Why we need more women in municipal politics


Addressing the “women can’t have it all” reality of Toronto’s political arena—and what we can do to change it


By Katie Underwood




No matter what Hillary Clinton tells you, it’s never been a better time to be a woman in the political arena: A mere two-and-a-half years ago, the world let out a collective sigh as Canada’s newly elected Prime Minister offloaded the feminist soundbite of the year — “Because it’s 2015” — to justify the country’s first gender-balanced cabinet.

Then, last year, came the country’s first gender-balanced budget, which saw the federal government lending an eye to issues like parental leave and childcare funding in an effort to alleviate economic burdens that disproportionately affect women. At a micro level, grassroots organizations are springing up everywhere in the hopes of recruiting and outfitting women with the tools to make the run of their lives.

But even though sweeping symbolic changes seem to be happening at higher levels of government, at the municipal level the hard numbers are less inspiring: A paltry 18 per cent of mayors across the country are women. In Toronto, Canada’s largest, most diverse metropolis, fewer than a third of city councillors are female and just one is a woman of colour — figures woefully out of sync with the 52 per cent of women who call the city home. So why the disparity?

For starters, the same attitudinal barriers (read: sexism) that keep women at bay affect politics at all levels. A 2017 public opinion poll commissioned by Equal Voice, a multi-partisan organization aimed at electing more Canadian women to office, presented some alarming stats: 58 per cent of respondents said there are either “too many” or “the right number” of women in office; 22 per cent would “definitely not recommend” a career in politics to women they know well; and 30 per cent thought the “hostile” nature of the sector was why more women were abstaining from the game.


“There are so many different ways society tells women to stay put. They end up thinking the political arena is not for them.”


If you follow the news, that final figure makes sense. Merely uttering the names Kathleen Wynne, Elizabeth May or Catherine McKenna (once called “Climate Barbie”) in mixed company is enough to release a bilious cloud of misogyny into the air. And the attacks don’t stop at verbal: In a recent Canadian Press survey, taken by 38 of Canada’s 89 female MPs, 58 per cent of participants claimed they had been victims of the industry’s “casting couch” culture and endured inappropriate remarks, gestures or text messages of a sexual nature.

Kristyn Wong-Tam, the Ward 27 Councillor for Toronto, says she has experienced this hostility first-hand and faced judgment about her gender presentation in the past. “Women are criticized for their body weight, what they wear, the way they style their hair, as opposed to their intellect or capacity to deliver successful results,” she says. “Men aren’t put through the same level of that.” She adds that when women do stick around despite all that nasty sexism, they’re mostly lobbed opportunities to run in “long-shot” constituencies, which promise limited odds of a victory. “There are so many different ways society tells women to stay put. They end up thinking the political arena is not for them.”

And then there are the economic barriers, says Michal Hay, former campaign director for NDP leader Jagmeet Singh. “We know that, broadly, more women live in poverty than men, that they make less on the dollar than men, and that they bear most of the responsibility for childcare,” she says, adding that most candidates (of both genders) inevitably have to leave their jobs for the campaign trail. “The commitment of money and time that running for office requires means there’s a huge risk to them.”

It’s exactly that niggling “women can’t have it all” mentality that a growing swell of non-partisan political groups are hoping to eliminate. One such collective is Progress Toronto, a non-profit outfit — run by none other than Michal Hay — that aims to influence City Hall’s decision-making process by advocating for progressive candidates to win electoral seats. There’s also Women Win TO, a program that trains women to run for municipal politics by connecting them with resources and a network and show them the ropes of running municipalities.

“Because politics is such a male-dominated space, women don’t necessarily know the ins and outs of the campaign,” Hay says. “They need to know what is going be required of them — what resources, what kind of team they’re going to need around them.”

The hope is that the concentrated efforts of local groups of women supporting women will lead to a measurable increase in the number of women elected to positions of influence. If that happens, how might our cities look different?

For Wong-Tam, the impact of electing candidates who share the lived experience of their constituents can’t be overstated. As the daughter of a working-class immigrant mother, she is sensitive to the all-too-common reality of women having to sacrifice career aspirations in favour of practical concerns. “For me, it’s highlighted the value of government-provided services, like childcare — that wasn’t available to my mom, so she had to make a hard choice,” she says. “It’s why, today, I’m such a staunch advocate for gender equality.” Meanwhile, Hay suggests that in Toronto at least, the city’s financial priorities would look much different with more women in council: doubling down on affordable housing; expanded transit services for the TTC’s majority-female ridership; less-expensive childcare over a refurbished Gardiner Expressway.

Of course, it goes without saying that not all women vote as an ideological block — that is, not all are fiscally liberal or socially progressive — but at the very least, more lady leaders mean a better shot at having an equitable lens on a city’s most-pressing issues, as well as weeding out discrimination both on the job and in a city’s priorities. (Just ask Wong-Tam, who was instrumental in passing a bill to have Toronto’s budget made more “gender-responsive.”)

Dollars and cents aside, however, perhaps the most powerful promise of electing more women now is electing even more women in their footsteps. The old adage of “if you can see it, you can be it” rings true. “The more women you have running for office, the more you tend to have working on their campaigns,” says Hay. And better yet? “Running themselves.”

Here are four things you need to know before running (courtesy of Nancy Peckford, executive director of Equal Voice Canada and first-time municipal candidate in Ottawa):


Be a Leader (Before Leading)

It’s really helpful to have some prior leadership experience in the community. Within party politics, you have a baseline network, whereas in municipal politics, you really have to build yourself up, so taking on leadership roles at a community level can make a big difference.


Know Your Demo

Understand who lives in your ward or city, how they vote, and whether your candidacy will align with that. Learn how to speak with potential voters in ways that are meaningful to them.


Quiz Yourself

Equal Voice’s “Getting to the Gate Campaign School,” is a guide that assesses your campaign-readiness. Use it to evaluate yourself on some of the factors necessary for a successful run, like confidence speaking in front of crowds and comfort level with policy arenas. Identify your strengths and weaknesses.


Ask Around

Speak to women who have also run. The municipal arena is underestimated for its complexity, so those who have campaigned and served successfully will have very unique and valuable insights.



Reposted courtesy of LocalLove.ca, a magazine-style website powered by United Way that helps people live well and do good.


How to start making more money as an entrepreneur



If you’re an entrepreneur, the question of how to make more money is one you probably ask yourself every week. It’s common, and I highly suggest this type of self-talk, because it means that you’re on route to helping more people and growing your business as a result. The problem is, most entrepreneurs get lost trying to “do” and “be” everything at once in order to increase their revenue, which is unsustainable. Instead, here are some actionable strategies for you to make more money as an entrepreneur — without burning out.


By Shaylene Cameron



Know your numbers
The goal of running your own business is to create a life you love and profit while doing it. This starts with being clear on the cost of operating your business. Consider your basic overhead: office rent, internet, phone, website, online platforms, conferences, payroll, etc. Also factor in other, more variable expenses, such as education, personal coaching, advertising etc.


Be clear on what you do
Have you ever asked an entrepreneur what they do for a living and their response takes three minutes to explain? We always want to avoid confusing a potential client when talking about our business. So let’s create a clear elevator pitch to talk about what it is that you do.

Here’s a short template I use with some clients:

I help____(your niche) who wrestle/struggle with ______(niche’s problem) have ______(desired solution) and (desired solution).

Here’s an example:

I help female entrepreneurs who struggle with enrolling clients have 10k months and still time for themselves.


Treat yourself like an employee
This is huge! I want you to start viewing yourself as an employee in your own company. Imagine you work for a CEO and she asks you to finish a deadline by 6:00 pm. What do you do? Finish that deadline! Hold yourself to the same expectations you would any other employee or contractor.


Schedule “me” time
Scheduling alone time is the most powerful thing you can do for your business. The top 1% of high-performers place as much emphasis on their personal life as they do on their business.
Take time to grab a cup of tea, snuggle up with a book, call a friend, take a trip. I suggest scheduling (yes, scheduling) something for yourself once a week to nurture your soul. This is where creativity flows and financial attitudes shift.


Train your mind for positivity
Entrepreneurs have a higher risk-threshold than most. We’ve got the tendency to jump and open the parachute on the way down. Given this nature, you’ll likely have more mental and emotional ‘ups and downs’ than someone in a 9-5 role. So, creating a sense and feeling of mental/emotional security is vital to long-term gain. A simple strategy you can use: choose an affirmation that is positive and about you and say it as often as possible.

Some simple affirmations could be:

I approve of myself, I’m an amazing money manager, I always pay myself first, Money flows to me easily.


Develop a referral system
Most people think getting a referral is the product of luck or chance. But, you can create an organized referral system and make it a win-win for everyone.

First steps to set up a referral program:
1) Create an agreement with specific guidelines on what your role is and what the referrer’s role is. Be sure to see legal representation to ensure you have everything you need.
2) Established some sort of value-exchange. For example, if you get a client, they receive coaching or money in return.


