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Kathleen Todd Interview

03/07/2014 11:29 EST | Updated 03/07/2014 11:59 EST

kathleen todd

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Full name: Kathleen Todd

Company Stantec, a design and consulting company with a focus on the environment

Job Title: Regional technical leader (central Canada), freshwater services

City: Fergus, Ont.

Marital status: Married

Age: 39


How long have you worked in this industry?

I have worked full-time in environmental consulting since 1999.

When and where did you graduate from?

B.Sc.(Env.), environmental sciences at the University of Guelph, 1997

M.Sc., watershed ecosystems at Trent University, 2003

How and why did you choose this career?

With a passion for the outdoors, especially being in or near water, I knew that I wanted to focus my career in environmental sciences. As a student, I was fortunate to find work with a small environmental consulting firm that specialized in aquatic research. The diverse nature of the clients and variety in project work appealed to me and I haven’t looked back.

Is there a difference in the way men and women work and/or are regarded in this industry?

Within the environmental field, ratios of men to women are fairly even, so I interact with female colleagues on a professional level every day. Currently, I’m reading Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In. I think we have much to learn from the experiences of women who are senior leaders, and I am enjoying her anecdotes and views as a female corporate executive.

What’s a typical day like for you?

Mornings are the busiest part of my day because I have two young daughters. My husband commutes to work in Toronto, so we don’t see him in the morning. Between 5:30 a.m. and 6 am., I am up and checking messages from work. There is a small window of time to get myself ready for the day. By 6:30 am, I’ve got two hungry kids to feed, and the morning is in full swing. My five-year-old catches the school bus at 8 a.m., and then I drive to work via my two-year-old’s daycare. By 9 a.m., I am settling in at my office, and ready for a good cup of tea.

How does your career influence or affect your personal relationships (romantic or otherwise)?

My husband and I both work in the environmental field. He works in the public sector and I work in the private sector. Because of our busy careers, we don’t spend as much time together through the week as we would like, but we try to make up for it with quality family time on the weekends. We understand each other’s work demands and try to accommodate each other’s professional schedules and commitments. At home, it’s the same. We share the household responsibilities, since we both work full-time.

Do you think there’s an ideal time to start a family for someone in your profession?

The ideal time will differ for every woman, based on her unique circumstances. I met my husband when we were classmates in our second year of university. We married five years later, but didn’t start our family for another eight years. During that time, we focused on our careers and enjoyed travelling to a new destination every year. I love our family, but I wouldn’t trade those years.

What is the greatest source of stress in your life?

Is it possible to clone another version of myself? Or maybe to increase the number of hours in the day?

How important is money to you, and why?

I feel well compensated for a career that I enjoy. If money was my primary motivator, I would have chosen business school over degrees in science.

Have you had to deal with sexism in your career? Can you share some challenges and tell us how you dealt with it?

I prefer to ignore the factors that promote our differences and not to dwell upon negativity. However, sometimes we need to ask the important questions. A few years ago, every employee received a copy of our company magazine, with a glossy cover page showing a photo of our board of directors — the faces of middle-aged, white men smiled back at us. In the following issue, our CEO addressed that cover photo directly, admitting that he had received considerable feedback surrounding a lack of diversity in our senior leadership team, and referring to the lack of gender diversity as especially significant. He explained that 30 years ago, when our senior leaders began their careers, women were not as prominent in the workplace. Truthfully, I hadn't considered that fact. Going forward, with our current complement of professional staff, there are no excuses. Based on our feedback, our leaders not only acknowledged our diversity gap, but they committed to closing it with several initiatives, including an emphasis on succession planning, mentorship, and career streams.

What valuable mistakes have you made in your career?

Early in my career, I felt the need to try to do everything and to seize every opportunity in order to demonstrate my abilities, regardless of the fact that I was over-committing myself. I have since learned to say no more often via the power of delegation. I give work to others when I'm too busy, with the added benefit that it provides opportunities for others to learn and grow.

Your advice to women today who want to work in this industry?

Follow your passion, and work in a field that you truly care about. Unfortunately, we spend more time at work than at home with our families, so we really need to enjoy our careers.