Looking at today’s successful businesswoman, it’s hard to believe that Carolyn Lawrence was once a rebellious teenager. “I was never very good at taking direction,” she says with a laugh. “I think that kids who are like that should consider leadership roles!”
Lawrence’s father was a Bay Street powerhouse; her mother, though she held a PhD, didn’t work outside the house. Lawrence was expected to follow in her mother’s footsteps, but she shared her father’s fascination with business. Eventually her father accepted her choice and became a mentor to her.
Lawrence attended Western to study English because, “it’s all about how you communicate, connect with people, inspire, learn and teach others.” In addition to her rich academic experience, she enjoyed her time on the Western ski team, and developed deep friendships that continue today. When she graduated, she joined TD Waterhouse as a marketing assistant and began working her way through the ranks. “I gained a very solid corporate foundation and got lots of experience with strategic communication, marketing and event planning,” she says. “But I was missing the passion element.”
When she began training for triathlons in her spare time, she discovered a well of energy her career clearly wasn’t tapping. Looking for a more inspiring alternative, she approached the owner of Women of Influence for a job. Instead, she was presented with an opportunity to buy the business, which organizes speakers series for women. She started as an event director in 2005 and then became CEO and President in 2007.
Since then, she and her young and dynamic team have expanded the business to include new events, the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards, Young Women of Influence, an annual fundraising auction in support of Canadian Women’s Foundation, a national digital and print magazine, a website, and the Top 25 Women of Influence (a national ranking). The company is now moving into the U.S., with recent senior executive events in New York and Boston, and is beginning to develop educational programs. The Women of Influence community has more than quadrupled under her leadership.
Lawrence is driven by a passionate commitment to help women realize their full potential. “Corporations are making great headway, but we’re not seeing enough women make it to the senior executive and board level roles yet,” she says. “I won’t stop until I see real gender parity in the workforce.”
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