Joint Venture Partners
Partnerships with people in similar industries to you are going to be your biggest asset. When you’re searching for partners, think “community” instead of competition. Joining forces and resources is a powerful way to leverage your business.

Start with these steps:

1) Make a list of and research 10 potential partners that you’d like to partner with

2) Contact them and share your interest in becoming a joint venture partner. Be sure to mention why you think you’re a good match.

3) Arrange a date to speak and schedule it in your calendar.


Use these tools as the foundation of your business before adding any more work to your to-do list.



Shaylene Cameron is the CEO and Founder at Shaylene Cameron Mentoring. After driving over $1 million in B2C sales, managing a team of 12, and teaching everything from prospecting to client sales, Shaylene quit at the top of her game. Now, she helps coaches and service-based entrepreneurs have a positive impact AND create more wealth in their businesses. You can reach her at shaylene@shaylenecameron.com.






Building a Better Ladder: How Scotiabank fosters female talent through sponsorship



Not having a sponsor is a key reason many talented women never reach their potential. That’s why up and comer Alana Riley was paired with Alex Besharat, Senior Vice President & Head, Canadian Wealth Management through Scotiabank’s Canadian Banking Sponsorship Program. With a senior leader advocating on her behalf, there’s no telling how far Alana’s career will go.


By Shelley White



Sometimes the best way to grow as a leader is to jump out of your comfort zone, says Alana Riley.

Alana first joined Scotiabank as a District Vice President, followed by the role of Regional Director, Scotiatrust for Western Canada. She recently completed her MBA through Dalhousie University’s distance program, balancing studying with leading a team of 500 people at work and being a wife and mother of three at home. It was a challenge Alana took on with gusto.

“Quite frankly, I don’t want the participation ribbon,” she says with characteristic enthusiasm. “You might say challenge, but I say, ‘Bring it on.’”

It’s this kind of drive that made Alana a natural fit for Scotiabank’s Canadian Banking Sponsorship Program. In order to promote gender parity and mitigate the barriers to advancement that women might face, Scotiabank’s Canadian Banking division implemented the innovative program five years ago.

High-potential women are paired with influential senior executives as a way for them to build networking relationships, better understand their strengths and weaknesses, and accelerate their career aspirations. The sponsors benefit from the program as well, by enhancing their coaching skills and interacting with diverse talent at the Bank.

This past summer, Alana was paired with Alex Besharat, Senior Vice President & Head, Canadian Wealth Management at Scotiabank. For the past six months, the two have been meeting bi-weekly. Alex says he wanted to take part in the program because of how he benefited from these types of relationships over the years. “I’ve had great mentors; people who helped me formally and informally through my career,” he says. “The advice, the counsel, the insights, challenging your thinking — those have been key things for me. I wouldn’t be anywhere near where I am without it, and I wanted to pass that on.”

Alex notes that the low ratio of women in senior leadership roles across countless industries is an issue that needs to be addressed. According to the Canadian Bankers Association (CBA), as of 2016, women occupied 49.8 per cent of middle management positions and 36.2 per cent of senior management positions.

“One part of the solution is to make sure that people who have real talent are exposed to and benefit from the same opportunities as their peers,” he says. “It’s very easy for jobs to be all-consuming. Without these kinds of sponsorship programs, it’s incredibly difficult to take yourself out of the fray and really think strategically about your approach to things, how you’re evolving, and how you’re going to reach your maximum potential in a leadership position.”

Alex and Alana say their dialogue ranges from discussions on specific projects, challenges or job opportunities, to more high-level discussions of personality traits and leadership style.


“Without these kinds of sponsorship programs, it’s incredibly difficult to take yourself out of the fray and really think strategically about your approach to things, how you’re evolving, and how you’re going to reach your maximum potential in a leadership position.”


“I can dig deep into my 30 years and see if I can find situations where I can say, ‘I’ve dealt with this, or I’ve had this challenge myself and here’s what I did,’ good or bad, and hopefully that provides Alana with some learning,” says Alex.

Alana says she’s learned a great deal throughout the journey she and Alex have been on together.

“How can I leverage my strengths and where are the areas I need to develop?” she says. “I know Alex is invested in my success and that’s been key. He can be my advocate, knowing what I’m capable of delivering. And from a personal perspective, it has me thinking more strategically, and has increased my confidence.”

Both Alana and Alex note that an important part of the success of their partnership has been keeping in consistent contact and maintaining their bi-weekly meetings, “rain or shine.”

This kind of sponsorship program can be well worth it, says Alex, but it’s not something to be taken lightly.  

“For it to work well, it requires both people to be committed to it. Not just to make appointments and times, but to be emotionally ‘all in’ and honest, and have a very open attitude towards it,” he says.

“What you put in is what you get out of a program like this,” Alana adds.

Alana says she’s also developed a close network with the other women taking part in the program. “There are a core group of us that have really built our relationship and hold our own bi-weekly calls together,” she says. “So this journey with Alex as my sponsor has had a significant impact for me in terms of my personal development and career advancement strategy.”

When it comes to where she wants to take her career, Alana says the sky’s the limit. As Chair of the Prairie Regional Women in Leadership committee at Scotiabank, Alana looks to company executives like Barbara Mason, Maria Theofilaktidis and Gillian Riley for career inspiration.

“I think they are transforming our industry in terms of discussing unconscious bias that may have prevented women from taking on leadership roles in the past. So I hope to carry that torch forward,” she says. “I hope by the time my daughter is in her career, we will no longer need a committee to encourage leadership diversity.”


Scotiabank is Canada’s international bank and a leading financial services provider in North America, Latin America, the Caribbean and Central America, and Asia-Pacific. Our culture of inclusion is the heart of our global community of Scotiabankers. It is a big part of the Bank’s success and what makes us a global employer of choice.

Learn more about Scotiabank’s commitment to inclusion and Say hello to a career with Scotiabank.


Good Question: How can I create a strong relationship with a potential sponsor?

Christine Laperriere

Christine Laperriere is a seasoned expert on helping leaders and teams reduce internal conflict, improve employee engagement, and more effectively engage with customers and prospects. Working with the Women of Influence Advancement Centre and through her own consultancy, Leader in Motion, she has spent the past ten years teaching hundreds of leaders how to be more effective through her “Leadership through Conflict & Change” course, and helped many with specific challenges through private executive coaching. Her background includes an undergraduate and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering, certifications in psychotherapy and executive coaching, along with years in management consulting focused on implementation, change management and culture change initiatives.



Q: I have been invited into a “coffee talk” with my boss’ boss. I know it’s a great opportunity for future sponsorship, but I’m not sure how to take advantage of it. This isn’t part of any sort of formal program, just a casual invite without a specific agenda. How can I create a positive impact in this conversation and start a strong relationship with a potential sponsor?


Even though it’s just a chat over coffee, this is definitely a meeting you should be preparing for. Many highly talented professionals get invited into these casual skip-level meetings, but they often don’t think through a strategy to leverage this opportunity to build a stronger relationship — and potentially create a sponsor. Follow these tips to get yourself prepared and make a positive impression.


1. Be intentional.

Set a clear intention for this conversation and how you’d like this person to feel after the conversation. An example might be: “I want Jane to feel that I admire her work within the organization, and I want her to know my strengths so she considers me for new opportunities in the future.”


2. Show your admiration.

Everyone appreciates being valued and recognized, even top executives in your organization. If there is an aspect of this executive’s work that you admire, it never hurts to share this as you get to know them better. Show them that you don’t just respect them for their title but more for the great work and leadership they bring to the organization.


3. Question their views.

Take the opportunity to ask them to share their perspective about how they see various business issues, projects or opportunities. Given their role in the organization, they often have a different perspective and vantage point. By being curious about their perspective, you can learn a lot about a leader. The more you know about how they view things, the more value you can bring to your relationship with them.


4. Share your personal brand.

Be sure to think through a quick sound bite that highlights a few recent accomplishments you are proud of or a few unique strengths you bring to the team. Remember that your work alone can’t actually speak for itself, so you’ll need to help highlight these accomplishments and your strengths in an authentic way.


5. Invite them to walk in your shoes.

Once you’ve shared your personal brand, it’s a powerful question to ask your potential sponsor what opportunities they would be thinking about if they were in your shoes. There is specific magic in this question as it encourages that executive to really comprehend the strengths and highlights you’ve shared, and connect those to future opportunities they see in the organization. The best part is, if you position this as a question, it encourages them to do the thinking — making them more likely to remember your conversation moving forward.


6. Think “mutually beneficial.”

The best relationships in business and in life are beneficial for both parties involved. Many times, professionals assume that executives have everything they need or they only focus on what’s in the relationship that could benefit them personally. Asking this potential sponsor what you could do to help them demonstrates that you aren’t looking to build a one-sided relationship for your own benefit alone, but that you are also looking out for their interests as well. This simple step will help you build the respect and trust that will act as the foundation for a long-term strong working relationship.


