5 ways to know if your website is good enough

You’ve accomplished the first step: you have a website for your business. But is it good enough? Answering these five simple questions can help you determine if your online presence is building your business — or holding it back. 





How important is your website?

It’s a key part of the relationship between you and your customers. Research by CIRA found that 63 per cent of consumers believe a website makes a business seem more credible, and 26 per cent simply don’t trust businesses without one. Even if you have a bricks-and-mortar presence, 76 per cent of Canadians will research their purchases online before going to a store to buy it — but that doesn’t mean any web presence will do.

Anna Walkowiak, Business Model Innovation Lead at BDC’s Advisory Services, explains that in today’s market having a bad website can do more damage to your brand than having no website at all. “There are companies that actually function successfully without a website and they do everything manually, the channels are very much direct. It’s not ideal in 2019, but having a bad website can actually jeopardize the scalability of the whole business.”

With your website potentially playing such a critical role in success, the next question is obvious: is yours good enough? Fortunately, you don’t have to be a web expert to find out. There are online tools that can help, or simply ask yourself the following questions to get a good sense of where you might need improvement.


1) Are you presenting your brand effectively?

Any individual, whether or not they have interacted with your brand before, should be able to go to your site and understand why your business exists, what sets you apart from the competition, and how you meet their needs as a customer. Your voice and visual branding should also be clear and consistent.

If you don’t feel these elements come across strongly on your site, look for places to make adjustments. And if you are struggling to explain why customers should do business with you, first focus on building a strategic marketing plan to help develop your brand and position your company. Anna suggests asking yourself these five questions before developing your website “Who is your specific target customer? What are the clear benefits of your business to the customer? How can you make your messaging customer-centred and inclusive? What is your unique selling point? What is your strong call-to-action to the customer going to be?”

2) Can your customers find you?

You’ve heard the saying, if you build it, they will come. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work in the digital age. Anna recommends making “your website part of your wider business strategy,” in order to make it as easy as possible to find your business.  

Google is responsible for over 92 per cent of searches, so your first check should be how you rank when you look up keywords relevant to your business. If you are appearing a few pages in, there are some organic (unpaid) techniques you can use to improve your standing — and most are related to having a good website. Unique and quality content, faster page loads, backlinks (websites linking to yours), and secure pages can all help. You can also consider paid search advertising to get your result to the top of the first page. A Google Ads campaign is easy to set up, but can be a challenge to execute effectively — so you may also want to get expert guidance.

Lastly, don’t forget the other channels that can feed into your site, from social media to local review sites (like Yelp and Foursquare). If you aren’t using these tools, you are making it harder for potential customers to find you. However, like a bad website, poor social media messaging can be harmful to your brand.

“Your messaging needs to be carefully crafted,” says Anna. Also, you need to give some thought as to what social media channels are appropriate for your business. “For example, if you are a business-to-business service, you don’t necessarily have to be on Instagram but you need to be present on LinkedIn.”


“With your website potentially playing such a critical role in success, the next question is obvious: is yours good enough?”


3) Can your customers find what they are looking for?

Think about your customer’s experience when they visit your site. The more scrolling and clicking that’s required to find important information or purchase a product, the more opportunity there is for a customer to drop off before reaching that goal.

“Your website should be clearly addressed to your target customer with a value proposition that gives clear benefits for your customer,” says Anna. “How is it useful? What is the specific end result customer can get?”  

You should also think about the questions your customers ask you most often. Are the answers easy to find on your site? Can they easily contact you if needed? Can they find your business location? Can they make a purchase or sign up for your newsletter without having to dig around? If you answered no to any of these, it’s time to make some changes.

Consider how easy it is to navigate your site, how clearly information is presented, and how visually appealing it is. Competitive sites can be useful for comparison, but keep in mind that consumer expectations are set by their entire online experience, not just sites in your industry.

4) Are you learning about your customers?

You already know that understanding your customer is key to success. If you aren’t using the data from your site and social media channels, you’re missing out on an important opportunity to get to know them better.

Google Analytics is a great tool for digging into your site stats. Look at where visitors are coming from, how they navigate your site, what content they read, and at what point they exit. There’s also demographic information, like age, and you can compare subgroups, like new versus returning visitors. All social media platforms include their own analytics tools as well, where you can see what content gets the most engagement, and learn more about your audience.

You can use all this information (and much more) to fine-tune your efforts, not only to serve your current customers better but also to target new ones.

5) Are you mobile-friendly?

If you’re feeling good about how your website looks on your laptop, have you tried navigating through it on your mobile phone? Anna says “clarity and simplicity are key,” and be sure to go deeper than the homepage. Follow the common path of a customer, whether that’s reading content, making a purchase, filling out a form, or watching a video.

Having a site that works optimally on any device is key — considering 72 per cent of Canadians access the internet through a mobile device. And since search engines will rank a site higher if it has a mobile version, this will also impact your ability to attract potential customers.


If you’re checking all the boxes, congratulations! If you have work to do, don’t worry — the great thing about your online presence is that it can always be improved.



For a clear look at how your website is performing — and tips on how to improve it — check out BDC’s Website Assessment Tool. Simply enter your URL, and in 90 seconds you’ll have access to a free report looking at how your site stacks up on several indicators.


Meet Rumana Monzur: Lawyer, Human Rights Activist & Domestic Violence Survivor

After Rumana Monzur was viciously attacked and blinded by her husband in her hometown of Dhaka, Bangladesh, she refused to give up. She started her career as a Lecturer in International Relations but after becoming blind, she decided to take her career in a new direction. In May 2017, Rumana obtained a law degree and went on to article at International Law Firm, DLA Piper (Canada) LLP. Currently, she is a counsel at the Department of Justice Canada in Vancouver. We caught up with her ahead of the premiere of  ‘Untying the Knot’, the first documentary feature film from director Zana Shammi, that explores Rumana’s survival and the stories of three women in Rumana’s hometown in Bangladesh.




When I was young, I wanted to be… A pilot 

My proudest accomplishment is… When I gained my daughter’s confidence back in me after becoming blind.

My boldest move to date was… Applying to law school.

My biggest setback was… My blindness.

I overcame it by… Being hopeful and staying positive.

I would tell survivors of domestic violence… Never forget how precious your life is and your life is full of possibilities. 

Watching ‘Untying the Knot’ for the first time after we filmed it … Made me emotional and reminded me of my unbelievable journey.


“I have learnt that one ray of light is enough to show us the right direction even in the darkest hours of our lives.”


After watching the documentary I want people to understand… Your Inner strength can do miracles. 

My greatest advice from a mentor was… Not to lose my “sparkly” personality

If I were to pick one thing that has helped me succeed, it would be…  A constant reminder that it is possible to transition from hopeless to hopeful in the blink of an eye. 

I surprise people when I tell them… I do my own make-up

The future excites me because… It is full of possibilities and surprises.



Untying the Knot Trailer from IN SYNC MEDIA on Vimeo.

Giving time to a charitable partner can be great for your business — here’s how to do it well

Do you see the value of charitable giving as a tax receipt? Businesses that give back through community involvement rather than just signing a cheque greatly benefit their charitable partners — and themselves. Here’s how to pick the right one, and make a positive impact.


By Monica Gomez



Charitable contributions aren’t a new thing for businesses, but more and more, the practice is moving beyond just signing a cheque. Consumers are putting pressure on businesses to take an active role in doing good — 70 per cent of Millennials report they’ll spend more on brands that support causes — and research shows that engaging with charities in the community creates employees that are loyal, teamplayers, and brand ambassadors.

At my own business, The Concierge Club, I’ve seen the bottom-line benefit: with a rapidly growing company, our charitable initiatives have been a great way to stand out and attract new clients and talent with like-minded goals. But that hasn’t been the driving factor. To me, giving back is the most rewarding part of being a business owner. I’m humbled to be in a position where I have the means to directly impact those who need support.

And I’ve consciously built my company with a philanthropic spirit, so that everyone on the team is passionate about doing their part to give back — no matter how big or small that might be. During our interview process, one of the questions I always ask potential candidates is what their favourite give back moments are.

We love getting involved in our local community, and the work we have done with Yellow Brick House has been really inspirational for myself, my team, and the women and children we’re supporting. I knew I wanted to partner with a women’s shelter and after some research online, Yellow Brick House really stood out, as they empower mothers to rebuild their lives and give them a voice after suffering years of abuse. Every day they are operating at capacity and I knew straight away that The Concierge Club could have a huge impact — after two major initiatives and a fundraising effort, I believe that we have.

So the question is, how can you build a charitable partnership that has been as rewarding as ours, for everyone involved? 

  1. Start with your passion points.

I like to engage with everyone on my team and find out what they are passionate about. When you know what would inspire them to give back, you can work towards a goal together. As a mother of two, organizations that give back to women and children have always tugged at my heartstrings, and these types of organizations also resonate with my female-run team.

Plus, as a Toronto resident and owner of a business that does a ton of work in the Toronto market, supporting local is important for us. Yellow Brick House is an Ontario-based shelter, which makes it easier for us to use our available resources to make the lives of their residents better in any way that we can.


“To me, giving back is the most rewarding part of being a business owner. I’m humbled to be in a position where I have the means to directly impact those who need support.”


  1. Focus on how your strengths can help their needs

It’s important to figure out what the organization is looking for and then determine how your business can best support them. It needs to make sense in terms of expertise and, of course, be a natural fit. Some questions we like to ask are: What are the charities objectives? What do they need most? When do they need it and how could they benefit from our services? We always want to ensure the partnership is authentic, so selecting an organization that allows us to bring an event or experience to life is very important.

In March 2018, we partnered with Women of Influence to host a day of pampering and career coaching at a luxury spa in Toronto for the women of Yellow Brick House. Included in the day was a career and resume workshop, where we sat down with each woman and outlined her goals and tangible next steps to help get her there. As part of our partnership, we launched a fundraiser with the goal of raising $5,000 to support the women and children of the shelter. I’m so proud of my team, as they were generous with not only their time to support this initiative but also with their money. After less than one week of fundraising, we surpassed our goal and ultimately raised $7,500.


  1. Think long-term, and be creative.

We like to approach partnerships on a long term basis. Rather than a one-and-done or flash-in-the-pan approach, we pride ourselves on working with organizations to make a longstanding and consistent impact. Everyone at The Concierge Club was honoured to be working with Yellow Brick House for our second major initiative this year.

We did something a little different that could be enjoyed by all the residents and volunteers at Yellow Brick House. We completely renovated and freshened up parts of the shelter, making it a comfortable place for the women and children to gather together and enjoy some R&R. We refurbished the floors and some of the existing furniture, as well as purchased some new furniture and blinds for the windows and a fresh coat of paint, to brighten up the room.

Sometimes it can be hard to make time in a busy day for charity work, but the drive and passion the team has shown for Yellow Brick House is so heartwarming. We were all so thrilled at the end of our projects, that we can’t wait to get started on another.



Meet Annalie Bonda: From Fashion Entrepreneur to Executive Director of non-profit organization, The Remix Project

After going to fashion school, Annalie Bonda followed the usual path of working in the fashion industry, and then went on to own and run a successful wholesale fashion sales agency. However, shortly after giving birth to her second child, she decided to take her career in a new and more fulfilling direction — the non-profit sector. Annalie is now the Executive Director of The Remix Project, a globally respected organization, that gives children from disadvantaged areas access to free educational programs that help them build their natural talents. We sat down with Annalie to find out about her professional journey and to discuss how she is helping to change lives, one young person at a time.




My first job was… Sales Account Manager for Softchoice Corporation. It was a great company that taught me scale and reach of international brands; although, I didn’t have much of a tech background so I moved back into the field that I studied not long after that. My first job was a sub-rep for a sales agent representation streetwear and skateboard clothing brands.

My proudest accomplishment is… The beautiful family my partner Olivier and I have together. He and my children support me in ways I didn’t believe I deserve. My career is thriving because of that support and love.

My boldest move to date was… Leaving my own business (wholesale fashion sales agency) to motherhood then swiftly into non-profit/charity work 7 weeks after my 2nd born.

I applied for my role at The REMIX Project because… Remix was already family to me as a volunteer mentor and instructor for years before. I was already looking into going back to school for non-profit management when the opportunity came forward. What better way to learn than to dive right in. Remix is an incredibly impactful organization and it was an honour to just be considered for the role.

The most fulfilling thing about the work I do is… Seeing the youth reach their goals one hard-earned effort at a time.

The most challenging thing about my job is… The organization is small, so I have to wear multiple hats daily. Those hats have a lot of weight to them ultimately all big and small decisions are in my hands. From crisis management, program directing, financial management, social work even and everything in between; juggling those responsibilities along with maintaining a healthy family and personal life is quite the challenge.

I would tell my 19-year-old self … Learn what you are good at, hustle to be the best at it. Have patience, honesty, humility and accomplishments will come.

If I had five extra hours a day I would spend it… Playing with my children and also SLEEPING.


“Learn what you are good at, hustle to be the best at it. Have patience, honesty, humility and accomplishments will come.”


My greatest advice from a mentor was… Do the work. Take every opportunity as a learning opportunity, good or bad.

My biggest setback was… Paying back student loans. Instead of getting an internship while I was in fashion school, I had to get a job to pay living expenses and school. The system doesn’t make it easy for young adults to thrive into careers. My family struggled through finances my entire life. I was not given a good example of financial education. The stress of not having anyone to lean on to bail me out of financial troubles gave me the perseverance to make do anyway.

I overcame it by… Working and being resourceful. Continuing to prove myself through hard efforts, always being available and able to take on new opportunities. I had no choice, I had to push through.

I surprise people when I tell them… I was born in Tripoli, Lybia to Filipino parents and raised in the Alberta prairies.

The future excites me because… This generation has access to resources and opportunity way beyond things I had on my come up. Every day at Remix I’m learning something new: a route faster, an app smarter, design innovation, etc. The world’s resources are literally at our fingers tips. By encouraging and supporting youth and their dreams; our daily realities will become more and more enriched through these accessible resources.


How Catherine Bell created The Awakened Company — and three tips for ‘awakening’ your own business

After completing an Executive MBA from Smith School of Business, while working full time and making partner at an executive search firm, Catherine Bell knew she had the capacity for a big undertaking. It would take a few more years of experience, but she eventually launched The Awakened Company — a management consulting firm that helps companies focus on the individual, engagement and culture in order to improve the bottom line. “Companies focus on financial metrics, and we need to also be measuring culture,” she says. We asked Catherine how her journey unfolded, and how other organizations can start the process of ‘awakening.’


