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Q&A Series with Women on Boards

Carey Dillen

Carey Dillen: “I felt that I needed to give back and share my expertise”

Carey Dillen sharing her experiences as Chair, Sport BC and as President of YYOGA, a 12-year old wellness company with 12 Canadian locations in BC and Ontario. Carey is an experienced leader, an influencer, and an effective female change agent. Her approach is open and authentic, rooted in values-based coaching and leadership. She is passionate about growing the leaders of tomorrow and building businesses while living a healthy lifestyle.

Q: What was it that drew you to the industry?

A: I have always been interested in the wellness and sport industries. I was drawn to Sport BC’s board because of my 2010 Olympic experience. I saw how sport had transformed our province and our nation and I wanted to continue to give back to sport in British Columbia. I’d sat on the other side of a board as management and I wanted to figure out how to continue to leverage my skills and knowledge and add value to the sport industry in BC and Canada. For some reason I thought being on a board would be the way to make my contributions impactful and that’s when I approached Sport BC.

Q: How did you get on your first board?

A: I had experience on the other side of the table, reporting to boards and committees, as senior management and as an auditor/financial advisor. I had talked to people in my network about wanting to get onto a sport board and someone suggested Sport BC. I did some research and Sport BC seemed like a great fit as it’s a non-profit federation representing 50+ Provincial Sport Organizations that has a variety of programs including the KidSport BC charity, the National Sport Trust Fund and they host the Athlete of the Year Awards. The organization was a leader in the sport industry, diverse, far-reaching and aligned with my values. After talking to people on the board, I put my name forward and was nominated as the Director of Finance and Chair of the Finance & Audit Committee. I felt I could have a big impact on sport here in BC due to the influence and reach of Sport BC in the province.

Q: Have you served on functional or representative boards or both?

A: I have been on functional, representative and combination boards. BC Athletics board was a combination of representative and functional in that there were certain directors that were accountable to a region of stakeholder clubs and athletic groups as well as functional directors with specific skills. The key challenge was managing the geographically diverse representation when decision making required consulting with constituent groups. The board maintained a transparent connection to the membership, which was a very positive aspect.

AllSport Insurance was a representative board where each joint venture partner had stakeholder representation. On representative boards alignment of goals and strategy can be challenging when there is competition about priorities, however there is also strong capacity for checks and balances.

Sport BC is a functional board based on directors with specific knowledge and skills. Finding members to fill those roles can be challenging so we often recruit from outside the membership to obtain specific skills to provide effective oversight and to assist in identifying and helping meet the strategic priorities of an organization.

Q: In your experience, how relevant has the idea of board diversity been during your board service over the years?

A: Gender equity and increasing the opportunities and exposure for girls and women was an intentional leadership focus for me when I was nominated by the membership as the Chair of Sport BC. Under my leadership, we diversified the board with 50% women representation. This was instrumental in Sport BC partnering with ProMOTION Plus, a non-profit society dedicated to increasing girls and women in sport and physical activity, to support gender equity goals and increase opportunities for females to be recognized for their outstanding contributions. Our gender diversified board was compelling for the City of Vancouver in partnering with Sport BC for a variety of initiatives such as the organization committee for the 2015 FiFA Women’s World Cup Soccer Fan Zone, the 2016 Americas Masters Games and the 2017 & 2018 Sport BC Summer Warm Up as it was in alignment with their diversity initiatives. I think there is still more work to do to continue to diversify boards beyond just gender but this was a great first step for Sport BC.

Q: What qualifications and characteristics do you look for in a new board member?

A: As someone looking to become a new board member, you need to understand what the organization does and how your skills and expertise can add value to the organization. Be thoughtful about how much time you have and are willing to devote to being on a board and sub-committees as this is critical to understand what is expected of you by the organization and what are you able to provide. To prepare you should research other members of the board, board culture, strength and quality of the organization, management, board strategy, business plans, the board-management relationship, legal issues, insurance, approach to governance and quality of board performance, and compensation, if relevant.

Q: From your own experience, what are some best practices that help to encourage diversity on boards and among management?

A: From my experience, the most effective practice is to start talking about diversity and actively prepare individuals for future board participation through sponsorship and mentorship. Other strong practices are to expand the criteria and practice openness to include individuals without prior board experience and take risks on individuals with potential. I think encouraging employees to change their mind set and have more women and diversity in the workforce at higher levels and to be cognizant that every area in an organization should seek to have diversity. This will help to drive action and change. All boards should create a rich balance of experience and perspectives at the table. One way to do this is to define what is non-negotiable (i.e. Finance expertise) and then see what is flexible in order to deliver on gender and other diversity goals and meet specific challenges.

Interview by:
Elena Tikhomirova, Director of Strategic Initiatives - Women on Boards
Aashna Parmar, Committee Member - Women on Boards