7. Send a mindful follow up.

After your coffee, follow up with an email that specifically points out why you appreciated the conversation, including the insights and suggestions you found valuable. Watch for future opportunities to connect, and if you’re unsure when or how to approach them — each sponsor and each situation is different — this could be a good conversation to have with a mentor or trusted colleague.



What’s the difference between a mentor and a sponsor?

It is often said that a mentor talks with you, and a sponsor talks about you. What does that mean? While a mentoring relationship focuses on discussion, advice, and guidance, a sponsor actively connects you to career opportunities. You may not even know that an individual is your sponsor — but that doesn’t stop them from suggesting your name when a stretch assignment or promotion comes up. That’s why it’s so important to take advantage of “casual coffees” that enable you to cultivate these valuable relationships. It can have a major impact on how quickly you are able to move up in your career.



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.


What’s it like for a woman in the investment field? Three female investment advisors share their stories.


Is investing still a boys’ club? Is there an opportunity for women to succeed? Joni Ganderton, Kavaughn Boismier, and Michelle Crouse from investment firm BMO Nesbitt Burns give their honest take on how the industry is changing, why it has been a fit for them, and why more women should get involved — both as advisors, and investors.

By Marie Moore


There’s a common perception that the investment industry is a boy’s club. And with estimates of the number of female investment advisors ranging between 12 to 16 per cent, it’s undeniably male-dominated. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t an opportunity for women to succeed. And according to Joni Ganderton, Kavaughn Boismier, and Michelle Crouse — who all work with investment firm, BMO Nesbitt Burns — that opportunity is growing. With their own thriving practices in cities across Canada, and over 40 years of combined experience in the field between them, they’re providing an inside look at what it’s like to be a woman in wealth management, and their observations on how gender plays a role for investors, too.


Michelle Crouse began her career with BMO Nesbitt Burns in 1996, specializing in wealth management strategies for individuals and their families. As a Wealth Advisor, she provides comprehensive wealth solutions to clients in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia. 

My favourite part about my job is the connection I make with people. Some of my clients have become my very good friends, and I truly value those relationships and the learning that comes from meeting such a wide variety of interesting people, that are often outside of my usual social circle. I really get to know my clients on a personal level, as my approach has always been to listen and engage in an attempt to understand what matters to them. Because the fact is, investing is not the end, it’s the means to the end — it’s how you get to where you want to be.

How do I help my clients get there? Investment decisions are determined by a client’s situation and objectives. My female clients, for example, are often in transition, either because of the death of their spouse or divorce. They can sometimes be overwhelmed if they haven’t previously been responsible for the management of their own financial lives, so they need to have a high level of trust with me, and feel like I’m walking shoulder to shoulder with them.

We can do a lot to alleviate any unease that women may have regarding managing their finances or making investment decisions. Fortunately, in my experience, they aren’t afraid to ask questions, they respond well to coaching, and they appreciate open and honest conversation about financial planning and how it fits in the big picture. As advisors we need to do a good job ensuring that our clients are confident to ask as many questions that they need to.

Back in the day it may have been a boy’s club, but I’ve been in this field just over twenty years, and I’ve really found everyone I’ve worked with — including my clients — to be extremely supportive and respectful. The industry has truly evolved today, and it’s now a very attractive choice for women who are looking for flexibility from a work/life balance perspective, or who want to control their own destiny

One thing that hasn’t changed much is the percentage of women in the industry. There definitely is a need to engage more women, because they are only about 16 per cent of the advisor population, and that’s a disappointing statistic. I’m proud to say that attracting female advisors to our firm is a priority, and there is a strong commitment to supporting women.


Based out of Salt Spring Island, B.C., Joni Ganderton has been providing wealth management services to high net worth investors since 1993. She’s a licensed Certified Financial Planner and Wealth Advisor.

I have always had an interest in investment management. After completing an MBA in finance and marketing, I managed a private banking office for a while, which gave me the opportunity to work with both individuals around their family needs and corporations around their commercial needs. The experience led me to realize that I most enjoyed relationships with individuals and families — and so I took the leap into wealth management. When I started in 1993, I didn’t really pay attention to the boy’s club that existed, as I was squarely focussed on success. Even now, it’s still a bit of a boys’ club — in that there are just so many more men than women in the industry — but there have also been many advances and efforts made to make it more inclusive for women. And there’s absolutely room for women to be successful.

In general, female investment advisors have a listening approach that really comes from a place of care. And that translates into a great opportunity to build a business in today’s wealth planning environment, where success comes from taking the time to hear your clients’ needs. I believe women clients in particular really appreciate and quickly recognize the listening approach. And with the continuing increase in the share of wealth controlled by women, the opportunity is growing to work with female investors in a way that meets their unique needs and approach.  

That growth excites me. The highlight of what I do every day is bringing in new clients. Not only because I enjoy interacting with new families and businesses, but I also love the thrill of closing the deal. If that excites you, the industry might be the right fit for you — but you should also know it’s an all or nothing kind of business. Because it is traditionally your own practice, you’ve got to be able to live and breathe it, 24 hours a day. Make that decision cautiously and be ready for that change. 


Prior to jumping into the role of Investment Advisor and Financial Planner in January of 2017, Kavaughn Boismier spent over two years as a Private Wealth Consultant. She’s based out of Windsor, Ontario.

I approach my role as an investment advisor differently. This can be explained by three reasons: I am a millennial, I come from a wealth management background, and I am a woman. Like many other female investment advisors, I place a great emphasis on certain areas that I think many of my male colleagues might call “fluff” — like visual appeal, branding, technology, process, a holistic conversation, and strong intuition and listening skills.

Each one of my client’s, male or female, approaches investing differently, too. It comes down to education, previous investment experience, and trust. I tailor my conversation and approach to match my client’s expectations on an individual basis. Among my female clients, I’ve noticed some common misconceptions regarding managing their financial future. That it will be hard. That it will be confusing. That they are not capable of making strong, sound, investment decisions.

Where do these misconceptions come from? Naturally, many women need to understand it all. And this need leads to anxiety, fear, and restlessness — and often avoidance. I believe that once we as women realize that we can trust our financial advisor to guide us in making the right choices, the experience becomes very enjoyable.

It’s certainly enjoyable for me. Offering premier wealth solutions to the people in my community is a very fulfilling experience, and I am propelled by a deep passion to be a strong source of information and a thought leader to those around me. Plus, I love owning my brand.

Based on my experience so far, I wouldn’t call our industry a boys’ club anymore. I would say that it is definitely male dominated — with a refreshing female presence. The industry and its professionals acknowledge that the number of female invest advisors needs to increase. BMO Wealth, for one, is placing a high level of focus around finding good female talent. It’s a win for clients — especially the growing segment of female investors — and it’s a win for the women who become financial advisors. I’m certainly proof of that.




Why estate planning is important for all women — and how you can get started


As vice president and regional director, Lydia Potocnik leads the Trust and Estate Services team in Ontario for BMO Trust Company, which provides individuals, families, and businesses with valuable estate, trust, and incapacity services. She believes it is important for everyone to have an estate plan in place and for women, there are times when it needs to be made a priority.


By Lydia Potocnik



Women find themselves in a different situation today than they did fifty years ago — a time when it was assumed that women couldn’t and shouldn’t be in charge of financial decisions. Now, women are not only empowered and capable, their personal wealth is also growing. They are in a strong position to be making decisions around estate planning on their own if they are single, or collaboratively with their spouse as an equal partner.

So why do so many women avoid the estate planning conversation?

My experience points to a few reasons. Far too often, clients wait until they have a health crisis, which is not ideal for a process that requires well thought out decisions and time to do it right. Many feel that it is a topic related to death, which they find difficult to have to deal with, or they erroneously believe that estate planning is not necessary for them. Contrary to popular misconception, you don’t need to own a big house or have millions of dollars in an investment account to warrant putting an estate plan in place. It also doesn’t matter what age you are, your marital status, or if you have kids. For all women, estate planning is just as important as financial planning. And in some cases, it needs to be made a priority:


If you’re married.

While it’s unpleasant to think about your spouse passing on, it’s a reality that you may one day have to face (thanks to female longevity, this is especially true if you have a husband). It is critical for women to be involved in the estate planning process, to ensure you agree upon how assets will be distributed after your partner’s death, and that your own well being as a widow is secure. This also means you will have the last word on what ultimately happens to your shared  assets. Deciding how to divide things up amongst family members or philanthropic causes should not be a last-minute process.


If you own a business.

The number of female entrepreneurs is growing in Canada. In fact, self-employment among men has remained relatively flat since 2009, while it has been increasing among women. If you are part of this new wave of entrepreneurs, you not only need to consider protecting your assets, but you also need to plan for the succession of your business should you die or have a health crisis.


