Today, on International Women’s Day, I have chosen to profile Laurel Walzak, the female co-founder of Fitneff Inc. Laurel has been successful in so many areas of her career - first as a trailblazer in the sports business industry, then as an entrepreneur and most recently as an Assistant Professor of Sports Media at Ryerson University.
Laurel also spends a great deal of her time and energy outside the office in efforts to advance the careers of young women who are making their start. In addition to mentoring, she is involved in many charitable organizations, and actively participates as a board member for companies that further the advancement of women in sport.
I asked Laurel some important questions about the role of women in business, and the role that she plays in advocating for other women in her life.
What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
International Women’s Day is an opportunity to reflect on our position in the world, and to celebrate those who have helped us to get to where we are today. It is also important to take the time to truly listen to, and support, the voices of women in our communities and around the world. I have always been an advocate of ensuring women’s voices are heard in the industry. Women bring a unique perspective, and without this perspective, organizations are truly losing out, and this impacts everyone, not just women. International Women’s Day is a reminder to listen to that female voice, and to take action if required.
What kinds of challenges did you face in your career that were unique to you as a woman?
Gender has certainly created barriers for me in my career, but I have also been able to turn some of those barriers into unique opportunities that I might not have otherwise had. For example, women who are strong and driven are often scrutinized and given negative labels, and considered to be unfriendly and aggressive. I won’t apologize for being driven, but I have learned to package and merchandise my drive with positivity, self-promotion and perseverance with my voice. You catch more flies with honey, so to speak. I believe that this is a challenge that is unique to women.
Why is it so important for women to support each other in their professional lives, whether it is in sports or in the business world?
I believe it is important for women to support other women because they are in a unique position to help pave the way for others coming after them. Women who have achieved success have the responsibility to share their positive experiences, and provide insight into issues and to help navigate the that others do not encounter the same barriers that they may have faced. Even with the barriers that have been broken down to date, we are still underrepresented, excluded or both, and we still have tremendous work to do in this area.
Do you have any advice for young professional women who are at the start of their careers?
First and foremost, don’t be afraid to chase your dreams and don't allow gender-based barriers get in your way. You truly can do anything you put your mind to. Next, take the time to do your homework, do your research and ask questions to ensure that you are headed in the direction you truly want to go, and you know what you need to do to get there. Finally, find a mentor in the industry, whether male or female. A mentor can be your voice when you feel you don’t have a voice, and can help to navigate challenging situations, and will be your champion and your support along the way. It is always great to know that you have someone on your side.
Thank you, Laurel, for offering your unique perspective. We are thankful for the work that you have done to advance the status of women in the workplace, and the exposure of women in sports and sport marketing.
You could say that Jim Wachtel occupies a front-row seat in the corporate health and wellness industry. And, because of his job as a health care cost-containment strategist, he spends a lot of time in that seat, whether it’s in his office, in his car, or on an airplane travelling for work.
Now, he's literally taking steps toward better health without compromising his productivity. Read how he's no longer sitting down on the job with the Walktop Treadmill desk by Fitneff.