We recently had the opportunity to speak with Lisa Skakun, Chief Legal, Regulatory and Corporate Affairs Officer at Coast Capital, about her responsibilities there, how she was recognized with the WXN Canada’s Most Powerful Women Award, and her passion for enacting substantive change in the workplace and in Canadians’ lives. We also had a discussion with Roanne Weyermars, VP of Public Affairs, Communications, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at Coast Capital, who shared her views on prominent female leadership in Canada, the strategies she uses to promote innovation and growth at Coast Capital, the difficulties she faced as a female business owner, and her insightful counsel for the aspirant women.
Lisa Skakun is responsible for all legal, corporate development, public affairs, corporate governance, compliance and financial crimes risk management functions for Coast Capital. Lisa is on the board of Nano One Materials. She is previously a recipient of the Lexpert Zenith Award: Celebrating Women in Law, the Association of Women in Finance’s PEAK award for Rising Star, and the National Post Award for Tomorrow’s Leader.
What responsibilities do you have as the Chief Legal, Regulatory, and Corporate Affairs Officer for Coast Capital? And how was your experience receiving multiple awards and serving on the boards of various organizations?
I know, it is a long title, isn’t it? As Coast Capital’s Chief Legal, Regulatory & Corporate Affairs Officer, I am responsible for all legal, corporate development, public affairs, compliance and financial crimes risk management as well as all corporate governance-related functions supporting the Board of Directors.
It is important to make space to give back to the communities who have given so much to me throughout my career. I have been fortunate to serve on the Boards that I have, including Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Cause We Care– a Vancouver-based foundation supporting local single mothers and their children– and the Editorial Board of Canadian Lawyer Magazine. Most recently, I joined the Board of Nano One, a clean technology company doing some amazing work in the space of energy innovation.
From a professional growth perspective, there is tremendous value in working with diverse groups of people across different industries and professions. I always value the opportunity to learn about different perspectives, different approaches and different ways of doing things.
How does it feel to be honoured with the WXN Canada’s Most Powerful Women Award, which recognizes C-suite-level women who play significant roles in their organizations?
It feels a bit surreal to be honest, and at first, I think I was suffering from a mild case of imposter syndrome! It is a tremendous honour to be recognized by the WXN this year. I consider it a milestone career highlight for sure. To be at the table alongside such an incredible and esteemed group of women who are change-makers and thought-leaders in their own right, paving the way across so many industries, I am in awe of the caliber of women selected and feel very grateful for this opportunity.
How successful is your passion for bringing about real change in the workplace and in the lives of Canadians? What are the means by which you make these things a reality?
Great question. I think it’s evident by the progress we’ve seen in the standards of today’s workplace that while real change is happening, collectively we still have more to do.
Personally, I feel strongly that when leaders use their voice and influence for good, and are intentional about their actions, real change happens. Whether that is making time to mentor emerging leaders, or sharing personal experience and perspective on panels that focus on equity, diversity and inclusion in the workplace, or even championing my team members for growth opportunities, making the time and the space to focus, not just on the work but the people is paramount. It isn’t always about driving hard outputs in my role, but also ensuring that I’ve created a safe space for connection, coaching and empowerment that will drive tangible change forward.
More generally, as a financial institution, Coast Capital contributes to real change for our members – both personal and business – everyday through our differentiated approach to real partnership and real advice. Specifically, we know that our small business members are facing significant challenges having just come through the pandemic only to face ongoing inflation, challenges in recruiting talent and increasing consumer demands. It is imperative that we remain laser focused on driving real change that contributes to better outcomes for our members. That real change starts with showing up as trusted partners and linking arms with business owners to navigate this unprecedented economic environment so they can continue to thrive as an imperative driver of our country’s economy.
Roanne Weyermars leads strategic communications and drives inclusion strategy at the B.C.-based federal financial cooperative to deliver on the organization’s social purpose. An empathetic, visionary leader, dedicated to using business as an engine for good, Roanne creates business success by championing people. She lives on Vancouver Island on the traditional territory of the Quw’ustun people and enjoys time spent with her family and on her mountain bike.
What do you believe constitutes an influential female leadership in Canada? How do you continue to drive innovation and growth at Coast Capital?
Leaders with influence lead with purpose, integrity and in alignment with their values and show up unapologetically as their authentic selves. To influence, you need to have empathy and the trust of your colleagues. Leaders who create space for their team to learn, grow and deliver are leaders who, very authentically, hold influence.
I have just recently ─ in the last 18 months or so ─ taken on the additional role as Vice President, Equity Diversity and Inclusion (EDI), which has the power to contribute to Coast Capital’s ability to innovate and grow. When we take the time to intentionally elevate diverse, often underrepresented voices, our shared outcomes are so much richer for it. Research continues to show that organizations with higher diversity see significant benefits, not only to their workplace culture, but to their overall business results as well. I look forward to continuing to build our programs, processes and policies to drive real change within our workplace and, more widely, across corporate Canada.
What obstacles have you encountered as a female leader? How did you manage to overcome them?
For me, finding the right work-life harmony has been one of the more challenging aspects of advancing to senior leadership. Perhaps more specifically, realizing that the pressure I put on myself to achieve work-life balance for many years was setting me up for burnout.
It isn’t ever going to be a perfectly balanced equation. As mothers, partners, leaders, community members, and many other roles we hold, my experience is that we are constantly pulled in different directions. I don’t think I ever feel that I am perfectly balancing those varying roles. You then layer in COVID and the changes that brought to how we work and how we live. Now more than ever, we need to be very intentional about how we stay inspired and how we spend our time and energy.
As Michelle Obama wisely said “We need to do a better job of putting ourselves higher on our to-do list.” It is a practice ─ one that I am still very much working on ─ that it is vitally important to ensure I am bringing my best self to everything that I do.
What piece of advice would you give to aspiring women to assist them in pushing the boundaries of social impact?
Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Progress over perfection, is really the best way forward in an environment where we are being asked to do more and do it faster. The world needs us to keep moving and keep pushing the status quo, because if we are too afraid to do that, there will be no meaningful change.
I often say to my team that with discomfort comes growth. And change-making can definitely be deeply uncomfortable at times. When you get that feeling, consider if it actually means you are on the right path. Take time to think about what your growth might lead to and go confidently in the direction of your mission.