If you have custody of your kids.

In the event of a divorce, a lot of women become custodial parents with either primary control or shared custody of their young children. If you have kids under the age of 18, you’ll want to make sure that they are not only financially taken care of, but also that you have appointed a guardian in your will to look after them.


If you have a blended family.

Blended families that include children from a previous marriage have become more commonplace, and this can mean special estate planning considerations need to be taken into account. What a woman will often want to do is provide for her second spouse, but she may also want her wealth to ultimately end up in the hands of her kids from her first marriage. A spousal trust, in that scenario, is one planning solution to consider.


If you’ve experienced a major life change.

Even if you already have an estate plan in place, major life changes — such as the birth of a child, the acquisition or sale of a business, or the death of a beneficiary — means your estate plan needs work. And if nothing eventful has happened, you should still be revisiting your estate plan every three to five years, to account for things like changes in tax laws.


If you already recognize the importance of estate planning, you might be wondering how to get started. There are many individuals offering estate planning services, but it has become such a niche area of expertise that I encourage you to only sit down with someone who has strong experience in the field.

When working with BMO Trust Company clients, I ask that they come to their first meeting armed with a list of everything they own, as well as how they want to divide it up. Beyond that, the estate planning lawyer should be able to offer guidance, ensuring you are making decisions around critical issues, and focusing on four components: your will, which is the cornerstone of the estate plan; power of attorney documents, both for property and personal care; setting up trusts, as needed; and reviewing beneficiary designations on investment vehicles, such as RRSPs, Tax-Free Savings Accounts, and life insurance policies.

Communicating your estate plan to your executor and your beneficiaries is also critical when it comes to estate planning. Women often are concerned about preserving family relationships and ensuring that their children or beneficiaries get along after their death. As such, discussing your wishes and sharing with your family what your ultimate estate plan looks like is a good idea.

Whether it be to your children or your favourite charity, transitioning your wealth comes down to your ultimate wishes. Documenting those wishes in an estate plan is critical, no matter who you are and what you own, so don’t put off this important exercise until it’s too late.



Like this? Discover the four myths that are holding women back from successfully managing their finances.

Four myths that hold women back from successfully managing their finances


Melanie McDonald is the Vice-President and Regional Director of Trust and Estate Services at BMO Trust Company in Western Canada. As an expert on estate planning, she assists clients with some of the most challenging issues that they and their family will face in their lifetime. She’s also accustomed to handling her own personal and family finances — and believes women should be encouraged more to get involved. As she points out, you don’t need to be a financial expert to feel confident about managing your money.


By Melanie McDonald



More than once, my husband and I have been in meetings with financial advisors who have focused their attention on my husband, and when there are decisions to be made, they ask him to respond, until I say, “Based on my background I take the lead in our family on investment issues, so how you work with us to make investment decisions needs to change.”

It isn’t a surprising situation. The assumption that one person in a couple, often the man, is the one who makes the financial decisions is common — not just in the industry, but outside of it as well, and men are not the only ones to subscribe to this idea. It sometimes comes along with the stereotype that women can’t handle the risk or complexity involved with making financial decisions. I shouldn’t have to explain that this is absolutely untrue — every woman is capable.

And every woman should be capable. Investor Economics projects that the share of wealth controlled by women will grow to $2.7 Trillion by 2024. Whether they are self-made — building wealth from their own businesses and careers — or have inherited wealth, women are an economic force.

So what is holding women back from confidently taking charge of their finances? In my work with hundreds of clients, I’ve identified four myths around women and money that need to be dispelled.


Myth #1: You need to know everything about investing to get started.

Often people think they need all of the answers before meeting with a financial advisor. But that is exactly what Advisors are there for — to provide not only the options, but information to make an informed decision. Depending on your role models or life experience, you may not currently have the skills to deal with financial issues, but a great advisor will help to educate you and guide you through the experience. Have the confidence to ask questions and learn.


Myth #2: Once you’ve started investing, you need keep up to date on everything to make informed decisions.

Fully understanding the wide world of investing is a daunting task — and a task that you can leave to professionals. When your advisor listens to your priorities and presents you with options, you can focus your personal research and learning. You’ll be informed enough to make key decisions, without being overwhelmed. A helpful tip for identifying these priorities on your own is to think about your finances not in isolation, but tied to your day-to-day life and major milestones. Ask yourself, “What’s most important to focus on this year?” That’s where you can focus your learning.

There are numerous books and online resources for further educating yourself on specific topics. BMO also offers workshops across Canada for women clients, including seminars for entrepreneurs, becoming more confident in financial life and investing, and dealing with major life events such as divorce or losing a partner.


Myth #3: You’re stuck with the advisor you have.

Seeing your financial advisor shouldn’t feel like going to the dentist. Even beyond this extreme, you shouldn’t settle for someone who isn’t connecting with you, or giving you the advice and support you need. Some advisors tend to focus on their expertise, or what they want to accomplish in a meeting based on what they think the client wants. A great advisor listens and learns, ultimately focusing on the immediate and long-term needs and priorities of their clients. They also understand that the risks of investing can be stressful, and will not only help to make decisions, but will also work with their clients to implement them, make sure they feel right, and make changes if necessary.

If you’ve invested a lot of time and effort with your current advisor you might be reluctant to start the search again, but the relationship is simply too important not to get it right. Your advisor helps you with the foundations of your life, and you could be working with them for years or decades. Make a change if you need to. Or, as I have done, have a frank discussion with your advisor about what you need to have happen to improve the situation.


Myth #4: You can wait as long as you want to get started.

Thanks to the compounding effect of money, the sooner you budget for investing, the greater the returns — and the peace of mind. Even if your partner is currently handling the finances, there’s likely going to be a point in your life that you are going to be in charge. It’s always better to get comfortable and learn while there’s stability in your life, rather than when there is a significant life change that forces control upon you.

Any myths that are out there should not be barriers stopping from getting your financial and estate planning started or getting more involved in the decision making. It is empowering to take steps to feel more control of your financial wellbeing and your plans for the future. There are many great advisors who are passionate about ensuring that their clients are on the path to success — I encourage you to take one step forward today to get closer to having your financial goals achieved.




Confidence gap: survey shows young women don’t believe in their tech skills



The concept of “The Confidence Gap” is by no means a new conversation — there are many studies showing that, across all cultures, women are less self-assured than men. And success is as much based on confidence as it is competence. 

Adding to that body of evidence is a recent survey of more than 1,000 university students in the United Kingdom, focused specifically on their tech ability. Conducted by KPMG UK and independent market research company High Fliers, it identified a worrying crisis in confidence among young women with regards to their digital skills.

The poll found that only 37 percent of young women are confident they have the tech skills needed by today’s employers, compared with 57 percent of young men. This is despite scoring on a par with their male counterparts when assessed on digital skills such as data manipulation and use of social media.

There is further evidence that this lack of confidence could be putting many young women off applying for jobs: 73 per cent of female respondents said they have not considered a graduate job in technology. 

 Aidan Brennan, KPMG’s head of digital transformation, believes businesses need to adapt their recruitment processes to reflect this issue, ensuring the selection process isn’t biased towards “those who shout about their capability loudest.”

“The issue here isn’t around competency – far from it – but rather how businesses understand the underlying capability of an individual and how to unlock it,” says Brennan. “I think this research highlights the work that needs to be done to show the next generation that when it comes to a career in tech, gender isn’t part of the equation.”



Meet Kyla Fox, an Entrepreneur Bringing Healing to Women in Toronto

Kyla Fox is the founder of The Kyla Fox Centre, a premier eating-disorder recovery centre in Toronto. She has been a clinical therapist in the field for fifteen years and is a public speaker, writer, educator and advocate for eating disorder awareness and prevention. Her personal experiences and struggles inspired her to make a profound impact on other women and girls, and you’ll discover that she intends to keep that impact alive through her proudest accomplishments her two daughters, Ryan Belle and Augusta Grey.




My first job ever was… Working in retail at a trendy clothing store called Lunatic Fringe when I was 14 years old. Loved it.


I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I don’t like people telling me what to do.  I wanted to make my own rules.  


Running a private business focused on mental health is… In my blood — it’s what I’ve struggled with. Opening a centre for eating disorder recovery was, therefore, a no-brainer. It’s what I know.


My proudest accomplishment is… My daughters Ryan Belle (2 years) and Augusta Grey (4 months).


My boldest move to date was… Having my girls.


I surprise people when I tell them… I’m highly anxious and anti-social. People don’t believe me.  It’s true.


My best advice to people starting out in business is… Setting a deadline and sticking to it. I said I wanted to open the Centre on my 30th birthday, that I had to do it before turning 31. I did.


My best advice from a mentor was… “Keep going”. And “make sure you pay yourself”.


My biggest setback was… Finding the right team when I opened The Centre. Finding the right fit for the work we are doing and staying true to my vision.


