Women in leadership—with Peggy Garritty
By Shayne Enns 15 September 2018 4 min read
We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Peggy Garritty, ATB’s Chief Reputation and Brand Officer, to talk a little bit about women in leadership. Given her recent decision to retire from ATB, it seemed like the perfect time to look back and reflect on her many experiences, challenges and lessons learned over the years. She shared some quote-worthy insights and thought provoking words of wisdom that left us feeling inspired.
On being the only woman in the room
Reflecting on her journey in leadership, Peggy says that she’s used to being the only woman in the room. Working mostly with men has been her experience for the majority of her career, but she noticed a shift in recent years.
“It’s really gratifying to me that I’m not the only woman in the room. I’m hardly ever anymore. At the same time, we’ve got a long way to go.”
While a noticeable increase of women at the table is promising, Peggy notes that there aren’t more women on boards now than there were three or four years ago.
“How we get there is complicated. It’s women putting themselves in the position and saying, I can do this.”
Although there are many incredible female leaders and an increased awareness about gender inequities, Peggy believes there is still work to be done in the way leaders are perceived.
“I think we will have achieved a lot when people close their eyes and think of what a great leader looks like and that person isn’t a man in a suit.”
Finding your voice
When we think of leaders, we often think of someone with a louder or more aggressive style of speaking—someone who does a lot of talking and displays stereotypically male characteristics. But this doesn't always have to be, and shouldn’t always be, the case. When diversity in thought, style and perspective is included in leadership conversations, “it brings a richer conversation to the table,” Peggy says.
“It’s not just because we’re women, it’s because we’re women that bring our voices to the table. Not just a woman’s voice, but a perspective that we bring through different experiences and, of course, it changes the conversation at the table. It makes it richer and expands the kind of things that we think of when we’re exploring opportunities or issues.”
This is not to say that women have a certain kind of voice, and men have a certain kind of voice, and that they should use them respectively. The key for Peggy is that she has her own voice that is uniquely her style. And her advice is for others to find theirs.
“I think the key thing for any leader is to find a voice that fits you, and that you feel really comfortable with and works for you. I don’t think it’s a woman’s voice versus a man’s voice. I think it’s your own voice you’ve got to find.”
Women in leadership positions
With so few women in leadership positions in comparison to men, there’s no doubt that something has to change. Speaking from first-hand experience in male dominated board rooms, Peggy says there are perceived barriers.
"I don’t think there is a belief—yet—that 'we’re going to look for the best leader’, and that leader looks like a woman. I think we need to shift our mindset a little bit.”
Though she doesn’t necessarily like the language around fighting, Peggy says that we need to fight even harder, and we need to put our hands up. A barrier she often sees is women not envisioning themselves in roles that she knows they can do.
“I think women often sell themselves short,” she says. And her hope is that women, especially young women, don’t let limitations in their own view get in the way.
Advice to her younger self
Peggy worked her way to the top in a male-dominated industry with no formal training in her field, but a passion for what she does and what she’s great at. It seems like she’s always had it all figured out, but she’ll be the first to tell you that success doesn’t come without learning. And it certainly doesn’t come without patience, figuring out what doesn’t work, watching people and learning from them, stepping outside your comfort zone and giving things a try.
“There isn’t anybody, male or female, who doesn’t trip and fall,” Peggy says, adding, “I think women need to support and encourage each other. I don’t think it’s up to men. It’s up to us. Women should be our own best advocates.”
Peggy’s advice for women is clear and discerning. Her advice for her younger self? The same.
“Don’t be so afraid, don’t be so timid, don’t be so shy. Don’t take a lot of shit. Put your hand up. Use your voice. Listen a lot. And just keep on going.”