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Interview
Strong lessons from women around me

March 8, 2022

Strong lessons from women around me

Interview with Elias Rafoul, Vice-President, Accreditation Services Branch

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Interview
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Q.

In standardization, we know that having a broad range of perspectives is key to ensuring we have standards and conformity assessments programs that are inclusive. What is your take on this?

A.

I have spent the bulk of my career in a male-dominated industry—research and development, and telecommunications. Having shifted a while back to the world of standards as the Vice President of Accreditation Services for the Standards Council of Canada, my understanding of the need for a mix of voices at decision-making tables has never been clearer. Different voices add value by bringing different experiences and perspectives. Over time and with exposure, I believe that these voices can not only shape the issues at the table, but the people around it as well. Let me give you a concrete example. In one of my previous jobs there was a sudden urgency, accompanied by a great deal of pressure, to push revenues higher. The executive team was tasked with finding the fastest, most effective approach. Various impressive proposals were put forward, but the one that was chosen was put forward by one of the senior-level women in the room. Her solution ensured sustainability and innovation, by shifting the focus to building stronger programs for long-term results, versus a short grab of projects. She brought a different perspective and looked at issues and problems from a different angle to put forward the best solution – an approach necessary to the success of any organization, and vital to standardization.

Q.

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is #BreaktheBias. According to research, many of us, men and women, have conscious or unconscious bias towards women. Are you aware of a bias you may have had?

A.

In my career, I’ve worked with strong leaders – both women and men. What I have learned is each person pursues goals in different ways – the results may be similar, but each individual tends to take varying approaches. When I look at our current CEO, Chantal Guay, her number one priority is her people and their wellbeing. Early during the pandemic, SCC staff encountered numerous operational and personal challenges while adapting to the new norm of pandemic life – a global reality. Faced with uncertainty in our day-to-day lives, Chantal took the decision, along with the executive team, that some of SCC’s objectives would not be met if it meant having a workforce that was overworked and not well. Chantal’s decision demonstrates that when leaders care about their staff’s wellbeing and not just the corporate results, a positive impact is made. Employees felt genuinely cared for, and we ended up meeting 97% of our objectives in a year filled with disruption and uncertainty – a direct result of Chantal’s leadership style.

Q.

What is one of the biggest lessons you have learned?

A.

I believe that working with and for women has helped me increase the level of understanding and caring required to enable an effective and diverse workplace. In understanding the expanse of everyone’s value, these are qualities that I now seek out in building and leading my own teams, thanks in large part to the excellent examples from the strong women with whom I worked. Early in my career, unfortunately there weren’t many women in the higher ranks of organizations. Although there is always more work to do, I’m glad that the next generation have role models, such as the women leaders I have worked with, so that my children have strong examples they can look up to.

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