Shannon Summers is Global Head of Alliances at Enhesa. Her first job out of university was as a training specialist at Intelex, and she has since moved on to our partner, Enhesa. Shannon is choosing to challenge by realizing the difference one person can make.
March 8 was International Women’s Day 2021 (IWD2021). At Intelex, we celebrate the accomplishments of womxn every day and we’re using the month of March to recognize women like Shannon in tech and EHSQ.
The theme for IWD2021 is: “A challenged world is an alert world and from challenge comes change.” IWD2021 is asking: How will you help forge a gender-equal world? The answer is by celebrating women’s achievements, raising awareness against bias and taking action for equality.
What is your name, title and company?
Shannon Summers, Global Head of Alliances at Enhesa
How did you become involved with EHSQ and/or technology?
My first job out of university was actually at Intelex as a training specialist! I really “grew up” in the EHS tech world. I studied to be a teacher but realized quite quickly that I needed a fast-paced, fast-growing, ever-changing industry to keep me on my toes and excited to come to work every day. Not unlike my decision to study early childhood education, it has always been important to my personal values that I build a career in a field which would allow me to contribute to positive change in the world and leave it a better place for future generations. I haven’t looked back since!
In your career, what have you decided to #ChooseToChallenge?
Honestly, in the early years of my career I don’t think I was trying to challenge anything. I just wanted to do a good job and blend in. I think people underestimate how scary it is when you are just starting out in a company or role to call something or someone out, especially if you feel like your words might ruffle some feathers. It’s why I have so much respect for those who are brave enough to stand up for what they believe is right, and my motivation be better in this regard, every day.
My confidence to challenge really kicked into gear when I moved into managerial and leadership roles. I realized that I had a responsibility to start creating change. Not unlike other fields like farming and construction, women are statistically still underrepresented in EHS and the Tech industry and it can be daunting to apply for a role when you know you’ll probably be one of the few. It can also be overwhelming when you look at those stats and think “What difference can one person really make?” I realized I could make an impact by challenging the underrepresentation of women and minorities in EHS tech on a micro scale.
Leading a movement or joining a protest is fantastic, but it’s also the seemingly obvious everyday things like creating an office environment where everyone feels welcome and heard or ensuring you have a diverse hiring pool that can make a big impact. When I took over a sales team at Intelex, which was mostly (if not entirely) male, I knew I wanted to bring some fantastic women into the mix and that’s exactly what I did. People just entering the workforce need to see themselves represented in a role or company to believe they can one day be there themselves.
I was lucky to have incredible female (and male, absolutely!) mentors during my time at both Enhesa and Intelex who helped shape me into the professional I am today. I really want to be one of those mentors and give the same opportunities I’ve had to others.
What were your greatest challenges – personally or professionally – in 2020?
Like everyone else, the Coronavirus really turned my world upside down. It’s affected everyone in different and unique ways. I do feel incredibly grateful to be part of the Enhesa family – never once during the many ups and downs of last year did I not feel supported by my peers and our leadership team. Given that Enhesa has offices around the globe, we’re pretty used to being apart and working remotely. Naturally, it’s been tough not seeing my co-workers and our partners for our regular, in-person meetings, but I’d hate to grumble given how many people are out of a job or struggling to stay afloat while the world grapples with this crisis.
What was the primary learning(s) from 2020 that you brought with you into 2021?
Two things. First, you have to learn to ride the wave. With so much going on in the world, it’s easy to have a bit of a pity party regardless of your situation. It’s healthy to feel all the emotions, but my parents always taught me, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” (This actually was my high school yearbook quote, it’s with me forever!) If you are willing and able, it is more important than ever to be a positive force in the room or on a Zoom call, so you lift up others and energize the team.
Second, that I, along with so many others, have inherent biases and I must actively increase my awareness and recognize when these biases are affecting my hiring practices or interactions. Enhesa hosted some really insightful talks and workgroups centered on educating the company on racial and gender bias. Learning and action go hand-in-hand. If you can implement practices in your own department that make a difference and can help eliminate systemic biases, the impact will reach far beyond just your company walls.
What are you focusing on in 2021?
I intend to continue educating myself and actively seeking out things that I can do every single day to be a better colleague and leader, to challenge the status quo. I was doing some research the other day and came across an article about the gender pay gap in Canada. I was pretty surprised to see the pay gap here and in so many other countries is still significant. Currently, women in Canada tend to earn between 70 and 80 cents for every dollar a man earns – still – for the same exact job title and responsibilities. Issues like this will not fix themselves. It will take employers, employees, recruiters, etc.,to say: “Enough is enough,” and actively work together to make a difference. Each one of us can be a catalyst for change.
How are you rising to the challenges found in the new year and what do you hope to accomplish?
I like the notion that what happened in 2020 was necessary as it forced us to ask questions, demand answers, confront the fact that our long-held beliefs might be problematic. It’s clear that without challenge, there is no change. Being comfortable speaking about inherent biases and subjects that I might generally avoid because I don’t want to say the “wrong thing” is a challenge to change that I’ve set for myself.
Paying closer attention to my own words and actions will help me raise the flag when I witness something that doesn’t feel right and better enables me to be an advocate for others. I’m holding myself accountable. I’d like to make a difference in my small corner of the world, and I hope to inspire others to do the same.
For more International Women’s Day 2021 profiles and information, check out: