PowHERhouse Portrait | Betty-Ann Heggie

Betty-Ann Heggie, a former Senior Vice-President with PotashCorp, the world’s largest fertilizer company, retired in 2007 and now serves as a corporate director, professional speaker and blogger for Huffington Post.

In 2015, Betty-Ann was the recipient of the Trailblazer Award from Women in Mining Canada and named one of the 100 Global Inspirational Women in Mining.

She has also been inducted into Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women Hall of Fame.  Her groundbreaking mentorship program at University of Saskatchewan’s Edwards School of Business has had more than 1,800 women participate in the program’s networking events, professional development, and its annual women’s film festival.  She also developed and hosted a Canadian mentorship experience for women from Afghanistan.  She and her husband Wade are very proud of their two highly spirited and independent adult daughters.

PowHERhouse recently had the opportunity to sit down with Betty-Ann and talk a little more about her story and the impact she has made with her life.

I grew up in a small town hotel in Saskatchewan, went to university in Saskatoon and after graduating, got married and stayed.  From there I worked in a number of sales jobs but each time I was up for a promotion it meant moving out of the province.  This wasn’t possible as my husband was in a small business so I decided if I wanted to advance my career I needed a job with a head office in my city.  That took me to Potash Corp of Sask, a male-dominated miner of fertilizer.

Starting in an entry-level management position, I retired after 26 years as a Senior VP and officer of the company.  I always enjoyed mentoring at the office and knew from personal experience how difficult it is for women to walk the narrow minefield in the patriarchal system so in the ‘giving back’ stage of my life I started a foundation to mentor working women.  Each year, in partnership with the University of Saskatchewan Edwards School of Business, we match aspiring career women with those who are more experienced for one-on-one sessions, professional development, and networking.  I am passionate about getting more women to the decision-making table and am always gratified by the progress we see from the women in our program. 

I want to help change unconscious bias that limits leadership opportunities for women and mentorship is an important element in that.  In comparison to men who dominate the ranks of management in the corporate world, women as members of a minority are at a disadvantage.  A mentor plays many important developmental roles including those of motivator, coach, champion and consultant to offset this disadvantage.  I want to help women close the gender gap, ensuring that both they and their companies are the beneficiaries.

Describe what your ‘end game’ looks like – complete fruition.

The end game is when people just look at an individual to assess whether they would be a good leader and their gender is not a consideration. While we are making progress in this we are a long ways off. Here is the current situation: Women make up 50% of the population, represent 50% of employees, count as 60% of university graduates and comprise 80% percent of buying power.  However, women represent only 2% of all CEOs,14% of executives and 15% of board members. 

Biggest highlight in your career/journey?

While it was rewarding to be named the 2015 Trailblazer by the Women in Mining Canada the best part was reading their nomination package. There were so many testimonial letters from so many of my protégés about how I had helped inspire them to forge forward that I really felt that my work, time and effort had been worthwhile.

One thing that you feel was most pivotal or useful thus far in your career/journey?

Having so many valuable mentors who provided me a ’hand up’ along the way.

We’ve discussed how training on its own is not as successful as when it is combined with effective networking and mentoring.  Can you say more about this and how your programs meet this need?

When we started our Womentorship Program we intuitively included 3 legs to the stool- mentor/protégé matches, professional development, and networking. Now a decade later research cited by Iris Bohnet in her book ‘Gender Equality by Design’ shows that when mentoring is coupled with training and networking, women are more apt to stay and advance in the workforce, proving that our intuition was bang-on!

What would you like women to most understand or consider – on a higher level – with regards to your role and your mission – specifically around the mentoring program and its potential to go national-wide with university partners.

The program I founded in partnership with the U of S Edwards School of Business could be run at any university and I would be happy to share my experience, knowledge, and expertise if someone wanted to do it elsewhere. In fact, I would welcome anyone who wants to follow our model and franchise it.  This is not proprietary, and I’d love to see it conducted everywhere in the spirit of ‘women helping women’. 

What do you feel your most valuable lessons to pass on are?

A mentor is not there to rescue you- they are only there to tell their story and provide advice.  You don’t have to take their guidance- after all, it is YOUR career. Always be open to growth, and do what is right for you.

What do you see as the next steps to supporting young women, up & comers, and their journey into leadership?  What is missing? What could we do better?

Get more men involved in the advancement of women and more companies committed to actually walking the walk, not just talking the talk about women in leadership.

How would you describe what brings you the greatest joy in your current role?

Watching women spread their wings and fly.

