This week we welcome Heather Odendaal. She shares her purpose of helping women get into a position of power, as the pandemic has heightened women falling off mid-career. “We have gone backwards as we have lost the pipeline for women in leadership roles”, explains Heather and drives into 3 strategies to reverse this trend. She explains how the pandemic has allowed women to rethink their day-to-day, created opportunities for inner work to help them shift from entrepreneurship to Corporate Roles, and how women are making lateral moves and changing departments.
About the Guest:
Meet Heather Odendaal — an accomplished Canadian entrepreneur, brand builder and event producer whose experience in corporate environments inspired her to create and co-found WNORTH, a global organization dedicated to the development of women mid-career on a trajectory towards senior executive Leadership.
What originally started off as an annual conference in 2015, WNORTH now connects top female business leaders in corporate, public and entrepreneurial sectors through The Members’ Club which provides a 100% virtual forum of online content and development opportunities including workshops, leadership masterminds, events and courses and more.
When the pandemic hit in 2020, Heather and her team quickly pivoted to create virtual experiences for their members and conference attendees. They are hard at work highlighting and solving the problem of the insufficient support structures in North America for women in the workforce, which was even more pronounced in the last 12 months.
Prior to launching her organization, Heather was employed as a sales executive for a Fortune 500company. There, she noticed the lack of women in senior executive positions and she and her husband decided to take matters into their own hands and launch WNORTH.
Recognized in BizBash’s 2021 and 2020 roundup of Canada’s Most Influential Event Pros, Odendaal has worked on some of the world’s largest and most influential events including the Whistler Film Festival, Crankworx Mountain Bike Festival and the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. Odendaal was previously nominated for the 2021 YWCA Women of Distinction Awards, the Whistler
Excellence Awards Rising Star (2015 and 2016) and Innovative Business of the Year (2018). She is consistently featured in a variety of top tier publications and podcasts, and sits on the Forbes Business Council. Heather currently resides in Whistler, BC, and is a Director on the board of the Whistler Chamber of Commerce. In her spare time, you can find her judging local food & wine festivals, and skiing with her husband and two children.
About the Hosts:
Blair Kaplan Venables is an expert in social media marketing and the president of Blair Kaplan Communications, a British Columbia-based PR agency. As a pioneer in the industry, she brings more than a decade of experience to her clients, which includes global wellness, entertainment, and lifestyle brands. Blair has helped her customers grow their followers into the tens of thousands in just one month, win integrative marketing awards, and more. She has spoken on national stages and her expertise has been featured in media outlets including CBC Radio, CEOWORLD Magazine, She Owns It, and Thrive Global. Blair is also the #1 best-selling author of Pulsing Through My Veins: Raw and Real Stories from an Entrepreneur. When she’s not working on the board for her local chamber of commerce, you can find Blair growing the “I Am Resilient Project,” an online community where users share their stories of overcoming life’s most difficult moments.
Theresa Lambert is a High-Performance Lifestyle and Success Coach, Speaker, and Bestselling Author of “Achieve with Grace: A guide to elegance and effectiveness in intense workplaces. She founded her coaching and consulting firm, Theresa Lambert Coaching & Consulting Inc., to help ambitious women succeed with more elegance and less struggle so they can lead with focus and nourish themselves to the top. Drawing from her nearly 20 years of experience in the hospitality industry and most recently her 6-year tenure as the General Manager of Nita Lake Lodge she brings both a real world view and proven applicable tools to support her clients. Theresa has been recognized as a business leader in Whistler’s Profiles of Excellence, featured in Thrive Global, Authority Magazine, Hotelier Magazine, and Beyourown, and spoken at Women in Hospitality Leadership events, including Empower Her. Originally from Stuttgart, Germany, Theresa now lives in Whistler, BC where you can most often find her on the golf course in the summer months or relaxing by a fireplace in winter.
