Kristine Leadbetter-Gold, MCM did not let the pandemic stop her from putting her entrepreneurial skills into action. She has accomplished a lot in these last two years because of her passion to make change and remove barriers to women’s advancement in the professional world.
While working full-time in the legal industry, Kristine launched the Women’s Network and spearheaded two virtual summits focused on professional development and building an empowered community of diverse, ambitious women. During this time, Kristine was recognized as one of Business Link Media Group’s Hamilton Top 40 Under 40, and she won the Business/Entrepreneurship/Innovation Women of Distinction Award from YWCA Hamilton. As if that wasn’t enough, she also found the time to get married!
MCM connected with Kristine to find out more about her journey and the impact of the McMaster-Syracuse Master of Communications Management (MCM) program on her career. We also learned some helpful tips for success and discussed what comes next for this creative leader.
- How did you get to this point in your career, where you have been recognized for your leadership and entrepreneurship?
My career trajectory pivoted when I took on a role at the DeGroote School of Business that exposed me to prominent business leaders and inspiring professionals. Having insightful conversations with these folks inspired me to find meaningful ways to share the lessons I learned with others on their own career journeys.
This is when I discovered my passion for women’s advancement and saw that I could be a catalyst in building a platform to support it. I decided to take action by starting the DeGroote Women’s Professional Network to bring women together for mentorship, connectivity, and education. Shortly after, I launched a TV show, ‘Lead Better with Kristine,’ which focused on sharing the experiences and strategies for success of prominent leaders.
On the set of the TV show ‘Leadbetter with Kristine’ are from left to right: Shez Puri (Senior Development Officer, Nonprofit Healthcare), Kristine Leadbetter-Gold (TV show Creator and Host), Jessica Wooder (Director in Healthcare Management) and Dr. Haniyeh Yousofpour (Assistant Professor, Human Resources and Management).
To broaden my horizons and make an investment in my own future, I enrolled in the McMaster-Syracuse Master of Communications Management (MCM) program in 2016. I focused my assignments on leadership and women’s advancement – researching barriers, reputation-building strategies, and social capital. Armed with a new understanding of social and professional capital, I began to examine what I could personally do to break down barriers for women, build others up and move the needle on women’s advancement by designing a network that would function strategically.
I believe my achievements to date are a result of having an honest curiosity in others, trying to learn, and then helping others. You always have to be paying it forward.
It’s an honour to be recognized, but it’s not about me and my accomplishments. It’s very much about the achievements of other women. I want to share their stories so they can inspire more women. I had an unusual start to my career, surrounded by limiting beliefs. I want to help remove those barriers and fears for others. We have to build others up. Encourage, encourage, encourage! I wouldn’t be where I am if I hadn’t had that kind of support.
- How did you get the idea to start the Women’s Network, and why is it important to have this support system for women?
At the DeGroote School of Business, I introduced and executed the university’s first International Women’s Day events. These events were an important forum for addressing the unique challenges women face in their professional lives. In 2021, amid the ongoing pandemic, there were a lack of events for International Women’s Day. I felt strongly that something had to be done to keep the momentum going, because I kept hearing that folks felt disconnected, discouraged, and isolated. I saw the Women’s Network as an opportunity to do this on a broad scale. It could address some of the pandemic’s limitations by bringing people together with reduced barriers related to location, accessibility, and time.
I founded the Women’s Network with plans to launch virtually and joined forces with Connect Event Hub, an innovative presentation and networking event partner. The goal of the Network’s first Women’s Professional Summit was to create a reliable way to network online that would offer real value to women.
My MCM capstone research had identified that having strategic business relationships was a key component of women’s ability to advance – and a component, unfortunately, women tend to lack. The Summit was designed for attendees to experience peer mentorship, gain knowledge, and expand their social capital by connecting with other professionals across a spectrum of industry sectors.
- As an entrepreneur and strategist, what do you find most enjoyable and most challenging? How do you navigate through it all, and what have you learned?
