Women Leading the Way at Open Farm: International Women's Day

Women Leading the Way at Open Farm: International Women's Day

International Women's Day (IWD) is a global day to recognize the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. But IWD marks more than just a day of celebration, it’s also a global call to action to accelerate gender equality where it’s lacking. At Open Farm we embrace the values of equity, diversity, and inclusion, with an environment where everyone can thrive in our culture with the programs and opportunities we provide. We are proud to be a company lead by women who make up 58% of our organization, 47% of all managers and, 50% of our senior leadership team!

In honour of this year’s IWD theme to #breakthebias, we interviewed women across departments at different ages, stages in their career, and backgrounds to get their unique perspectives. It’s important to recognize that the experiences of women are not the same and many face additional barriers due to racism, immigration status, ableism and financial circumstances among other intersecting characteristics.

In our interviews we asked a range of questions from “What do you think is the biggest issue facing women of your age?” to “What progress have you seen on gender equity in your life at work?”, and the results were honest, open responses from their perspective.

Leading the Way at Open Farm - Jacqueline Prehogan, Co-Founder & Chief Brand Officer

Q: We often tell everyone at Open Farm to have an entrepreneurial spirit. What’s the most important piece of advice you’d give to a woman entrepreneur?

Jacqueline: "I would say, number one is a positive mindset. I often think about how much women have progressed. We actually live in a time where we have so much opportunity and so many barriers have been broken down by incredible women who sacrificed so much. We are extremely fortunate to live in a country and time in history where female success is finally being encouraged and celebrated.

Number two is having confidence in yourself. There will always be obstacles and challenges, but you are competent and capable and have all the tools within your own self sufficiency to succeed. Belief in yourself is the greatest jet fuel for success.

And then the third thing is to be prepared for what I call the Leap. At some point, you need to go all in, and it’s scary. Your steady paycheck stops. Maybe you need to put your life savings into your first inventory run, which is what we had to do. But if you truly have conviction in your idea and confidence in yourself, you can overcome the Leap and just go for it.

Q: Can you share an empowering moment that inspired or still inspires you?

Jacqueline: "When I started building our first business in the pet industry, Canada Pooch, I had no idea what I was doing. I had never designed anything, I had never manufactured anything and I had never sold anything; I came from an accounting background. I remember my first sales meeting was with John Ayers, the owner of Freedom Pet Supplies, who is still our distributor for both companies today!

I went into the meeting optimistic but unsure of what to expect, so I focused on sharing my dream, vision and passion with him. And I really believed in that vision! At the end of the meeting, John told me he would be ordering a container of product, and later that day he sent over a purchase order for $80,000. At that time, an $80,000 order was beyond my wildest dreams for a sale, I couldn’t believe it!

Though I was secretly freaking inside out because I had to figure out how to actually produce and ship a container of dog coats, it was a pivotal moment for me. The work I had done, the creativity I put into my products, and the belief I had in myself was validated by my first big sale! That feeling of achievement reinforced my conviction that I could do anything.

Leading the Way at Open Farm in E-Commerce - Shada Shafieian, E-Commerce Product Associate

Q: Why did you choose a career in e-Commerce?

Shada: "My career path has been somewhat nonlinear and unconventional. Pursuing a career in ecommerce, specifically in product, is not where I expected to be when I first set out on my career path.

I stumbled into a career in ecommerce - my first experience was launching web stores for small businesses. I had no prior knowledge of ecommerce, but my curiosity for technology and understanding how things were built opened up an entirely new avenue for me."

Q: What do you think is the biggest issue today facing women of your age?

Shada: "It is difficult to pin-point a single issue. Women and young girls are faced with so many challenges in every aspect of their lives. As women we are often undermined due to ill constructed stereotypes that society imposes on us.

Within tech, many women interested in pursuing careers in product are discouraged due to self-doubt and believe they lack the technical skills to be successful in these roles. This poses a barrier to entry and many women struggle to navigate within the field. This is by no means true! Don’t let your technical skills hold you back - with so many great resources you can continue to learn and be incredibly successful in product without being fluent in writing code."