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Ever wonder what success actually means? How do you get it? And how do you keep it?Theresa Lambert:
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Hello Hello everyone and welcome back to another episode of dissecting success. We are super excited to be here today with Heather odendaal. She is a accomplished Canadian entrepreneur, brand builder and event producer whose experience and corporate environments inspired her to create and co found w north, a global organization dedicated to the development of women mid Korea on a trajectory towards senior executive leadership. What originally started off as an annual conference in 2015 w North now connects top female business leaders in corporate public and entrepreneurial sectors for the member's Club, which provides a 100% virtual forum of online content and development opportunities, including workshops, leadership, masterminds, events, and courses and more recognized in biz bashes 2021 and 2020 roundup of Canada's most influential event pros, Odin dava, has worked on some of the world's largest and most influential events and is also the owner of Bluebird strategy whistlers largest event planning and experiential marketing company. Oh my god. Hello. Welcome, welcome. I'm so excited. You're with us today.Heather Odendaal:
Thank you, Teresa. I really appreciate the invitation. And I'm excited for the conversation.Theresa Lambert:
Oh, my gosh, this is going to be a good one, the three of us have known each other for quite a long time and all sorts of different capacities here in this community in the Western world, which makes us so so fun. And it's been such a joy to watch what you have done with w North but I'd love to kick it off with with the fiery question that we'd love to ask all of our guests and that is what does success mean to you Heather?Heather Odendaal:
Well, I think success for me was finding my purpose and finding my role that achieved my purpose. And you know, I think having a having a role as the co founder and CEO of W North I've been able to carve out that purpose which is to elevate more women to positions of power around the world. That's it.Blair Kaplan-Venables:
Yes, just a simple thing. So good. So good. Heather. Oh my gosh, elevate women to positions of power. What does that mean? What's a position of power?Heather Odendaal:
Well, I think a position of power can also be it can be many things. It can be women, taking control of their own lives and their own destiny, but it can also be in the form of government it can be in the form of running company. knees, we all know there's the statistic that, you know, of the Fortune 500 companies, only 8% of CEOs of Fortune 500 companies are female. And so for me, I heard that statistic. And I even heard another statistic a few years ago that there were more Dave's and John's as C suite leaders in the fortune 500 companies than there are women. And I took a look at that statistic and realize that is, you know, what is what's the missing link? Why are we still using the statistic 15 years later, because I have been hearing it for years. And for, for me, it was that women were dropping off in that mid management. And so that statistic was a really big catalyst for me saying, okay, something needs to be fixed, and I'm going to be a part of that solution.Blair Kaplan-Venables:
I love it. And I think what you're building, what you've built, and what you're building is so phenomenal. You know, it started off as a conference, and then some events, and then the pandemic happened. And then you made a big shift. You went online, and your community is growing and growing, and what you're offering is growing and growing. And it's so phenomenal. I actually heard a stat and maybe you you know a bit about this, but I heard a stat. You know, I'm bad at remembering stats. Okay, a loose stat. This is a loose stat that I heardHeather Odendaal:
an idea. Yeah.Blair Kaplan-Venables:
And idea. Just how the pandemic really impacted the progress we've made as women.Heather Odendaal:
Yeah, so I mean, there's a couple of statistics around that. I mean, one of them is that, you know, between 1/3, and one quarter kind of keep slipping back and forth, of the, of the current working, working sort of workforce of women want to quit their jobs right now. You've heard a lot about the great resignation, you've heard a lot about, you know, how people are switching jobs right now. But I think when we talk about how we've lost progress, we have lost women that were well poised for positions of leadership in the next five to 10 years, due to the pandemic, they were on track, they had the resume, they have the trajectory. And they were some of the most vulnerable of women that left the workforce, because they were in leadership positions, but they were also managing so much external, whether that's caregiving or child childcare, I'd say the biggest, biggest thing for me where we've gone backwards is, is losing that pipeline. And it's going to take us a long time to recover from that unless we make some significant changes.Theresa Lambert:
