Women Take the Lead

Last week, I wrote about change. I talked about change in sponsorship and marketing as well as general change. I am on the same general topic this week. I am not sure how many of the 250+ people at the SMCC Western Sponsorship Congress™ in October in Calgary noticed, but women dominated the attendee list. Two people mentioned this to me specifically. Another person mentioned something that I did not notice. I am not sure if I should have noticed and said, “Hey, that’s cool” or “Holy crap, can’t let that happen again” or if I should not have noticed because it is the norm, or possibly should be.

“So what is he talking about,” you are saying. Well, the 5 Minute Pitch™ is a showcase event at the SMCC Western Sponsorship Congress™. There were five selling properties on one side of the stage that each had five minutes to “pitch” their package or proposal. These folks were all from Canadian properties and are at the top of their league. They represented properties such as the Calgary Folk Festival, the Calgary Hitmen Hockey Club, West Edmonton Mall, Southern Alberta Art Gallery, and CARE Canada.

On the other side of the stage were five buyers—key decision makers from prominent Canadian brands such as Best Buy, RBC, IBM, McMillan LLP, and Mr. Lube. They were moderated by Christi Cruz from TELUS. Interestingly, the representatives of all five buying brands and the moderator were women. All are at the top of their field representing top Canadian brands. The representatives of three of the five selling properties were also women. Nine of the 11 people on the stage were women. All are amazing at their jobs (as are the two men). They are all people whom the rest of us want to emulate. All of the women are leaders, mentors, and trend setters.

So, should I and others have noticed this? Should it seem like a phenomenon? Or should it just be reality? The panel, as well as the overall Congress, in my mind truly reflected where our industry is and where it is going. Women play a key role in sponsorship in Canada. Women continue not only to gravitate to the excitement, creativity, and experiences delivered by our industry, but also they are leading the industry. Women continue to tip the scales in numbers at the junior, intermediate, and senior levels of the sponsorship industry. For me, this is reality and part of the growth and development of our industry. I welcome and embrace it.

These are just one person’s thoughts. Yours are welcomed as well. Please add your thoughts or comments below. Thank you for reading and your feedback.

Brent Barootes


  1. While this is noteworthy, I dream of the day when we don’t need to remark on women’s participation in various sectors of society. It should be just the norm.

    • Laura,
      I agree. It is interesting because, like myself, most of the reader feedback I have received directly has said the same; “I didn’t notice” and that is the way it should be. But I agree it is noteworthy all the same.

  2. Hi Brent!

    Though I didn’t really pay attention to which gender was on stage, now that I am thinking about it, the vast majority of individuals who work within “Advancement” (Development, Communications, and Alumni Relations) here at the University of Saskatchewan are women. I am wondering if this has something to do with the so-called “soft-skills” that these roles require?

    • Tammy,
      Thanks for your input and feedback. The most recent AFP salary study of their membership as provided to me by Vincent Duckworth shows that 75% of development / advancement staff are female. So your “majority” situation at U of S is in line. What I found great and truly a representation of where we are today and where we are going is that the “buyer side” was 100% female on the panel. This I believe represents that not only those asking for money are predominantly female, but the sponsor decision makers are as well too!

  3. Over 75% of our Advancement Department is also female here at Grant MacEwan University in Edmonton. This is also representative of our student population with is over 75% female at our university.

    • Dale, that truly represents the development world ratio and your success to date has been tremendous. You forgot to mention also a female Lisa Marie Didow leads your sponsorship department at MacEwan and her and her team have done a great job on that side of the equation!

  4. This is an interesting perspective on gender roles.

    The most exciting and fulfilling jobs I have had are ones where gender was not an issue in getting jobs done. It’s great to work in environments where men and women — and people across the life-span, share in tasks based on their strengths and skills.

    I am reminded of meeting a physician from a developing country in London, UK. Under the impression that her country was quite male dominated, we had a discussion about how it was that she was selected for the costly, high level additional professional training. She explained that “we have such limited resources in our country that we have to send the most able people out for training.”

    Jane Ross, PhD; President
    Association for Life-wide Living (ALL) of Alberta

  5. Jane,
    Very well said. As I noted, this “should not be noticed”, it should be a reality. The cream rises to the top. The best people, be them men or women, shoudl be our leaders.


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