What I enjoy most is identifying challenges and opportunities and applying strategic and critical thinking to find solutions and develop organizations.
The actual execution takes a lot more grit, and this is where many ventures fail. You can come up with a creative idea, but you also need to figure out what it will take to execute, and then actually pull up your sleeves and get to work – especially when you hit roadblocks. Perseverance pays off. You must have a critical eye on prioritizing what needs to be done at each phase.
Initially, I started working on the inaugural Women’s Network Summit on my own. I had about eight or nine weeks from conception to execution. It was a very tight timeframe. By the end of it, our team grew to five people. Those joining offered unique skills and extra capacity. There were also days where their passion would lift me up when I felt out of gas. I could not have done this without them.
Relationships have always been my key to success. It’s essential to create opportunities for others to participate. Share the glory, ask for help when needed, and make space for others to shine. Your vision will evolve and result in a better journey and product.
- How has the MCM program impacted you and your career?
MCM completely changed my life. Before, I lacked confidence and struggled with a way to differentiate myself professionally. I have my sights set on leadership roles, and I’ve always seen education as an essential part of the pathway to achieve that goal. When considering graduate school, I decided on MCM over an MBA because it offered the ability to write a capstone at the end of the program – a research piece that could give you specialized knowledge and a platform.
I completed my capstone on the topic of women’s advancement, Reputation and Social Capital: A Hammer for the Glass Ceiling. I published in the Journal of Professional Communication, and I continue to accept speaking engagements for a range of businesses and organizations.
MCM has given me a competitive advantage. I have a distinct degree and a specialized research area. Without this, I feel I would be overlooked for leadership roles, despite my capabilities. The degree is looked at very favourably. I often describe it as an MBA with a focus in communications – and communication skills are increasingly sought-after in today’s job market.
It has also given me the opportunity to support and stay connected to the program. For the past two years I have served as a teaching assistant in Mark John Stewart’s MCM Strategic Management course, where we focus on equipping marketing and communications leaders with key strategy tools and frameworks to help them lead in their organizations.
Beyond the benefits to my professional life, the program helped to clarify things in my personal life. I experienced a shuffle as I tried to balance my time, relationships, and responsibilities. I met new friends – including one who became my closest friend and introduced me to my husband. I often joke that I signed up for a master’s program and received a full life makeover. I walked out with confidence, a degree, a new job, a best friend, and the love of my life – that’s priceless.
- What advice do you have for aspiring and mid-career professionals?
Take some time to conduct annual career planning – ask:
- What are the different skill sets I want to pick up this year?
- What are some key projects I want to get involved with that will build those skill sets?
- What are the other professional goals I have for each quarter?
Intention is important to arrive at a destination. It doesn’t mean that you know the exact point that you’re working towards, but you need to have a general sense of where you want to be.
Build your circle of trusted advisors. Meet with these folks throughout the year, talk through different situations with them, and leverage their experience to help you navigate workplace situations and keep you on track with career goals.
Always look for the silver lining. It is there. Truly, there’s opportunity everywhere. There are good things to come out of everything, if only you look for them. Obviously some folks have greater struggles than others in their life, and it can be hard to stay positive sometimes, but there is always a silver lining.
- What’s next for Kristine-Leadbetter Gold, MCM?
I have just accepted a new role as the Director of Business Development and Marketing at Ross & McBride LLP, a leading law firm in the Hamilton area marked for growth. I’m involved in the Mohawk College Marketing Program Advisory Committee and, of course, further developing the Women’s Network as we plan our 2023 Summit.
As things are reopening, I am looking forward to reconnecting in person, getting involved with our local business community, and finding a Board of Directors opportunity.
The MCM community congratulates Kristine Leadbetter-Gold on her successes in her career and leading the way for women’s advancement in her community.
If you are interested in learning more about the Women’s Network, Kristine Leadbetter-Gold, MCM welcomes you to connect at www.womensnetwork.ca
Lead photo courtesy Mike Lalich. Secondary photo courtesy Kristine Leadbetter-Gold.