Idalia Obregon is an entrepreneur, engineer, marketer and leader with experience spanning the not-for-profit and private sectors in Canada, Latin America, US and the EU. She is the President and Founder of an international management consulting and marketing firm with the purpose of promoting trade and investment between Canada, Latin American and European markets called “Exito Trade Consulting Inc.” (founded in 2004). She is also the Past-President of the Toronto Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
What is your experience of a glass ceiling?
Having been in a male dominated environment (Mech Eng) and switching to a female dominated one (PR), I feel the glass ceiling is everywhere but also do not like to make a big deal about it. Yes, there have been situations, sometimes difficult, where I felt that men were not treating me equally; they can be louder and present their opinions in a stronger manner, and literally shut you down. I think that giving too much importance to the glass ceiling only makes it a bigger problem. I choose to focus on presenting my ideas and my work the best way I can. I’m not competing against men. I’m doing my job the best way I can.
What advice do you have for others in business, particularly women?
Do not focus on competing against men, or women! And do not think that we are different, that we have different opportunities because we are women. Ultimately we are human beings working hard to have a successful career or business. Leverage your skills and work together. Competition is good just if it makes you better.
What is your opinion on quotas and the gender pay gap?
Having quotas can be demeaning for women because it can look like we are only hired because of a quota. However, if that’s what it takes, then so be it. Let’s work with the solutions that people before us have created and let’s make them better. Criticizing doesn’t help; we need to move forward starting with what we have.
It’s unbelievable that in this age and in a country like Canada, we have a gender pay gap! People say that men are more ambitious than women and are better at asking for promotions or that women prefer a job with less responsibility to have a more balanced life, therefore less money. Those reasons are not acceptable. If we have the same job and the same responsibilities, we should have the same pay!
Are you aware of government certifications and schemes for women in business?
Yes, there are several programs primarily with the federal government. There are organizations that certify women-owned businesses and help them get contracts, e.g. WeConnect, CAMSC (Canadian Aboriginal Minority Supplier Council) etc. Our problem is that information is not easily available. This is one of the objectives of the BCCTC. With a new Women’s Committee, we are one of the first chambers to have a committee with a special focus on women’s business needs. I’m thrilled about this initiative! Stay tuned for the exciting things our women will be creating.