Understanding HERstory: the evolution of the 25 Most Powerful Women

Posted on March 12, 2021 | Atlantic Business Magazine | 0 Comments

Picture this—it’s December 2020 and we had just sent our January issue to the printer. Our editorial team was gathered around the small round table in the corner of my office, planning the content for our March edition. Thematically speaking, this is our annual energy issue, so the first order of business was to identify the regional energy stories we were going to cover.

The Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline spawned this issue’s Nova Scotia gas feature; the pipeline was built to transport natural gas from offshore developments to customers onshore. But what happens to a pipeline without gas? That’s the question freelance contributor Richard Woodbury was asked to answer in Pipe Dreams.

Intrigued by rumours that P.E.I.—which currently imports 98 per cent of the power needed to meet its energy needs—had the potential to become an exporter of renewable wind power, we charged veteran renewable energy reporter Charles Mandel with digging deeper. His findings are detailed in Which Way the Wind Blows.

We knew that the pandemic had forced a significant pause on Atlantic Canada’s offshore oil projects. What we didn’t know is when they could be expected to ramp back up, or which new prospects are most likely to be developed. Jenn Thornhill Verma tackles those great unknowns in Status Report.

The anchor of our energy coverage is Ashley Fitzpatrick’s investigative report into greenwashing. Is the oil produced offshore N.L really some of the greenest in the world? How realistic is it to think of oil as a transition fuel to climate-friendly renewables? Are those questions irrelevant to a province in desperate need of immediate revenue? See Ashley’s must-read feature story: Greenwashing Our Hands of It.

As we progressed through our meeting, we were comfortable with the depth of our energy coverage—but in the back of our minds was the realization that the publication date is the same week as International Women’s Day.

Inspired by a wave of global leaders like Kamala Harris, Angela Merkel and Chrystia Freeland, we decided to include an article that recognized powerful women in Atlantic Canada’s business community. We settled on 25 because it was a number large enough to impress but still manageable from a print perspective.

We got to work compiling a list of candidates. Then, without any real thought or strategy behind it, we impulsively put out a 24-word post on social media: “If you were working on a list of Atlantic Canada’s most powerful women, who would you expect it to include? Asking for a friend.” Contrary to all social media wisdom, we didn’t include any photos or hashtags. We didn’t expect a lot of feedback but—best case scenario—we hoped we might get a couple of suggestions. We were wrong.

Within a handful of days, that post had over 25,000 views (Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter combined) with hundreds of comments and even more recommendations. We were challenged on our definition of powerful. And we were told we should celebrate everyday heroes—like the single moms working minimum wage jobs and the grandmothers who spend their retirement helping with childcare so their sons and daughters can go to work.

We appreciated every one of those suggestions, not just for the names of people we hadn’t initially considered (because women of influence aren’t always public figures), but also for helping to focus our selection process. As a business publication, we made “business” our first eligibility criteria. We also decided to judge the nominees on their current record: what they are doing now versus what they may have accomplished in the past. And since we could only honour 25 women, we knew those women had to be truly exceptional. Women who aren’t just successful in their job and organization, but whose influence and actions have a measurable impact on the broader business community.

After weeks of research and considerable debate, we finally decided on who to include in our first annual list of the 25 Most Powerful Women in Atlantic Canada. Yes, annual. If there’s one thing we learned, it’s that this region is rich in women leaders and they deserve our attention.

P.S. we’ve already decided we’re changing our theme for next March. It won’t be the energy issue—it’ll be the power issue. •

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