Moya. Role Models, Mentors, Heroes and Leaders

posted November 16th, 2010 by Janet Graham - Leave a Comment

I asked Moya whether she had anything further to say about having role models, mentors and heroes.


Moya said she did have a heroine. “I thought Margaret Thatcher was so fantastic.  You know, how she cured the British disease.  I thought she was so amazing and came from nowhere in that party and nobody expected her to get the leadership of the party and here she was with a chemistry degree from Oxford for goodness sake.  She really was a heroine for me because here’s this great country languishing, with no sense of how to get the economy turned on again after so many years of socialism, a term I don’t want to use pejoratively because there are lots of aspects of socialism that are really, really good and important for people.  We want the pie to be distributed fairly, we want people to have the opportunity to excel and those values are really good.  What’s not good, though, is when everybody believes it can be done with no effort and where people start to believe that excellence doesn’t matter and people won’t invest anymore. Money makes the world go round and if the money is not coming in a country’s direction it’s going somewhere else and the country will certainly lose.  To turn that around in an eight year period and the wrenching decisions that had to be taken in order to do it, and they were wrenching, I really, really thought she was amazing and there aren’t many women before or since in political life that have risen to her stature and have just accomplished anything even remotely similar to what she did.  So she definitely was a heroine.” 


Moya says in her second year in her former CEO position, she had a great honour bestowed on her. She was asked to be the Canada lecturer at Oxford University.  She said she thought for a long time about what she would say and she worked on her speech for a very long time and she researched it thoroughly. She says:  “The theme I wanted to take was what the role of the state in the economy should be and when does it go too far and when does the ownership of state enterprise no longer work and, once you have built up so much involvement, direct involvement, by applying the corporate model to the affairs of the state and the economy, how do you get out of it.  I looked at a whole lot of countries around the world and it took me eight months to research and write this speech and it ended up being a kind of a long study of what Margaret Thatcher had done. Her realization that state involvement had to be pulled back and be changed because there were certain elements of state involvement in the economy that were actually quite wrong and destined to failure and turning it around would be very difficult.” 


She says she was to give the speech to a very big audience at Oxford University and was invited to the high table for dinner afterwards. However, after giving the speech she received a rather lukewarm reception. She says: “I don’t think I’m any great shakes as a speaker but I’m not bad and it certainly was very well researched so I was sort of surprised at the reception.  At dinner, the person sitting next to me was one of the heads of the bigger colleges at Oxford and they said I had been very courageous and I’m wondering why what I said was courageous.  Well in all the research that I had done I never picked up that Margaret Thatcher had a running battle, a huge battle with Oxford University the whole time that she was the Prime Minister and nobody at Oxford could stand her even though she had graduated from there because Oxford is very left leaning and I didn’t know that.  So for me to stand up at Oxford and say I think this person was amazing and shed light on the apparatus of the economy and what it takes for the state to be properly involved in the economy and what is wrong if you are involved in a different way in the economy was total anathema to their view, in fact, they had actually withheld her honorary degree.  They had a huge debate about it because here was this woman Prime Minister making all this enormous change in Britain, who had graduated from Oxford, and was up for an honorary degree and they withheld it.” Moya says Thatcher was a hero because she really made a huge difference.  Her life made a huge difference.


I asked Moya whether she saw herself as a role model, mentor, hero or leader. She said: “I don’t see myself as a hero.  I’ve never done anything heroic in my life and there are people that are out there putting their lives on the line in war theatres every day and that’s heroic.  There are people who have dedicated their lives to a cause that is very, very important.  There are people, as we speak, in a lab somewhere trying to find cures for very debilitating diseases.  They are heroes.  So I don’t see myself that way at all.  I do see myself as a leader, though, and increasingly a mentor.  I like it when women come to me and tell me they think that I’ve got something to say to them.  I was in my last position as CEO for almost five years and it was a very, very big company with lots of challenges and I think it required leadership to transform the company. You can’t get there if your senior team, the management team, and people that are working on the front lines trying to deliver the product will not follow you. You are not a leader if they won’t follow you in making the changes that have to be made in order to deal with the many challenges you face.” 


