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Women in Leadership: How Michelle Hutton has helped empower women and encourage gender equity in the workplace through our Women’s Impact Network employee resource group

portrait of Michelle Hutton

For Michelle, her purpose at Maple Leaf Foods is bringing people together, finding solutions, and challenging the status quo

Michelle Hutton is a Compliance Manager at Maple Leaf Foods, where she’s evolved and flourished for the past 17 years.

For most of her time within the organization, Michelle has worked in the Compliance department and has had the opportunity to take on leadership roles and broaden her understanding of the business. Most recently, Michelle has been leading projects beyond Compliance to deep dive into how we commercialize our products, working with cross functional teams to find efficiencies. 

What brought you to Maple Leaf Foods?

When I first started here, I was living in Kitchener at the time and was referred to the organization. There was a deep sense of community in Kitchener among the Schneiders employees, and it was considered THE place to work, because of the comradery and culture (all of which made it easy stay with the organization.)

What made you stay?

The people, values, and opportunities. 

I’ve often thought about what my life would be like if I had chosen a different path and I can’t imagine it! The people I’ve met at Maple Leaf are truly integral to my life and I believe wholeheartedly that who I am has been shaped by their influence, mentoring and — in many cases — friendship.

It’s been easy to stay since the company’s values are congruent to mine.  

And it’s a blessing to be employed at the same organization after such a long time. I’ve felt invested in its growth and have been given opportunities to learn and grow here.

Why is gender equity so important in the workplace?

I believe that progress in the workplace is made by diverse, well-informed viewpoints and that means that decision makers should be from all genders (in fact true equity should be intersectional and reflect diversity of race, sexual orientation, etc.)

You lead the Women’s Impact Network (WIN) at Maple Leaf Foods. What important learnings has this role given you?

I never expected to learn as much as I have.

Some of the highlights are:

  • If I feel a little scared or nervous, I know I’m about to do my best learning and growing
  • It’s a privilege to lead an Employee Resource Group (ERG), and WIN specifically, to serve as the voice of its members and to positively impact our company’s culture
  • It’s inspiring to work alongside the other ERG leads
  • It’s an incredible opportunity to learn from our Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) experts
  • It’s essential that I recognize my unconscious bias and white privilege and that I do my best to be an inclusive leader and take responsibility when I don’t show up that way.

I’ve read about the power of mentorship and sponsorship, but I know its benefits now because of the incredible support I’ve received from WIN’s Executive Sponsor, who’s become my mentor, and the many leaders who have guided me along the way.   

image of Michelle Hutton

How do you define your purpose at Maple Leaf?

Bringing people together, finding solutions, and challenging the status quo.

What’s one of your proudest accomplishments?

This is a tricky question for me to answer. I don’t feel like I’m done learning yet. If I had to pick something, I’d say I’m most proud of the leader I’ve become. My strongest source of pride is hearing that my team feels challenged, appreciated, heard, and supported.

If you needed inspiration and could have lunch with any woman you admire, alive or dead, who would it be? Why?

Each month, WIN hosts a monthly meeting that’s led by one of the many talented female vice-presidents at Maple Leaf, and these sessions are open to everyone. Ahead of each meeting, I’ve had the chance to connect with them. It’s been a great opportunity to learn more about them personally and professionally and to get a sense for their passions. This is a constant source of inspiration. We have incredible leaders at Maple Leaf who care about and are committed to the success of our people.

Beyond Maple Leaf, I would relish the opportunity to meet Jacinda Ardern — I find her quick, decisive, and empathetic approach to leadership so inspiring. 

Do you have a personal motto?

Be kind to yourself and to others. Do the best you can to make a difference. Leave things better than how you found them. 

When you retire, how do you hope you’ll be remembered?

I hope people remember me as someone they enjoyed working with, who showed up and did the best she could, and who tried to shine a light on their great work.

What advice do you have for women in the early stages of their career?

Ask for what you need. Sounds simple right? For some reason, it’s hard to be vulnerable and vocalize specifically what you need. But we can’t go it alone! So, consider what good looks like for you, whether that’s from a partner, leader, coach, friend, or teammate. Then, go on and ask those folks for what you need. I bet you they want to help!