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Women In Rail: Joan Hardy

Vice President Sales and Marketing Grain and Fertilizer
Canadian Pacific

It was a conversation that would ultimately change two lives.

Joan Hardy sat with her niece, Alanna, to encourage her to consider a degree in engineering, as Joan had done at the University of Manitoba a generation earlier.

Alanna looked up to her aunt. Like Joan, she had always been curious about how things work and could work better. So, Alanna followed Joan’s footsteps into a predominantly male field.

Alanna is now a quality engineer at a 3D printing company. And Alanna’s success has prompted Joan to think about how she might help other women blaze trails – as she has from engineering, to agriculture, to rail.

“In the last year, I have thought about this more than in the previous 35 years,” Joan says, candidly. “My whole life, I’ve always been the only woman at the table. I always just operated as myself. I didn’t try to take advantage of my gender; I also didn’t make a deal of it.”

Early in her career, at CN Rail, a 30-year-old Joan led more than 450 men, many of them decades older than she. Their operational experience paired well with her numeric know-how. The team shone and Joan rose through CN’s ranks.

In 2006, she jumped tracks to work for a major rail customer – Richardson International – in charge of their transportation division. She returned to rail 12 years later – and has been in her current role as CP’s Vice President, Sales & Marketing – Grains and Fertilizers since March 2018.

“At CP, we don’t bring on new business unless we have clear capacity for it,” Joan explains of the executive-level decision-making table at which she sits to determine CP’s business mix. “The party that brings that best business case to the table will likely win out in those discussions. How you and your team build that case will determine your success.”

Joan and her teams are relentlessly fact-based, and she uses her engineering process-mind to help make her case (especially in a world of bigger trains and heightened efficiency expectations).

That, she says, means looking at challenges through as many different lenses as possible. And it’s where she says, the long-term business case for equity, diversity, and inclusion is made.

“Studies show that organizations that have 30% women are more successful than those with 15%,” she says. “So, there is a growing recognition of the need for critical mass of different types of people around decision-making tables.”

Joan has helped found CP’s Women Leadership Network, and is a key supporter and Chair of its gender diversity council – one of three to make CP’s workforce more representative and inclusive.

Joan also works to improve her community, having volunteered extensively for United Way Winnipeg.

Joan and her (recently retired engineer) husband, Tim, have two sons – professionals in their late 20s.

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