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CBS business leaders talk mentors, successes and challenges at International Women’s Day symposium

By Mark Squibb/March 24, 2022

The Town of Conception Bay South hosted a virtual event last week to celebrate International Women’s Day.

“I am honoured and privileged to be here tonight to celebrate International Women’s Day and to celebrate how far we have come as a society in breaking the bias in our community,” said Ward 1 councillor Shelly Moores, who credited her two daughters with encouraging her to run both provincially and municipally.

Guest speakers included Christine Hand of CBS Home Hardware, Gina Pecore of Genoa Design, the three Taylor sisters of Taylor’s Fish and Vegetable Market, and Michelle Porter of Sisters in Fitness

The women responded to questions and discussed the challenges facing women, including a lack of mentorship, work life balance, surviving in male dominated industries, motherhood, and how to encourage young entrepreneurs.

“I didn’t understand when people said I couldn’t do something because I was a woman, because everybody in my life told me that I could,” said Porter of the strong female role models in her family.

Porter spoke highly of one of her idols, Dr. Gayle Garber, a well-known name in CBS.

Porter first saw Dr. Garber when she was only a nine-year-old girl.

“I remember looking at her and thinking, ‘This woman is the smartest woman I have ever met,” said Porter. “The fact that she was a doctor, and she was a woman, in Conception Bay South, was just not heard of.”

Year’s later, Porter was instructing a senior yoga class, when in walked Garber.

“She is still today an amazing person,” said Porter.

Hand, who has run Home hardware for 34 years, along with being involved in other business ventures, said International Women’s Day was a day to celebrate.

“It’s about celebrating women past and present and all those women in our lives, aunts, cousins, sisters, friends, co-workers who really are making a difference, and have made a difference, and deserve to be celebrated,” said Hand.

Hand said her children have helped her promote diversity and defend inclusion, and she allowed that she has fell victim to unconscious bias in the past herself.

“It was my daughter who pointed out to me that I had an unconscious bias,” said Hand. “If I hired high school students, if I hired female students, I would put them on the cash, and if I hired male students, I would put them on hardware or paint or plumbing. And I didn’t realize I was doing it, until she pointed it out to me.”

Kelly, Nancy, and Jane Taylor, third generation business owners of the over 60-year-old business which they took over from parents Reg and Ruth Taylor in 2014, credited several strong female role models

“We had some very strong women in our lives growing up, our mother in particular,” said Nancy. “Our mother worked as well as raised the kids. We had two very strong grandmothers who really influenced us, and they worked their whole lives as well, while having numerous kids as well. So, we’ve had lots of strong women in our lives who have helped guide us.”

Years after inheriting the business from their parents, the sisters say some folks still had a hard time accepting the young women where in charge of the store.

“When we took over from our parents in 2014, one of the biggest things we had to deal with – whether it be wholesalers, fishermen, suppliers, or customers – was, ‘Well, where’s your father? I’d rather speak to him on that,’” said Kelly. “And it almost made you question yourself, whether you were running the business, or trying to run the business, as best as you could. You were always second guessing, ‘Well, am I doing this right, or am I doing that right?’”

Gina Pecore, CEO of Genoa Design, was amongst the first women to sail with the Canadian naval fleet.

She explained Genoa as a creator of digital ship designs, a business that started in the former Josephine Noseworthy Building with about five employees. They’re since moved to Mount Pearl — and ballooned to a staff of about 300.

“International Women’s Day means a lot to me,” said Pecore. “It’s always a day of deep reflection and really assessing are we doing enough, are we active enough, and are we role modeling enough, are we mentoring enough, are we creating policies enough, and so on.”

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