Q: Please share a women’s empowerment moment that inspired you.

Shada: "A key moment that shifted the way I thought and felt about women and empowering women was the first time I heard Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “We Should All Be Feminists” TED Talk. Many of us might recognize Adichie's speech from Beyonce’s “Flawless”. If you haven’t heard the entire talk, I highly recommend you give it a listen!"

Q: Why do you think we need more women in leadership?

Shada: "Diversity in teams and leadership has shown to be nothing but positive. Women are largely outnumbered when it comes to product management roles (about 35% of PMs are women) but that number drastically decreases as you move up into senior leadership roles. This not only further drives the gender inequality gap, but young women pursuing careers in product or tech fields lack strong female role models making them susceptible to discrimination, unconscious bias, and isolation in the workplace.

Without women in leadership, women lack the representation they look for at any stage of their career and in any field. Gender diversity is essential in all industries, and is critical in tech."

Leading the Way at Open Farm in Sales - Mandy Gayle, Director, Wholesale Distribution

Q: What’s the most important piece of advice you’d give to a woman thinking of starting a career in Sales?

Mandy: "I think you have to follow your passion, and if you want a career in sales, I would say find something to sell that you are passionate about!

If you want to just go out and make a ton of money, then go get a job in a medical sales thing. And you know, go go sell medical devices or prescription drugs and you'll make a ton of money but you're probably gonna be miserable. If you want to be great at sales, you have to sell something and work for a company that aligns with your your vision and your morals and your values.”

Q: Do you think there’s a stereotype attached to women in Sales roles?

Mandy: "One thing that women have to deal with in the industry is you're too bossy, right? And people are afraid of you. Or you're too nice, and they don't take you seriously.

I definitely think that that's one of them. You're either too nice and a pushover, and people can definitely take advantage of you or you're too bossy, you're too aggressive, and people don't want to work with you.

So, how do you find that happy medium and still stay true to who you are. It's definitely something I have focused on and struggle with a little bit my entire career because I don't want to change who I am. But I also need to be a bit more firm, in order to be respected I guess, especially as a leader in the field."

Q: What progress have you seen on gender equality in your life and work?

Mandy: "Well, I think one of the biggest things I've seen is just a lot more women in the field and a lot more women being promoted than when I first started in this field. One of the first companies I worked for had one women in an executive position, and everybody else was men. By the time I had left the company; eight years later, several women were in leadership roles. So there was a lot of promotion there.

I think that we're being taken more seriously all around and its reflected not only in leadership but I see a lot more women in the field too starting off as territory managers. in the past, they would take the the young guy out of college because he was a go getter, right?"

Leading the Way at Open Farm in Marketing -Jessica Yan, Manager, Partnerships

Q: You’re currently a Partnerships Manager at Open Farm. Is this role what you expected to be in when you started your career? How did it change?

Jessica: "Definitely not! I’ve experienced a non-linear career path and it surprises many people when I say I’ve worked in finance, taught Pilates and also started my own bridal business. Having expectations for what your career looks like when you first start out is tough because you don’t know what’s out there and on top of that, social norms like to oversimplify what an ideal career looks like. I hear “choose something you love” a lot and, “find something that pays well with benefits”. On the surface, those can often seem contrasting and confusing.

It took time but better understanding myself on how I think, how I work with others and what takes up my energy helped me navigate my career choices. It sounds like a difficult task but some places to start are having open conversations about who you are with your friends, take your 16 personalities quiz, seek out a therapist and re-survey yourself every few years.”

Q: In your opinion, how do our individual actions, conversations, behaviors, and mindsets have an impact on our larger society?

Jessica: "A tremendous amount, and the best way to put it into words is through a real-life example of mine from high school. I had experienced a negative event with a male peer and reported it, even though at the time, I was unsure of it’s severity. The teacher I told took immediate action with that peer while protecting my anonymity and continued to follow-up with me over that year. Not only did it shape how I think about gender equality but I’m sure it had lasting effects on both his friends and mine. I often think about this experience and recognize how different my mindset would have been if the adult in the situation did the bare minimum or overlooked it. I’m so extremely grateful for her."

