December 9, 2021
Women in Leadership Series - Elisabeth Baugh
Former CEO at Ovarian Cancer CanadaGuest
We speak with Ovarian Cancer Canada CEO Elisabeth Baugh about what the future holds for women in leadership, how to tackle the gender gap at the top, and her work with AboutFace to enhance the emotional and mental well-being of individuals with facial differences.
"I'd love to see really confirmation that there's equal pay for work of equal value across all sectors, and I think more professional development opportunities that will lead to greater gender parity and diversity in leadership."
HANNAH: Hello, and welcome to the Totally Clinical Podcast brought to you by Tekro.
Totally Clinical is a deep dive into the freshest trends, big-time challenges, and most excellent triumphs of clinical trials.
I'm Hannah, your host. Join me as I chat with industry experts, trailblazers, thought leaders, and, most importantly, the people benefiting from clinical research.
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HANNAH: This week, I spoke with Elisabeth Baugh, CEO of Ovarian Cancer Canada, chair of the World Ovarian Cancer Coalition, and chair of the Health Charities Coalition of Canada. And that's not the end of the story.
Elisabeth also founded an organization to destigmatize facial differences in the '80s. I started by asking her about that.
ELISABETH BAUGH: I had an unusual journey to this role. In 1984, I was an at-home mom with four children under the age of seven. And I had the opportunity to start a support group for people with facial differences, which is my own cause. I was born with a birthmark.
With help from folks at the hospital in Toronto, I began meeting people, parents of new children, talked to other people, and very quickly learned something I didn't know until then that there was a common shared experience, and that when you had someone else to talk to about that who shared the very same issue and concern, everybody felt better.
So in 1985, I founded a group called AboutFace, and that became an international organization. That's now a Canadian organization again. I was there for 10 years. And, basically, we worked to destigmatize facial difference, why people look different, whether they were born that way or whether it was an acquired difference from cancer or an accident.
By the end of that, I had been incredibly touched and motivated by the power that a person could have when they talk to others, when they work together to change things, to make a difference for people. And that really started me on my journey to where I am today.
HANNAH: What progress have you seen over time for women in your profession?
ELISABETH BAUGH: OK. So over the course of my career in not-for-profit which is coming up now on 35 years, I came into the role I'm in now in 1997. I've been here 23 and 1/2 years at Ovarian Cancer Canada. And over that period of time, I would say that it seems to me that there are more women coming into leadership in the sector.
Unfortunately, in Canada, we don't have a lot of data about this. And so I can't say that that's based on surveys or recent data. I know that, in 2008 and in 2017, there was work looking into what is happening in the sector, what are the roles that women play in the sector. And what I'm seeing is more women in leadership and women that are making bold moves, we need to see that.
So I think one of the things we need to call on is to get more data. We know that, while women makes up 75% to 80% of the workforce, they are apparently--
although, as I said, I see more leaders coming along in CEO and executive roles, they are underrepresented in senior leadership positions in larger charities. And they do tend to have leadership in small charities.
HANNAH: Yes, I think that ties really nicely into the next question. You've touched on a few points there.
You were talking about forward-looking or for future progress, et cetera. If we think at 10 years down the line, any specific goals you have?
ELISABETH BAUGH: I think that it's not just restricted to the not-for-profit sector. The progress that we all need to see, I think, for women is greater understanding and safe ways to address discrimination. And discrimination can be across many variables, gender, ageism, likeability if you will, as well as race. I'd love to see really confirmation that there's equal pay for work of equal value across all sectors, and I think more professional development opportunities that will lead to greater gender parity and diversity in leadership.
I would love to bust the stereotype if you will that, because charities deal with difficult issues, health, illness, disability, underserved populations, that people question sometimes, I think, whether women working in the sector can actually make tough decisions because they're so focused on being nice around hard issues. And I think that whole likeability piece is a stereotype that needs to go away because women do make bold and difficult decisions. Women need to be in these roles because women power change.
HANNAH: I think this brings us really nicely into what is the message you'd like to send to yourself if you were starting out in your career?
ELISABETH BAUGH: Well, if I had to go back in my career, I think one of the things that I would change would be to continuously get more on the job training.
After I started AboutFace, I did go and get a diploma in nonprofit management. And, subsequently, I got a master's degree in health administration. So I did believe--
I always have believed in continuous learning.
And I've always had mentors to help me. But I think sometimes working in the not-for-profit sector, continuing education and the time commitment that requires can keep it out of reach.
I was so fortunate in 2012 to win a scholarship to the Harvard Business School for a week-long course in strategic planning for nonprofit CEOs.
And it was life-changing. I had the opportunity to study for a week with 300 CEOs from around the globe. I learned so much, and I brought home a new set of skills and a new grasp of change and strategy development that really had a direct impact on our organization.
So if I had to go back, I would love to have done something like that sooner. I think it would have made me a stronger leader.
HANNAH: Do you have any other tips or advice for women in the workplace?
ELISABETH BAUGH: I think women need to learn to speak up for themselves. Sometimes we hold back. We can promote others working around us but not ourselves, and that's certainly been something that I've had to learn. And I think, finally, in the not-for-profit sector, it's so important to work very hard to build a good relationship with your board.
If you are a board member, know what it takes to be a great board member because boards can really make an impact and make a great difference. A good board is a great gift to a CEO leader.
HANNAH: And are there any other positive changes you've seen over the years in your field?
ELISABETH BAUGH: One of the most incredible changes I've seen in the last 20 years in my work in the ovarian cancer community is the power that women can have when you let them see how strong their voice is. And in Canada--
and I see it happening around the globe--
we've been able to pull together a community that now knows the power of its voice.
And there's no doubt that the women in the breast cancer movement put great--
lay the ground for us. We watched the changes that they've been able to make globally for women living with breast cancer, increasing research funding to change outcomes. And we've been able to do the same thing. We see it happening.
And in Canada, we saw the community change some--
if you will, an underdog where ovarian cancer was ignored and not known to a really strong and urgent health cause for women. We've been able to work with women across the country as they've come together in a community, united now with one strong voice for change.
And so I see this in the World Ovarian Cancer Coalition global work also, how women in leadership are bringing along other women who are dealing with this terrible disease to help them use their voice and use their experience to change outcomes for others.
HANNAH: And that's your dose of Totally Clinical. For all the listeners out there, you can follow Tekro on Twitter, the handle is @tekroofficial, LinkedIn, and Facebook. And subscribe to our YouTube channel.
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See you on your next visit and remember to bring your friends. Thanks for listening. Goodbye.
Women in Leadership: CEO of Ovarian Cancer Canada