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International Women's Day Profile Michelle McAra

Posted Mar 8th, 2022 in 2022, the wire, thought leadership

Michelle McAra wears many hats. An executive, a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, and the leader of an all-male Partnership Development team.

When Michelle learned about the opportunity to join dentalcorp’s newly formed Partnership Development team, she was intrigued. She loves to challenge the status quo and joining a company that was disrupting and reimagining Canadian dental service organizations  was exhilarating. She was one of three Partnership Development team members, the sole female and the only one with children. Competitive and driven, she made it her mission to close a deal first and she hasn't looked back since. 

Having been with dentalcorp for over five years, her role has continued to successfully evolve and she is now the head of the national Partnership Development team. As the Senior Vice President she leads dentalcorp’s acquisitive growth through regional teams that identify Partner opportunities, understands and evaluates market dynamics and builds relationships with key stakeholders. Michelle now leads one of the most acquisitive teams in healthcare today. "Mergers and Acquisitions is typically a male-dominated aspect of the business world, but that hasn't intimidated me," she explains. "Doing deals is both an art and a science and can often become ego-driven, but I take pride in diffusing those situations by having conversations about what matters, and actively listening for what needs to happen to make the deal come together." 

She explains that acquiring dental practices requires a human touch to ensure that the partner, practices, and patients are well cared for. "I love meeting with the dentists, sharing the dentalcorp story and discussing the value creation that our organization provides," she says. "I feel fortunate to represent a company with a value proposition that resonates with dentists of varying backgrounds and inspires them to partner with us."

But climbing her way to the top of a male-dominated business didn't come without its challenges. She learned to be vocal and self-advocate, knowing that she would be considered for what is now her current role if she consistently showed up, worked hard, delivered results, and proved she was committed to growing the business. "There were a lot of barriers: notably, I am a female, based in Edmonton, and had ambitions to run a national acquisitions team for a company based in Toronto," she says. "There have been other VP's in this department, but when the opportunity presented itself, I asked for the position— I learned early on in my career to negotiate for what I wanted." 

Early in her career she made a point of treating challenges as opportunities and tackling them with enthusiasm. So when faced with the pandemic, she showed up to work more human, which led to greater success. "I think Covid has been good for me because it made me more comfortable showing up to work as I am," she explains. "At the end of the day, we do business with people, we all have lives, things to balance and juggle, and it's okay to tell someone that I'm happy to be available after 8 p.m. when my kids are in bed."

Michelle is exhilarated for the future of female leaders, noticing changes in the workplace, particularly around parental leaves to support women wanting to return to work and the movement to have more women in senior leadership and board positions. "International Women's Day is about breaking the bias and building workplaces where all genders can thrive," she says. "I feel fortunate to be a woman working for a progressive Canadian company and modelling for my daughter that she has all the same opportunities as her brother."

Michelle’s advice for the next generation of business leaders is that discord is positive for growth.  Surround yourself with people who think differently, have diverse experiences and challenge you.

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