I overcame it by… Constantly evaluating the dynamics of my team and ensuring our goals/philosophy for healing are aligned.


Work/life balance is… Impossible. How do all you women do this?! Kudos to Sheryl Sandberg. She’s a legend.


If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… I’ve been trying to read Wally Lamb’s book, ‘We Are Water’, for two years. I’m on page three. It’s collecting dust on my night table. But more seriously, my dream is to travel the world with my daughters. To interview women and their daughters cross-culturally about body image and raising girls.


I stay inspired by… Doing my yoga practice.


The future excites me because… I get to influence the next generation of women through my daughters. And I get to continue to speak louder about changing the language of eating disorders.


My next step is… Actively marketing my business. The Centre has successfully run on word of mouth for five years and I haven’t needed to do this to date. I’m excited for new eyes on the Centre!!



Do you know a successful female entrepreneur who deserves recognition? Nominate her for the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards!



Meet Sarah Kerr, Executive Director of SchoolBOX

Sarah Kerr got involved in the grassroots charity SchoolBOX at the young age of 19, when she helped to raise funds to build the organization’s very first classroom in Nicaragua. She was humbled by the extreme poverty she witnessed there, and propelled by a strong desire to change the world by giving children access to a basic education. At the age of 25 she became SchoolBOX’s Executive Director, leading a team of 15 local Nicaraguan employees and 3 Canadian employees to fulfill its mission of ‘making education possible’ for all girls and boys. Now a working mother, reporting to a Board of Directors comprised of 85% women, Sarah firmly believes in championing women and girls to reach their full potential, starting with a basic education.




My first job ever was… Was working at an independent bookshop and café.  My boss was an incredible model for community building and generosity. I can thank her for introducing me to SchoolBOX, my addiction to books, and snobbery for fair trade coffee to this day.


I decided to pursue this passion because… As the daughter of an amazing teacher, I always thought I would pursue the same path. When I started raising money for school supplies and literacy for schools in South America as a teenager, I realized I could impact kids by empowering their teachers.


My proudest accomplishment is… Championing women like Jazmin Lopez who broke the cycle of extreme poverty in one generation through education, was a founding member of SchoolBOX, has a decade of entrepreneurial experience in Nicaragua and a degree in international relations. Today she empowers 18,000+ kids in her country!


My boldest move to date was… I took a year off of university to work multiple jobs and raise funds for the first SchoolBOX library & school. I learned Spanish in Costa Rica and lived with local teachers in Nicaragua. Little did I know I would find a lifelong mission, my Christian faith, and meet my husband in the process.


I surprise people when I tell them… That I can do a pretty good front flip…off of cliffs, bridges, or accidentally on snowboard jumps!


My best advice to people starting out in the non-profit world is… This world needs your passion and energy! Focus your mindset on the mission, not trying to ‘get a job’. I would also suggest trying to learn as much about business as possible because non-profit work is ultimately running a lean and agile organization with high impact.


My best advice from a mentor was… Don’t be a perfectionist. Be brave.


“This world needs your passion and energy! Focus your mindset on the mission, not trying to ‘get a job’”


My biggest setback was… Postpartum anxiety. Having birth trauma, and later a miscarriage were some serious personal challenges as a working mom.


I overcame it by… Having great mentors. My executive coaches, who are amazing women filled with wisdom and encouragement, have been a lifesaver for me. Also having a support system to lean on including my family and friends, church community, neighbours, my naturopath and family doctor have been key.


Work/life balance is… Elusive! My work involves a lot of travel, which is very challenging with a small child with asthma, who got pneumonia twice this winter. Still working on this one.


If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… I love to travel and have explored cultures on five continents through food, dance, language and adventure. There are so many amazing places and people on this planet, it could take many lifetimes to experience all the diversity and beauty.


I stay inspired by… Visiting teachers in Nicaragua who are ‘making education possible’ for kids in unimaginable conditions. Last month, I met Gema Picado who just graduated from teachers college, built a dirt floor rancho in her home community that had no school, and is now giving classes to 54 kids each day. Her determination is inspiring!


The future excites me because… Kids are so open to using their imaginations to make our world better. Seeing young Nicaraguans leading SchoolBOX and the impact that Indigenous youth volunteers are now making in their communities in Canada, after helping to build schools in Nicaragua, is pretty incredible.


My next step is… Piloting our SchoolBOX model here at home to empower Indigenous youth to ‘make education possible’ for children in their home communities.


Meet Stephanie Boyd, a Canadian filmmaker advocating for those without a voice.



Meet Tanya Van Biesen, Director of Catalyst Canada and #GoSponsorHer Advocate

Tanya van Biesen is Executive Director of Catalyst Canada, the leading global non-profit working to accelerate progress for women through workplace inclusion, and a founding partner of the #gosponsorher initiative. As a recognized influencer with deep experience in the executive search sector at the most senior levels of corporate Canada, Tanya has over two decades of industry research to share on why sponsorship is so effective in advancing women. On June 21, she’ll speak on a panel of sponsorship experts at The Sponsorship Summit: How Corporate Canada is Investing in Female Leaders. Get to know her a little more personally here.




My first job ever was… Delivering newspapers for my brother when he was too tired to cover his route.


I chose my career path because… I am passionate about people.


The best part of my job is… The incredibly interesting people that I meet every day.


My proudest accomplishment is… My 2 children – Jack and Meredith.


My boldest move to date was… To leave the security of a partnership position at a world class firm.


I surprise people when I tell them… That I have always wanted to be a back-up singer.


My best advice to people starting their career is… Work hard, work with great people, and learn as much as you can as quickly as you can.


Sponsorship is important because… It is intentional support and advocacy for the career success of another.


My best advice from a mentor was… To plan my career out as I would a marathon, and not a sprint.


Work/life balance is… Looking forward to both being at home and being at work.


I stay inspired by… The people that I meet who are committed to gender equity.


The future excites me because… I believe that Canada is on the cusp of amazing change.


My next step is… The same as my last. Continue to advocate for women in Canadian business.


Want to hear more from Tanya van Biesen? Get your ticket to The Sponsorship Summit today.



Meet Gaby Bayona, an Innovative Bridal Designer for the Unconventional Woman in All of Us

Gaby Bayona was born and raised in Vancouver, BC into a household filled with sewing machines, wedding gowns and constant creation. Her mother was a bridal seamstress, and it was this early exposure, a childhood laced with full skirts and fleeting veils, that inspired Gaby to begin designing and constructing her own dresses, at first for her mother’s boutique. Fast-forward just a few years and, after a decision to reinvent the traditional wedding dress, Truvelle was born. Today, Gaby has grown her Etsy shop, selling to more than 23 retailers in the U.S., six in Canada, and in Europe and Australia — all before the age of 25. Here’s how she did it.




My first job ever was… At a mini donut stand during Vancouver’s annual Festival of Lights when I was 14.


I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I was already going down that path after founding my high school’s store and co-running a business with my mom. I wanted to explore it more.


I chose to design bridal wear because… It was something I really knew. I grew up in the industry. My mom would take me with her while she worked in the alteration rooms of various bridal shops and then kept me alongside her when starting her own custom dress boutique.


My proudest accomplishment is… Being able to hire/provide for 25+ people before I’ve turned 25.


My boldest move to date was… Moving to a live/work studio I couldn’t afford in downtown Vancouver to start Truvelle.


I surprise people when I tell them… I used to participate in math competitions, and was my school’s champion one year.


My best advice to people starting out in business is… Just start something — anything — because your first year is a write-off anyways. You might as well get that year, and the mistakes that come with it, out of the way.


My best advice from a mentor was… Don’t stress out if you don’t work a full 40 hour week, because you will make (and have made) that up tenfold.


My biggest setback was… Not having the funds to do big picture things, especially early on.


I overcame it by… Bootstrapping & working extra-long hours


Work/life balance is… Having a beer while you work?


Being a young entrepreneur is… Awesome, because when you make a mistake it’s “because you’re young” but if you succeed it’s all the more impressive. There isn’t as much pressure, so you’re more fearless.


If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… I can impersonate a guinea pig (secret’s out).


I stay inspired by… Seeing other people’s hustles.


The future excites me because… There’s so much opportunity for good things to happen.


My next step is… To take care of myself! I’ve been focusing so much on Truvelle that it’s been easy to neglect my own health.



Photo: Jill Schweber | Jewellery: Wolf Circus 



Do you know a successful female entrepreneur who deserves recognition? Nominate her for the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards!



Meet Shay Lowe, a Toronto-based Jewellery Designer with a Beverly Hills Presence

Shay Lowe’s ambition and genuine passion for her craft has taken her from a small town to one of Toronto’s Top Ten Jewellery Designers, whose designs have been seen on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and A-list celebrities. She was noted as a ‘Designer on the Rise’ and one of the Top 15 Designers across Canada for the Cashmere campaign featured at The Bay — and it’s her laser-sharp focus and drive to constantly evolve that she has to thank.




