2019 Western Employer Initiative of the Year: Tolko Industries – Leadership Impact for Women

Posted in : Blog
Posted on : August 7, 2019

MacKenzie Pudwell

Tolko Industries is a family owned and operated company that opened its doors in the 1950s. This family orientation drove the values of respect and integrity through the organization, business model and inevitably led to the development of diversity and inclusion initiatives in the workplace. Tanya Wick, Vice President of People & Services spoke with us about Tolko’s D&I work and their program, Leadership Impact for Women.

Women were wanting more guidance and mentorship in how they were to navigate the industry and company. As a self-identified woman, Tanya experienced the personal difficulty of navigating this industry and with the success of generational and cultural inclusion initiatives preparing Tanya and Tolko Industries, Tanya felt passionate about ensuring the women of the organization were receiving the support and guidance they have been asking for.

The pilot program launched in 2017 with a group of women across British Columbia working for Tolko. Tanya was impressed with the group of women’s investments in the program and saw immediately how impactful it was going to be as she watched a supportive network of women be built.

“It’s about women owning their own careers, putting the program to work.”

The program is built around key training modules, networking, relationship building and mentorship opportunities. Tanya believes that the continued investment from the women in the program, the buy in from Tolko executives for their support in ensuring the program happened, and flexibility from managers to give space for women to take the time to engage with this program were and will be the key to creating a sustainable program that goes beyond her initial launch.

One of the challenges Tolko faced for this program launch was articulating why these programs matter in the first place. Tanya emphasized the importance of the work Tolko has put in for years to ensure that diversity and inclusion become a pillar of the organization, that they didn’t just decide one day to launch this program – they started by building up on the values of inclusion piece by piece and program by program to get them here today.

Another challenge Tanya and her team faced was getting the group together – due to the nature of industry, employees are dispersed across British Columbia and in inaccessible places. This is where technology and the flexibility of management played essential roles in the program’s success because it gave women across the province online access to the program and management’s support to give their female staff the opportunity and time to travel for certain pieces of the program. Tolko Industries’ Leadership Impact on Women program’s success came from building the knowledge, tools and buy in over the years and will help pave the way to the next step of inclusivity within the organization.

Tanya’s final thoughts for the D&I practitioners reading is:

  1. Don’t be afraid to start somewhere – Even if it’s a small step. You don’t need an entire fixed plan before you start, adaptation and flexibility are essential in this work.
  2. Understand where your organization is – You can’t jump over building blocks, you need to know where and what your company is ready for. Developing organizational buy in and ensuring everyone feels heard is vital.
  3. Finally, it’s a journey – You won’t get to the end goal tomorrow, take small steps everyday to help create a happy, safe and inclusive workplace. The small wins add up fast.

Tanya’s final pieces of advice for women in the industry:

  1. Know your culture – You can’t change anything unless you understand where the organization is and how to effectively get your message across.
  2. Credibility and execution – Let people know and see your skills, trust in your character and don’t change your character, remain reliable in who you are.
  3. Be comfortable with risks – don’t hesitate to try new things, fear and risks are essential in taking steps forward and standing out.

Tags Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion CCDI Awards of Success Awards of Success 2019 Employer Initiative of the Year Tolko Industries

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