Best advice you ever received:

‘Put it in Cruise’.  When I see a problem, I am prone to jump in immediately to try and fix it.  Sometimes it is better to let things go, and they will resolve themselves.

What would be your top three tips for women regarding walking their talk and courageously approaching to is most important to them?

1)  Be aware of what makes you special and bring your authentic self into the world. That will give you presence.

2)  Network to build strong relationships – no woman is an island. We all need belonging.  

3)  Take risks and be prepared to fail. Learn from your mistakes and move forward. That builds resilience.    

Describe your happiness strategy in one sentence.

I align my activities with my values.

How do you balance between being an impactful leader, a busy mentor and advisor, volunteer and so much more without dodging your own self-care?

I try to combine activities to better amortize my time.  For example, I practice my speeches when I walk or mentor a protégé while we do volunteer work together.  

You must have some pretty long days.  How do you keep your energy up and your focus consistent?  How you stay PowHERful and on the top of your game?

When I focus on things I am passionate about, that gives me energy.  Getting rid of the things that drain me also maintains my energy.  I work on things when I am motivated and when I am tired, take a break.  I make it a priority to restore my mental, physical, emotional and spiritual energy each day so I don’t get out of balance. 

What would you say your Top 3 Excellence Habits are (ie. habits that ensure your success).

Daily walks to clear my head, getting at least 7 hours of sleep at night, feeling thankful every day.

Describe your Top 3 Time Management Tips as they relate to your Mission.

1)  Never waste time thinking things are unfair. Instead think: “Where I am now is where I am meant to be”. It’s not what happens,  it is what you think about what happens. 

2)  Never waste time by carrying a grudge and ruminating over things from the past. Is there someone that you could forgive to release more energy for yourself?

3)  Never say yes to others when you mean no. It drains your energy and takes valuable time you could be spending to achieve your goals. A no to others can be a yes to yourself.

Describe a favourite hobby or adventure.

Each year I see approx 40 films in 10 days at the Toronto International Film Festival.  I make it a point to see films which tell women’s stories and are directed by women.  We also use storytelling in my mentorship program as it is the best way for women to promote themselves, to find common ground with others and to develop resilience after a setback.  I am a big believer in how important it is for women to tell their stories, both through one-on-one meetings and through film. Each year we have an evening of short films telling women’s stories in our Womentorship program where approx 500 women come to network and discuss the films with a panel of experts afterward. It is very inspiring.  

Favourite energy meal or snack (healthy).

Raspberries, Greek yogurt and chia seeds. It is like dessert.

Favourite indulgence or treat.

Taking time for a massage or going to a concert.

Top 3 things on your Bucket List.

I love to travel so I always have a list of place I want to go.  Right now I am planning a trip to Sri Lanka, the Cannes Film Festival, and Scotland.  And when I come back from those trips, I have more places to visit on my bucket list.  The more places I go, the longer my list gets!

I never leave home without my……..

lip gloss

What are the apps or online tools you most use?

The weather app – I travel so much, I need to know what to pack!  And I love making collages out of my photos.

Do you have a morning ritual? What is it?

As soon as I wake up, I meditate for 20 minutes and have done so for more than 3 decades.

If you could display a 1-line message in Times Square that would be televised to women around the world, what would it say?

You’ll get 80% of your results from 20% of your energy by being authentic. 

At PowHERhouse, we’re currently dissecting the term collaboration as we don’t feel that women have mastered how to collaborate at its fullest potential.  We’re intrigued by how to best synthesize our efforts and our energy to create the most direct path from A to B with EASE, fun, stimulation, learning and the greatest impact.  What are your thoughts on this?

Collaboration comes from establishing good networks and that means that women must ‘give to get’.  According to the consulting group, McKinsey and Company, women not only fail to reciprocate, they find expectations that they should to be offensive.  We women expect things to be given to us with no quid-pro-quo yet, reciprocity is strongly ingrained in our human psyche.  When someone fails to give back after you have given, it is natural to be angry.  For example, the person who fails to buy a round at the bar after you have done so likely won’t be invited again.  If we want to collaborate and work together we must learn to ‘give to get’.

Betty-Ann’s other personal awards include: the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal, the YWCA Lifetime Achievement Award, the University of Saskatchewan Alumni Mentorship Award and the Stevie Award for “Women Helping Women”.  Betty-Ann currently serves on the board of TIFF and has also been a director of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Saskatoon Regional Economic Development Authority Inc., the Canadian Wheat Board, Allana Potash and MITACS.  


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.