March 8 is International Women’s Day #IWD2021 - a global day that celebrates the achievements of women and serves as a call to action for accelerating gender parity. Recognizing and addressing barriers – including cultural, generational and gender biases – will help us create a better world and a great place to work for everyone. Each year, we like to celebrate this day by profiling women from the Petro-Canada family, and our parent organization Suncor, to learn about their roles, their thoughts on gender balance and how they are supporting a respectful and inclusive workplace.
Our first profile this year is of Shannon Wing, recently appointed Senior Director of Strategy and Business Development for the Petro-Canada business at Suncor. Prior to this appointment, Shannon has held a number of leadership roles across the Suncor organization in Strategy, Customer Experience and Finance. Shannon is also the chair of Suncor’s Workplace Inclusion Network – a resource group across the organization that supports employees in creating a respectful and inclusive workplace where unique perspectives, experiences, backgrounds, cultures and attributes are valued and leveraged to help achieve better results.
PumpTalk: You’ve had a long career at Suncor that is still going strong. To date, what career highlights are you most proud of?
While there are many projects that come to mind, I think some of the biggest highlights have been the leadership and mentorship opportunities I’ve had – watching people grow and achieve things they didn’t think they could; empowering people and bringing out the best in them. This usually means pushing people outside of their comfort zone while ensuring they know they are supported. It also requires the creation of a safe environment for learning – where you can talk about what didn’t go well and continuously learn from those experiences. Creating this type of environment for individuals and within teams is what I am most passionate about.
PumpTalk: As the chair of the Workplace Inclusion Network at Suncor, can you tell me a bit more about the organization's mandate?
The focus is on cultivating an inclusive work environment and culture. It’s grassroots and employee led - but has a high degree of support from the organization. Formal I&D policies and programs are a part of the equation, but they’re not enough. Unless you’ve created the environment where employees feel comfortable expressing diverse opinions, you’re not taking advantage of the benefits of a diverse workplace.
Having this network has started some important conversations and subsequently started to change the organization. I had the opportunity to participate in our inaugural Women’s Day panel discussion in 2019, which was a huge success. This type of dialogue was not happening openly in years past. From there - we now have two specific employee groups focused on gender issues. Every year we are progressing the conversation and addressing new opportunities. This WIN employee group now has over 1000 members who have signed up and shown their desire to learn more about inclusion & diversity!
As a testament to the change that is happening within the organization, Suncor was just named one of Canada’s Best Diversity Employers 2021 by Mediacorp Canada Inc.
PumpTalk: In your time with Suncor, and from your perspective working in a traditionally male-dominated industry, what has helped you navigate the workplace and your career?
I’ve worked in several areas of the Suncor business – most recently in roles in Strategy, Customer Experience & Finance. As I’ve made these transitions, I’ve taken the mindset that I can’t compare myself with others. I instead focus on the unique things that I can bring to a job. That different experiences add value to a role is something that I had to learn and gain confidence in over time. Don’t try to compare yourself to the people that came before you; focus on the unique things you bring to the position.
Spending most of my career in a male dominated industry has meant that there have always been lower levels of female representation in leadership. This has also meant that there have been fewer opportunities to receive mentorship. I have been able to fill this gap through building peer networks. I consistently rely on those within my network to provide the advice and guidance that one might traditionally gain through mentorship. Looking forward – this peer group has collectively made a conscious effort to mentor others who are looking for support. Hopefully we can close this gap for the next generation!
PumpTalk: How do you celebrate women's achievements?
I think providing visibility to women’s accomplishments is important - ensuring they are being highlighted to the same degree as their peers. Women are often humble and can at times minimize their own accomplishments. As leaders we need to ensure we are watching for this and everyone is being celebrated equally. Sometimes it is as simple as calling out another’s success when they don’t do it for themselves. In other scenarios it is more formal and needs to be done in performance reviews so that individuals get the recognition they deserve.
PumpTalk: What two key pieces of advice would you offer women in the workplace?
First, build your network both inside and outside your organization so that you can seek input and advice when you come up against challenges. Friends, colleagues, family members can all bring different perspectives to a situation. Use your network for encouragement and support.
Second, don’t be afraid to take on or ask for new challenges. This is often where you get the biggest growth and development. Do something that makes you feel uncomfortable. I continually push my team members to take on new projects or learning opportunities on a regular basis – life-long learning is important.
PumpTalk: The 2021 theme for International Women’s Day is #ChooseToChallenge: a challenged world is an alert world and from challenge comes change. What does this mean to you?
To me, “challenge” means becoming aware of unconscious biases, bringing awareness to them, and then having meaningful conversations. We want different perspectives at the table. A challenge can help people understand that there are different ways to approach a situation. You don’t want a challenge to result in a standoff, you want to it to shift perspective. The objective is to call people into the conversation rather than call them out. To shift mindsets, you want to engage in dialogue rather than debate.
Shannon, thank you so much for your time and for sharing your experience! Our other profile this year is of Andrea Decore, Vice President Strategy & Corporate Development for Suncor. In her interview we discuss the essential contribution of diversity to innovation and creativity.