By Hailey Eisen



Catherine Bell spent most of her childhood moving from city to city across Canada. It was challenging, but she attributes much of her personal development and success to it. It was through the challenge that she grew.  

“Always finding myself in new situations, new schools, with new people was not easy — but it has served me well as an adult,” says the founder of The Awakened Company, a global management consulting firm focused on igniting interpersonal and cultural transformation within organizations, and the author of a book by the same name.

Being prepared to handle change — even embracing it — turned out to be a superb life skill for Catherine to acquire at a young age, given both the academic and career path she would embark on later.

Catherine began her undergraduate education in Waterloo studying science. Partway through, she changed both her degree and university, and eventually graduated from Western University with a Bachelor of Social Science in sociology. Having lived nearly everywhere from Montreal to Vancouver, Catherine chose Calgary to settle after university, first working in market research and then switching to executive search. “In 1998 when I got that job, no one was hiring,” she recalls. “But they took a chance on me, and I decided then and there that I would make partner before I was 30.”

It was around this time that Catherine began thinking about furthering her education. “I needed a broader perspective; I wanted to understand financial statements and taxes,” she says, of her decision to find an MBA program that would provide her with such skills. In her mind, an MBA would equip her with a problem-solving toolkit.

“At the time, Queen’s had a two-year Executive MBA that I could do in Calgary, and I especially liked their team approach to learning,” she recalls. In 2000, Catherine began her studies at Smith School of Business while working full time and — just as she had set out to do — made partner at her firm that same year, at age 29.  After her experience as an entrepreneur she joined one of the largest international executive search firms to get a broader perspective.

By 2008, Catherine felt she had enough career experience under her belt to start her own boutique consulting and executive search firm, which she called BluEra. Along with her co-founder, she decided to focus the business on building awakened and evolved teams, using mindfulness as a business tool, and shifting the focus from “me” to “we.”


“When happiness is up and engagement is up, turnover is down and companies profit as a result.”


“From everything I’d learned, I knew there was a different way to do business, a way to build companies that focused on the individual, relationships, and team culture.” BluEra grew from a small startup to being ranked on the PROFIT 500 ranking of Canada’s Fastest-Growing Companies.

Starting a business with two small children was a challenge. “The EMBA experience was definitely capacity building,” she says. “Knowing I could work full time, make partner and complete my degree made me realize I could do anything.” She believes most people, when they set their minds to something, can achieve it.  

Catherine’s passion for a new way of doing business evolved naturally into a book project — The Awakened Company. It was an opportunity to share her learning and perspectives with a broader audience. “It took me seven years to write my book, but along with my two brilliant collaborators, I interviewed more than 20 world-renowned business leaders in the process,” she recalls. “I really had to throw caution to the wind when reaching out to these individuals to ask them to contribute to the book. It was an invitation to let go of fear, to up my game and to step into vulnerability.” The book merges practical know-how, wisdom traditions and business research.  

One of the book’s contributors was Julian Barling, a Professor of Organizational Behaviour at Smith School of Business, an expert in transformational leadership and one of Catherine’s professors during her EMBA. “I’ve used Julian’s framework for leadership time and again, in my coaching and consulting and in my own leadership,” she says.

Finding a publisher proved to be another challenge and another opportunity to strengthen her perseverance. “I specifically wanted Namaste Publishing — the publisher of Eckhart Tolle’s books — but because they hadn’t published anything like this before, they said no many times before they finally said yes.”

With a book under her belt and BluEra thriving, Catherine was just about ready for the next challenge. When the opportunity came to sell BluEra and move on, Catherine decided to focus all of her attention on The Awakened Company, the management consulting firm she’d been growing on the side, based on the contents of her book.   

“These days I’m taking the learnings I had from building BluEra and sharing them with other CEOs,” she says. The Awakened Company now has a team of six coaches working to move organizations toward an “awakened” approach — valuing culture, happiness, social good and service over profitability and the bottom line. Catherine believes culture builds profitability and her focus is on measuring culture.  

“The outcomes we notice, when we see and think about things differently, is a dramatic increase in profitability,” says Catherine. “When happiness is up and engagement is up, turnover is down and companies profit as a result.”

How can your own organization start on the path to becoming an awakened company? Catherine explains there are three keys to awakening well-being in an organization:

  1. Practice self-care

At the root of self-care is your relationship and connection to your awakened self. Once you are in touch with your inner compass and aim, you can make positive decisions toward the world you want to create.

  • Develop your self-awareness. This includes knowing your gifts, your work-ons, and how to silence your inner critic (that voice in your head can take up way too much space and time).
  • Celebrate the things you have accomplished in a journal, or with a colleague or friend over lunch.
  • Develop a centring or mindfulness practice. Your presence is your power. And the power of the pause cultivates better leadership.
  1. Establish genuine relationships

While relationships play a significant role in employee satisfaction and productivity, they aren’t always valued enough within organizations. There are many ways for leaders to cultivate the ability to go deep and establish genuine connections.

  • Make time to have one-on-one meetings.
  • Use ‘I’ language and speak from your three centres: I am feeling, I am thinking, I am doing, and my request for action from you is…
  • Listen. Listen. Listen. Write down the exact words the person is saying, or repeat what the person has said in your head.
  1. Collectively create a healthy culture

Research shows that organizations that focus both on cultural and financial metrics perform best — but many continue to only measure their bottom line. There are a number of actions that can be taken to improve the health of an organization’s culture.  

  • Develop a clear sense of where the organization is headed; a unified vision that informs meaning in people, in relationships, in transactions, in the choice of suppliers, in choosing employees, in social media strategy — in everything.
  • Develop a clear understanding of the organization’s values, with policies that reflect it.
  • Develop cultural metrics, like turnover and satisfaction, that are measured quarterly and reported.


Unlike other executive MBA programs that draw their students from a single city, Smith’s Executive MBA is a national program that draws participants from every region in Canada, creating a broader perspective in the classroom and a powerful alumni network that spans the country. Learn more here.


Meet Hana James: Co-founder & Director of Community at Greenhouse Juice Co.

After completing a BSc at McGill University, Hana James was en route to medical school when she decided to explore another passion: helping people improve their health through food. In 2011, she founded Café Shu, a juice bar and healthy café with two locations in Toronto. Fast forward to today and Hana is now a co-founder of Greenhouse Juice Co., its Director of Community, and a co-author of The Greenhouse Cookbook, a national bestseller. We caught up with Hana ahead of our exciting Evening Series Finale taking place in Toronto June 13th where will be joining some of Canada’s leading entrepreneurs to share their trade secrets.



My first job was… dog walking. I went to a computer camp one summer when I was 7 years old. We had to make a flyer, and I decided mine would be for dog walking. I then persuaded my Dad to accompany me on my dog walks.

My proudest accomplishment is… my current life situation; I’m able to do something I love and truly believe in, but also have time for all the important people in my life.

My boldest move to date was… putting myself first by giving up medical school to become an entrepreneur.

I became an entrepreneur because… I wanted my day-to-day to be something I’m passionate about. I wanted to create something for my community and myself.

My favourite product in our range isThe Good.  

The most challenging part of my day to day routine is… fitting everything in! There is always a lot to do, and it can be far too easy to get bogged down with the little things. So, I try to take the time each morning to select my priorities for the day and make those my focus.

I would tell my 21-year-old self… to be bold. Speak up for what you believe in and don’t back down from a debate!


“I always strive to be better and believe there is always room for self-improvement and growth. This keeps me motivated.”


My biggest setback was… realizing my plan was not what I actually wanted deep down. It was a shocking realization.

I overcame it by… taking the time I needed to make a new plan. I had to take a step back and make a conscious decision about what it was that I actually wanted to do, and not worry about what I thought I should be doing.

My greatest advice from a mentor was to ask for help; to utilize the resources around me, and not be scared of looking “weak” because I don’t know the answer.

To me, Wellness is…balance.

If I were to pick one thing that has helped me succeed, it would be… my family and support system.

If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… that I was a big tomboy. I made my Dad buy me a (goalie) hockey stick when I was in grade two so I could play with the boys!

I stay inspired by… continuing to be curious. I always strive to be better and believe there is always room for self-improvement and growth. This keeps me motivated.

The future excites me because… there is so much opportunity; both for me personally and in my professional life.

My next step is… to continue to work towards Greenhouse’s mission: to offer widespread, sustainable access to plant-based nutrition and wellness of the highest quality. And I’m getting married in January!


Hear the rest of her incredible story at Building a Brand: How Three Top Lifestyle Entrepreneurs Scaled for Success. Join us on June 13th, along with BDC and Cisco, to tap into the trade secrets of three of Canada’s savviest lifestyle entrepreneurs who rose to the top of their respective markets by launching a compelling idea into a brilliant brand that resonates. Find out how they did it and the secrets to scaling for success. Tickets are available here.

Eight books that will help you find your voice

Your road to success starts with fierce confidence and the courage to push boundaries. Here are eight influential books that will provide you with the tools you need to find your voice, unleash your rage, and dominate your profession.  


By Kaitlyn Warias






Myth of the Nice Girl
by Fran Hauser

A long-time media executive and start-up advisor, Fran Houser dissects the stereotypical notions of what a powerful leader should look like in Myth of the Nice Girl. Her focus is on cultivating confidence and authenticity in the business world whilst breaking the outdated ultimatum of being nice versus being a bitch that most professional women are given. Hauser uses her business expertise and success strategies to stress the importance for women to reclaim their “niceness” in a way that sheds degenerating stereotypes and promotes strength and leadership. Myth of the Nice Girl shows us that we don’t have to choose between being nice and having it all.


Road Map for Revolutionaries 
by Carolyn Gerin, Elisa Camahort Page, and Jamia Wilson

A guide to empowerment in a world that perpetually limits women, Road Map for Revolutionaries provides readers with an active plan to achieve professional success. Written by three influential feminists who lead in their respective fields, this book encourages activism while providing the necessary tools for change that you want to see and feel around you. Quick and to the point, it uses personal anecdotes from its authors in addition to powerful interviews from some of the most influential women in the world, including the founder of Black Lives Matter, to ultimately encourage us to challenge our greatest frustrations.




Fed Up
Gemma Hartley

As a passionate journalist who sparked a national conversation on emotional labour, Gemma Hartley centers on the critical problem of undervaluing the work of women in this sharp read. Emotional labour is the invisible job handed down to women, with the expectation that it is our job to manage and micromanage so that the needs of those around us are always taken care of. But what about us? In Fed Up, Hartley gives personal examples from her everyday life and discusses how emotional labour has followed women from the home to the workplace, limiting our opportunities and fueling the gender divide. Raw and sincere, Hartley shares the results of her personal attempts at finding a balance between home and work, and tells us “It’s OK to want more”.

Rage Becomes Her
by Soraya Chemaly

Soraya Chemaly, a prominent author and feminist activist, calls attention to the common pressures women face in a sexist society in her powerful polemic, Rage Becomes Her. She discusses the ways in which women are socialized to become meek and quiet, suppressing any anger or frustrations they may feel. Rage Becomes Her is all about shining a spotlight on the most powerful tool women have in their arsenal; anger. Directed at the 21st-century professional woman, this read will give you all the motivation you need to harness power through rage and effect real change.

Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpowers 
by Brittney C. Cooper

Written with humour and conviction, Brittney Cooper’s Eloquent Rage, teaches us that the all too familiar stereotype of the “angry black woman” needs a second look. Copper explores the ways racism, sexism and classism intersect, creating disadvantages and hardship. She adds that feminism and accountability can begin undoing some of that damage. In this collection of personal essays, she shows that a woman’s rage is legitimate and powerful and because of this, we have a higher level of responsibility around how we build it. Eloquent Rage suggests some important ways in which women and feminism must evolve for the betterment of society as a whole. Rage is where power stems and Cooper reminds us that we should not have to settle for anything less than what we truly want.

Good and Mad 
by Rebecca Traister

A columnist for New York magazine, Rebecca Traister highlights the cultural significance of “female fury” in her successful polemic Good and Mad. Women have concealed their anger for far too long because an angry woman has never been justified. If a woman is angry she is viewed as irrational and out of control, but, Traister shows us that this is changing (and that’s a good thing). From the suffragette movement to #MeToo, there is incredible power in letting our anger and frustrations show. This book ultimately demonstrates how important the collective force of female anger can be when it is recognized and harnessed in a thoughtful way. Filled with interviews with activists and politicians, Good and Mad is exactly what you need to feel empowered and conquer your role in the workplace.

Make Trouble
by Cecile Richards

Witnessing her mother transform from housewife to captivating governor and as the former president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Cecile Richards knows a thing or two about what it takes to be a woman in power. Facing constant sexism, misogyny and threats of violence, Richards shares her experiences of what it feels like to challenge authority and find your voice in a world that just wants to shut you up. She offers stellar advice for the modern business woman with chapters dedicated to pushing your boundaries, gaining more confidence, and saying yes to every opportunity. This book encourages us to take risks and Make Trouble because the payoff is totally worthwhile.

Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman 
by Anne Helen Petersen

Our culture claims to celebrate women and advocate for equality but too often, socially and politically, it does the opposite. Women are judged and policed under the cultural assumption of how one should go about being a woman. In Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud, Anne Helen Petersen, a writer who specializes in culture, celebrity and feminism, commends women who are boldly unruly. Highly successful women such as Serena Williams and Madonna point to the importance of pursuing what you want to do even when society fights back. The women discussed in Too Fat, Too Slutty, represent a set of regressive cultural expectations that are rightfully being ignored. This book teaches us that the most powerful, successful woman today is the one who is unruly; the one who refuses to shut up.


Meet Sara Cabrera – Aragon and Idalina Leandro: Co-founders of Her Film Company

Sara Cabrera – Aragon (right) and Idalina Leandro (left) are the co-founders of a majority-women film production company, Her Film Company, based in Toronto, Ontario. Their objective is to empower female filmmakers and to create a company were women take priority in key creative roles. Their films are made for everyone, with a focus on female social and political issues worldwide. We caught up with Idalina and Sara to discuss their professional journey’s and to hear more about their current project, An Open Conversation, a documentary exploring the emotional reality that women face when they miscarry. 




My first job was…

SaraMy first job in film was as a PA.

Idalina – My first job in film was acting in a docu-drama filmed in France called ‘Tenerife’.

