Women, Wine & Wisdom was like having that old friend back in your life that you missed so much.
The seventh edition of the event marked the first time the networking dinner and discussion had been held in person since 2019. It drew a sold-out crowd of 150 to the National Arts Center on Thursday for an exceptional evening with a diverse group of panelists: Mimi Lamco-founder and former CEO of Superette, an award-winning chain of cannabis retail outlets in Ottawa and Toronto; Sasha Suda, director and CEO of the National Gallery of Canada; and Harvard-educated scientist and inventor Sheema Khana patent attorney at Kinaxis.
Sueling Ching, president and CEO of the Ottawa Board of Trade (OBoT), welcomed the predominantly female guests as they took their seats in the NAC’s beautiful O’Born Room in downtown Ottawa. “I’m so happy to be here with you in real life,” Ching said as the crowd erupted into cheers and applause after two pandemic years of countless virtual events.
It seems that IRL (In Real Life) is the new buzzword. “I’m starting to see that everywhere,” Ching added lightly.
Women, Wine & Wisdom is one of more than 25 events organized each year for local business by the OBoT and Ottawa Business Journal, along with their business partners. The theme of the event was You First.
OBoT board member and moderator Ruby Williams, partner in Deloitte Canada’s mergers and acquisitions advisory practice, emphasized the importance of women’s voice. “If and when you hesitate to speak, do it,” she said on stage. “Your voice will help empower another woman around you.”
She also encouraged women to be “more aware” about creating opportunities for each other. “It’s well known that women are the biggest critics of other women,” she said. “Women were raised with the idea that there should only be one queen bee in the world. That’s just not true. In reality, I can tell you from personal experience that it is quite lonely at the leadership table when you are the only voice.”
There were several sightings of male attendees at Women, Wine & Wisdom, including OBJ Publisher Michael CurranOttawa Tourism President and CEO Michael Crockatt and Colonnade BridgePort CEO Hugh Gorman†
After dinner, the panelists told their audience all about themselves. The room heard for the first time how Lam left her investment banking career to co-found Superette, aiming to reduce the stigma surrounding marijuana shops and leave her mark on the industry. “I wanted to bring a sense of community and bring beauty to cannabis retailing,” said Lam, who has seen a “rollercoaster” of change as the number of private cannabis retailers from 25 stores in Ontario went under the former lottery system. to more than 1,400 stores in what is now an open market. She ran her brick and mortar business through the retail challenges of the pandemic.
“As an entrepreneur you learn every day, you make choices every day and I am so proud of what we have been able to achieve,” says Lam, who grew up in the suburb of Orléans. and is an alumna of Carleton University.
Lam recently made the decision to step down as CEO. “I realized that I neglected my personal life and my social relationships for many, many years and now it is my time to come back to what is important to me, and not to define myself by just one element,” Lam said. , who is still a shareholder, board member and “the biggest cheerleader” of the Superette brand.
Suda has turned the National Gallery upside down since she took charge in 2019, working “to better serve the communities we exist for”. Her background includes being the granddaughter of political refugees from the former Czechoslovakia, growing up in Toronto’s mixed-income community David Crombie Park, and studying art history at Princeton University, where she was also a captain in women’s rowing. She got her career start in the art world through an internship at the Met (Metropolitan Museum of Art) in New York City.
She told a nice anecdote about applying for the top position at the National Gallery. Suda, who has a PhD from the Institute of Fine Arts in NYC, was working at the Art Gallery of Ontario when she threw in her name.
“I just thought I wasn’t going to get this job. The few people who had encouraged me to apply agreed. “You should do this. You’ll never get it, but you have to do it.” I took that to heart that I had nothing to lose.”
Suda said she went into her interview as her “authentic self” (the glass of wine she’d drunk beforehand to calm her nerves probably helped too). “I sat down and really spoke from the heart. I spoke honestly about how I saw the institution and what it meant to me. It wasn’t much at the time. Yes, I respected and revered it, but it wasn’t part of my story yet and I wanted it to be part of many other people’s stories.”
Suda said she left the interview emphasizing the positive side: at least her wardrobe had gotten a new suit from the experience.
No thrills here: She got the job, but not before undergoing extensive reference checks often done with candidates, as well as extreme psychometric tests “where I learned I’d do well in the Navy too,” Suda told her amused audience .
Khan, who regularly writes in the Globe and Mail about the status of Muslim women in Canada, was born in India but grew up in Montreal. In high school she talked about her love for chemistry, mathematics and physics.
Khan received her Masters and PhD in Physics from Harvard University on a full scholarship and, as it turned out, also convinced her female colleagues to take up Canada’s favorite sport. “A Montreal teatotaling Canuck started playing intramural hockey at Harvard,” she said with a smile.
Khan referred to two terrorist attacks in Montreal that have stayed with her forever. The first was the FLQ crisis in the fall of 1970, which happened when she was about eight years old. The second incident occurred on December 6, 1989. Then an armed man entered an engineering classroom at the École Polytechnique, deliberately separated the man from the female students, asked the men to leave, and then opened fire on the women. He blamed women and feminism for ruining his life, assuming that female engineers had taken the space that rightfully belonged to him.
“That was a transformative moment for me. I will fight for the dignity of every woman in this country, regardless of who she is, whatever she studies, regardless of her background. That will be my struggle. That will be the hill on which I die.”