Marcela Mandeville is dedicated to helping women succeed in every aspect of business. After first joining Alberta Women’s Entrepreneurs in 2008, she left to start Bright Idea International, her own consulting firm. It wasn’t long before her passion for parity in the workplace brought her back as CEO of AWE in 2015, in time to face the unknown challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Mandeville speaks below about what truly inspires leadership and how to remain positive in the most uncertain times.
Please talk a little about Alberta Women’s Entrepreneurs’ main goals and how they align with your own personal goals?
The main goals for AWE are to create and deliver programs and services to women, based on what their needs are. Also, to advocate for women in the bigger picture, to get us to a point where there’s at least parity in entrepreneurship. I’m very passionate about being able to work for and with an organization whose purpose it is to make sure that a significant portion of the population is really getting the opportunities that they deserve. Having worked in business now for a number of years, I’m unfortunately still seeing the inequity in particular — not just for women, but for other people who have been underrepresented for far too long.
How would you characterize your own leadership style and what qualities do you think are most important?
I believe that continuous learning is really important in growth. I think with any leader, there’s always an opportunity to listen, learn, do better, and be better. That’s something that I always strive to do. Having empathy, being kind, listening to the needs of the team, and the people we serve, is really important. And true collaboration. I love rallying people around an idea to bring people together. It’s really exciting, and it’s challenging. When you do see it come together, it’s really affirming as a leader.
In the past, you’ve spoken a lot about your parents and their influence on you. What’s the most important lesson you’ve taken from them?
I think one is tenacity, for sure. Both of my parents came from backgrounds that were very challenging: my dad being from the Northwest Territories and being Indigenous, and then my mom being from Mexico City and coming to Canada as an immigrant. I think both of them really showed me the value of hard work [in] everything. Everything takes work, and if it doesn’t work, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. It just means we’re always trying to do better. [There’s the] value of education and learning. Not necessarily formal education all the time, but learning as we go, doing our best to meet people with different perspectives.
My definition of family includes the family you’re born into, and also the family of people you choose to have around you: your friends and other folks.
The pandemic set back every industry and revealed inadequacies regarding diversity and representation. How did it affect AWE, and how are you confronting those kinds of issues?
There’s a lot of information out there about how women specifically were set back by COVID, and then on the organizational front. We work on the front line with those entrepreneurs. I was one of those optimists at the beginning of the pandemic that thought, “Oh, this will be over in a month.” The team really came through. We were really grateful that we could be there to help those entrepreneurs through that.
It really solidified our purpose as an organization. It brought us, as a team, very close together. We actually tripled the number of women that we reach through our programming. We were able to connect with our rural clients in ways that we haven’t been able to in the past. We went from being able to have maybe 30 people sit in on a programming in person, to having 200 people.
Kenny Hedges | Contributing Writer