My proudest accomplishment is…

SHaving edited a documentary that helps give a platform to voices of change.

I – My daughter.

My boldest move to date was…

SLeaving a stable job where I was unhappy for contract work that I believed in.

I – Making a documentary about pregnancy and infant loss.

I got into the film production industry because…

SI want to help create a space for women’s stories.

II wanted to be an actress since I was about 11 years old

The most exciting project I am working on at the moment is…

SA documentary about women’s health, a subject that often does not get a lot of attention. I am getting to meet some amazing women both in front of and behind the lens.

I – A documentary about miscarriage called ‘An Open Conversation’ and meeting incredibly brave and strong women who have the courage to talk about it and to change the stigma that surrounds that subject.

My greatest advice from a mentor was…

STo go after things even if you are scared (especially if you are scared).

I – I never had a mentor.


“We still have a long way to go, but it does feel like people are starting to look around and see that there needs to be changed in the balance of representation, not just in media but in society as well.”


My biggest setback was…

SNot believing in myself.

I – Negative self-talk

I overcame it by…

SIt is still a struggle, but something I work on every day.

ITrying to do things that scare me and put me out of my comfort zone.

If I were to pick one thing that has helped me succeed, it would be…

SFinding other like-minded people in the industry and forming valuable friendships.

ITrying to be a role model for my daughter.

I surprise people when I tell them…

SI’m Mexican. I’m not sure why.

IHow much I have travelled and where I have travelled.

I stay inspired by…

SLooking at the kick-ass women around me, doing amazing things every day.

ISurrounding myself with positive people and amazing inspiring women!

The future excites me because…

SThings are changing, slowly but they are changing. You are starting to see more stories that reflect real women on screen and a lot of that is because there are more women getting opportunities to create those stories. We still have a long way to go, but it does feel like people are starting to look around and see that there needs to be changed in the balance of representation, not just in media but in society as well.

I – Because the future is female and women are finally able to rise up and have their voices heard!

My next step is…

S – Idalina and I are still working on producing a documentary with women in key creative roles and hopefully from there we will gain enough momentum to create more projects.

I – To finish production on ‘An Open Conversation’ and to make films that have more women in key creative roles.


A deeper look at the design of everyday men — and what it means for women’s equality

Deloitte recently released a report — The design of everyday men — that investigates men’s experiences with work, family, and masculinity. Co-author Eric Arthrell explains how his personal experience of becoming a father inspired the study, and why taking a closer look at men’s success is an opportunity for gender equality.



By Hailey Eisen



The first line of experience on Eric Arthrell’s LinkedIn profile reads “Caregiver, Supporter, and Household Manager.” A quick scroll through the 31-year-old’s profile reveals that Eric is also a highly accomplished strategy consultant and a manager with Doblin, a global innovation firm out of Deloitte.

Currently on a seven-month paternity leave with his 14-month-old daughter, Eric is balancing the release of a report he recently co-authored with a team at Deloitte Insights with diaper changes, grocery shopping, and story time at his local library.

He’s proudly touting his paternity leave in hopes of setting an example for other young men. “There is an alternative for how you choose to show up at work and for your family — and that alternative can create more space for women to succeed,” says Eric (during a phone interview he strategically scheduled around his daughter’s naptime).

The Deloitte report, The design of everyday men, was published in early April and looks at “traditional masculinity” in order to better understand the individual and organizational reasons why companies still struggle with gender equality. It reframes the conversation, from trying to help underrepresented groups fit into the status quo, to investigating how this status quo is negatively affecting those who typically benefit from it.

How does this help women? As men begin to redefine their roles and take on more duties outside of work, women are no longer left to pick up the slack on household and other non-work responsibilities, which has traditionally been a disadvantage to their own career — especially with today’s “always on, always available” expectations. As men take more paternity leave, for example, the evidence shows a decrease in the wage gap, as well as women being more likely to stay employed full-time and earn senior leadership positions on boards.


“Gender roles are changing and men have the opportunity to find something different for themselves.”


For organizations, this shift means more gender equality in the workplace, greater competitiveness in today’s diverse marketplace, and more satisfied employees — both women and men.

“What I recognized — in thinking about my own involvement in my daughter’s upbringing and in writing this report — is that we have the opportunity to redefine what it means for a man to have a meaningful and happy life,” Eric explains. “While it used to be that being a strong earner and the head of the house was what mattered, gender roles are changing and men have the opportunity to find something different for themselves.”

The impetus for all this began for Eric when he and his wife Erin, an award-winning brand strategist, began talking about having a family. “I remember specifically trying to understand what fatherhood would look like for me if I wanted to support my wife and her career and have an equal role as a caregiver.”

Not finding many male role models who were balancing career success and active parental responsibilities, and finding that paternity leave policies differed greatly from maternity leave policies, Eric decided to have some conversations with senior leaders both within Deloitte and elsewhere. “What I found in those two-dozen coffee chats, was that many of the senior male leaders I spoke with said they wished they could have played a more active role at home but hadn’t seen an opportunity to do so while being a breadwinner.”

These informal conversations gave birth to the idea for the report, which would try to make sense of the biases in place around masculinity and the workplace, and what shifts needed to take place to enable men to approach gender equality not just as allies but as active participants.

“I think of an ally as someone who will mentor and champion, and empower another based on her ability to do an awesome job,” Eric says. “But as active participants we can take that one step further by righting the wrongs that have existed for some time, redefining what’s important in our own lives, and changing how we show up personally and professionally.”

Opportunities to support campaigns such as the 30% Club Canada and organizations focused on making real change in gender balance is just one example of active participation. Other examples are outlined in the report, which Eric believes will be the starting point for many important conversations around change.   

Based on an ethnographic study of 16 professional men in and around the GTA, the study looks at men’s relationship to work, home, and masculinity. Based on its findings, the report provides three “calls for action” which business leaders can incorporate in order to set an example for other men within their organizations. These include recognizing the reasons for gender inequality in the workplace, shifting behaviours and practices to lead in a more mindful way, and breaking down barriers to change.

As Eric was finishing the report, he was also preparing for his own paternity leave — taking over for his wife who had spent the past 12 months at home with their daughter. “There is a world where I could have decided that instead of sharing the parenting responsibilities, I’d put my head down, work really hard, get promoted much earlier, take on more and more work, and continue to move up as fast as possible,” Eric says. But making a different choice, one which involved being available to support his wife even before he went on leave, has separated him from the “always on, always available” mentality which the report indicates as a success criterion contributing to gender inequality.

As the report states: “Individuals often prioritize work over family, personal commitments, and well-being to rise to the top, and men may be more predisposed to making this trade-off at the expense of their outside-of-work commitments. Women then wind up picking up the slack on household and other non-work responsibilities, thereby disadvantaging themselves by becoming unable to adhere to the ‘always on, always available’ expectation as easily.”

According to Eric, this isn’t benefiting anyone. “There is literally reams of research dating back to the early 1900s that over-work without scheduled time off leads to poor business outcomes, productivity, employee satisfaction, and retention,” he says. “So, one of the ways workplaces can support men in showing up differently is to reward productivity, skills, and competencies as opposed to recognizing and rewarding only those who are always on and always working.”

What’s required to make this a reality is a shift in the status quo says Jake Stika, co-founder and executive director of Next Gen Men, a nonprofit organization that aims to engage men and boys in conversations around gender. “We need to transform the status quo of what we value in workplaces,” he says. “I would argue that valuing someone who is available all the time, who neglects other relationships for work, who dominates conversations and doesn’t allow all ideas to be heard, is not beneficial to the individual or the organization in the long run.”

The national nonprofit is focused on building better men through peer engagement, education, and empowerment — including a workplace initiative, Equity Leaders. Despite doing this work, the themes of the report hit close to home. He notes it’s not ‘those guys’ that need intervention — it affects all of us because it’s the culture we are steeped in.

“As a founder, I constantly feel it’s on me, and struggle to ask for help,” says Jake, a nod to two of the four “themes of masculinity” extracted from the Deloitte study. The themes — which encompass men putting pressure on themselves to handle responsibilities on their own, being afraid of failure, having difficulty turning to anyone for support, and looking to leaders and peers to determine what behaviours are acceptable — seem to be keeping professional men tied to traditional gender roles and holding them back from evolving.


“Valuing someone who is available all the time, who neglects other relationships for work, who dominates conversations and doesn’t allow all ideas to be heard, is not beneficial to the individual or the organization in the long run.”


“I try to show others it’s OK,” says Jake. “I do this by talking about my mental health struggles, I do this by taking public, intentional, and explicit leave for eldercare — I even set my out-of-office to let others know why I’m slow to respond. If I can’t do this for myself, how am I to make it ok for others?” Coincidentally, at the time of this interview, Jake’s out-of-office indicated he was “giving care and taking care,” spending two weeks in Prague caring for his elderly grandmother before taking a week in Spain to take care of himself.

Jake’s lead-by-example approach aims to support a shift from ‘restricted masculinity’ toward what he calls ‘positive masculinities’ or moving from what men should be to what men could be. “We all generally embody restricted masculinity to some extent, or at least we can all name or relate to the boxed-in ideal — strong, stoic, dominant, etc. — of what it means to be a man that still persists in society,” Jake says. “Breaking free of that leaves so many possibilities of how to be in the world.”

As for translating this to the workplace status quo, Jake says many of the organizations Next Gen Men is working with have asked, ‘how do we get more men involved?’ This is where, he says, the Deloitte report is going to prove beneficial. “There is a lot more buy-in to the idea of engaging men when a global leader like Deloitte has put the work in to prove the need to do so. It may feel counterintuitive to invest in engaging those who generally benefit the most from the status quo — but this research shows that the status quo isn’t working for them either, and they are often feeling left behind amidst all the other changes organizations are making to boost diversity and inclusion.”

With young men like Jake and Eric stepping into the new definition of masculinity — and doing so publicly — the opportunity for change becomes more feasible for others.  And this, as the Deloitte report finds, means that more women “win” in the workplace.

“Ultimately, that’s my goal,” says Eric, “to set an example for other men, by taking paternity leave and speaking and presenting about the report. I’m redefining what I find to be important in my life, reprioritizing, and, as a result, getting the best outcomes for my family, giving my wife an equal opportunity to succeed and stepping up as a role model for my daughter.”


What is the role of men in gender equality? Over the next year, the 30% Club Canada and Women of Influence are partnering to explore this question. We’ll be sharing the stories of allies — men who are pushing for gender equality in the workplace, or making it happen in their own business. These Champions of Change can act as visible role models, inspiring and guiding other men to follow in their footsteps. If we’re going to level the playing field, we need men to be engaged.


How Scotiabank supported Tamara Hansen’s gender transition — and she became a role model for others on the same journey


Tamara Hansen had been working at Scotiabank for over 30 years when she made the choice to come out as transgender and publicly transition. She wasn’t sure what to expect from the process — and was pleasantly surprised by the overwhelming support she received from the bank and her coworkers. Now, she’s speaking out about her own experience to help others on a transition journey.


By Shelley White


Tamara Hansen’s decision to come out publicly as transgender did not come without trepidation.

“When I decided to do this, I was petrified,” says the 60-year-old delivery manager specialist at Scotiabank in Toronto. Tamara had lived “in the closet” for most of her life and had begun her journey of transitioning privately.

“Transitioning is a long, drawn-out process over many years. It’s very expensive, there are all sorts of health implications that may or may not arise, and at the end of it there’s no guarantee that you’re going to have the results that you had hoped for,” she says. “I chose to go as far as I could before I made this public so that I had the opportunity to back away without causing any negative impact in my career or with my family life.”

That all changed in 2018. Tamara says she had “tested the waters” with some of her friends to gauge their reactions. “By the time that I had opened up to about six or seven, it was quite clear that everybody was very supportive of this,” she says.

But she had no idea how her workmates would react. Tamara had been working at Scotiabank for over 30 years in a variety of roles, and she was familiar with Scotiabank’s policies surrounding LGBT+ employees. She knew they were strongly inclusive and supportive, which gave her the confidence to reach out to her vice-president at Scotiabank and human resources (HR) about her intentions to come out.

“Going into this, I fully expected that I would be stick-handling it and I’d have to justify what I was doing every step of the way. But HR and the workplace accommodations team stepped in and they drew up a plan,” she says. “From that point forward, it happened very quickly.”

Once Tamara agreed to the plan and the timeline, HR got in touch with Morneau Sheppel, the human resources services company that implements Scotiabank’s employee assistance program.

Morneau Sheppel put together formal group training sessions which would be conducted for Tamara’s entire division, about 250 people. “It was totally unexpected,” Tamara says. “It felt to me like everybody just bent over backwards, whether it was management or workplace accommodations.”

Tamara had decided to take a week off to get herself mentally ready, and the training sessions took place on a Friday before she returned. Tamara says it soon became clear that the training sessions, and the news about her transition, had caught everyone by surprise. “By about 11:00 am, I started getting emails,” she says.


“First, you’re not alone, and secondly, trust your friends and co-workers and family. Although it’s not something that’s talked about day in and day out, we’ve come a long way as a society. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the reactions.”


The following Monday morning, she walked through the door of her workplace for the first time as Tamara.

“It was 100 per cent acceptance,” she says. “It was, and still is, very emotional, but on a very positive note.”

HR also put Tamara in touch with other transgender employees, something she said was very helpful.

“Being hooked up with somebody who’s gone through this, that was huge,” she says. “You get to have their perspective on it — what worked, what didn’t work, what to look out for. Just having somebody to talk to, it creates a positive guiding light.”

Tamara says that being able to live openly as her true self has changed her life.

“I have never been happier than I am now,” she says. “You go through life and you’re conditioned to believe that this is the way that life is. You think you’re happy. You think you’re doing good. And then all of a sudden this happens, and the joy is just overwhelming.”

Tamara says that although she does get “stares” when she is out in public occasionally, she considers herself very lucky because she hasn’t experienced any abuse or harassment. And now she feels it’s important to speak up about her experience. She wants to be part of a positive narrative about transitioning, a motivating story to help guide people — especially older people — in their own journeys.

“Trans people who have been suffering their entire life in a secret closet, living a dual existence, they need something to hold on to, to help them be their authentic selves,” she says. “I’ve got an opportunity to spread the word — be a model, if you like, of how it can be.”

