“In order to solve the global issues that face us, we need everyone to contribute at their full potential. As an immigrant and an ethnic minority female, diversity and inclusion are very personal issues for me.”
Maninder Dhaliwal, CEO and co-founder of Lions Gate International, strongly believes that opportunities should be available to everyone irrespective of who they are, and where they come from. “In order to solve the global issues that face us, we need everyone to contribute at their full potential. As an immigrant and an ethnic minority female, diversity and inclusion are very personal issues for me,” asserts the Business in Vancouver magazine’s “40 under 40” top business achiever of 2013.
At Lions Gate International, a firm specializing in trade advisory between Canada and the Asia Pacific, the main focus is technology, manufacturing and infrastructure projects in the Indian sub-continent. Dhaliwal’s role involves specializing in venture capital investment and business advisory services to help companies grow and thrive. “It’s an ideal role for me,” she shares, “I get to combine my background and talents in engineering, technology start-ups, business strategy, revenue models and market growth.”
Recalling her journey towards success, this passionate entrepreneur believes that it is important to find a mentor who can guide you well. “There are moments that change one’s life, for me one of these would be meeting my mentor Joseph Segal. He has been a guiding force in my professional life for the last 10 years,” says Dhaliwal, while mentioning other key figures in her life like Fiona Macfarlane (Ernst and Young), John Montalbano (Royal Bank), Bev Briscoe (Goldcorp), and Janet Austin (YWCA). “My success has a lot do with their advice and guidance. I am very grateful for that.”
Besides managing Lions Gate International, Dhaliwal also has previously served on the board of directors at Big Sisters of BC, and Ballet BC. “I have always believed in being a good citizen and contributing to the community. Giving back is an honour and a privilege,” she says when asked about her contribution to the organizations she supports.
Dhaliwal is also on the board of Harvard Alumni Association, BC Chapter, and acts as a corporate board director for other businesses and organizations – a role she claims is a very satisfying part of her career. “As a CEO, you are responsible for getting things done. As a board director, you put on a different hat and advise on how to do things,” explains the talented board director whose specialities are technology and business expansion to the emerging markets. “Being a CEO makes me a better board director, and being a board director gives me a different perspective on my own business. They are in perfect synergy,” adds Dhaliwal, who was chosen as Diversity 50 by Canadian Board Diversity Council.
Canada Board Diversity Council is an initiative to increase corporate board diversity in Canada. Every year, they list 50 board ready, diverse candidates to make it easier for corporations to diversify their board of directors. “It’s an excellent initiative and I am honoured to have been chosen as one of these candidates. Progress sometimes requires knocking down walls, other times, all you need to do is widen the doorway. Diversity 50 widens the doorway for women at the board level,” says Dhaliwal of this honour.
Being a successful, independent businesswoman herself, Dhaliwal advocates for equal representation of men and women in leadership roles. She points out that progress is being made but the implementation of this equality is slow. “Organizations such as Canada Board Diversity Council, Boardlist, 30% Club are making a difference for women at the highest levels of the corporate world. So, I feel very hopeful about progress.”
To Dhaliwal, real success does not simply lie in accumulating the big bucks, she defines success as “the freedom to pursue the things that you want to do, and to say no to things that you do not want to do.”
Her advice to young women about to start their careers: “Find the intersection of world’s greatest need and your greatest passion. This is where you need to be. Maintain a wide range of relationships with people you actually like. Be useful and be kind. Best personal brands are built on generosity.”