‘Gain the right people around you’: The Countess of Wessex offers career advice for young women at Toronto event

By Zach Harper and Russ Martin

Sophie, Countess of Wessex continued her two-day visit to Canada with special breakfast event aiming to inspire and support young women in finance and investments at Toronto’s Royal York Hotel on Nov. 15 where she offered wonderful career advice.

The countess is a Global Ambassador for 100 Women in Finance’s Next Generation Initiative, and the day’s event saw her take part in a Q&A session with students who are aspiring to work in the financial industry. The session was intended to raise the visibility of female role models, and Sophie is just that.

Sophie looked gorgeous at the event in a beautiful red skirt, white shirt with ruffled sleeves and black heels. L-R: Ontario Lieutenant-Governor Elizabeth Dowdswell, 100WF Chair Lauren Malafronte, BloombergSen's Danielle Skipp, Sophie, 100WF global CEO Amanda Pullinger. Photo: © Russ Martin/ HELLO! Canada

“I suppose I’m in a slightly unique position because I had a career before I became a full-time, working member of the family, so I have a slightly different perspective,” the mother of two said as the event kicked off.

Prior to joining the Royal Family, the mom of two worked in public relations. She now splits her time between royal engagements and supporting her own charities and organizations. She’s incredibly busy, and of course she knows a thing or two about finding a good work-life balance. That was one of the questions that came up during the session. She encouraged the young women in the room to “take every opportunity” they’re offered, but also said there is no rush to figure things out.

Sophie on her way to work in London in 1993, the year she and Prince Edward began their relationship. Photo: © Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images

“It’s okay if you don’t actually know what you want to do yet. That doesn’t matter at all,” she emphasized. “It’s about being brave, asking people for advice and having a lot of different experiences.

“I think in having an experience, it often tells you what you don’t want to do, which is just as important as discovering what you do want to do. Ask a lot of people, throw a lot of mud at the wall and you’ll never know where you’ll end up… Don’t discount anything.”

Sophie also stressed the importance of building a strong foundation of supports, both in terms of career development and life outside of work. Of course, if you have the right people around you, there’s a better chance you’ll make solid, informed suggestions, she said.

Sophie (far right) with her husband Prince Edward (second left) and children James, Viscount Severn (far left) and Louise (second right). Photo: © Getty Images

“People actually kind of like to be asked for advice, so don’t be shy,” she said. “Find people that you know and trust and take their advice. You don’t actually have to follow it, but it’s always good to have lots of advice.”

Sophie is mother to both Lady Louise Windsor, 16, and James, Viscount Severn, 11. While she had both of her children after joining the Royal Family, she acknowledged “one of the most crucial, pressing questions for young people” is whether they’ll be able to have both a family and a successful career. It’s important to be sure you’re in the right place and have organizational supports, she said.

“I know that there are many companies that have great policies for the care of their employees and offer lots of different packages for retirement or maternity leave, whatever it is. But sometimes the reality is actually quite different,” she said. “I would say that you have to choose the companies that you work for very carefully over time.”

Sophie attended two other 100WF events on Nov. 12 and 13, including a speech at the 100WF 18 th Annual Gala. She arrived in Canada on Nov. 14, and began her brief visit with a trip to Toronto Western Hospital. While there, she met with patients and took part in a robotic surgery demonstration. The countess was also scheduled to visit Toronto General Hospital to meet with other cardiac patients and the staff. She is a patron of both healthcare facilities, which are some of Canada’s leading hospitals in terms of cardiac care and research.

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