Standing tough: Maureen Joanne Sabia on achieving success

- June 4, 2014

Maureen Joanne Sabia speaks at last Tuesday's convocation ceremony. (Danny Abriel photo)
Maureen Joanne Sabia speaks at last Tuesday's convocation ceremony. (Danny Abriel photo)

During their convocation ceremony, graduates from the Faculty of Management received thoughts and lessons from honorary degree recipient, Maureen Joanne Sabia.  

Sabia was presented with a Doctor of Laws degree (honoris causa) on Tuesday, May 27, recognized for her significant professional success and her influential presence as a role model for women in the corporate world.

Sabia is the appointed chairman on the Board of Canadian Tire Corporation Limited and co-author of the country’s most respected book on improving the effectiveness of Audit Committees. She has been appointed an officer of the Order of Canada and is a recipient of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal. In 2009, the Women’s Executive Network named her one of Canada’s 100 most powerful women.

“The world in which I have worked for over 40 years was a tough one,” she said to the crowd of graduates. "But I’m afraid that the world that you will work will be even tougher. Perhaps sharing with you what I have learned will be of some small help.”

“The future is not a gift; it is an achievement,” she explained. “Success is merely the function of hard work and discipline.” She warned, "[Do] not be misled by those who would tell you to strive for a balanced life. There is no such thing, unless mediocrity is your god. Focus on your goals and commit to realizing them, whatever it takes.”

Sabia is an example of what she teaches. In the 60s, she was one of only three women at the University of Toronto’s law school, in a class of 300. She posits that leadership, to her, is entirely gender neutral.

“Ladies, do not take offense at every innuendo,” she said, as an aside to the female graduates in the audience. “Do not see sexual harassment behind every word and gesture. Reject the victim mentality… True equality comes from freedom of choice and equality of opportunity, not equality of results.”

Dr. Sabia recounted some short, but important lessons she has learned. “Develop a sense of humor; you will need it,” she says. “Develop a presence; it helps you stand out.” Finally: “Work very hard and never stop learning. Above all, be curious.”

“Congratulations to all of you, to your families and to your teachers,” she said. “You are the future, trite perhaps, but most assuredly true.”


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