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Women in Leadership: How occupational health nurse, Morag Bowlby, has made her mark and earned respect as a woman in leadership

portrait of Morag Bowlby

Read about Morag’s passion for working in the occupational health field—striving for gender equity every step of the way

Morag Bowlby is the Director of Occupational Health Services at Maple Leaf Foods, driving health initiatives and health promotion for all facilities within the organization.

With a background as an occupational health nurse, Morag originally became a team member at a Schneiders facility in Kitchener, Ontario back in 2003—which was subsequently purchased by Maple Leaf Foods in 2004. Throughout the past 19 years, she’s grown and developed her career in the field of occupational health.

As a woman in a leadership position, Morag’s role is to provide professional health and wellness leadership and claims management support across the Maple Leaf Foods and Greenleaf Foods networks.

What brought you to Maple Leaf?

I was originally working at St. Mary’s General Hospital on the surgical floor, in the emergency room and in general medicine. I always had an interest in occupational nursing, and I was informed that there was a part-time position opening at Schneiders. So, I applied. I continued working there until a full-time position became available in March 2004, and I haven’t looked back.

What made you stay?

I feel like I’m part of a family at Maple Leaf. My two children also worked as summer students for three years when they went to university and college, which helped pay for their tuition. As a parent, I believe that nothing is free, so we shared the tuition fees and it taught them to work hard. I also had great opportunities to grow as a woman in the industry.

Why is gender equity so important in the workplace?

Currently on my team, we have a nice 50/50 split – there are four men and four women. I’ve always felt there’s a sense of fairness in gender opportunities at Maple Leaf. Strategies and measures have always been available. And as we know, equity will lead to equality.

How do you define your purpose at Maple Leaf?

My purpose is to make a difference each and every day. I want to make sure that we have a safe and healthy work environment and that takes commitment and a strong team. So, my job is to continue to drive my passion into the lives of other Maple Leaf team members.

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

Dream big and work with passion. Don’t let the challenges along your journey stop you from achieving your goals. I don’t say “good days” or “bad days,” I say we have “challenging moments” and that’s what I’ve always liked to call them—”challenging days” not “bad days.”

In fact, I wake up every day and my husband, to whom I’ve been married for 33 years, always sings “Good Morning Sunshine” to me. I truly feel it’s all about your attitude and willingness to learn in life.

Do you have a personal motto?

Yes, it’s on my email and has not changed in 19 years: “Success…………Some people dream of success…while others wake up and work hard at it.”

I truly feel that I wake up every day and work with a passion. I’ve been told when I walk into a room that everybody just loves seeing and feeling my energy.

What’s one of your proudest accomplishments?

I have been very fortunate to be awarded two Maple Leaf Annual Values Awards (AVA) during my career. The first one was in 2015 when I was nominated by my entire site team, and I won the Olympic Award. It also gave me the opportunity to travel to Saint Martin on the Caribbean Sea!

In 2021, I won the CEO/COO AVA Award from Maple Leaf Foods’ CEO, Michael McCain and COO, Curtis Frank. That was a hugely proud moment for me to be recognized by those leaders.

What challenges have you faced as a woman in a leadership role? How did you overcome them?

When I started as health and safety manager in 2012, my office got moved to the second floor with the entire senior plant management team. And they were all men! I was the only woman! But I learned so much from that team, and I hope I taught them just as much.

During that time, I learned to be very factual and as a woman, I was well respected. I wasn’t afraid to be in the plant and I walked side by side with my plant manager. So, to me, you earn respect when you give it.

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

It would be a lady named Ann Mazor, a registered nurse who I worked with early in my career. She passed away almost 25 years ago from breast cancer. She was my mentor when I graduated from nursing school and was a true “Florence Nightingale”. She taught me patience and courage, and to have the best bedside manner as a nurse.

I still have a stained-glass angel in my drawer that Ann gave me. When I have a challenging day, I open that drawer and think of Ann because she really led by example and that’s how I want to lead. If I could have lunch with her, I would hope that I’ve made her proud of who I’ve become in my nursing career at Maple Leaf.

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

As a hugger! It’s just natural for me. Even Michael and Curtis know that—when I do see them, they don’t shake my hand, they just know to go in for a hug.

But I’d also like to be remembered by my positive vibe that I hopefully give to everybody I meet. I aim to put a little bit of spark and a ray of sunshine into our Maple Leaf family.