As this year’s Pride celebrations approach, Tamara says she’s looking forward to the festivities in a different way than in years past. Pride Month happens in Toronto between June 1 and July 1, culminating in three days of parades and celebrations on June 21st to 23rd. It’s one of Canada’s largest arts and cultural festivals, with an annual attendance of over 1.6 million people.

For years, I considered myself as being part of the LGBT+ Community, but I kept myself presenting male in public until I was ready to come out. So I shied away from attending Pride events and being part of the celebrations,” she says. “This year is going to be exciting.”

Although Tamara says she recognizes that LGBT+ people still face barriers in Canada and abroad, she has a message for others who might be on their own transition journey:

“First, you’re not alone,” she says. “And secondly, trust your friends and co-workers and family. Although it’s not something that’s talked about day in and day out, we’ve come a long way as a society. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the reactions.”


The CFO of Cambridge Group of Clubs immigrated to Canada with a high school education — here’s how she built a career

When Karen Malone moved to Canada from Ireland in 1989, she had a high school diploma. But the CFO of Cambridge Group of Clubs also had grit, determination, and a desire to learn. She continued adding to her education and experience (and her exercise routine) to get her to where she is today. Here’s what she learned.


By Hailey Eisen




“I’ve always had the attitude that I could do whatever I set my mind to,” says Karen Malone, the CFO of Cambridge Group of Clubs — a Toronto-based collection of high-end health and fitness clubs, dining environments, health clinics, and workplace wellness programs.

She’s held the position for seven years, but her unconventional path to the C-suite of one of Canada’s most prestigious fitness brands actually started 30 years ago, when she travelled across the ocean in search of a new adventure.

In 1989, Karen left Ireland with her husband and came to Canada. Having decided not to go to university, much to her parents’ chagrin, she fell into an administration job with a family run environmental engineering company. In this role, Karen was asked to do basic accounting, which she had no experience in, so she went to Seneca College and took some courses.

“I’m always pushing myself, I don’t ever sit back and think I’m going to make life easy or comfortable,” she says. “I’ve always stuck my neck out, experienced discomfort, and continuously pushed myself forward.”

From that first admin role, Karen took a job with a fitness chain and fell in love with the industry. “We had this female Controller back then who really took me under her wing, gave me a lot of encouragement, and helped me think outside the box,” Karen recalls. “It was then that I started taking accounting courses.”  

“I’m always pushing myself, I don’t ever sit back and think I’m going to make life easy or comfortable. I’ve always stuck my neck out, experienced discomfort, and continuously pushed myself forward.”

Over the next 10 years — with breaks in between when she was in more demanding roles professionally — Karen completed all the courses needed to earn her CGA (Certified General Accountant) designation. “I would work all day and then come home, sit at the computer, and work on my assignments for school,” she recalls. “I gave up a lot during those years, but I also loved what I was working toward.”In her career, Karen transitioned from fitness to the financial industry and then back into fitness, all the while growing her professional expertise. She was working at the Financial Planning Standards Council (now FP Canada) in 2011 when she got word from someone in her network that Clive Caldwell, President and CEO of Cambridge Group of Clubs, was looking for a CFO. “When I met Clive I remember thinking, I want to work with this man,” Karen recalls. “I love the environment here, we get down to business but also have so much fun.”

As CFO, Karen says she has the opportunity to combine accounting (which tends to be very black and white) with the diversity of people management, which she’s become really passionate about. “I never in a million years would have thought of myself as becoming an accountant,” she says. But after falling into it, she’s now found a role that blends her skills and interests. “With IT, HR, and accounting reporting into me, there’s never a dull moment,” she says. “I’m interested in people and spend a lot of time talking to our staff, finding out what their goals are, and helping them wherever I can.”

Committed to being as honest and open as possible, Karen offers constructive feedback in a way that helps people and leaves nothing hanging in the air. She’s always encouraged others to do the same for her. “The best advice I can offer anyone looking to advance their career is to remember that feedback is a gift.”

When it comes to the best advice she’s been given, Karen says it came from a member of the Adelaide Club, where she now works out daily.

“When I started working here, I got an email from the HR manager saying that she was trying to fill up appointments for me and she wanted to know what time of the day I schedule in my workouts,” Karen recalls. “I was coming to work in the morning, working all day, and getting up and going home when I was done — I wasn’t working out, I never really had.”

With exercise being a huge part of the culture at the Cambridge Group of Clubs, Karen started going to the gym before work in the morning. “But my workouts were spotty,” she recalls. “A member of the club saw that I would come in occasionally but wasn’t sticking to it, and so she challenged me to 21 days.”

That challenge changed Karen’s workout routine permanently. After three weeks she was hooked and to this day she holds sacred her morning workout. “It’s absolutely amazing, I feel fitter, better about myself, and I have more energy than I’ve ever had,” she says. “I challenge other women to do what I did, to commit to daily exercise, no matter what that looks like for you, because it really is life changing.”


Since its inception in 1973, the Cambridge Group of Clubs has developed a lifestyle brand that represents innovation, quality, market leadership and a passionate pursuit of the ultimate member experience. For more information, please visit the Adelaide Club and the Toronto Athletic Club. Dedicated to perfecting the club experience through continuous improvement and the highest standards of service and knowledge, the Cambridge Group of Clubs serves membership to leaders, executives and professionals. Discover our elevated club experience by following the Toronto Athletic Club and Adelaide Club on Instagram.


Meet Lauryn Vaughn: Founder of Canada’s largest online luxury consignment retailer

With a career in fashion that has taken her to Paris and back, Lauryn Vaughn has an impeccable eye for detail and a passion for the transformative impact of premium apparel. She founded The Upside in 2015 after discovering a niche in the country’s e-commerce market for luxury resale fashion minus the prohibitive costs of U.S. shipping and duty. Under her leadership, The Upside has grown to be Canada’s largest online luxury consignment retailer, attracting 400-plus new members a month. With a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Calgary, Lauryn is proud to combine her passion for style and business in running The Upside and lending her expertise to some of Canada’s top fashion influencers. Throughout her success, Lauryn remains dedicated to putting exceptional quality, authentically unique, and gently-loved apparel at her client’s fingertips so they can breathe new life into their wardrobes one piece at a time. 




My first job ever was… Serving beef on a bun at the Calgary Stampede when I was 12-years-old!

I chose my career path because… My career path chose me! I was interning with Paul Hardy throughout university and when I graduated, I bought a one-way ticket to Paris. I went to Paris to try to find work in Communications for a winery…my only setback was my French was horrible! Living in Paris “on a budget” (a.k.a. broke) taught me how to look chic on a budget.  

My proudest accomplishment is… Being Stella’s mom. She is smart, grounded and just the right amount of sassy. 

My boldest move to date was… Midnight moving my daughter who at the time was two-and-a-half and myself out of an abusive relationship while continuing to pursue The Upside. We lived in a very gracious girlfriend’s basement for a year and have never looked back.

I surprise people when I tell them… That the resale industry is going to be a $51 billion industry in five years and the apparel and textile industry is the second largest industrial polluter globally.  

My best advice to people starting their career is… There is no better time to take risks than when your parent’s couch is a recent memory. The older you get, the harder it is to overcome the fear of starting over, so do it now!

My best advice from a mentor was…They encouraged me to fail. If you are afraid to fail you will never innovate and that will be the demise of any organization or your personal growth.

I would tell my 20-year old self… You make a better blonde than a redhead!

But more importantly, your self-worth is not attached to your weight or image. Owning how you feel about yourself is your responsibility and no one can make you feel worthy but you.

My biggest setback was… Having a now former technology partner that was not the right fit. They not only lead us in the wrong direction but could not execute and I continued to allow it to happen causing investor diffidence.


“If you are afraid to fail you will never innovate and that will be the demise of any organization or your personal growth.”


I overcame it by… Giving a hard stop date and having to pick up the pieces! Standing up for the company and myself was the only way to correct the path we were on. We now have an amazing partner that has the same goals and vision as us.

The future of the fashion industry is… Sustainability! The circular economy is the only way forward for our environment and empowering women to have variety, value and quality. If you buy an item resale it reduces its carbon footprint by 82%!

If I were to pick one thing that has helped me succeed it would be…

Most importantly, learning how to believe in yourself, that you are worthy and capable. Secondly, generous friends, family, community support and the right team members. Lastly, coffee and martinis…

If you googled me you still wouldn’t know… That when I think something is really, REALLY, funny, I snort when I laugh. 

I stay inspired by… The women I am surrounded by who choose every day to fight for equality and persist in business and leadership when it would be much easier to take the path of least resistance. We are in the third wave of feminism and there is no stopping us!

The future excites me because… The opportunity to make The Upside accessible to every woman and empowering them in their financial & fashion choices. The global impact in fighting fast fashion – the resale industry is on pace to exceed it in 10 years!

My next step is… World domination! Just kidding. Elevating The Upside to be a global leader in the resale industry and changing consumer habits while empowering women to know how badass they are.


Good Question: My boss shared with me some difficult feedback, and it has really thrown me off my game. How can I deal with this?


“Recently, my boss shared with me some difficult feedback, and it has really thrown me off my game. I feel like I work really hard and am overall doing a pretty good job, and she’s not acknowledging that. How can I deal with this?



Christine Laperriere
Executive Director, Women of Influence Advancement Centre

Christine Laperriere is the executive director of the Women of Influence Advancement Centre, president of Leader In Motion, a leadership development organization, and the author of Too Busy to Be Happy — a guide to using Emotional Real Estate to improve both your work and your life. A seasoned expert in helping women professionals advance their careers, she’s had the honour of guiding hundreds of women in various companies and roles to reach their full potential. Her background includes an undergraduate and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering, certifications in psychotherapy, Neuro-Linguistic Programming and executive coaching, along with years in design engineering and management consulting.



It can be hard to hear that your performance has been less than stellar, but with the right mindset, this can be an opportunity rather than a roadblock. There are a few key steps I suggest to help navigate through negative feedback, and come out the other side with a positive outcome.

  1. Recognize it’s normal to feel defensive. Difficult feedback is especially hard to take when you feel like you are working really hard. The natural first response is to think your efforts aren’t being valued. That said, just because this is the normal human response doesn’t mean it’s the most effective one.
  2. Before you process the feedback, take time to process your feelings. I often encourage clients who are disappointed or frustrated by difficult feedback to give 24 hours before trying to process this information. And be sure to do something fun in those 24 hours — whether it is treating yourself to a good workout, a favourite dinner, or even just curling up with a good book and a glass of wine. The important thing is to consciously decide to take your mind off of the feedback for a bit and get yourself back into a higher state of mind. Once you’ve had time to focus on something else, it is easier to get genuinely curious about the feedback.
  3. Play a game of “They are right!” As you decide it’s time to reflect on the feedback, do a “they are right” exercise and see if you can validate their point of view by noticing three to five things you do that endorse the feedback. You don’t need to beat up on yourself — you are just looking to process where this feedback might be helping you see a blind spot.
  4. Consider the upside of difficult feedback. Getting candid feedback and using it to grow can be an absolute game changer. Each person you work with will have varying points of view around where you need to improve. You don’t need to please everyone all of the time, but if you can gain awareness and try new approaches as a result of feedback, it will likely help you grow as a professional.
  5. Book a 90-Day Check in. Nothing is more impressive to a leader than a team member who takes difficult feedback and grows from it. Leaders want people who are coachable and they will naturally support people they see excelling. So, if you want to demonstrate your ability to be coachable, set a reminder to book a follow-up call with your boss after you’ve had 90 days to take in your feedback and practice new approaches. Ask to check in with her to share what actions you’ve taken, see if she’s noticed the improvements you’ve made — and ask for more feedback. 


To learn more about how you or your organization can advance talented female professionals and leaders more effectively, contact Christine directly at claperriere@womenofinlfuence.ca.

Lessons Learned: Creating a healthy culture with a faith lift


Valerie Fox is chief innovation consultant at The Pivotal Point, bringing entrepreneurial thinking to organizations around the globe. She is also known for her work at IBM Canada, as well as for developing and co-founding the DMZ at Ryerson University — the leading university incubator in Canada, and ranked among the top three in the world. She looks back on her own career to answer the question, how do we create a healthy work culture? The answer: a lift of faith.


By Valerie Fox


Over the last 10 years, since my introduction to the startup world, there has been a flurry of new concepts and popular catchphrases associated with the entrepreneurial movement. You know the ones: innovation, collaboration, collision, lean, mentoring, design thinking, evidence-based — and a host of others. They inform the baseline for what is required in many of the organizations that are being built to support entrepreneurship. 

To enable innovation and an entrepreneurial mindset for not only incubators and accelerators, but also growing companies, another popular concept for success is the importance of developing the “right” culture. Using the term culture may sound cool, but when it comes to business, what does it really mean?

A good culture, in many cases, refers to an environment that is conducive to success for individuals. It can refer to a feeling of belonging, an ability to contribute and matter in an organization — and the ability to excel (or not).

But what affects culture? 

I am wondering if a healthy culture at an incubator, accelerator, business, or ecosystem might be attributed to people spending time cultivating recognized talent with a lift of faith. A lift of faith is the support someone receives from champions who recognize talent, knock down barriers, and create opportunities and connections for those they believe in. Faith, in this case, means that an individual sees aspects in a person that they feel has great potential to grow, regardless of their present experience. 


“A good culture… refers to an environment that is conducive to success for individuals. It can refer to a feeling of belonging, an ability to contribute and matter in an organization — and the ability to excel (or not).”


The best work experiences I can recall tend to bring up memories of specific individuals who saw something in me, believed in me, supported me, and championed me in a number of my pursuits. One such individual is Sheldon Levy, then-President of Ryerson University, who invited me to leave IBM and join him in enabling Ryerson’s reputation for Entrepreneurship — which led to the building of the DMZ. 

More recently I’ve been championed by a number of women, including Wendy Cukier, head of the Diversity Institute; Vicki Saunders, CEO of SheEO; and Julie Deans, the then-CEO of Futurpreneur and now head of Canadian Children’s Literacy Foundation. It was staggering to see how much more impact I had working with these fabulous women.

I also want to acknowledge a number of women and men that I work with in a mentorship and coaching capacity. They boost everything I am trying to do. We grow together. Just as they have faith in me as a mentor and coach, I have faith in them. Championing is a two-way street.  

