in, a management or leadership role?
1. Always embrace the opportunity and don’t be afraid to ask for new challenges
2. A passion for learning and good communications skills are critical
3. Leverage your company’s leadership programs and find great coaches and mentors who can help you to pursue your goals and objectives
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