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Women In Rail

Panelist

Emily Mak

Director, Corporate Affairs and General Counsel, SRY

Emily Mak is nostalgic when it comes to railways.

Emily recalls travelling across China as a “poor student sitting on the cheapest hard seats” on a long-distance passenger train whilst on a university exchange program and reflecting on the role that railways have in nation building, including Canada.

She and her husband have also talked about taking their children on a cross-country train trip.

So, when Emily was working as a barrister and had the opportunity to work with a rail company as client, she relished it.

“Railroaders are earnest, down-to-earth people. We spent days together and got to know each other in the crucible of high-pressure, high-stakes legal affairs,” she recalls.

Clearly, her client – Southern Railway of British Columbia (SRY) – was impressed with Emily as well.

The company created the role of Director, Corporate Affairs and General Counsel, and welcomed her to come in-house in late 2017.

Because it was a new role for SRY, Emily has been able to make it her own – to a degree.

On top of the usual agreement drafting and contract negotiations, she also handles public relations, regulatory affairs, environmental, and she is part of the company’s strategic direction.

“I enjoy a lot of latitude and the ability to shape the job into what I want it to be,” Emily says, while acknowledging that not everyone gets such an opportunity and not every woman in rail’s experience is as positive.

“As a woman who entered the railway in a leadership position, I recognize the privilege that I didn’t have to overcome adversity to get here. But like every job on the railway, I have to work hard to stay. I want my performance and competency to speak for itself,” she says.

While Emily’s responsibilities for a diverse portfolio are demanding, she makes it a point for her family to sit down for dinner together every single night. And she hopes her drive and work ethic will set a positive example for her kids.

She also hopes her uncommon path to the C-suite of southern BC’s only short line freight rail company can positively influence leadership culture for the next generation of female railroaders – an idealistic notion perhaps, but one she is working to make reality from within the industry.

Get to know all of our panelist for the Women In Rail event here.