One of my mentees, Prieeyya Kaur Kesh, founder of Our Wave Hub — a company that helps educate young people in much needed skill development, such as CyberSecurity — told me her own tale of championship. Arriving from Malaysia in 2015, she had been in Canada for six months and had been looking for a community of interest to belong to. Not having much success and feeling alone, she decided to attend a startup weekend. While there, she had a conversation with a gentleman from VentureLab. He saw something in her, and said, “You are me six years ago. I can tell you will do something of great impact.” He introduced her to his networks for employment and community. He’s still there for her as she is growing her company.  

If there is agreement in the definition of a healthy work culture as an environment where one feels they belong, are adding value, and growing in knowledge and experience, then it might be worth considering “championing” as a way to support that. All it takes is a little faith. 


Meet Bailey Parnell: Founder & CEO of SkillsCamp

Bailey Parnell is the Founder & CEO of SkillsCamp — an award-winning digital marketer, TEDx speaker, and businesswoman with a talent for helping people and brands tell better stories.  Bailey frequently speaks publicly about social media, personal branding, and media and mental health. She is currently working towards an MA in Communications and Culture, part-time at Ryerson University, with research, focused on social media’s impact on mental health. She proudly grew up in Brampton, though the rest of her family is from Nova Scotia and she has 5 sisters and four parents.




When I was younger I wanted to be… A singer.

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… A problem presented itself and I thought I was the best person to solve it. There is a need for soft skills, yet a noticeable absence of training in traditional education. With a background in higher education, marketing, and speaking career, paired with an entrepreneurial mindset and soft skills like time-management and relationship-building, I started SkillsCamp.

My proudest accomplishment is… SkillsCamp. We are profitable and offering a service that truly makes people better. Beyond SkillsCamp, landing both my TEDx talk and Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women award so young and early in my career set up a strong base and a domino effect that have opened up numerous other opportunities and doors. Fast forward to the beginning of 2019 and I’ve just been featured in Forbes and spoke at the World Youth Forum in Egypt about social media’s impact on mental health. Many opportunities can be traced back to those two accomplishments.

My boldest move to date was… Making the leap from a full-time job I loved at Ryerson University to something I love more: SkillsCamp. My job at Ryerson was exactly what I’d want to be doing if not SkillsCamp. I worked in Student Affairs in a Special Projects department responsible for research, assessment, storytelling, and design. It set the groundwork for SkillsCamp and gave me intellectual and creative freedom.

I surprise people when I tell them… I have 5 sisters, I taught English in China for a summer, I did judo for most of my childhood. Oh, and that I’m 25.

My best advice to other young women thinking about starting out in business is… Do it in the way that works best for you. Right now, entrepreneurship is almost glorified as hoodies, bean bags, and billion-dollar investments, but entrepreneurship is the oldest profession and many people have found many ways to be successful. If you need to work full time to feed your family, don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for not “risking it all.” That’s a privileged thing to do.

Someone I look up to professionally is… It changes all of the time, but recently, my friend, Pauleanna Reid!

My best advice from a mentor was… When I was considering taking the leap to full-time work, I was (understandably) a bit nervous about finances. My mentor made me walk through the worst case scenario. The conversation went a little like, “and then what would happen?… and then what would happen?” It ended somewhere around me with no money back at my parents’ house in Brampton. He looked at me and said, “so you’re not going to be on the streets. You will have a place to eat, sleep, and get a job. You’re very employable so what should be no problem.” The whole conversation made me realize my pride and fear of failure was actually what was in the way. Sometimes you just need to hear it from someone else.

The biggest challenge I’ve faced in business so far… Renegotiating the initial partnership structure and makeup of SkillsCamp. It was a long and difficult process.

I overcame it by… Consulting numerous mentors, advisors, and friends throughout.

Even though I have my own business, I felt it was important to complete my education because… Education is everything to me. I quite literally own an education company. Higher education is more than just the content of the syllabi. It can teach you how to think, how to learn, how to research, give you opportunities, connections, and invaluable experiences. That is what I got from both my undergrad in Media Production and a graduate degree in Communications and Culture – both at Ryerson University. Even though I don’t explicitly work in media anymore, I would never change my degree at all! It is what has given me an edge at SkillsCamp.

When people try to underestimate me I … I always think, “just wait, you will feel stupid for that.” I don’t make it my mission to prove people wrong, I just know they will be eventually. It’s in the receipts.

In the next ten years, I see myself… Building up SkillsCamp to be a top soft skills development provider. I see myself expanding my research on social media’s impact on mental health and starting a book on the topic. That will mean I will have to finish up my part-time MA as well! I will likely be married, moved, and much more well-travelled too!

If you Googled me, you still wouldn’t know… That most of my long term goals involve taking my very large family on trips to places around the world they may not otherwise be able to go to themselves. Once you put a dollar amount to it, it’s extremely motivating.  

I stay inspired by… Consuming other people’s intellectual and creative works, whether it’s a cool Instagram feed, an article, a thesis, etc. When you meet someone who is doing exactly what they should be doing, and making a great living, it’s a beautiful thing.


Why the CEO of YWCA Greater Metro Vancouver is Mobilizing for Gender Equality

As CEO of YWCA Metro Vancouver, Deb Bryant is working to bring economic independence and wellness to vulnerable women. She’s also dreaming big about a better future through a global vision for change. That’s why Deb and the YWCA are taking part in the Women Deliver 2019 Mobilization Canada campaign — joining their voices with those of other Canadian organizations to bring about positive change.



By Hailey Eisen




Deb Bryant intended to have a career in fine arts. But in the early 1980s, after working for a few years, she realized the economic opportunities for women in the field were next to none.

“I discovered that there were very few female artists making a living at the time,” says Deb, “so I made the decision to move into the non-profit, education sector.”

The decision turned out to be a good one for Deb, who was named CEO of YWCA Metro Vancouver last year — the culmination of two decades spent in rewarding leadership roles. For Deb, the ability to envision herself as a leader early on and work toward her goal came from the many strong female role models in the field, leading the way.

“I was very fortunate to have had access to a privileged upbringing, a good education and mentors who provided support,” she says. And, despite a few bouts of imposter syndrome, Deb has felt comfortable going after her professional aspirations. Today, at the helm of the YWCA, she’s helping to provide opportunities for other women, equaling the playing field wherever possible.

The organization’s focus is supporting single mothers and their children, providing housing (the YWCA operates 10 housing communities across Metro Vancouver), affordable, quality childcare, and wrap-around services to ensure these women can work and take care of their families. They also serve as vocal advocates around affordable housing and early learning and childcare — both required to achieve economic independence. The YWCA is also focused on stopping violence against women by raising awareness, educating youth, and fighting for reforms and supports to help women make successful transitions to personal and economic independence.

“We’re fortunate to have a huge network of women and people of influence that have come through the YWCA over decades, who understand our mission and are taking every opportunity to speak up for the policy changes and cultural shifts needed to bring about continued change,” Deb says.

With the YWCA’s 125th anniversary approaching in a few years, Deb says she has been looking back over how the circumstances have changed for women over the past several decades and the supporting role the organization has played. “To be part of that positive change,” she says, “that’s what gets me up with gusto every morning.”

Being in Vancouver and entrenched in the advocacy of women’s equality, it only makes sense that the YWCA was an early champion of hosting Women Deliver 2019, the world’s largest conference on gender equality, in Vancouver. The YWCA is also focused on having a strong local voice and movement alongside the Conference. To this end, they helped form Women Deliver 2019 Mobilization Canada — the national movement to improve Canadian leadership on gender equality and drive progress globally and domestically in the lead up to the conference.

Through the Mobilization campaign, the YWCA is working with other Mobilizers to ensure the Conference results in real progress on gender equality. It is a unique opportunity for organizations traditionally active in this space, such as the YWCA, to connect with other sectors, including the financial, technological, educational and academic sectors, to bring about positive change together. It is also an important platform to strengthen the link between local and global issues.

“This opportunity to look at women’s issues from a global perspective will not only help our community, but also make the world a better place,” Deb explains, noting the YWCA’s network of 125 countries, servicing 25 million women and girls internationally. This global conference serves as a reminder of the importance of supporting women and girls as a way to support entire societies. “I hope this conference will leave behind the legacy of connecting the work we’re all doing locally with a global vision for change.”

Deb says the timing of this conference is significant. “So many issues around women’s equality and voice, as well as the day-to-day challenges women face, are on the public agenda right now, and I believe this conference will help to further amplify these issues and move us toward solutions focused conversations.”

Beyond having a delegation from YWCA Metro Vancouver at the Conference in June, Deb and her team have been involved in a series of events as part of Mobilization Canada, which are happening across the country to engage more Canadians in the gender equality conversation. They also have a Youth Advisory Council which will take part in these events with the aim to amplify the voices of young women and bring youth into public discourse and civic engagement.

Hosting Women Deliver in Vancouver, Deb says, is an incredible opportunity to welcome the largest international gathering of feminist thinkers here in Canada. “I know the insight, vision, and information they bring to the conference will ripple out through local networks and organizations — and allow us to put those to work here in Vancouver and beyond.”

As for the work she’s doing with the YWCA, Deb is looking toward the 125th anniversary with an eye to the future. “The question I’m asking myself as we move toward this milestone anniversary is: ‘if we were to be outrageously successful, what would the female experience look like 125 years from now?’”


To learn more about how you can join the Mobilization and take action for gender equality, visit their website at www.WeDeliver2019.ca and join the conversation on Twitter with #WeDeliver2019.

Meet Dr. Sarah Mickeler: Founder of West End Mamas

Dr. Sarah Mickeler is the founder of West End Mamas. She is Canada’s leading expert on prenatal and postpartum chiropractic care as well as non-invasive approaches to encourage optimal fetal positioning. In addition to being passionate about normalizing the prenatal and birth experience, she is also deeply passionate about postpartum wellness and normalizing what it actually looks like to be a mother in today’s world. Sarah lives in Toronto’s West End with her unicorn firefighter husband, Kevin, her super compliant and adorable son Owen, and their brood of pets. 





My first job was… Babysitting!  I must have started when I was around 12 years old or so.  I really enjoyed working to have a bit of spending money.

My proudest accomplishment is… Learning to be a good leader.  When I first opened West End Mamas in 2017, I was not a great leader.  I didn’t have a business background, I didn’t know how to lead, and I didn’t know how to mentor — I didn’t know any of it.  There was such a steep learning curve. I was tired, broke, and bitter at how much work it was. Thankfully, about 6 months into it, I enlisted the help of an HR mentor that taught me how to lead.  She taught me how to deal with people, how to figure out what was worth getting worked up about, how to deal effectively with those things, and also how to relax about everything else. I’ve become a remarkably better leader now than I was 2 years ago and I’m so proud of that.

My boldest move to date was… Getting the nerve to sign a 10-year lease on a 3600 square foot office space in York Region for a second West End Mamas location.  We opened in the beginning of May, and it’s been great! Based on how quickly our first location grew, I had the feeling that it would be fine, but we’ve had a strong opening week, and it’s really put my mind at ease about the leap of faith that I just took.

The idea for West End Mamas came to me from… My own experience of motherhood and realizing that it would be so wonderful if we had just one place to go to for all of the services that you might need during pregnancy and beyond.  Getting to appointments in pregnancy can be tough — it can feel like a full-time job, especially near the end. Knowing who to trust for those appointments can be tough. And then having a baby can be super isolating.  Having a one-stop shop that can take care of your every need during pregnancy and postpartum (except midwifery/obstetrical care, of course) just seemed so logical and I couldn’t believe that no one else in Toronto had done it yet.  So, I got to work and did it myself.

Being a mother and a businesswoman today is… An epic juggling act.  I am lucky to have HUGE amounts of support from my family. My husband is a firefighter that only works 7 days a month at the station, so he’s able to do the lion’s share of the housework and parenting.  But we still enlist a lot of help — we rely on a meal delivery service every week, weekly house cleaning, and a lot of babysitting to make sure that we can get everything done. My parents are super dedicated grandparents and we lean on them a lot. We balance all of that out with really dedicated time with our 4-year-old so that he doesn’t feel neglected by the amount that Mama and Daddy have to do in order to keep my business running.

My greatest advice from a mentor was… Happy staff are better workers.  If you can improve your work culture, you can improve your bottom line (and also be happier yourself!).  

My biggest setback was… The first year of West End Mamas’ life, where I was exhausted, stressed, broke and truly not a great leader.  I had a lot of unhappy people on my team because I was miserable to work with. One of them left because the culture wasn’t great and it was a huge eye opener for me. It wasn’t my proudest moment but it’s the experience that helped me become the better leader I am today.

I overcame it by… Learning everything I could about running this business.  I started reading business books, going to business seminars, picking the brains of other business leaders; really anything that would get me up to speed quickly on how to run a business of this size.  

If I were to pick one thing that has helped me succeed, it would be… The support of my husband, Kevin.  None of this – I truly mean NONE of it – would be possible without him.  He does everything — parenting, groceries, and cooking (he’s a great cook). He’s also my IT support and my contractor.  He built both of my offices and honestly without him I would not be able to do any of this. He’s also an incredible cheerleader for me.  When I’m worried about how things are going with the business, he always reminds me that things always turn out better than I expect that they will, and he’s always right.  Also, he’s always there with a glass of wine for me at the end of a long day. I love that man and I’m truly lucky that he puts up with me.

I surprise people when I tell them… I have a Bachelor of Music degree in clarinet performance from the University of British Columbia.  

I stay inspired by… The people I work with. I have an INCREDIBLE team at both West End Mamas locations, in Toronto and York Region. I have a team of practitioners that are willing to do the hard work, learn the research, collaborate, investigate, innovate, and willing to be proven wrong if necessary. My admins are dedicated, loyal, hard-working and just incredible to work with. Everyone on my team provides incredible, patient-focused care, and they are truly inspirational to me.  

The future excites me because…we are doing great work in the perinatal space. We are leaders in our fields, and we are changing the landscape of pregnancy, birth and postpartum. We aren’t living in community anymore and the basic knowledge of what is normal during this time in a woman’s life has been lost. West End Mamas is changing that. We’re teaching people what IS normal, and reminding them that knowledge=choice=power. If you can empower women, you can change the world.  

My next step is… Honestly, to take a vacation. Ha! Opening the latest clinic has taken a ton of work (remember – my unicorn husband Kevin did all of the building at the new clinic, so we’re both burnt out!).  We’re headed to Napa for a few days next month – sans child – which should be great for us.

Once that’s done, I’m getting to work on franchising.  I feel strongly that our services are an essential need in every community and I’m going to make it my life’s mission to bring our services to communities everywhere and change the landscape of pregnancy, birth, and postpartum in Canada.