Q: What progress have you seen on gender equality in your life and work?

Jessica: "I’m so proud to be a part of a company that is part female owned with a female dominated SLT team. My first few job were internships at male dominated workplaces. It was difficult to adjust as a young adult and I clearly remember thinking that I would never be able to grow my career because I felt outnumbered and alienated.

Fast forward to the present, those fears have dissolved and can be credited to the progression of gender equality but also a conscience decision on my end to keep an eye out for role models. When I was teaching Pilates, most of my clients were women, well advanced in their careers and balancing a family. The exposure helped me gain confidence and break down any metal barriers I had. As women, we’re capable of doing the same and even more than men."

Leading the Way at Open Farm in Customer Experience- Madeline Barnes, Customer Care Specialist

Q: How important is it for women to lift each other up and what does that mean to you?

Maddie: "It is so important for women to empower each other! I feel as though societal norms have pinned us against each other for so long, but we are so powerful and if we support each other and work together amazing strides can be made."

Q: On International Women’s Day, what is the most important message you want to send out to young women thinking about their careers?

Maddie: "I would tell them to stand their ground and be proud of who they are. Never be afraid to speak up or put your foot down when you feel uncomfortable in a situation, no matter the circumstances!"

Q: What do you think is the biggest issue today facing women of your age?

Maddie: "Opportunity. It is clear to me that gender does not determine someone’s ability, however, in order to showcase this, there needs to be equal opportunity for everyone to show what they have to offer!"

Q: In your opinion, how do our individual actions, conversations, behaviors, and mindsets have an impact on our larger society?

Maddie: "Thinking is the first step of action and action is a step toward change. I believe that continuing to have conversations to change the mindset at the ground level will ultimately lead to a larger societal change.”

Q: Based on your own experience, what advice would you give to women considering pursuing a career in Customer Experience?

Maddie: "Trust yourself! Believe that you are good enough, smart enough, resilient enough to succeed."

Leading the Way at Open Farm in Operations- Giovana Figliolia, Assistant Project & Operations Manager

Q: What does the International Women’s Day slogan, #BreakTheBias mean for you in your work life?

Gio: "It’s a reminder that, even though we came a long way in the work environment, earning our space and respect, we still have a long road to a gender equal world.

A reminder that we can’t take any of this that we have now for granted (‘thank you’ to all the feminists in history), and we should continue being mindful of our thoughts and actions to break the bias, deliberate or unconscious, for the future generations."

Q: Why did you choose a career in Operations?

Gio: "My dream as a child was to be a vet, for obvious reasons – love for all animals. But unfortunately, being a vet is not all about loving and caring for them, so I changed my mind. Growing up, I noticed I liked this environment that requires problem-solving skills, rules and procedures, so I decided to become an engineer. Operations seemed like a good fit since operations management applies to any industry, function, organization, or company. And now I have the best of both worlds, working in operations on an ethically sourced pet food company."

Q: On International Women’s Day, what is the most important message you want to send out to young women thinking about their careers?

Gio: "There’s a TV show I’m currently watching on Netflix called ‘Girls from Ipanema’ that depicts the struggle women faced to have careers back in the ’50s, where they were expected to stay at home and were not taken seriously in the work environment.

Today it all sounds absurd, but that was the reality at the time, and it only changed because some women were determined and persistent in breaking the barriers to achieve their goals. So take these women as inspiration, and don’t let other people discourage you."

Q: In your opinion, how do our individual actions, conversations, behaviors, and mindsets have an impact on our larger society?

Gio: "Everything we do affects and influences the people around us, so we all must always be empathetic and mindful of our actions, behaviors and thoughts. We must be the change we wish to see in the world."

Q: Why do we need more women in leadership?

Gio: Quoting Serena Williams: “Every woman’s success should be an inspiration to another. We’re strongest when we cheer each other on.” We need more women in leadership to serve as an example that we can be what and where we want to be.”

Share this post

Build the perfect bowl for your pet.

Still unsure? We’ll help customize just the right combination of foods for your dog’s breed, preferences, allergies and goals.

Contact us