Moya says she sees herself as a leader in another way which is being a woman in the CEO’s role. She says: “We stand out by our gender still.  I remember Laura Sabia, Maureen O’Neill and Doris Anderson on the front lines of the feminist movement and it’s a word that we don’t even allow to ourselves to say anymore because we’re so fearful.  Something happened where feminism became trivialized and the concept of being a feminist no longer seemed like a worthy cause.  I don’t believe it.  You look at what’s happening in Afghanistan.  Girls are being killed because they go to school.  You look at what’s happening in many parts of the world today where girls are very second class and sometimes they’re murdered because they’re not a boy and so there’s still lots of gender inequality around the globe.  We live in a country where there’s a lot less now than there was 40 years ago but I remember when if you were in the federal public service you couldn’t be married and be a woman.  I mean these were the rules in my life time.” 


So I do see myself as a leader in that sense as well simply because there just aren’t very many of us leading big companies and the fact that our faces are female helps women see themselves in these types of roles.  Women have told me this.  It helps them believe that there are things that are possible for them that they wouldn’t feel the same about if there were no women to be seen and I expect it’s exactly the same way for people of colour.  You know in Toronto, 52% of the population was not born here.  Many of them are people of colour.  How many boards have somebody of colour on them?  How many corporations are led by people of colour?  If you’re sitting at Jane and Finch and you’re a great student and you’re working very hard and you’re trying to make education work for you, it must be very hard to think that even if you do all of that and you make education work for you, the fact that you don’t see anybody of colour on these boards or running these corporations, it must be very hard to see yourself doing it.  And so I think leadership has that dimension as well.  It’s important for women to be there.  It’s important for people of colour to be there.” 


She said: “There’s a lot to be said for diversity.  It makes a path.  So we can’t forget that and now I think it’s our job in the west, it’s our job in Canada, for accomplished women in the west, to make the way for women who can’t even get an education in many countries in the world and that’s the new path that we have to forge.  We’re going to have to go global with this because women have no voice in so many parts of the world.  So I think that’s a part of leadership that we have a responsibility to our mothers and our parents and the giants whose shoulders we stood on in order to take our place in society and our places in corporations.  Now it’s our job to go global and make it possible for that little girl in Afghanistan to get an education, make it possible for that woman in Saudi Arabia to drive a car, for God’s sake.  This is the next thing that we have to do and this is not a religious value, this is a moral value.  There’s no religion in the world as far as I know that would… I never heard of a God that said if you look like this, if you look like that you can’t contribute, you can’t be something, you can’t choose your destiny.  So that’s the next big thing and I think that it’s actually going to make feminism a value with positive connotations in the future, a value it lost in the past 10 or 15 years in Canada because it seemed to be trivializing very, very important concepts.  Those concepts are now in place, the right to be educated and the right to work, although, it’s still hard. There aren’t very many women on boards, there aren’t very many women running corporations, there aren’t very many women on executive teams.  It’s still hard and I don’t want to minimize it but where feminism is going to rise heroically again will be in relation to an international effort to make sure that 52% of the planet can contribute because in many many countries of the world they can’t.” 


In terms of leadership, Moya says: “I think those are the areas where I am a leader.  Women see me and they see themselves as possibly being in that role because I’m there and women around the globe who have not even the most basic rights know that women in the west have these rights thanks to the Internet.  So there’s at least that.  There are places in the world where you can have those rights and they will be real rights, they won’t just be paper rights, and I think that’s the next generation of feminism  on the international stage.  So yes, I see myself as a leader in those ways.”


What Strikes Me?


It only takes the support of one person to have a significant impact on your career and your life.


Diversity makes a path for every one.


Women in the west have an obligation to women around the globe who have lesser rights than themselves, for example, the right to an education.


The next generation of feminists and feminism has an important role to play on the global stage, to ensure women in all parts of the world are able to contribute.


What Strikes You?


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