Tina : A life in Glossy

Tina Brown is an award-winning journalist, editor, author, and event producer. She turned around Tatler, Vanity Fair, and The New Yorker as Editor-in-Chief. She wrote a bestselling biography of Princess Diana. She launched The Daily Beast news site and Women in the World summits. And she’s our Women of Influence Luncheon speaker.



By Stephania Varalli




“I’ve always had a bit of a tension in me — am I an executive, am I a writer, am I an editor, or am I somebody who just wants to do her own books?”

As I’m speaking with Tina Brown, I can understand her challenge in applying a label. She has had success in all these endeavors. Discovered for her writing talent, she was tapped to take on an ailing Tatler magazine at the age of 25, turned it into a success, and then did the same thing on a much grander scale at Vanity Fair and The New Yorker. She’s written four books, most famously a bestselling bio of Diana, Princess of Wales (or Di, as Tina calls her, having known her for years). She co-founded online news magazine The Daily Beast, which quietly launched just before the 2008 US Presidential election, and was “seeing traffic over a million within a week or two.” During her tenure there she founded Women in the World as a passion project; ten years later, the summits have grown in size and expanded to cities around the world.


“I’ve always had a bit of a tension in me — am I an executive, am I a writer, am I an editor, or am I somebody who just wants to do her own books?”


Is it any wonder she’s musing about who she is?

As our talk continues, though, I notice there’s a pattern in the way she speaks about her many endeavors. A self-professed “magazine junky,” as a child she says she was always etching layouts and creating stories. In her career she spent over thirty years with an editor-in-chief title. When discussing The Daily Beast, she notes, “I loved the idea of creating a digital property that would have some of the visual appeal of a glossy magazine.” And she likens the Women in the World Summits to ”putting out a fabulous global magazine.” She programs them, she says, very much like she would an issue of Vanity Fair — a combination of hot topic panels, relatively unknown women with amazing stories to tell, and the required celebrity.

“You have to have a cover star,” she says, “And then inside you have a really good journalistic investigation, and you’re going to have a fascinating, unexpected, narrative about somebody. And the pagination, the pacing of it, goes on like that throughout the day.”

She sees the world through the lens of a magazine editor. Her content mix in my head, I wonder: what would Tina Brown’s life look like in a glossy?


Cover Star: The Fixer

When Tina was called in to take over Vanity Fair in 1983, ads were dwindling, losses were mounting, and readership was low. The magazine, which had spent over twenty years in circulation before the Great Depression, had just been revived by Condé Nast a year prior, and it was already on its second editor. As Tina says, “when that went hopelessly wrong, they thought about me.”

It’s no surprise she came to mind; she had just turned around Tatler in the UK, bringing it to a level of success that led Condé Nast to purchase it. Tina’s vision for Vanity Fair included a new mix of content, with celebrity profiles sitting alongside journalistic reporting, presented to the reader with “a visual panache” — that might mean a naked and pregnant Demi Moore on the cover, with a profile of Saddam Hussein inside.

Regardless of the subject, writing standards were high. One of Tina’s great skills is finding and fostering talent, and in the same way she seems to have a sixth sense for knowing what stories need to be told, she can also pinpoint who should be penning them.

“I know how to talk to writers because I am a writer,” she says. “And I have a very good sense of what a writer should be doing. And that’s part of the fun for me, being able to do that casting of writer with story.”

The mix worked. Sales of Vanity Fair rose from 200,000 to 1.2 million, advertisers flocked, and awards came in. Tina had masterfully elevated the reputation of the magazine (and hers along with it) to its own sort of celebrity status. Vanity Fair was a success, and after 9 years, she was ready for her next challenge.

Her move to The New Yorker in many ways mimicked her career thus far: it was an ailing magazine with a solid pedigree in need of a fresh vision. Despite her past successes, her appointment as editor-in-chief was controversial.


“I have a very good sense of what a writer should be doing. And that’s part of the fun for me, being able to do that casting of writer with story.”


“I understood why there was anxiety about me coming in,” says Tina. “At Vanity Fair I had just done Demi Moore stark naked on the cover. There were a lot of Old Guard people at The New Yorker thinking, who is this person that’s going to come into this literary jewel and make it into something incredibly disrespectful of its tradition? But that’s really because they didn’t know my own pedigree, which is as a much more literary writer and editor than I was showing.”

There might have been some cause for the Old Guard to be alarmed. She replaced over 40 writers, hired the publication’s first staff photographer, and went about creating a magazine that both honoured its literary traditions and that people actually wanted to read.

Circulation grew, advertisers flocked, and awards came in, once again. Tina began to have bigger ideas — she saw the value in expanding the brand beyond the magazine, and approached publisher Si Newhouse about doing live events, a radio show, a book imprint, TV, and movie production.

“Frankly, everything I wanted to do is exactly what people are doing now, 25 years later,” says Tina. “Sam Newhouse just didn’t get it. He would say, ‘go back downstairs and manage a magazine, you’re not supposed to be talking about brand extensions.’”


Hot Topic: The Scandal of a Woman’s Success

It was 1998, and Tina Brown was still editing The New Yorker with big ideas of brand expansion brewing in her head. “Miramax then came at me to do exactly that with them, and of course, enter Harvey Weinstein, which wasn’t exactly the best career move I ever made.”

Tina still considers Talk magazine — the result of her departure from The New Yorker and subsequent partnership with Miramax — to be some of her best work. After a splashy launch, Tina says it simply couldn’t survive the destabilizing force of Weinstein. “He never sexually harassed me,” she explains, “but he was volcanic, he was abusive, he was just a terrible, terrible person to work with.”

Add to that the tragedy of 9-11, and the advertising drought that followed. “He had no idea how to keep it going as it got through that period,” says Tina. “It was just a very devastating experience.”

Despite having reached a circulation of 670,000, the publication was abruptly shut down in January of 2002. It was Tina’s first high-profile failure, after three unquestionable successes.

The scandal is not that she failed, or even that she did so in partnership with a man that would become the poster boy of the #MeToo movement. What you’ll find in the endless commentary on Tina’s nearly fifty-year career is that her wins are criticized just as heavily as her failure, if not more. And there’s a common thread in all that noise: unable to deny her accomplishments, she was successful in the wrong way. Too much celebration of celebrity, too much focus on building buzz, too direct in her requests, too decisive. If you listen to her critics, the scandal is that she was able to succeed.


“I still don’t think we’re even halfway up the mountain with it. This is going to go on, and it’s going to gather more and more steam, and it has got real energy now, and I think it’s exciting.”


It begs the question: would a man in her position be viewed in the same way, or lauded for his leadership?

Tina is open in saying that “gender played a role with not being taken seriously in the ways that I should have.” From her early days, when the managing director of Condé Nast in London attributed her success at Tatler to “your looks and your lifestyle,” to the pushback she received when coming on board at The New Yorker.

It goes without saying that she hasn’t let it stop her. And with Women in the World, Tina is contributing to the solution. She was inspired to launch the program after meeting a group of extraordinary women through her work on the board of Vital Voices, an NGO that mentors women in emerging countries.

“I just thought they really ought to be telling their stories in a wider setting. Broadcast journalism doesn’t seem to be interested in them ever.”

Now entering its tenth year, Women in the World has broached topics from rape as a weapon of war to sexual harassment, has introduced the fascinating narratives of individual women from around the globe, and featured every A-lister you can think of, from politics, entertainment, and business. Tina says she’s seen a change in receptivity since #MeToo, but the journey towards action has only begun.

“I still don’t think we’re even halfway up the mountain with it,” she says, referring to the impact #MeToo is having. “This is going to go on, and it’s going to gather more and more steam, and it has got real energy now, and I think it’s exciting.”


A Fascinating Personal Narrative: Blonde Ambition

As a teenager, Tina Brown was kicked out of three private high schools. The reasons are less a demonstration of delinquency and more a tribute to her creativity, humour, and bravery in the face of authority. At one school, she led a protest against a rule that girls couldn’t change their underwear more than three times per week; at another, she referred to the headmistress’ bosoms and “unidentified flying objects” in a personal diary (which the headmistress really had no right to be reading, anyway).

The traits served her well in her chosen career, she says. “I’m impatient and always very skeptical about rules and authority. It’s one of those things that’s made me an inquiring journalist, I think. My ears prick and I think to myself, oh, that didn’t sound right.”

Despite the rocky times in high school she managed to get into Oxford at 16, where she worked on the student magazine. After graduation, she contribute to Punch, The Sunday Times and The Sunday Telegraph before being tapped at the age of 25 to take on the role of editor-in-chief of Tatler magazine.

“I had a strong sense of what I wanted to do with Tatler,” says Tina. “I was very excited by its pedigree. It was a 270-year-old magazine, and it had been around in the days of Jonathan Swift and Gulliver’s Travels. At the same time, it then morphed into a magazine which I could describe as a weekly must-read of the Downton Abbey set. I really wanted to combine those two genres in a magazine. I wanted it to be as literary as the first magazine, but at the same time fun, irreverent, and social.”

In addition to guiding the content and voice, Tina wrote content for every issue — including semi-satirical profiles of upper society’s eligible bachelors, under the pen-name Rosie Boot.


“I’m impatient and always very skeptical about rules and authority. It’s one of those things that’s made me an inquiring journalist, I think.”


“The social magazine of the 50s that Tatler was took society as society wanted to be seen. What I brought to it was a modern twist,” she says. “We had fun headlines and captions. Today we would call that attitude.”

The “attitude” quadrupled circulation numbers, and caught the eye of Condé Nast. Si Newhouse purchased it in 1983, and shortly after, Tina quit. “I was very flattered when Condé Nast bought it, but then I quickly found it stifling. Condé Nast had its ways of doing things and I was much scrappier than that.”

The pull of Vanity Fair, New York City — and the pure ambition that’s evident in everything she does — was ultimately enough to bring her back into the Condé Nast fold. And from the outside, she was every bit the glamorous celebrity editor. Ask Tina, and she’ll say the parties were a journalistic venture; a way to be in the action and get leads. In the The Vanity Fair Diaries, she refers to this time as living as “a spectator and a foreigner.”

I ask her if she now feels she’s living a life that’s authentically her. It’s the only time in our interview that she takes a long pause.

“The great joy of becoming older is that you become less and less concerned about what other people think of you,” she says. “I just launched the podcast, which has been enormously fun.
It’s just me and a pair of headphones talking to somebody interesting, and that I’m enjoying a lot. I can really do what I want to do, which is somewhat go back to my literary roots.”

Does that mean that Tina Brown is ready to settle in? Unlikely.

“I am a reckless spirit. What I love to do is have a mission, a turnaround, a crusade — to go at something with tremendous passion. I’m not as interested in being a steward as being an innovator.”


Join us on May 21st, 2019, to be inspired by one of the most iconic media moguls of all time and discover what it takes to build a legacy career. Tickets are available here.

Meet Robin Swicord : Oscar Nominated Screenwriter

Robin Swicord was born in South Carolina and raised in rural Florida and Georgia. She is a screenwriter and director known for her screenplay adaptations of Little Women (94), Matilda (96), and Memoirs of a Geisha(05). She was nominated for a Best Screenplay Oscar for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (07). Her debut directorial feature, The Jane Austen Book Club(07), screened at the Festival. Most recently, she wrote and directed Wakefield (16), which premiered at the Festival, and is currently producing the upcoming feature Little Women (19). We caught up with her to discuss her career journey ahead of her Books on Film talk in Toronto, where she will discussing the process of adapting a book for film. 



When I was younger I wanted to be … boringly enough, a writer.  Preferably anywhere but here.

I became a screenwriter because…I felt fully absorbed by movies. When I was young, I didn’t know that movies were written. I wasn’t even aware that movies were directed, when I first fell in love with films. What I loved was the acting, the characters, the costumes, the sets, the music, the story-telling, the witty dialogue, the photography – in short, everything. When I watched a movie, I would memorize it, and replay it mentally as I fell asleep that night. When I was a child, I had thought that I would write novels or children’s books. The moment that I finally noticed the “written by” credit on a film, I felt electrified. If movies were “written by” someone, then why couldn’t I write them?

My proudest accomplishment is…probably not related to writing, or directing movies. I tend to reflect back on my own work (and even my own personal experiences) with a restless feeling of “What did I learn from this? What can I do better next time?”   or even “How did I get into this??” That’s not a mindset that makes much room for a sense of arrival. In fact, it’s possible that all I ever allow myself is a sense of relief!

My boldest move to date was…escaping from the small Southern town in the Florida Panhandle where I grew up.    

The best thing about being a screenwriter is… (I usually joke and say “The wardrobe”), but the best thing, really, is that I get to make movies, sometimes.  Even when the scripts I write don’t make it to the screen, I feel privileged that I get to do something creative every day, as a way of life.   I know how lucky I am.

The most challenging part of my job is…dealing with disappointment when projects don’t move forward.  All professional screenwriters do a great deal of paid writing that is never seen on the screen.   You have to have stamina to persist, to return again to the inner creative source, and to make something new.

I would tell my 21-year-old self… “Love yourself.”  (“And oh by the way, don’t bother dating anyone until you meet Nick Kazan, when you’re 29.”)

My biggest setback was…most likely not my biggest setback. To be a screenwriter – or perhaps any creative person — is to be beset by the very ordinary problems of rejection and harsh criticism, as well as confusing notes from underqualified people, and betrayals and failures of character by producers or directors or executives or agents; some of which in the moment swell to the size of catastrophes.  But weirdly, over time, the things that feel so terrible and insurmountable are later revealed to be ridiculous, or common, or predictable – and certainly not worth the emotional investment we give them at the time.   The good thing about my having been a screenwriter for 40 – yes, that’s forty years – is that I have FINALLY begun to develop a sense of perspective — though perhaps too late for it to be of any real use to me.   If you need to borrow my sense of perspective, let me know.


“To be a screenwriter – or perhaps any creative person — is to be beset by the very ordinary problems of rejection and harsh criticism”


I overcame it by…writing something new.