Wow, that is such a, you know, I mean, there's statistics and the bad, but I've also seen it all around me, and I speak with a lot of women for my coaching practice. And I help a lot of women transition into full time entrepreneurship out of their careers or just transitioning into something new. And it's very interesting that you said that we have lost this pipeline, and that it's VDB in this middle tier. And so women are dropping out of debt careers and leadership leaving to pursue their own things or change or maybe get out of the workforce altogether. Because of all the external circumstances. I would love to know from you, Heather, because I know you're you're not I don't want to use the word choice. But like you're an incredible entrepreneur, you have a couple of different businesses between w north and how you've taken it online into the digital space and what you're doing with knowledge and course creation, which is awesome. We just spoke about that on another podcast, which will be out and but the other thing too, like you've got your event business, and you're also a mom, you have a family, you care about spending time with them, you help women also help with that energetic time management. So I would love your perspective on what you feel would actually help us start leading differently inside organizations to help stop this trickle off effect and start refilling the pipeline but also actually get somewhere this time, you know, so it's not just gonna stay at this 8% data that it's been like 8% long,Heather Odendaal:
it's just gone up and then down and then up and then down. No, I I have some really tangible actions that I've wrote written about in Forbes and a couple other publications about what we can do to support. In fact, I say don't fail our women leaders now, because this is the time that we really need to change in order to retain the women that we have left in that pipeline. So a couple of things that I talked about. One is I'm, I'm a firm advocate for role sharing, job sharing, and then a revised work week structure. So whether that is a three day workweek, four day workweek, professional jobs that are available for less than 40 hours a week. And the reason that I feel maybe this hasn't been adopted. And this is why I talk a little bit more about role sharing and job sharing more recently, is having been a actually a part time employee for a fortune 500 company, I can say that, especially in a sales capacity, I was still held to the same standard of sales targets as my counterparts. And you know, the fact that I only had four days a week to achieve those sales targets was was less to the point. So I, when I focus on restructuring, talking about restructuring, professional roles. For women, I'm talking a lot more about this idea of a shared responsibility or a shared roll. And the reason being, you have two brilliant minds working on one task or objective. And the way it works is you often as a company would have to employ two people, but for for for six days total. So it is a 20% more expensive to do it this way. But then you have a crossover of a Wednesday as an example. And this is, this would truly revolutionize opportunities for women, especially at this moment in time. Because we are all know, we all know that we're coming out of COVID. But it's it's a slow burn, I was speaking with one of my team members, today, she's in Montreal, and she's just got her daughter into the daycare system there. And, you know, as many of the moms on this podcast, may may know, when you start daycare, there are all sorts of sicknesses that come along with that. And it is I will be the first one to say it is hard to stitch together a 40 hour work week, when you are really when your daughter is home three of the five days a week, due to sickness and top like on top of that, we've got COVID, you can't send a kid to school with any pools or, you know, that previously may have, you know, let slipped or you know, they weren't showing or whatever it may be. So that's the number one that I would say is, is a actionable change that people can consider right now is really looking at how these jobs are posted. And also, I keep I keep talking about this and hoping that someone will start one because I don't have time. But you know, a job search where you can search for these perfect professional opportunities that are less than a full time. So in the in the US, there's a website called the mom project, which is organizations like Unilever and PwC and professional roles that they wish to attract women into. So there are organizations, there are job searches out there. But I want to see more of it.Blair Kaplan-Venables:
That sounds like a future product for W north.Heather Odendaal:
I mean, I think they'll be hiring soon.Blair Kaplan-Venables:
Yeah. Who wants a three day a week full time job?Heather Odendaal:
Or two people could share a full time job. Yeah.Blair Kaplan-Venables:
I think that's that's really cool. So what have you noticed, you know, within the W North community, like what have you noticed as some of the positive outcomes from this pandemic? I know it's the remote work revolution, it's the great resignation all these things. But there's there's also a lot of positives. What are some of the positives for the women in your network that you've noticed?Heather Odendaal:
So I think that the pandemic has allowed a lot of women to re rethink their day to day job and to revisit the why it is that they do what they do and who is behind the company, and how are they supported and how are they treated? So I think, you know, there has been a lot of opportunity for kind of a bit of an inner work of what why am I here? Why am I at this large tech company? Is this the right role for me? Am I I love this company, but am I in the right department. And so I've seen a lot of women shift roles, I've seen a lot of women, you know, shift laterally. And then I've also seen a lot of women move from entrepreneurship into into corporations. So like taking a more structured approach, and realizing they would like that security, and then the opposite as well, women leaving big tech to start their own. So I think that has been the number one sort of positive that I have seen is the chance for women to really evaluate. And we go back to that. First thing I said about your purpose. Is this job achieving my purpose.Theresa Lambert:
I love that is this job achieving my purpose? You know, I think that is the one thing and i would i love that you brought that up, because I feel like the pandemic, in one way or another opened up space, space to think space to sit space to be whether we liked it or not, right. And some companies continued to operate pretty much at 100%. While a lot of other like, depending on the industry is literally like, for the first time ever, certain industries shut down. Right? So it's interesting how this space allowed, you know, women to really think about, you know, what is my purpose? How do I want to live that out? And what does that look like? And I love that you shared that, you know, women have sort of moved apartments, right, or some people went from entrepreneurial roles into corporate roles. And the other way round. And this is really interesting. And I'd love to chat a little bit more about this, because I feel that for a lot of you know, women, but I feel like also men, we have this idea of what jobs we should do. And this idea of lateral progression, and sometimes we find ourselves in places that aren't aligned anymore. And we're so busy. And so but just keep doing the thing, right? Because we're there. So, you know, from your perspective, how do you think because I know you walk a lot with like organizational success and you know, leadership trajectory, what do you think we could do in order to help figure out at an earlier stage, right, to almost have these checkpoints to see what direction is actually the next because they might be on one trajectory. But it might be time for a pivot earlier.Heather Odendaal:
So I am a firm believer that in most organizations that I have come across, we're not doing enough to support that mid career level. And so you do have, you know, an enormous amount of money and resources that goes to learning and development across the whole organization, you have resources that go and are dedicated to entry level, you have resources, and executive coaching budgets, and all of the things for people at a certain level. And so I, you know, part of the training and workshops and all the resources that we've built in our online community for Debbie north, is not only to serve those women who as individuals want to develop themselves both personally and professionally. But we have recently launched like our corporate membership arm which goes into and many of which are small to medium sized businesses that may not have the resources to dedicate to those mid, mid career mid management professionals, and give them some resources. And as an example, we host a leadership mastermind program, which is included in our membership. And that's five like minded leaders that similar levels with an executive coach. And I think what's important about this kind of group coaching concept is they're able to connect with other women in similar industries. And, and maybe even not the same industry. And so they're able to explore a little bit beyond the company that they're working in. So I think it's about opening the doors and allowing those connections to be made from an organization perspective. That's another one I points in, don't fail your women leaders now, which is stop blocking external connections. There are a number of organizations large companies that are fraid to let their people go, you know, to conferences or events outside of their large organization, they prefer, oh, Women's Network, oh, we've got one of those inside our company. But I think it's really important to foster those connections external to your organization. And an organization's just need to trust that that is part of the process of development, having that leader explore what other avenues other not necessarily industries, but as an example, we had a marketing leader in one of our leadership masterminds who was on she was in a cohort with a lot of HR leaders. And she actually ended up transitioning into HR, because she realized that HR was really where she wanted to be based on her discussions with these HR leaders from other industries in her cohort.Blair Kaplan-Venables:
I think that's so interesting, because we did you put her in the cohort? Like, what if she was with a bunch of, I don't know, another group of professionals? I think that's really interesting. And how do you choose who to put in what mastermind?