When Madeleine Nicholls joined her first brokerage firm years ago, the team was made up of four men. Flash forward to today and Nicholls is the only woman to act as a brokerage Managing Director in the entire country with her firm, Colliers. On a personal front, the title marked quite an achievement. But on a greater scale, Nicholls’ exceptional status only underscores the progress still to be made in the profession.
In a male-dominated industry, breaking the glass ceiling can be a daunting task. Though the needle is moving steadily, according to Nicholls, with 30 percent of Canadian women holding senior leadership positions to date. As a female leader, Nicholls is knocking down this barrier in an attempt to promote an inclusive culture for female employees across Canada.
Her high-powered executive career began years ago when she completed her degree at UBC studying urban land economics. From there, Nicholls ended up rising up the corporate ladder and past her male co-workers at her first firm. Now, while she wears her new management title with pride, it doesn’t mean that she’s done pushing for equality in the office.
Nicholls believes that a company’s strongest asset is “having a balanced approach to business, which only comes from having more, different voices in the room.” She says that fostering a diverse team is “essential in order to win business.”
The shift from working at home to being back in the office has been long-awaited but comes abruptly. However, while the COVID-19 pandemic posed many downfalls, Nicholls says it accelerated growth within the workplace.
“[Video calls] alone have lapped us forward in terms of inclusivity, because we can include people that are in different time zones […] We can hear voices that we weren’t able to hear before,” she says.
Nicholls stresses the importance of creating not only a welcoming workspace but an enjoyable one. “Creating environments where there is a feeling of safety, vulnerability and a shared purpose [is important],” mentions Nicholls. In order to achieve this, there has to be “a lot of dialogue and trust between the company and the employees” she says.
As a female battling corporate success in a male-oriented realm, Nicholls explains that a “female voice doesn’t carry as well as a male voice”. She says that confidence is key; identifying how to get to where you want to be and acknowledging your worth will set you apart in any workplace.
“Oftentimes men are much better at going for the promotion, even if they perform at a six out of ten. Women need to keep in mind that we’re probably qualified, too. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable,” Nicholls says.
In terms of approaching corporation-wide diversity, Nicholls says that it starts with who is being interviewed, and uses the term “casting the net” to explain it. This will work to attract exactly who you want to bring into the workplace and improve the metric of gender and ethnic diversity.
By embracing more conversations about equity, corporate environments will be offered more opportunities to succeed. Not only that, but proportional representation allows all employees to have access to the same privileges and benefits. As companies far and wide head into a post-pandemic recovery model, her insights will act as the blueprint needed for companies to reengage and get both feet back on the ground.
Nicholls is one of many successful females with the drive and intent needed to bridge the gender gap in the business industry. Leading by example, she will continue to do so at full force in recognition by other aspiring women, one day hoping to secure a leading position in the c-suite.