My greatest advice from a mentor was…not from a mentor, because I grew up in the generation of unmentored women. But I did get a useful piece of stray advice from a studio executive who stopped me to chat in the halls of MGM.  I was in my mid-20s, and I had sold my first screenplay to MGM.  The executive, David Chasman, asked me how it was going with my project.  I was at that moment writing my 9th or maybe 10th draft of the screenplay that I had sold to a producer at MGM, and I was at the studio that day to hear yet another round of story notes.  I said, “I don’t know…I keep writing different versions, and hearing more suggestions, and then I take all their suggestions …but when I turn in the draft, I hear a lot of new suggestions. I keep hoping that I’ll finally write a draft that’s good enough for them to make into a movie.” David Chasman stopped me right there: “Movies don’t get made because the script is good.  They get made for a lot of other reasons – but it’s never about the script. Movies are made all the time from bad scripts. You could write a perfect script – and it still might not be made into a movie.” It was good advice, even if it sounds cynical, because Chasman gave me an accurate description of filmmaking within the studio system, where I would work for many years. After that, I allowed myself to relax more as I wrote, trusting myself, and simply doing the best work that I knew how to do, without worrying about pleasing a constantly shifting hierarchy of development executives.   It’s actually wonderfully freeing, creatively, to know that what you’re doing is irrelevant.   Until it isn’t.

If I were to pick one thing that has helped me succeed, it would be… a strong work ethic.

If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know…some very basic truths.

I stay inspired by…watching other people’s movies and TV shows, and by reading, and going to galleries and museums and stage plays and music performances – taking in the rich world of the arts. I love trees – my husband says I’m a tree worshipper – and I make a point of being around trees, especially when I’m feeling creatively drained.

The future excites me because…I see who is coming, among the young people who are making their first films and web series now.

My next step is…always into the unknown.


How a physics professor is helping to get more women’s voices into Canadian media

Having spent 16 years as a physics professor at Simon Fraser University, Dugan O’Neil was well aware of the underrepresentation of women in academia — and was working to change it. His recent involvement with Informed Opinions, an organization committed to amplifying women’s voices in the media, is helping to end underrepresentation on an even broader scale.



By Hailey Eisen


Women currently make up just 29% of all voices quoted in the media. These numbers reflect a mere 7% shift in the past two decades, and we still have a long way to go. Informed Opinions, a Canadian non-profit organization founded by Shari Graydon, is committed to amplifying the voices of women in the media — and they’re committed to achieving gender balance by 2025.

It’s a lofty goal, and one that has already taken the combined efforts of many. Including a physics professor from Simon Fraser University (SFU), Dugan O’Neil.

His involvement began in 2017, shortly after leaving his post as Chief Science Officer with Compute Canada, an organization that accelerates research and innovation by providing advanced research computing (ARC) services and infrastructure for Canadian researchers and their collaborators. He had been named Associate Vice-President, Research at SFU, overseeing academic leadership in, and administration of, research and other scholarly activities for the university.

“I had worked closely with Kelly Nolan at Compute Canada; she was now working with Informed Opinions, and she told me about their desire to track women’s voices in the media, in real-time,” he recalls. The project seemed doable from a high-performance computing perspective and peaked Dugan’s interest. “I’ve always lived my life with a firm belief of equality, and this would be an opportunity to actively support those beliefs.”

He took the proposal back to SFU in search of a researcher who would champion the project and push it forward. “Maite Taboada, a professor in the Department of Linguistics and the Director of the Discourse Processing Lab, stepped forward with an interest in taking this on,” Dugan recalls.

The project began in earnest in early 2018 and was officially launched in February 2019 at an Ottawa event featuring The Honorable Maryam Monsef, Minister for Women and Gender Equality, and Dr. Joy Johnson, Vice President, Research and International, Simon Fraser University, and sponsored by 30% Club Canada and 30% Club members, Osler and Teck. The resulting tool, The Informed Opinions’ Gender Gap Tracker, was developed by the university’s big data technical team, the Discourse Processing Lab, and is hosted by SFU’s Research Computing Group. It measures the ratio of female to male sources quoted in online news coverage across some of Canada’s most influential national news outlets, and provides the real-time results which are showcased on the website.

“I set things in motion and then stepped back — but in the meantime, I was asked to join the Informed Opinions board and I became the Gender Gap Tracker guy.” It’s an unofficial title Dugan wears with pride. “The tracker’s primary purpose is to measure what gender representation looks like in the media,” Dugan explains. “If you don’t know how you’re doing, you’ll never know if you’re improving.”  

Along with tracking data, Informed Opinions works to motivate and train women experts to make their ideas more accessible to a broader audience, offering dynamic and interactive workshops, presentations, and professional editing support. They’ve also developed a database of expert women who are available for inquiries from journalists, producers, conference planners, recruiters and research collaborators.


“We are working to move the needle even further — our equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) efforts are tackling everything from the pipeline to pay equity, and are guided by open dialogue.”


The database currently features a range of expertise covering almost every industry and profession with more than 900 women represented. Going forward the organization is working to grow this database, encouraging women who have the capacity to add value through written commentary and media interviews to add their name. They’re also looking for nominations of women who would make great contributors, and encouraging others to leverage the database to find expert speakers for events, research and communications. For journalists, the hashtag #HerInformedOps can also be used to get leads for expert sources.

“This is the most coherent and complete approach I’ve seen so far to tackling this issue,” says Dugan.

From an academic perspective, he can see why the work of Informed Opinions is so important — and it’s aligned with the university’s own mission of knowledge mobilization. “SFU employs experts, many of whom will be engaging with media to mobilize the knowledge they produce,” he says. “We are also an organization that trains the next generation of experts, who need these positive role models.”

Having spent most of his career in the world of computing and physics, he’s no stranger to the underrepresentation of women. SFU is committed to attracting more young women to the department — beginning with elementary and high school outreach programs. “We all want to see change, but have a limited pool of applicants to choose from,” he says. “That’s why our approach is to reach out to girls before they get to us and give them an opportunity to explore physics.”

Dugan is also aware of the need for increased gender parity in research and academics overall. “At SFU, 28% of full time Professors are female, 37% of Associate Professors are female, and 48% of Assistant Professors are female,” he says, noting the trend is moving in the right direction. “We are working to move the needle even further — our equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) efforts are tackling everything from the pipeline to pay equity, and are guided by open dialogue.”

Dugan’s own portfolio includes creating and implementing an EDI action plan for externally funded research chairs and awards, including the Canada Research Chairs. “A big part of this plan is centred on data and information sharing, transparency in how positions are allocated, hiring processes, and the like. It represents a big change in the way we work.”

And his work is continuing with Informed Opinions — which is beginning to have an impact. In the two months since the launch of the Gender Gap Tracker, the ratio of women’s voices in Canadian media has reflected brief spikes of improvement. Several of the news media being monitored have invited Shari into their newsrooms, and committed to tracking their own performance. Some are also are actively seeking to diversify their sources by calling on experts featured in the project’s database.

But public engagement is critical. News media play an important role in setting agendas, shaping public conversations and the policies they influence. So Informed Opinions, as well as Dugan and the team of SFU researchers who created and continue to refine the digital tool, are working to draw attention to the data and its implications through public presentations and media engagement. The goal is to encourage news consumers who believe in the importance of gender equity to visit the Gender Gap Tracker, notice the persistent gap, and contact the news outlets they rely on to track the gender of their sources in pursuit of more democratic public conversations.


We need more women’s voices in Canadian media — why not yours? It’s simple to add your name to the database, or nominate an expert. And as a consumer, you can make a difference by sending a message to media outlets, challenging them to do better. Organizations like Informed Opinions as well as 30% Club Canada — who supported this story as part of the men champions of change series — know that change is possible, if we all do our part.


Meet Nathalie Pambrun: the first ever Indigenous woman to serve as President of the Canadian Association of Midwives

Nathalie Pambrun is a Franco-Manitoban Métis midwife who has practiced in urban, rural and remote communities across Canada and the world. Bridging environmental and reproductive justice movements at the community level she embraces a human rights approach that effectively respects the coming generations. She is committed to midwifery care that is accessible, equitable, and culturally safe. She was appointed President of the Canadian Association of Midwives (CAM) for the next two years and has served on the CAM Board of Directors for over seven years. She is CAM’s first ever Indigenous midwife to serve as President of the organization. Nathalie is a mother of three children and currently lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba.



My first job was… being a helper to my parents and grandparents and watching my siblings and cousins, I learned a lot about taking responsibility and caring for others.

My proudest accomplishment is… working with communities to re-matriate birth.  Being a facilitator for re-visioning reproductive care, building relationships, watching the community take ownership, develop and restore Indigenous midwifery. It is such a rush to see the transformation of a community when life givers are honored.

My boldest move to date was… inviting the international midwifery community to examine damaging systems, to converge upon the voices of those who are marginalized, to build power in our intersections of reproductive justice and unite our voices to create meaningful action for Indigenous midwives worldwide to be meaningfully recognized.

A common misconception about midwives is… that we don’t have specified education and training and that we are all barefoot, doing home births without equipment waiting for some spiritual sign that the baby will come out! Midwives are highly trained health care professionals who specialize in physiologic birth and the management complications. I went to a university and studied midwifery in my four-year baccalaureate in science program. In Canada you can also train in a four-year Indigenous community-based education model that are competency based and rooted in apprenticeship learning. Midwives are about sharing information, empowering individuals to take ownership through active decision making in their healthcare and to support choice through advocacy at all levels.


“You are going to make mistakes, but stay invested in the community and in giving practical support, the larger vision will emerge from doing the work.”


If I wasn’t a midwife, I would be a… farmer. I love being part of these ordinary physiologic miracles. I like knowing these basic life skills and how to support and optimize healthy growth. I am fascinated by growing food and understanding the land and its cyclical changes from seed to harvest. Similarly, I like watching human life grow, understanding and enhancing health and witnessing the stages of transformation for pregnant individuals and their families right through to birth and early parenting and family adaptation.

My greatest advice… from my mentor Carol Couchie, Indigenous midwife from Nipissing First Nation was when I took over leadership of our association she said: “Just do it Nath, you are going to make mistakes, but stay invested in the community and in giving practical support, the larger vision will emerge from doing the work.”

My biggest setback was… losing my grandmother at a very young age.

I overcame it by… learning to appreciate my relatives and teachers who surround me, to keep asking questions to better understand my roots that keep me grounded as I move forward.

If I were to pick one thing that has helped me succeed… it would be my desire to always keep learning, knowledge is power.

I surprise people when I tell them that… I am constantly stepping out of my comfort zone because this is where I lean my most valuable lessons.

I stay inspired by… all the midwives that surround me they truly are unique humans who see the larger picture when it comes to health and really anchor their daily work social justice and change.

The future excites me because… I never know what is next.

My next step is… completing my master’s degree, I want to be able to meaningfully contribute to Indigenous health through impactful, action oriented, community lead health research. I want to transform academia to include and honor Indigenous ways of knowing and doing.


Here’s how Tiffany James landed her dream job at L’Oréal headquarters in Paris

Tiffany James became interested in the beauty industry while doing her undergraduate degree. Not long after, she set her sights on a goal: working at L’Oréal. She planned a direct path, starting with Smith’s Master of International Business program, and didn’t let any challenge stop her. Now, she’s a Global Project Manager in the L’Oréal Technology Incubator at the company’s Paris headquarters.


By Hailey Eisen



“If it seems scary, but you’re up for the challenge then it’s definitely the right move.” That’s the advice Tiffany James would offer any young woman looking to achieve the kind of success she’s had over the past few years.

From her office at L’Oréal headquarters in Paris, the Toronto-born project manager says it was a combination of fearlessly taking on challenges and some very strategic moves that helped her land her dream job.

“It began during my undergrad, when I chose to do an exchange semester in Milan, Italy,” she recalls. “While I was studying commerce and had planned to go to law school, something began to pull at me when I sat in on a few lectures on the fashion and beauty industry.”

Upon graduation, Tiffany took a job with a digital marketing agency in B.C., then moved back to Toronto to work for a financial software company. “I got it in my head that I wanted to work for L’Oréal — I was interested in the science behind the beauty industry,” she recalls. “I applied, but I was young and needed more relevant experience.”

Knowing that a master’s degree is highly valued at European companies, Tiffany decided that going back to school, ideally overseas, would help move her career in the right direction. “I was looking at schools in the U.K. and in other countries in Europe when I discovered the double-degree program with Queen’s,” she recalls.

The Master of International Business at Smith School of Business offers a double-degree option whereby students can earn their graduate degree from Smith, as well as second master’s degree from one of the program’s global partners. “The program would allow me to go back to Milan and study at Bocconi and earn a master’s in marketing, as well as earning a master’s in international business from Smith.”

Tiffany was accepted to the program and began the first year of her two-year degree program in Italy, doing course work at Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi. During that year, she had the opportunity to participate in L’Oréal BRANDSTORM, an innovation competition touted as giving participants the opportunity to disrupt the future of beauty.

“I recognized this as my opportunity to get my foot in the door at L’Oréal,” says Tiffany, “and I leapt at it.”

Tiffany and her team of three advanced through all levels of the competition, culminating with the World Finals in Paris, where they competed against 48 other country teams and won first place.


“One of the most valuable things I learned during my master’s was the concept of cultural intelligence.”


“During that time, I expressed my career goals to a lot of people, and my mentor at L’Oréal Italy knew that ultimately I wanted to work at headquarters in Paris. With the win behind us, it was much easier for him to help make my dream a reality.”  

The second year of Tiffany’s program took her to Kingston, where she got to work earning her Master of International Business at Smith. It was mid-way through that fall term that she got a call from a recruiter with L’Oréal in Paris. “The internship they were offering would have me working at the L’Oréal Technology Incubator, focusing on how to use technology to bring new experiences to the beauty consumer,” she recalls. “I didn’t have a tech-related degree and the majority of the people I’d be working with were engineers and PhDs — but it was a great opportunity to diversify my experience. It was beyond my comfort zone, but I was more than ready to take it on.”  

Today, Tiffany is a Global Project Manager in the L’Oréal Technology Incubator, where she manages beauty tech projects related to personalized beauty and skin diagnostic tools for brands within L’Oréal Group, including SkinCeuticals, Lancôme and La Roche-Posay. She’s been living in Paris for three years and completed her double degree in 2017.

“One of the most valuable things I learned during my master’s was the concept of cultural intelligence,” she says. “While it’s great to learn about it in class and through business cases, it has only really become relevant since I started this job.”

Living in Paris, working with teams across the U.S. and in Tokyo, with vendors in India and China, and partners across Europe, Tiffany understands the need to be sensitive to everyone’s cultural beliefs. “My role as a project manager is to deliver information in a way they’ll understand and are free to interpret from their own cultural context, and then act upon. I never impose my management style on anyone — I let them teach me how they collaborate best, and then work from there.”

