Norva Riddell is glad to be in the company of many women enjoying successful careers at every level, not just within her own workplace at True North Sports + Entertainment, but across the many organizations that she has the opportunity to work with as True North's Sr. Vice President of Sales.
"It's a very different landscape compared with the first half of my career. It's great to have female peers and wonderful to see women in a variety of roles" said Riddell.
When Riddell first embarked on her sales and marketing career, there weren't any female role models to look up to in her field. Although she had the support of her parents and the example of their inspiring work ethic and integrity, Riddell had to carve out her place in the male-dominated environment of a major Canadian brewery.
"There were definitely people that I looked up to within the organization, but within the scope of my profession, there were no women. I was very fortunate to work with leaders who encouraged me to continue to develop, take risks and embrace the next opportunity."
Riddell continued to challenge herself with progressive sales and marketing roles over a 20-year career with the brewery. She was fortunate to be part of a collaborative team and took advantage of any development opportunities that were available to her. She worked hard to build relationships and earn the trust and confidence of her customers, peers and colleagues and demonstrated her industry and market knowledge, ultimately becoming the first female to hold the role of district sales manager, nationally.
She knows that this trajectory has not necessarily been the norm for women and is now encouraged by the growing number of career opportunities for women and initiatives like the NHL's Gender Equality Month, recognized annually in March.
"It's powerful platforms like this that continue to educate us on the importance of inclusiveness and diversity and creating a positive and inclusive environment for others."
Riddell will be in the company of three other successful women, who represent excellence in their respective hockey-related fields, to celebrate the first-ever Winnipeg Jets and Manitoba Moose Gender Equality games on March 6 and 7, respectively.
Riddell, Team Finland bronze medal Olympian and current On-Ice Instructor with Jets Hockey Development Venla Hovi, TSN broadcaster Sara Orlesky, and three time Olympian and five-time world champion Sami Jo Small will participate in a ceremonial puck drop at both the Jets and Moose Gender Equality games as well as participate in a pre-game panel presentation before the Moose game on March 7, where they will have the chance to share the successes and challenges of their respective journeys.
"There are many increased opportunities for mentorship. I'd encourage others to start a conversation with someone you admire - select a leader, role model, someone that you respect and want to learn from - these opportunities weren't as available before, but now encouraged."
As the first woman to have held many of the responsibilities that she did while with the brewery, Riddell hoped that how she performed could encourage future opportunities for other women. While she enjoyed much success, including leading the regional sales team through three years of positive share growth after more than a decade of decline, and received the Western Canada "Team Captain Award" for commitment to leadership and positive regional results, it's not to say that her journey was without its challenges.
"It's where I developed my perseverance and fortitude," she said. "I wanted to do my job and do it well," she said noting the all-in effort, commitment, and deliberate decision making that helped her to navigate a predominantly male-dominated industry and environment.
"I hope that my journey has inspired other women."
Riddell joined True North in 2004 as Vice President of Sales to support the opening of Bell MTS Place and True North's efforts to regain an NHL team. In 2008, Riddell was recognized for her sales and marketing accomplishments with the Manitoba Moose with the American Hockey League's Ken McKenzie Award. She now leads a team of more than 20, overseeing corporate sales and partnership services, ticket sales and operations, and premium services for the Winnipeg Jets and True North.
"It's our responsibility to keep encouraging young people to have goals and aspirations and support them in the process," she said, noting that "we must continue to be supportive and do our part to develop great leaders."
Riddell thinks of her nieces, and other young women in her life, and the endless opportunities that exist for them.
She is happy to be part of the conversations that provoke awareness and inspiration through Gender Equality Month as well as the work she does through the Asper School of Business Mentorship Program.
"I'm very inspired by the people I have met through the program. I enjoy their perspective - I enjoy asking questions that help me to be a better leader. I get just as much out of those conversations as they do."
Riddell encourages young women to leverage all the opportunities that they are presented with, whether it be training, mentorship or simply conversations.
"Draw from what others have learned to be even more successful. Don't be afraid to ask for help or advice. Never stop learning, never stop re-thinking," she advises. "We're in a very fast-paced business and if we don't take advantage of the experience and great people around us, we're going to miss opportunities."
Join Riddell for the Gender Equality games on March 6 and 7 at Bell MTS Place - tickets at WinnipegJets.com/TICKETS and MooseHockey.com/TICKETS.