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Women In Rail: Janet Drysdale


Vice–President, Sustainability, CN

Janet Drysdale loves to kayak on the Lake of Two Mountains near her home in Saint-Lazare, Québec for its calming effect.

It’s how she connects to her maritime roots, and how she connects with nature.

In her busy professional life, Janet connects the dots of people and ideas, of sustainability and strategy.

“I’m someone who is intellectually curious. I legitimately love learning. That authentic curiosity has helped me connect with people much more than ‘going for beers with the guys,’” she says.

It has also allowed her to pursue a diverse career of progressively senior roles at CN Rail – from marketing, to , to investor relations, to strategic and financial planning, and to her current role as VP, Sustainability.

“Sustainability is strategy and embedding it into our day-to-day business over the medium and longer terms is a strategic imperative,” Janet says. “Equity, diversity and inclusion are not only components of sustainability but of resiliency.”

Janet recalls a time, not so long ago, when a male colleague at the executive table made a comment about ‘women taking over’ when the number of women grew from five of 30 to six.

She says, matter-of-factly, progress on all fronts need not be at the expense of one group over another.

“We need the best people. Period. If people are what differentiates us, how do you get the best people on an individual basis and collective basis? That’s how we will win.”

Janet believes in measurable targets and data-driven decision-making in all areas of sustainability, including ones of inclusivity as “we are at the beginning of the journey.”

“We’re hugely data-driven individuals – all of us are. What gets measured, gets managed.  Beyond traditional financial metrics, we need to set targets and measure progress in areas such as   diversity, carbon emissions, and safety, all of which also have financial impacts..”

Janet says she’s not worried about bringing her still predominantly male colleagues around.

She grew up the middle child surrounded by two brothers and was raised by a mother who also grew up with three brothers. She played and coached sports, and paid her way through university by painting houses in the summer.

She is also the lone woman of her household: Janet and her husband Patrick have two sons (Alex, 18, and Ben, 21.)

Leading with influence and showing the way for others – they’re among Janet’s secrets to success in life and in business, with more proof points added with each passing year.

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