Senior trailblazers who took the road less travelled
By Joanne Richard.
March is a great month to celebrate women of all ages – from change-makers and trailblazers to entrepreneurs and women who live out their dream jobs.
“I found it invigorating being the only woman in the room”
International Women’s Day is March 8 and let’s honour women who pave the way for others and break down barriers to gender equality. This year’s theme for IWD is #ChooseTo Challenge and these seniors chose to challenge in their own way, before feminism was an object of cultural discourse.
In the 50s when women were relegated to the kitchen or secretarial roles, Jean Davey fearlessly entered the world of finance, and triumphantly climbed her way to the top of the stock market in an industry dominated by sexism, disapproval and disparagement.
Davey, who turns 90 in June, became Canada’s first woman to be a licensed stockbroker and VP at a major finance company. “I found it invigorating being the only woman in the room,” says Davey.
The Only Woman in the Room: The Making of a Stockbroke is the name of her book and it follows her inspiring and remarkable ascent on Bay Street. Davey’s career in finance spanned 50 years, through the era of three-martini lunches and the impenetrable old boys club to putting major cracks in the glass ceiling when, at age 73, she was appointed VP and director of Scotia McLeod.
Own your successes and aim higher. Through the highs and the lows, that’s what Davy did, and she wishes she could do it all over again. “Life and working hard is a hoot!”
Her advice: Own your successes and aim higher. Through the highs and the lows, that’s what Davy did, and she wishes she could do it all over again. “Life and working hard is a hoot!”
“If he is doing it, you can do it. Get rid of the idea that you are not great.”
From her humble start stuffing envelopes at General Motors in Grade 12 to learning to type and read financial reports as a secretary to the president, the trailblazer went on to rule the trading floor. “I climbed as high as the number two salesperson out of 200 colleagues. I just went for it and didn’t think about it being hard or easy. I went for what I wanted,” says Davey, who lives at Amica Senior Lifestyles in Toronto.
That’s her advice to women everywhere: “Don’t worry about barriers, because life is a barrier. Let it be known what you feel about yourself,” says Davey. “If you think you are smart at something, say it, do it.”
“The one thing I wish I had done was be a director of a publicly-owned firm. I never asked because I thought I am a female, it is all men, and they don’t want a woman – I talked myself out of it and I regret it.”
While attaining power in her profession was hard fought, her book candidly details personal challenges and triumphs too, including ending an unhappy marriage in which she felt controlled and belittled, and then finding the love of her life and remarrying at age 65.
Regrets? Not many: “The one thing I wish I had done was be a director of a publicly-owned firm. I never asked because I thought I am a female, it is all men, and they don’t want a woman – I talked myself out of it and I regret it.”
Whatever you dream, you can do it – “I didn’t realize this until later,” adds Davey, mom of two. “If he is doing it, you can do it. Get rid of the idea that you are not great.”
Meanwhile, Mona Sager was flying high in a different way while Davey was making a name for herself in the financial world.
Sager, 92, became a private pilot more than 70 years ago – she was just 17 and in high school when she started working at the Oshawa Flying Club, and signed up for flying lessons at $11.50 an hour.
With hard work and dedication, it wasn’t long before Sager gave up club chores to pilot sightseeing tours around the city in a single-engine Aeronca aircraft. Then came the aerobatics!
Sager was unstoppable: She entered a spot landing competition and won. The contest focused on training for emergency landings and entailed flying to a certain height, cutting the engine and making a safe landing on a target.
She not only won the Oshawa Flying Club Spot Landing Competition but that day, amongst her all-male competitors, she met her future husband and they married three months later.
Sager adds that her passengers’ reactions varied when they boarded for a flight: She had passengers literally disembark after seeing a female at the controls while others specifically requested her to fly them places.
“Just do it, don’t worry about what people will think or how they will react. If you want to do it, get up and do it.”
Sager recalls having a teacher in school say to her: “You will never amount to anything.” Mona proved her wrong.
Her advice to young girls: “Just do it, don’t worry about what people with think or how they will react. If you want to do it, get up and do it.” She went on to work at Oshawa Engineering and have two children. She lives at Amica in Whitby.