07/18/2015 08:37 EDT | Updated 07/18/2016 05:59 EDT

From Barbells to Boardrooms: Career Advice from Women Who Influenced Me

Ladies, you have a lot to offer any industry. You are intelligent, nurturing, and have so many great qualities that are the corner stones of success. So hold your head high, know your worth, learn from each other and show 'em what you're made of!


June marks the time of graduation and new beginnings with many fresh faces eager to enter the workforce. What an exciting time, especially for our own young Canadian women. According to a recent study by Randstad Canada, Canadian women are playing an increasingly important role in the fabric of Canadian workplaces as they now make up almost 50 per cent of the workforce.

When it comes to leveling the playing field, the fitness industry has made huge strides over the years to create equal opportunity for both men and women. In what used to be a male dominated industry, women are now making their mark and leaving a lasting impression.

I am lucky enough to be surrounded by inspiring and motivational women who have helped shape my career and help me become a better leader. To all of you young graduates about to embark in your career in pursuit of your dreams, I want to say that hard work and dedication do pay off. If you work hard you will be successful in whatever career path you choose.

The following are some tips and insights that have helped me get to where I am today. My hope is that you can apply these, and become the powerhouse women I know you can be!

Network with other thought leaders

If you want to be successful in your given field, get to know the people who are already successful in it. Surround yourself with like-minded people you look up to and soak in everything they say and do. Better yet, ask them to join you for a coffee, pick their brain and learn from them.

Building a relationship with a variety of people who inspire you is key to developing your own skills and approach. There is a reason you look up to these people. However, make sure that you are not "looking" from afar -- use every opportunity you can to interact with these people as they are a wealth of knowledge and can help guide you through your professional endeavors.

I find my mentors to be passionate and hardworking. They are women who have changed the fitness industry, and transformed it from the traditional "old boys club" to what it has become today -- a gender-equal place of opportunity. Those women love what they do and have a combination of traditional and self-taught education. They have reached impressive heights in their careers through hard work and dedication.

These are some of the fantastic ladies that I look up to:

Lynne Brick -- Lynne has always been a mentor for me since the beginning of my career. Without realizing it, I was affirming with friends and colleagues my goal: "Someday I will be the Lynne Brick of Canada." Lynne served on the IHRSA prestigious board of directors as one of leading ladies of the fitness industry for four years and she continues to build a very successful fitness business with her husband and family.

Helen Vanderburg -- Helen was a world champion synchronized swimmer back in university, long before I met her at my first international fitness conference. As a mentor and friend we have travelled the world and presented together for over 25 years. Helen is one of the most passionate and committed women I have ever met.

Sara Kooperman -- Sara is a fitness industry entrepreneur whose drive and ambition out measured any fear to stand up (in her heels) and be heard in a male dominated marketplace as a conference and certification owner and operator. She has taught me how to be a risk-taker. I have always admired and learned from Sara.

Lexie Williams -- Lexie is a fitness industry icon. Known world-wide for her captivating stage presence, passion and innovative style of teaching. She inspired me to become a fitness industry presenter and provided me with the opportunity to move the Canadian fitness industry forward with her presence at the first canfitpro conferences back in the 1990s. The Canadian fitness industry was changed forever because of Lexie.

Debra Siena -- Debra is an inspiring speaker, visionary and one of the first female board members at IHRSA. She continually invests her time and energy in helping women learn how to succeed as female leaders and female business entrepreneurs, including myself, in the fitness industry.

Traits for success

My mentors are all very different, but all well respected women in their own right. Each has enviable qualities that no doubt have helped them further their careers. Here are some common traits I have found amongst the most successful women that I know:

Passion -- Being in a field you're passionate about is one of the most important elements to success. Life is too short not to love the work you do. If you truly love your job, it will shine through.

Confidence -- Attitude, attitude, attitude! Having confidence in yourself and the work you produce is important. If you know you can do the job and you know the work you produce is valuable, act like it. You have to believe in your skills, goals and ability to succeed. If you believe in yourself and work hard the success will come.

Relationships -- We already touched on getting to know your mentors, but networking as a whole goes hand in hand with workplace success. It's not all about who you know, but it certainly helps, especially when you have great people vouching for you.

Empathy -- As women many of us have a nurturing side. Empathy is having the ability to put yourself in someone else's shoes and understand their situation and feelings. Having empathy helps make you a great leader, as you're able to see the whole situation, not just one point of view.

Drive -- Having the determination to work harder and get things done is probably the key ingredient for success. A great work ethic combined with that positive attitude I've been talking about goes a long way.

Take Risks -- Don't be afraid to take risks, stand up for what you believe in and go after what you want. You will learn much more from your failures than you will from your successes and if you do not fail from time to time you just have not tried enough new things.

These are common traits for success in any industry. Whether you see yourself becoming a writer, a doctor, an accountant or a fitness professional, these traits are universal and won't go unnoticed or unrewarded.

Celebrating women who influence

Working hand-in-hand with canfitpro, I launched the Women Who Influence Luncheon event. It is a half-day of intensive training for accomplished women in the fitness industry. These women, including my mentors and peers, come together to share stories, successes, failures, queries and everything in between. It is a very candid day where we learn from each other and celebrate being women in the industry.

At last year's luncheon I was blown away by the energy and messages that the speakers brought to the table. It's truly a day to recognize women who are trailblazers and leaders in the fitness industry. This year, on Thursday, August 13, 2015, canfitpro will celebrate the second annual Women Who Influence luncheon as part of this year's world fitness expo.

Regardless of which industry you are in this day provides intriguing insights on what it takes to get to the top. Being surrounded by smart, strong and fit women who have built successful careers is inspiring. We are each other's biggest supporters. We have learned a lot from each other and continue to do so.

This is an opportunity to celebrate women. Women are great networkers and this is an environment where we can share our personal experiences. We can learn the good and also how to avoid the bad. We can help shape and create a path for women coming into the industry.

Ladies, you have a lot to offer any industry. You are intelligent, nurturing, and have so many great qualities that are the corner stones of success. So hold your head high, know your worth, learn from each other and show 'em what you're made of!