March 8th, marks International Women’s Day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, and raise awareness about woman’s equality (IWD Website, 2021)
We spent time with Joanne Templeton, Senior Vice President for Canada/East at Gevity
What did you dream of becoming when you were young?
Joanne: I didn’t really know what I would like to do. I knew I got bored easily and was always looking for a challenge. I decided to go into computers, as I didn’t know anything about computers and thought it would be something different and could provide a challenge. I don’t think I had seen a computer at that time but I enrolled in a program called “Data Processing”. At the time there was only six people in my program 2 women and 4 men. The program included business courses such as accounting and economics to help you develop computer programs to support businesses. I learned many coding languages and I was definitely not bored and discovered a love for learning. This gave me a good foundation for my future career.
What has your career path looked like?
Joanne: I began as a programmer/analyst for an engineering firm. The IT team was very small and we were all very hands on. I documented the requirements, coded, supported the testing and implemented the system which included time entry, payroll and invoicing, all recorded in the general ledger for accounting reporting. I look at it now and can probably compare it to an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) tool. I also supported any operating system upgrade or infrastructure changes. This gave me a foundation for my following roles from systems manager to information manager and then into consulting. My background has given me the ability to understand the technical ecosystem at a high level and my curiosity to understand how things are done has been a great asset over the years.
My first exposure to health informatics was in 2000 at Toronto Public Health (TPH). I was brought in to review the processes and tools for the various programs after amalgamation of six municipalities. Shortly after SARS, I was the technical lead supporting case and contact management activities for TPH. This introduced me to the provincial health system and to Health Canada. I have been involved in health informatics since that time. Working through major outbreaks or a pandemic really tests your ability to be nimble and to pivot quickly. In the last 20 years, I’ve had the opportunity to work on large provincial solution implementations across Canada and experience working in different parts of the country. From commuting to Victoria for nine months, spending 18 months in Calgary and more recently two years in Halifax, I got to meet the local people and see how our work was making a difference. I’ve learned to work well with both clients and vendors, resolve complex situations and find ways to bring people together to successfully deliver. In 2010, I joined Gevity and opened the Ontario branch. Besides Ontario, I am now also responsible for Québec and the Atlantic provinces. If you had told me 20 years ago that I would be doing what I am doing today, I would have never thought that was going to be my path. I still enjoy being able to help our clients through their digital transformations and supporting Gevity’s growth. I am definitely not bored.
In your opinion, why is it important that more women go into healthcare in the future?
Joanne: Currently women make up about 70% of the healthcare workforce but less then 30% are part of the executive teams. This is changing but I think senior management is missing out on experience and input from the people who have direct knowledge of the challenges and best practices related to what is happening in the field. Women are also more visible within the sector and publicly, for example, if you look at who we see the most in the media during this pandemic, there are seven women at the provincial level, many at the municipal level and also at the federal level with Dr. Tam. All these women demonstrate a calm approach to the situation but also instill confidence that we are going to get through this.
What do you think are the biggest issues facing women today?
Joanne: I think equal pay and work-life balance are still issues for women, and will be for some time. Women are still the main caregivers in most families and many don’t have the family or community support to allow them to excel in their chosen career. The role of caregiver is also perceived as an obstacle by many in the workforce to giving more responsibilities to women. This in turn is seen by the number of women who make it to the C-level. There is progress with each generation as we see more men taking leave to support their families whether for children or parents. Reaching a suitable balance is not easy but we have to accept that we can’t be perfect at everything and for everyone. I’m happy to say that we try very hard at Gevity to be supportive, to respond to our staff’s needs, to encourage them to grow personally and professionally and ensure they have the support needed to sustain their family environments.
What are you most proud of doing? (action/decision you are most proud of — or a milestone)
Joanne: I am extremely proud of my three children and what they have accomplished in their careers and personal lives. I am also very proud of being part of Gevity’s growth and our success. When I first started, there were ten of us and now, we operate across Canada, the US and internationally. I really didn’t think this was going to be the case when I told our CEO, Leon Salvail, that we needed to open a brick-and-mortar office in Toronto to grow the east. I am quite proud of the leadership and team that we have assembled.
What advice would you give someone in the beginning of their career that you wish you had known?
Joanne: Sleep on it — two nights if needed. It’s too easy to angrily type an email when you are frustrated and then be sorry the next day when you have a clearer head. Write the email but don’t push ‘send’. You may never actually send it but you will feel better writing your thoughts and thinking over the event. This will also allow you to obtain clarification or learn other facts that led to the aggravation. Also, don’t be afraid to move out of your comfort zone. If you fail it is okay, you may discover something else that you love to do. Continue to ask questions and take the opportunities that are provided to you. Give it a chance and be curious.
Which woman leader do you admire the most?
Joanne: Michelle Obama, a great model for girls. She kept the family grounded during the presidency. She was successful in implementing many changes and she shows us that no matter what your background or challenges you may have, if you have the will, you can find a way.