Sir Francis Bacon once observed that the path to any high place is a long and spiralling one.
Over the course of her career, Dame Moya Greene has taken an interesting and diverse path, ascending to top roles in Canada and the United Kingdom. She has been a lawyer, an immigration adjudicator, involved in the law, a policy analyst, an infrastructure financier, a retail banker, an industrial restructurer, two times a CEO and is now a member of the board of directors of several companies.
For Greene, Bacon’s observation rings true. So much so that she referenced his quote in her address to graduates of the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies during Fall Convocation ceremonies on Thursday, Oct. 11. Greene was at York University to receive an honorary doctor of laws degree in recognition of her journey from York University to transformational leadership roles, most recently at Canada Post and the U.K.’s Royal Mail.
She was appointed president and chief executive officer of Canada Post on May 12, 2005. In 2010, Greene was appointed chief executive officer of the U.K.’s Royal Mail. Greene was the first non-Briton and first woman to hold the post.
Along the course of her journey, Greene has been the recipient of many personal awards in both Canada and the U.K. In 2003, she was named among the 100 most influential women in Canada by the National Post; in 2004, she was named one of the top 40 female corporate executives in Canada by Ivey Business School. In February 2013, BBC Radio 4 called her the 12th most powerful woman in Britain. Also in 2013, she received the Sunday Times Business Person of the Year Award. The following year saw Greene voted Business Person of the Year by the Financial Times. In 2015, she was ranked as one of the most powerful female CEOs in Europe, the Middle East and Africa in the Fortune 500. In 2018, Greene was named Business Leader of the Year by the Evening Standard. In June 2018, Greene was honoured by the Queen, who bestowed on her a damehood for services to the United Kingdom.
During her convocation address, she spoke fondly of her roots at York University, graduating from Osgoode Hall Law School in 1978. She spoke about how much she appreciated the diverse community and viewpoints she encountered during her time at York University. To graduates, she urged them to use their education at York University to make the world a better place. “You have been exposed to a variety of perspectives and beliefs, you have been given the time to read, think, discuss and debate. And now having received that fortunate grounding, you take it forward in everything that you do,” she said.
“It is this grounding that will push through the angry pitch and fact-free assertion that sadly characterizes much of what we hear today. It is very easy to fuel division; it takes careful thought and a constructive attitude to find fair resolutions and the things that bring us all together. Thinking is hard work,” she said. “For me, it was always best done on a long path that gets you to that high point of land where the views are better and where, as the song goes, ‘on a clear day, you can see forever.’ ”
The graduates have an important role to play in the future, a role that Greene said offered her hope for the future. “In this class of 2018, we have a much-needed new group of blessed peacemakers, ready now to be parachuted into any dispute, big or small, and to offer that gift of sweet reason,” she said.