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  • Emily Mathison

Resilience is Her Middle Name

Updated: Aug 7

Canadian Female CEOs Demonstrate Agility in their Responses to COVID-19.

Old (yet constantly developing) news: The COVID-19 pandemic has sent shockwaves through the economy, drying up many companies’ revenue sources.

Statistics Canada has released its Labour Force Survey which states that “the employment decline in March was larger than in any of the three significant recessions experienced since 1980.” Also notable is that “employment among women aged 25 to 54 fell by 298,500 - more than twice the decrease for men the same age,” highlighting how the pandemic has disproportionately affected women - but that’s a can of worms for another week!


Fresh (and encouraging) news: Canadian female founders and CEOs have demonstrated resilience in their response.


Sheardown who cut her teeth in marketing saw the need for a shift in their perspective early on. She shares that her team is less focused on media sales and instead has been asking, “how can we best support our community at this time?

Hannah Cree, co-founder of CMNGD based in Calgary, Alberta, is one of the most dramatic and inspiring stories we’ve seen throughout the pandemic. CMNGD employs people facing poverty barriers through providing commercial laundry services to restaurants, spas, fitness centres and other service businesses. Within less than 36 hours, CMNGD lost 75% of their customers, and expected to lose them all by the end of the week. Cree was also faced with the immense weight of laying off their employees who are already marginalized. Vicki Sauders, founder of SheEO, recounts for Oprah Magazine Cree asking, “how do I lay people off who are living in a homeless shelter?”

Cree’s answer came through the network of female investors at SheEO. Barbara Alink, the CEO of Alinker and another SheEO venture, stepped up and paid for CMNGD’s March payroll. Then together, the SheEO group quickly dove into what assets CMNGD had (staff, delivery trucks, a network of restaurants with food inventory that would soon expire) to develop a new plan to keep them and their staff operational. CMNGD has redeployed into their community, bringing organizations together to prepare and deliver meals to people in Calgary facing food insecurity during this pandemic. But they still need help: Cree details here.

Lacey Sheardown, President of Used.ca, in Victoria, British Columbia, spoke to us about how she has led her team through these uncharted waters. Used.ca is a network of online classifieds sites that are part of Black Press Media. Used.ca’s primary revenue source is the sale of digital advertising space. But when times are tough, the first area that many organizations typically cut from their budget is marketing.

Sheardown who cut her teeth in marketing saw the need for a shift in their perspective early on. She shares that her team is less focused on media sales and instead has been asking, “how can we best support our community at this time?”

At the onset, the team developed a list of COVID-19 policies for Used.ca which prevents the resale of essential items (we’re looking at your toilet paper stock-pilers!), price gouging and promotes safe, contactless transactions. They quickly created a free Open for Business Directory providing businesses with free online advertising and promoted their free job board to connect employers that are ramping up hiring and people who are unexpectedly looking for work.


Despite this, Used.ca has not been immune to temporary lay-offs. Sheardown has had to make “some difficult, painful decisions in the short term to make the business viable in the long term.” They are doing their best to continue to support these individuals through health benefits and other employee assistance, to hopefully ease this difficult time.


Sheardown says that finding ways to support local business has not only been important to better serve their community, but it has also been beneficial for the morale of their team. “The part of my job that I’ve always loved most is being a champion of our culture,” says Sheardown. Used.ca has found creative ways to connect virtually and continue to host weekly cross-team challenges to keep spirits high. There is also greater emphasis placed on one-on-one meetings across all levels of leadership. “By taking action in the early stages of the pandemic,” says Sheardown, “we’ve been able to continue to support our community while still doing our best to take care of our staff.”

The business landscape has changed overnight and more dramatically than we’ve seen in recent history. Service businesses, in particular, have watched their industry crumble around their ears. But despite fears of future viability, we’ve seen and continue to see female leaders step up. Concerns for their staff and their community are driving new ways to deliver value. By being agile, pivoting quickly, and facing difficult decisions head-on, Canadian female leaders are adjusting to this new landscape.


After all, this will come to an end. But we’ve all got to make it through until then.



Do you know a female leader, business, or team that has demonstrated impressive caring, tenacity, and resilience throughout the pandemic? Send them our way, we’d love to celebrate them!





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Until next week.

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