My first job ever was…Working as a hostess in a restaurant.


I decided to be an entrepreneur because…I love being a catalyst for growing ideas and working for myself.


To me, the fashion industry is…A constantly evolving world of immense creativity and great vision.


My proudest accomplishment is…Growing a successful business over 10 years and inspiring others.


My boldest move to date was…Leaving my job to become an entrepreneur.


I surprise people when I tell them…That I’m from a small town.


My best advice to people starting out in business is…You have to be really hungry, passionate, well prepared, and willing to put in the hard work.


My best advice from a mentor was…Know your numbers.


“You have to be really hungry, passionate, well prepared, and willing to put in the hard work.”


My biggest setback was…Having to switch factories mid production.


I overcame it by…Working hard under pressure, and utilizing the strong business network I had built.


Work/life balance is…Not reality. Knowing when to shut things down is key. Learn to prioritize self-care. And most importantly, have fun and enjoy life!


The arts are important because…They cultivate and nurture creativity as an industry, while adding richness and value to the culture of any city.


If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know…I was asked a couple of times to be on a reality TV show.


I stay inspired by…Travelling and sharing ideas with other entrepreneurs.


The future excites me because…It’s a new level of growth…the unknown is always exciting.


My next step is…Supporting the next generation of women entrepreneurs and redefining my business.




Meet another small town Canadian turned big city entrepreneur success story, Jean Blacklock, founder of Prairie Girl Bakery.



Meet Louise Green, Big Fit Girl and Believer that Sweat, Endorphins and Victory Belong to Every ‘Body’

Louise Green is an internationally recognized plus-size trainer, author of Big Fit Girl, and body positive champion who has motivated countless plus-size women and girls to take control of their health, improve their well-being, and boost their self-confidence through personal fitness. A true advocate for change, she received the Body Confidence Canada Award for Health and Wellness in 2016 and has set a precedent for women who don’t fit the stereotypical mold of whatever dream they hope to accomplish: do it anyway, and do it with strength. 



My first job ever was…Working in a floral shop during my Grade 8 Work Experience Program. I thought I wanted to go into floral design but I quickly realized: I didn’t!


I decided to be an entrepreneur because…I was never that good at being an employee. I always felt stifled and unhappy. I didn’t realize that entrepreneurship was the answer until I went on maternity leave and had the idea of opening my own business. Since then, every day has been an exciting adventure, one with no ceilings. What I like most about it is that I’m in the driver’s seat making all the decisions about the direction I want to go.


My proudest accomplishment is…In my life, it is my beautiful son and the young man he is becoming. Being an entrepreneur has allowed me to have a connected relationship with him and with my work. My proudest accomplishment in business is the overall success of my mission, that after 10 years I can see change in our society around body size and fitness. I am extremely proud to have played a part in creating that change.


My boldest move to date was…Starting a business based around a concept that didn’t yet exist and hoping the right people would find it valuable. In 2008, I launched the first fitness business in Canada that was dedicated to plus-size women. Since then, I have championed a message that is counter to mainstream fitness culture: that big bodies can also be fit and healthy bodies. I am challenged often, but I boldly stand by what I see and experience on daily basis in my work with plus-size women. Sweat, endorphins and victory belong to every “body”.


“I am challenged often, but I boldly stand by what I see and experience on daily basis in my work with plus-size women. Sweat, endorphins and victory belong to every ‘body’.”


I surprise people when I tell them…I am a fitness professional. People aren’t accustomed to associating a size 16 body with the job title “fitness professional,” and sometimes it takes a moment to sink in. Being visible is a big part of my mission to change our perceptions around body size.


My best advice to people starting out in business is…Don’t be afraid to be unique. I remember people saying to me, “Don’t limit yourself to one type of client,” but I think niche markets, especially underserved markets, will give you an edge and will set you apart from other businesses.


My best advice from a mentor was…Value your work and charge accordingly. When I was a new entrepreneur I struggled with realizing my worth and how valuable my offering was. I realized that if I couldn’t see my value, other people wouldn’t either.


My biggest setback was…In the past, I have made some business decisions through partnerships that weren’t quite right for me. Each of these detours came with setbacks, and it has taken time to correct them and get on course again.


I overcame it by…Learning from them, and being sure not to make the same mistake twice. Every business move is a chance to learn, and I don’t think there’s an entrepreneur out there who hasn’t made mistakes or had to correct course at one time or another.


To me, living a balanced life means…Having a successful business, a family life and a fitness outlet. My husband is also an entrepreneur so there’s a lot of “working” going on in our home. But we also manage to volunteer at the school, coach baseball and actively get involved in parenting while managing our businesses. Since the core of what I do is fitness related, I am always practicing what I preach and working towards my own physical goals. There isn’t a lot of down time for us but it’s never boring!


I want women to feel…There are so many messages in our society that tell women they aren’t good enough, whether it’s because we’re too old, too big or just not pretty enough. We live an aesthetically driven world that largely judges the value of women by how we look. I want women to ditch that and value themselves from the inside out. I want women to live to their highest potential, feel powerful, inspired, confident and alive. I found my way to all of those things through physical fitness, but only after I let go of aesthetic and weight loss goals and focused on the power and victory I gained with each workout.


“I want women to live to their highest potential, feel powerful, inspired, confident and alive.”


If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know…I don’t think there’s much google won’t tell you, but I am originally from Liverpool, England – my Mom has danced with John Lennon and brushed shoulders with Paul McCartney! My friends joke that he’s my Dad (for the record, he isn’t).


I stay inspired by…I am incredibly inspired by the work I do and the rise of body positivity and increasing visibility of diverse women. It’s exciting times when you can see that the work you are doing is having an impact.


The future excites me because…There’s a lot of really exciting things going on for me in my career right now. It’s a lot to take in but it’s everything I’ve worked for. I am excited every morning to open my inbox and see what awaits me!


My next step is…I am working on various projects that include digital fitness programs, collaborations with various brands and I’m in talks with a production company to develop a potential television show. A big passion for me is to speak to audiences, and I hope to do more of to carry my message to as many women as possible.



Meet another body-positive Canadian entrepreneur who believes bust size shouldn’t dictate fashion choice.

Meet Rachel Ignotofsky, an Illustrator and Author Breathing New Life into Women in Science

Rachel Ignotofsky is a New York Times Best Selling author and illustrator whose work highlights the incredible scientific achievements of prominent women in history. Get to know what inspires her, and how she’s using her talents to reshape the way we view women in traditionally male-dominated fields.



My first job ever was… I answered the phone for an amazing woman named Terry, who ran the continuing education program at my college. She is literally the sweetest woman in the world, even when I showed up the first day in pajamas like a dumb kid.


I decided to become an illustrator and author because… I always wanted to be an illustrator, but I decided to become an author because i think educations is incredibly important. Whether you are a kid or an adult you need to understand the world around you to make informed decisions. That’s why I use my illustrations to promote scientific literacy and teach history, especially around women’s issues.


My proudest accomplishment is… My first book: Women in Science. It is literally a dream come true times infinity to be published.


I surprise people when I tell them… That I just learned to ride a bike.


My best advice to people launching a creative pursuit is… Work on your passion projects every day and make sure they are visible online.


My best advice from a mentor was… Never freelance for free. Always work for competitive pay and that leads to more work that pays competitively. “Exposure” does not pay the bills.


Rachel Ignotofsky_Marie Curie


My biggest setback was… Figuring out how to be my own boss when I first quit my 9-5 job. You know you have work but you kinda feel like you’re floating in the ocean at first.


I overcame it by… Becoming the queen of calendars. I have three paper calendars and two day planners keeping me on track at all times. I set benchmarks for the year, then each month, week and day to keep me on track with large projects and personal goals.


Work/life balance is… My work is my life. I truly love what I do. Left to my own devices it is all I think about, but I keep myself in check with my day planner. It is all about those daily goals. Once I have everything on my list done I am done for the day. That way you stay fresh.


Rachel Ignotofsky_Patricia Bath


If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… How messy my desk is. It is natural disaster level messy.


I stay inspired by… For my book it is the stories of the women in them. Just learning about their lives, their raw passion and everything they had to overcome to contribute to science — it is truly inspiring, and I want to do my small part to have more people learn about them.


The future excites me because… I am excited to see how kids who grew up since birth with the internet take on the world to make it a better place. I feel that these kids are more likely to advocate for themselves and ask questions about the world around them, and aren’t afraid to be themselves.


Women in science are… A part of history. From ancient times to modern day, women have been exploring the world around them and contributing greatly to science. Whether it is Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin discovering that the sun is made up of hydrogen and helium, or Lise Meitner discovering fission (just to name a few), female scientist have changed our world. Although often women have been left out of the history books we are now telling their stories.


My next step is… In March my new journal is coming out called I Love Science filled with scientific reference pages, inspirational quotes, and prompts to encourage you to explore and ask questions about our universe. In July, my next book comes out called Women in Sports: 50 Fearless Athletes Who Played to Win.



Meet Four Franchising Entrepreneurs Bringing Business Ownership to Moms Across Canada

In celebration of Mothers’ Day, the Canadian Franchise Association connected us with four ‘mompreneurs’ who’ve discovered the secret to balancing business ownership and running a family (their secret? There’s no such thing as balance). From a mobile spray-tanning business with celebrity clients, to a paint-your-own pottery studio and a franchise built on taking the embarrassment out of dealing with head lice, these moms have grown their small businesses into award-winning franchise concepts that have expanded across the country, helping other women find autonomy and control over their own working lives.





Dawn Mucci, CEO of LiceSquad.com
Nicole Hyatt, Founder of Tan on the Run
Annette Brennan, Founder of Crock A Doodle
Ruthie Burd, Founder of The Lunch Lady




I became an entrepreneur because…


Dawn Mucci:

I wanted to create a lifestyle for myself and family while providing opportunities for others to live the great Canadian dream of business ownership. I have a keen eye for opportunity and have always been creative and a bit of a risk taker. By walking the walk I have inspired other women and mothers to take the risk themselves and become entrepreneurs through the franchise model, which provides the support and leadership of the franchisor and the franchise system to help them succeed.


Nicole Hyatt:

I never wanted to go to work dreading the day. I love waking up with excitement as I never know what a day in the life of the mobile tanning business will bring me. Every day is different, and although I probably work double over time, it doesn’t actually feel like work as I love what I do. As a franchisor, it’s my passion to help other women/mothers start and grow a business that they never imagined possible.


Annette Brennan:

I wanted to create success on my own terms. I wanted to build a remarkable brand and bring it to life in a meaningful way.


Ruthie Burd:

I had a personal challenge that was the spark that ignited a business idea. When one of our 3 sons was diagnosed with autism 24 years ago, my need to work around his needs led me to self-employment and food service, even though I was not much of a cook at the time. It was the only thing that fit!



Dawn Mucci



The most rewarding part of being a working mother is…


Dawn Mucci:

The opportunity to create my own schedule and have the freedom to put my family first. I also draw a great deal of inspiration and drive from my children knowing the hard work I do now is building a solid future for them. In the beginning I used to feel torn and guilty about having to choose time away in order to grow my businesses. I wish someone had told me back then there is no use in feeling this way. As long as you are having quality time together and are present when they need you, they totally understand and love you no matter what.


Nicole Hyatt:

Having my son be proud of me. He actually gets involved when I talk business, he gives me his opinion and creative thoughts. I can see a mini entrepreneur in the making. He’s 12 and just finished his first business plan!


Annette Brennan:

Showing your kids what is possible when you follow your heart and commit to making things happen.


Ruthie Burd:

That I have been able to grow personally while raising our family. My father taught me that caring for the well-being of the greater community is one of the best legacies we can leave our children and I sincerely believe this. I have been so fortunate to be a wife and mom, to have helped others to build viable businesses through franchising  and to have created a valuable service that helps other busy working moms. 

Nicole Hyatt


I balance work life with family life by…


Dawn Mucci:

Giving up the dream of trying to balance either. I used to think there was such a thing, but the longer I am in business the more I realize its not about balance, it is about self awareness and self care. Knowing when your getting close to being overwhelmed. Making sure you are not overloaded, saying no, delegating more and taking good care of your personal health in all areas is critical to having the ability to pivot and navigate change. Each day is a new adventure and you simply must put one foot in front of the other to get to the destination. My good friend once said it this way. “Life is a a series of adjustments.” Learn to be flexible.


Nicole Hyatt:

Making sure I have family time, whether it’s vacation, sports or just hanging out watching a movie. In busy season if there isn’t much extra time I bring the family to work! 


Annette Brennan:

Involving my kids in my business so they appreciate the value of what I do. I’m still working on the balance part. 


Ruthie Burd:

Not keeping a balance sheet. Working and playing is all living to me. I simply do my best and accept that everyone will not be satisfied with my choices each day…. and I extend the same courtesy to my family. A good dose of laughter, a shared kind word, this seems to balance the scales for me, no matter what else is going on…. and chocolate.



Annette Brennan




Do you know a successful female entrepreneur who deserves recognition? Nominate her for the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards!



Meet Miriam Baker, a Canadian Designer Making Bust-Friendly Fashion a Thing

When Miriam Baker recognized a gap in the fashion industry, she was quick to fill it. In 2014, she won the prestigious Suzanne Rogers Award for Most Promising New Label and was featured as a designer to watch in Flare magazine for her line of clothing catering to women with larger busts. Since then she’s shown at the 2017 Toronto Women’s Fashion Week, and looks ahead to continue to serve confident career women looking to build a wardrobe that reflects that.



My first job ever was… As a sales representative in a store called Promised Land in the Toronto Eaton Centre. I was 15 years old and sold candles.


I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I wanted to solve my own problem of never being able to find clothes that are comfortable and figure flattering. Once I had the bust-friendly fashion eureka moment, there was no going back.


I’m passionate about my work because…If I don’t do it, nobody else will. All I want to do is create beautiful clothes for busty women.


To me, the fashion industry is…Currently unsustainable and fragmented. But this can change with an adjustment in consumer attitudes towards the true cost of a garment. Ask yourself, “who made my clothes?” If you don’t know the answer, it’s time to make a change.


My proudest accomplishment is…Being the recipient of the Suzanne Rogers Award for Most Promising New Label. Winning New Labels provided me with everything I needed to get started in the Canadian fashion industry.


My boldest move to date was…First, choosing to create bust-friendly fashion, and then jumping right into New Labels after University.


I surprise people when I tell them…That I’m a very private/introverted person. I guess I hide it well!


My best advice to people starting out in business is…It’s a long and uncomfortable road but hang in there, because that’s how you grow personally and professionally. You never know how far you can take something until you try.


My best advice from a mentor was…Sell, sell, sell! If you don’t do it, no one else will.


Work/life balance is…Overrated. I’ve never been very good at it. I’m a work, work, work sort of girl.


If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know…That I had no online presence prior to 2014. I only got Facebook, Instagram and Twitter after winning the competition.


I stay inspired by…Learning new things, travelling, and surrounding myself with the most amazing friends.


The future excites me because…I have no idea what’s going to happen or where I’m going to be. I’m just taking it one day at a time.


Photos by Tara West.




Do you know a successful female entrepreneur who deserves recognition? Nominate her for the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards!


Meet Sandra Longo, a Woman Bringing Newfound Mobility to Those Who are Wheelchair-Bound

Sandra Longo was young when she became committed and passionate about disabled individuals who live their lives wheelchair-bound — when she was only 9 years old, her mother became a complete Paraplegic as a result of a spinal cord injury. With encouragement from family, friends and neighbours, Sandra started Navy Street Charity for Persons with Disabilities in 2016, a charity which donates portable wheelchair ramps to individuals in need. Learn more about what inspired her current endeavour, and how she stays motivated for the future.



My first job ever was… At a large Garden Center/Craft and Hobby Store.  This job began to open my young and narrow views of the world. I enjoyed the idea that people were all different, and each individual who came into the store, came because they had different crafts and or hobbies that they were working on.


I started my venture because… I wanted to help people who were disabled and who used wheelchairs. When I was a young child my mother became a paraplegic and suddenly had to live life from a wheelchair. I learned first-hand what the consequences were when an individual was not free to live how they wanted to, especially when they were not included due to limited accessibility options.  It creates an emotional scar that never goes away. I wanted to help stop the emotional pain for these individuals.   


My proudest accomplishment is… My very first Race, a 10 kilometer race. That was easily one of the best moments of my life, because I never thought of myself as a trail blazer and this race was my very first personal achievement. When I crossed the finish line at that race, I cried like I had never cried before. You know the moment — that moment when you just realized that you exceeded your own expectations! That race changed who I told myself I was.


My boldest move to date was… Deciding that I was going to start a charity, when I didn’t have the slightest clue of how I was going to it but doing it anyway because it’s what I believe I was born to do.  


I surprise people when I tell them… The experience my family has had with a slew of family tragedies, including when my mother became paralyzed in 1984, while giving birth to my youngest sister. In the decades that followed, it was these experiences that created my empathy for others, and inspired me to give back in some way. These events enabled me to gain a better understanding and to identify with with people who live with disabilities.  


My best advice to people starting out in business is… Promise yourself that you’re never going to settle for less than you can be, do, give, give or create.  


My best advice from a mentor was… Success leaves clues. Go figure out what someone who was successful did, and model it. Improve upon it, but learn their steps. They have knowledge, then it’s up to you to become resourceful and to take massive action.


“Promise yourself that you’re never going to settle for less than you can be, do, give, give or create.”  


