Amazing Female Leaders
Dr. Joti Samra, R.Psych. has been a practicing psychologist for almost 20 years. She is also the Clinic Founder of Dr. Joti Samra, R.Psych. & Associates as well as the CEO & Founder of MyWorkplaceHealth.
As a part of Women’s History Month, where the aim is to discuss and highlight the contributions of women, we figured it would be a great idea to interview Dr. Joti. We discussed her experience as a woman in business as well as her advice for those who may be new to business or considering starting a business themselves.
About Dr. Joti
Dr. Joti Samra is passionate about all things related to psychological health and wellness and, of course, this extends to psychological health and safety in the workplace. She is one of the founding and ongoing members of The National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health & Safety in the Workplace (CAN/CSA-Z1003-13/BNQ9700-803/2013), which is the first of its kind in the world and is shaping policy development for workplace psychological health & safety (PH&S) at the international ISO level.
Not only is Dr. Joti a psychologist and business person, but she’s a researcher as well as a media persona. She values education and is always doing what she can to support the community with free resources to learn about psychological health and wellness, including on her blog as well as her new podcast. Dr. Samra is regularly interviewed by a wide range of scholarly, professional and popular publications, including newspapers such as the National Post, Vancouver Sun, Georgia Strait, Province, Vancouver Courier; magazines and popular publications such as Huffington Post, Elle, and Chatelaine, as well as a range of business and human resources, trade magazines and publications.
The Business Beginnings
Dr. Joti has been a registered psychologist for a number of years and eventually, her practice developed to the point where she was starting to have to turn clients away. It’s not a good feeling to have to turn people away when you’ve worked hard to develop a meaningful practice and a positive reputation. So, Dr. Joti figured it was time to bring on an associate and start working toward this as a business.
You might be surprised, seeing all of what Dr. Joti has accomplished, but she initially had some of the same reservations and hesitations we all do. While in the process of starting a business, she experienced imposter syndrome – the experience that you’re not as competent as others perceive you to be. Of course, Dr. Joti is a skilled psychologist, but it was easy for her to doubt herself as a business person.
Later, Dr. Joti invested in MyWorkplaceHealth because she is passionate about psychological health and safety (PH&S) in the workplace. The workplace is where many of us spend more of our time and is often one of the most significant contributors to stress in our lives. When our work environments and social connections at work are healthy – kind, supportive, civil and respectful – we thrive. When those environments and connections are unhealthy, toxic, and disrespectful – we suffer. So, it’s important for business owners and organizations to be mindful of and invest in their workers’ mental health.
As the CEO of a rapidly expanding start-up company, she knows personally how overwhelming it can feel to start to enhance organizational PH&S. If you’re like most organizations, you don’t know where to start, and likely have limited resources to do so. That’s where MyWorkplaceHealth steps in.
When Dr. Joti first graduated with her Ph.D. and began working, she was often faced with the question ‘where is Dr. Samra?’. People expected her to be the one to bring them coffee, not the person with the Ph.D. or the one who was running the presentation. This was due, in part, to the fact that she is a woman, she was younger than many of the others as well as the fact that she is a visible minority. As a result, people made assumptions about her based on the way that she looked.
One of the ways she was able to overcome these challenges was with the support of a trusted mentor and friend, Mary Ann Baynton. Having another female entrepreneur to speak with about the challenges she faced and the insecurities she experienced made a huge difference in her ability to face them head-on.
Also, as a psychologist, she has the skills of being able to think mindfully about her own thinking. This means using CBT skills to think critically about the thoughts that come up when a person experiences imposter syndrome; such as considering whether or not there is evidence to support these thoughts, i.e. ‘are they based in reality?’ Then taking the time to be critical about these thoughts and actively work toward challenging them.
Inequality and Leadership
Many women not only experience gender inequality in the workplace, such as the current wage gap; but also experience harassment in the workplace.
Dr. Joti’s first job when she was around 14 years old was at a small restaurant where she was a host and this is where she first experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. This restaurant had one single bathroom for staff and it had numerous playboy-like pictures plastered on the walls, which is sure to make any young girl feel uncomfortable. It was also not uncommon for managers or other older males to subtly rub up against the young women in a sexual way. Of course, as a young person, this made Dr. Joti uncomfortable as I’m sure it did her coworkers. At the time Dr. Joti didn’t know there was anything she could do about it and she definitely did not want to tell her immigrant parents.
As a result of the fact that people have always been making assumptions about Dr. Joti’s skills and competence based on the way that she looks, it’s extremely important to not do the same. Rather than focusing on what a person looks like, or even the qualifications listed on their resume, Dr. Joti focuses on the values the person holds and uses this to guide her decisions about who will be a part of her team. Approaching her team in this way allows her to look past simply the qualifications a person holds, such as a degree, and find the unique skills a person has and how those can be used effectively on the team.
What can businesses do to decrease gender inequality in their workplace?
It’s important to businesses and people leaders to be aware of the unconscious biases they hold. Unconscious biases are judgements that are made without our awareness; often they’re based on specific categories such as gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, ability, etc. These unconscious biases can lead to a lack of diversity within workplaces.
So, the first step in making a change when it comes to gender inequality, or other issues related to diversity in the workplace, is to uncover the biases we hold, open up a conversation about these biases, and work toward challenging them.
Advice for New Entrepreneurs
Dr. Joti mentioned one of the most valuable things a new business person can do when starting a business is to find a mentor or coach with business experience who is willing to work with you. Having someone to hold open and authentic conversations with about the challenges and fear associated with starting a business can make all the difference. Having these vulnerable conversations can help you to identify what beliefs you hold that are limiting you and can help you to actively work against them. We all have that negative voice in the back of our heads telling us what our problems are and why we are going to fail and in order to succeed, we need to challenge those voices.
We can challenge these beliefs, and that voice, by using our CBT skills. Consider what evidence there is to support these beliefs, and whether or not these thoughts are grounded in reality. Chances are there is not a lot of evidence to support these negative beliefs and there may even be some evidence that you have overcome such difficulties in the past.
It’s also important to take action regardless of if your fears are making you hesitate. Use opposite action for fear to take one step forward. When Dr. Joti started her business, she had to use this skill too. She was feeling unsure of herself when it came to being a business owner but took one step at a time. She went out and got registered as a business which made it real. Then she got herself an office. Then she figured out how to make herself a simple website.
Final Thoughts on Female Leaders
A recent Wall Street Journal story says that 41 female CEOs are slated to be running Fortune 500 companies in 2021. Yes, this is still a relatively small number but it shows progress we cannot ignore.
Learn more about Dr. Joti Samra, R.Psych & Associates and the services offered on our website.
Interested in building a more diverse team in your workplace? Learn more about MyWorkplaceHealth and how they can help.
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