By: Tanya Wick
I had a difficult time when I first started at Tolko. I was in a new industry and had moved away from my family, friends, and network. The Vice President of Human Resources was a newly created role, so expectations were unclear, and I had not previously been an executive. Becoming a contributing member of the team was much more challenging than I anticipated.
Now that I’ve been with the company for several years, I want it to be easier for others. We’ve made many changes and improvements to our HR programming, and I’m confident the experience of new female employees is improved. We’ve introduced more rigorous recruitment processes, extensive onboarding, and development, and we’re working hard to improve our culture. Those achievements mean a lot to me because it’s important to me that women feel accepted and do well at our company.
What we’re doing at Tolko is important. It’s important on the individual level, but it’s also important to our broader community. Why? Because women are intrinsically connected to family and community. Not only do we play active roles within our own families, but we also frequently volunteer and give to non-profit organizations, community initiatives, schools, and education. When you improve the life of a woman, her family and community are naturally impacted for the better.
For many women, their goal is to help others. This can lead to putting themselves last. I’d like to challenge that concept. My position is that we can improve our workplaces and communities precisely because we improve our own careers.
At Tolko, our CEO has challenged us to “Make it Count.” I’ve accepted that challenge with pride and enthusiasm. What it means to me is that I can make it count for my community, for my family, and for myself. I can be part of something that contributes in all three areas, which increases its meaning for me.
I am deeply committed to shifting our culture at Tolko and across our industry. My vision is a company that is driven by shared values and unshakeable respect. We did a number of things to expand connection and raise awareness. Here are a few examples:
- We told stories. A Diversity and Inclusion magazine was created and distributed to employees’ homes to show the level of commitment to creating a diverse and inclusive workplace at Tolko. In addition to this magazine, we proudly shared employee stories through internal and external social media channels. Our employees know and value each other, and they connected to hear stories about their colleagues from a diversity perspective.
- Recognizing how meaningful it is for people to connect with one another, we created Leadership Impact for Women. This is a training and mentorship program that brings women together on a regular basis. As the company’s sponsor for D&I, I made sure I attended sessions and spoke about my own experiences. Since we have less than 15% women at Tolko, I wanted to show them there was a leader available and accessible to them.
- Something else I do to create connection is send personal welcome messages to all new women and notes of congratulations to women moving into new roles. I also developed a series of blogs and FAQ’s based on questions women submit to me. It’s all about connection and finding spaces for women to have a voice in our company.
Making it count will benefit Tolko. But even more so, the thought that I am part of building something that can positively impact even one woman’s life, which in turn benefits her family and her community, is incredibly motivating. On the days when I struggle to take up the challenge one more time, you can bet this thought is what drives me forward.
About the Author: Tanya Wick is VP People & Services for Tolko Industries Ltd and leads the company’s gender equality efforts. Her strength is stepping in to revitalize service departments and teams, improving organizations by designing and implementing strategic HR plans and management systems. Tanya’s leadership approach is to generate sustainable visions and plans, identify the culture required to support execution, and align teams and processes with organizational goals.