Though she’s working in the industry she’s always wanted to be in, Tiffany says she also spends a lot of time immersed in the world of engineering and technology, another language she’s had to learn.

“When I was in my undergrad I think there were only four girls in the engineering program, but L’Oréal has completely flipped the script with females filling technical roles in labs, as researchers, scientists and engineers. It’s wonderful to see so many opportunities for women.”  

And while Tiffany says Paris now feels like home, she’s gearing up to spend a few months in Hong Kong on a new assignment. “As long as there is something new to learn, a new challenge, that’s where I’ll be drawn.”


Smith School of Business doesn’t just talk about international business, it helps you experience it, with over 40 destinations to pursue an exchange and 10 global double-degree partners. Learn more about the Master of International Business here.


Meet Josette Landry: Founder of Streamline Genomics

Josette is the CEO and founder of Streamline Genomics and visiting scholar at the Faculty of Medicine, Université de Montréal. Prior to launching Streamline, she was VP, Business Development for Mitacs, a research organization where she helped facilitate partnerships between university researchers and industry. During her graduate studies, Josette co-founded a consulting firm providing bioinformatics services to the Vancouver biotechnology sector. She received her Ph.D. in Genetics from the Terry Fox Labs at the UBC in 2003, followed by a PDF at the University of Cambridge. Dr Landry also holds an MBA from HEC Montréal.



I chose my career path because… I wish I could say there had been a plan.  I have so far followed my interests in both science and business.

My proudest accomplishment is… Completing my MBA while I was juggling a demanding career and my kids were little.  I’m very thankful to my family and spouse for supporting (my sometimes) crazy goals.

My boldest move to date was… Leaving an executive position to start a company.

I surprise people when I tell them… I do not like to speak in public and I’m actually quite uncomfortable being on a stage.

My best advice to people starting their career is… To get involved in different initiatives and demonstrate leadership!

My best advice from a mentor was…Do not get stuck in the weeds/dwell on the small stuff (ne pas s’enfarger dans les fleurs du tapis).

I would tell young girls thinking about a career in STEM… To go for it!

My biggest setback was… My mom’s breast cancer diagnosis two years ago.

I overcame it by… Turning this personal challenge into an opportunity to raise funding for cancer research and the motivation to launch a start-up.

If I were to pick one thing that has helped me succeed, it would be… The incredible support I have had from family & friends.

If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… That I despise cilantro.

I stay inspired by… Our mission at Streamline Genomics, which is to democratize genomics analysis so that more patients can benefit from personalized medicine.



Meet Dr. Soodeh Farokhi: Tech Entrepreneur Founder and CTO of C2RO Cloud Robotics Inc.

Soodeh is the founder and Chief Technology Officer of C2RO Cloud Robotics, an award-winning software startup in Montreal, Canada. C2RO offers real-time cognitive AI solutions via an enterprise SaaS platform for smart devices. She is a visionary technology entrepreneur with a Ph.D. in computer science (cloud specialist), who was selected among the top 750 digital IT innovators of the world in 2018 and the top young entrepreneur in Quebec in 2018. Soodeh is an energetic and strong leader with over 7 years of industrial experience such as product manager and R&D lead in cloud, telecom, and web service domains, along with six years of technology research background. Her entrepreneurial experience started with co-founding the first research-industrial institute in the field of service-oriented architecture in Iran in 2011. She received her PhD. from Vienna University of Technology, Austria, and has an M.Sc. and a B.Sc. both in software engineering.



I chose my career path because… Working on technologies that are my passion and can improve the quality of our lives.

My proudest accomplishment is… Building my second startup that is C2RO Cloud Robotics. An award-winning software startup that builds cognitive AI solutions for smart devices such as robots via the cloud.  

My boldest move to date was… Leaving my country to study my PhD in one of the top world universities in my domain in Europe. 

I surprise people when I tell them… I am an Iranian entrepreneur (obviously female) under 35 with a PhD who is the Founder and Chief Technology Officer of an AI/robotics company in Canada.

My best advice to people starting their career is… Believe in yourself, follow your passion, do your best and do not be afraid of failures.

My best advice from a mentor was… On the importance of relationship, “when you need a relationship, it is already too late to build it”.


Believe in yourself, follow your passion, do your best and do not be afraid of failures.


I would tell young girls thinking about a career in STEM… Don’t be discouraged by the stereotypes and follow your dream path. There is not such a thing that a major belongs to a particular gender.

My biggest setback was… It is 2019 and I have to still deal with sexism and ageism in my professional life, unfortunately very often.

I overcame it by… Staying focused and strong to show none of those thing matter, that’s when you can have the biggest impact. Also, I surround myself with people who believe in me and give me positive energy.

If I were to pick one thing that has helped me succeed, it would be…  My self-confidence, hardworking and perseverance

If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… I am a proud mom of a baby girl.

I stay inspired by… Reading about the story of successful innovators, executives and tech entrepreneurs especially women like Sheryl Sandberg, CFO of Facebook. 

The future excites me because… It is better than what we think.

My next step is… To build a unicorn out of my company.


Hear the rest of her incredible story at The Next Frontier: Meet the Tech Visionaries Designing the Future a WOI Spotlight Event – proudly presented by BDC . We are thrilled to announce our return to Montreal for one exclusive engagement on May 15th. Join us for a career-defining evening of learning, connection and inspiration! Tickets are available here.

Meet Cindy Fagen: COO SAP Labs Canada

Cindy Fagen is chief operating officer for SAP Labs Canada. Her role is focused on growing and executing the strategic vision and mission of SAP’s product development and innovation hubs in four locations in and around Canada’s major cities.  Working alongside field organizations in Canada and globally, Cindy connects the technology innovations coming out of SAP’s cutting-edge Canadian labs with some of the largest and most advanced companies in the world. Her chief goal is to create an environment inside Labs Canada that empowers development teams to do their best work in solving the business challenges of today and tomorrow. In 2009, Cindy founded Scoop Media, and has since brought this entrepreneurial experience to SAP where she fosters an intrapreneurial mindset to create best in class innovation. Cindy is a customer-focused executive with a reputation of establishing winning cultures and driving innovation. She is passionate about women in leadership, encouraging entrepreneurs to take a leap of faith and giving back to the startup community through mentorship.



I chose my career path because… I wouldn’t really say I “chose” my career path. I did however choose tech because it is fast paced and because I love innovation.  My career path was not linear in terms of progression.  In every role I had thus far, I worked with amazing talent to solve problems and build value from ground zero. My path always had me solution-focused, with the customer at the center of every decision. Whether as an intrapreneur or entrepreneur I brought a mindset to solve problems in creative ways.

My proudest accomplishment is… My daughter Ella (14) and my son Kaden (12)

My boldest move to date was… Starting my own company. It’s hard to make that first step knowing the risks that come with it.

I surprise people when I tell them… My first position at SAP was being COO, despite not having a background in tech. I tell people all the time, if you want to be in the tech industry, you don’t necessarily need to have a degree in STEM related fields of study.

My best advice to people starting their career is… Stay curious. Allow yourself to fail but fail forward. Your network is everything. Pursue opportunities with enormous discipline


“Always have a mindset for growth. Frame your failures as learning opportunities. Always stand by decisions you truly believe in, and never be shy to ask questions. Get out there and seek ownership and accountability.”


My best advice from a mentor was…Invite diverse thinking to your table and build value for your customer and success will follow.

I would tell young girls thinking about a career in STEM… To always have a mindset for growth. Frame your failures as learning opportunities. Always stand by decisions you truly believe in, and never be shy to ask questions. Get out there and seek ownership and accountability.

My biggest setback was… Getting so many ‘No’s, especially when I was raising capital for my start-up. Get through the No’s to get to the Yes!

I overcame it by… Having conviction and vision in my solution and showing that passion to people in my network.  

If I were to pick one thing that has helped me succeed, it would be… My family and my network. Make sure you go out there and build one for yourself.

If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know…That I absolutely love designing spaces and being creative with interior design. In fact, I designed my own cottage with ‘hygge’ design in mind.

I stay inspired by… People who approach problems with a growth mindset are so inspiring to me.

The future excites me because… It’s quickly changing and transforming. What a time to be an innovator! We’ve come so far in the last few years, and that’s very exciting. It’s even more exciting when you consider future innovations and the impact that they will have on changing our lives forever.  

My next step is… Getting another espresso to recharge before I continue advocating for women in STEM and leadership.


Hear the rest of her incredible story at The Next Frontier: Meet the Tech Visionaries Designing the Future a WOI Spotlight Event – proudly presented by BDC . We are thrilled to announce our return to Montreal for one exclusive engagement on May 15th. Join us for a career-defining evening of learning, connection and inspiration! Tickets are available here.

Meet Devery Jacobs: Award-Winning Actress & Indigenous Rights Activist

Devery found her passion for the arts from a young age. While pursuing her acting career, she also studied to be a counsellor and worked at the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal. Her first big break came when she was cast as the lead role in the award-winning feature film, Rhymes for Young Ghouls (2013), since then Devery has gone on to amass a significant body of work in several film and television productions. Outside of acting and filmmaking, Devery’s other passion lies in Indigenous rights activism. She was the original founder of the Kahnawà:ke Youth Forum where she led and organized protests and rallies. Most recently, Devery has been focusing her activism through her art, hoping to create change within communities, and to alter the perspective of how Indigenous people are seen.



When I was younger I wanted to be a … An “actor in the movie theatres.”

Professionally I would describe myself as … an actor, writer, director and producer who was born and raised in Kahnawà:ke Mohawk Territory.

Working in front of the camera as well as behind it allows me to… help others tell their stories through performing or producing, but also share my own voice and perspective of the world through writing or directing.

I got involved in Indigenous rights activism because… I’m Mohawk – I am inherently political. I have such a profound love for my culture and community and I feel a strong sense of duty to preserve it, revitalize it and protect our land and waters.

My proudest accomplishment is… proving to myself that I can make a career out of doing what I love.

My boldest move to date was… being one of the my only family members to move away from my rez.

My biggest setback was… going on a soul-searching journey of discovering my dream roles for a director who ultimately quit the business.


I’m Mohawk – I am inherently political. I have such a profound love for my culture and community and I feel a strong sense of duty to preserve it, revitalize it and protect our land and waters.


I overcame it by… realizing that my voice is valid and that I can tell these stories my damn self. That launched the creation of my directorial debut.

I surprise people when I tell them… that I hate ketchup. I don’t eat it on anything; hot dogs, french fries — nothing. It’s all about that garlic mayo.

To me, social media is… an opportunity to share what you’re up to, what movements you believe in and art that inspires you.

If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… how to pronounce my first name. (Kawennáhere is pronounced Guh-wen-NUH-hé-ré)

The person I look up to is… my mom. She’s the most resilient, and hardworking person I know.

The best advice I’ve been given is… Carpe that f*cking Diem.

I stay inspired by… visiting family and my community, reading books and graphic novels and watching movies not for research, but as a total fan-girl.

I would tell me 15 year old self… to quit tweezing your eyebrows, and stop hating on your body.

The future excites me because… we are only at the beginning of hearing from LGBTQ+ people and BIPOC! There are going to be so many amazing stories that truly represent all perspectives — and I’m here for it.



Serial entrepreneur Joanna Track, founder of The Bullet, shares three things you don’t need to worry about

Joanna Track

By Joanna Track


You know how the saying goes, “it’s only a mistake if you don’t learn from it.” Well, I’m a true believer in this sentiment. Having been to the entrepreneurial rodeo a number of times (four, to be exact) I know that the way I do things now (and why) are a result of what I’ve learned from my past actions, for better and for worse.

I could probably write a book on all that I’ve learned (and maybe one day I will), but for now, here are some of the best lessons I’ve learned and the ones I continue to take into account as I run my current business.

You can worry or you can work.

I am a born worrier. I’ve probably wasted more sleeping hours (and waking ones for that matter) worrying about things that might happen, things that might not happen, things that have happened, and things that will never happen. And for what? They either happened or they didn’t. And so either I had to deal with them or I didn’t. What I’ve learned over the years is that stressful, unpleasant things WILL happen. So I can spend time worrying about them, or I can just deal with them when they do. As I’ve evolved from my first entrepreneurial venture to now, I’ve seen many of the same issues surface and the only difference is now is that I’ve cut back my worry time and channeled that energy into working towards a solution.

And do things always work out? Hell no, but the world hasn’t fallen apart as a result of it either. (I’ve had a lot to say about failure…you can read about that here.)

It’s just business.

This lesson can be taken two ways. First, it’s just business means keep your emotions in check, don’t let things get too personal, and make decisions using your head more than your heart. I consider myself an empathetic employer and have built some very close relationships with my colleagues, but when that line gets too murky we can easily get drawn into making decisions based on our emotions, not what is best for the business.

The second side to this lesson is it is JUST business. Don’t take it too seriously. You are not your business, and your business is not you (and if it is, you need to work on that.). I’ve learned the hard way that letting business usurp my health and my family and my life is not worth it. Yes, there are times when we need to extend ourselves but it shouldn’t be a constant state of living. One of my favourite quotes (from one of my favourite musical artists, Indigo Girls), goes like this:

The best thing you’ve ever done for me; 
Is to help me take my life less seriously;
It’s only life after all.

That line is a daily reminder to me to live my life and not let my business run my life.

Big isn’t always better.

We all love a good rags to riches story, and I’m sure many of us have fantasized what it would be like to start a business in our basement that becomes a billion dollar company and global success (thanks, Jeff Bezos.) But when you really think about it, do you really want everything that comes with building and maintaining a business like that? And furthermore, would you really be disappointed to take an idea and grow it into an average sized, profitable entity that lets you have you have control over your time and allows you to do something you enjoy?

Because these “unicorn” stories are all around us, I feel that some budding entrepreneurs get caught up in the desire to hit that next “home run”, instead of focusing on steady, sustainable growth.

As I’ve matured (aka gotten older) in my professional life, I’ve become more focused on getting to the next base rather than hitting it out of the park. It’s still challenging and exciting but with less of the drama and stress (and with grey hairs starting to appear, I’m not looking for any more stress, thank you very much.)

On that note, a final quote that really encapsulates the lessons I’ve learned comes from an American author and playwright, Rita Mae Brown: “Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.”

So go out there and take action, hopefully some of them will be so bad you’ll learn something great.