My biggest setback was… Breaking my own limitations of what I thought was possible for me to achieve. These thoughts were based on old restrictive beliefs, and the boundaries of what others thought I could achieve.


I overcame it by… Changing my focus. I realized that there is a powerful strength inside of me and every other human being, and I decided to focus on that instead.


Work/life balance is… Getting up early. I have realized how to maximize my day by making the most of the hours I have in a day.  


If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… That I love green smoothies, for their ability to be so nutrient dense. They help fuel my body with nutrients, they help my skin glow, my eyes to be brighter, and they give me continuous resilient energy.


I stay inspired by… Being mindful of what I focus on.  


The future excites me because… I am so excited about the future of Navy Street Charity for Persons with Disabilities.  


My next step is… Growing awareness for Navy Street Charity, donating portable wheelchair ramps to individuals who are disabled and wheelchair bound throughout Ontario; and on a personal endeavour, a book is in the pipeline…stay tuned.



Meet Stephanie Boyd, another Canadian woman with a deep passion for bringing those who are disadvantaged to the top of our minds  and hearts.


Meet Phoebe Yong, a Risk-Taking Communications Entrepreneur with More than a Thing for Sports

With over 20 years of industry experience in B2B marketing and a degree in Communications and an MBA in Marketing, Phoebe Yong, Principal and Founder at Magnolia Marketing Communications has led marketing campaigns with some of the biggest brands in the world, including Dell, HP, and Microsoft. She’s known in the industry for her tenacity, work ethic and passion, and in her day to day life? For being one of the Dallas Cowboy’s biggest fans.



My first job ever was… When I was 17 years old and I was the cashier at Woolco (now Walmart). I always loved playing with toy cash registers when I was a kid, so at the time, that was my dream job.


I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I wanted the flexibility to create my own schedule. Having 2 and 4 year olds in the family, I wanted a schedule that could accommodate a young family lifestyle. Second, my passion is being creative. As an entrepreneur, I would have the opportunity to create stories, ideas, and campaigns and explore never ending possibilities with my creativity.


My proudest accomplishment is… My children and family life that I’ve created with my husband are my personal pride and joy.  Related to work, it would be building a business that’s successfully sustained itself in a highly competitive and crowded space. Every day I get to go to work and love what I do.


My boldest move to date was… Early in my career, I left a comfortable government position to join a high-technology company to start a new career in marketing. I gained the necessary experience in sales and marketing to get a job of a lifetime in a leading-edge company specializing in wireless data.


I surprise people when I tell them… I’m a sports fanatic. A dream day is being at a Vegas hotel and betting on sports book in the NFL.


My best advice to people starting out in business is… Develop a passion to never give up and be obsessive about creating the right customer experience. There will be hard days to go along with the good days. Also, get a really good accountant to help you plan cash flow, taxes and keeping your books up to date. I learned the hard way and paid the price for not having good bookkeeping when I started my business.


My best advice from a mentor was… Have clarity in what you want to achieve. Be as clear as you can on what type of customers you want, what you want to offer them and what markets you want to serve. Having clarity will serve you and your team well.


Mentorship matters because… It’s a wonderful way to pass on your experience to another person. To give them advice that that they might not have otherwise known and help them immediately. I can’t imagine my career without my mentors.

Work/life balance is… Hard to achieve. When you have your own business, it’s hard to turn things off. I try my best to find time for my women friends who fill my soul with stories of similar challenges and opportunities. Journaling also helps me reflect and keep life into perspective. Golfing with my husband allows us to laugh at life and being parents.


“I try my best to find time for my women friends who fill my soul”


I love my job because… It fills me with pride and joy when I get to work with an amazing group of talented women, and we do amazing work for our great clients. Mostly, I love my job because every day I get to do what I love – be creative in telling people’s stories.


If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… That my dream job would be working for the Dallas Cowboys marketing team. Or that I drove on the Charlotte Motor Speedway (NASCAR racetrack).


I stay inspired by… The pace of today’s technology and society’s insatiable need for the best and coolest thing. The yearning for excellence at a breakneck speed creates societies with boundless opportunities. I get inspired by Elon Musk, Sergey Brin and Larry Page in their pursuit of new frontiers.


The future excites me because… I work with many millennials and I appreciate their longing for humanity, community and yet there is a strong appreciation for self-worth. This makes for a future generation with self-confidence to make a difference.


My next step is… To shoot a round of golf under 85, and if I’m lucky, to continue to build a sustainable business where I  help influence the young talents that have the drive to move the goal post every day and make a difference.



Do you know a successful female entrepreneur who deserves recognition? Nominate her for the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards!


Meet Marni Johnson, a Passionate HR Guru with an Unconventional Path

With experience in several industries and over 25 years in financial services, Marni Johnson provides overall leadership and strategic direction in the areas of human resources and corporate and internal communications at BlueShore Financial. Her passion for human resources developed after a bold career switch, and since then she has fully embraced her role, becoming a Trustee of the BC Credit Union Employees’ Pension and Benefits plans, and serving on the boards of the Chartered Professionals in Human Resources of British Columbia and Yukon. With a background in math and marketing, Marni is the perfect example of what a woman can achieve when she realizes that boundaries are in fact merely suggestions, and forges her own path. 



My first job out of school…At a financial institution in Toronto in a back office role. In my role I identified a gap in processes, which I raised to my manager. It was dismissed. I decided to trust my instinct and explored this further to realize that in fact there was a gap, which had financial implications for the company. I learned a very valuable lesson from this first job and that is to trust your instincts even if you are a junior in your role. Each person can bring a great deal of value to the table no matter their place in the org chart.


I decided to enter the world of HR because…I was given an incredible opportunity for a career change from marketing to HR by the CEO of BlueShore Financial (back then the name was North Shore Credit Union). She offered me the role of VP HR because she believed I had the right leadership attributes and could learn the technical aspects of HR. The switch was the best career decision I ever made.  


“Trust your instincts even if you are a junior in your role. Each person can bring a great deal of value to the table no matter their place in the org chart.”


My proudest accomplishment is…Having worked with my teams to create and maintain a very positive culture and a great place to work that is client-focused, results-driven and nurtures diversity and inclusiveness, since research shows a clear link between a strong culture and organizational business performance.


My boldest move to date was…Making a career change from Marketing to HR at the executive level. I faced some skepticism because my formal experience was not in the HR function. I persevered, achieved my CPHR designation, and over time established my credibility as an HR leader. I learned a lot about empowering and trusting my team, as they had more technical expertise than I did. I believe as women, we need to allow ourselves to reach for stretch goals and pursue them with confidence in our abilities to learn and grow.


I surprise people when I tell them…That I have an undergraduate degree in math, because often they don’t see that math and HR go together. To be successful in HR, you need to understand and be able to speak the language of business, which is usually numbers and money. Having strong math skills has been an enormous benefit throughout my career.


“As women, we need to allow ourselves to reach for stretch goals and pursue them with confidence in our abilities to learn and grow.”


My best advice to people starting their career is…Take responsibility for your own career by seeking  opportunities to gain experience and transferable skills. Ask for “stretch” assignments even though they will take you out of your comfort zone — you’ll be amazed at the skills and lessons you’ll learn that you can take with you as you build your career.


My best advice from a mentor was…Don’t expect anyone else to care as much as you do, or to look after your best interests. This advice instilled in me a strong sense of accountability for results. It’s equally applicable to managing your personal life and career; you must take ownership for getting what you want and not abdicate that responsibility to someone else.   


My biggest setback was…In my early 30s I accepted a job with a company that enabled me to move from Toronto to Vancouver, but it required that I take a 10% pay cut. That was a big deal, not just because of the reduction in income but because of my perception that career success meant making more money with each job change. I almost didn’t take the job because of what I saw as a step backward.  


I overcame it by…Taking a longer term view of my career and the potential the new job represented. It was the right decision — if I hadn’t taken that job, my career would have taken a very different direction and I wouldn’t have ended up at BlueShore Financial. I learned through that experience that a great career move doesn’t always have to be a move “up”.


Work/life balance is…Different from person to person, both in terms of how much of each feels right, and how that balance is achieved. For me, it’s more of a “blend” vs. a strict delineation. I frequently check my work emails in the evenings and on weekends; but also have flexibility in my days where I can attend a meeting if needed for a not-for-profit board that I serve on.


“A great career move doesn’t always have to be a move “up”.”


I feel successful when…I can see the impact I’ve had on my team’s or the organization’s results. One of my favourite things is coaching my team and seeing them develop their abilities and confidence as an outcome.  


If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know…That I am a hobby chocolatier. I’ve taken several courses over the past 25 years, continually learning new techniques and creating recipes. I take a week of vacation from work in early December and make more than 2,000 chocolates. Not surprisingly, my colleagues are incredibly supportive of “Chocolate Week” and the product of my time off!


I stay inspired by…Connecting with people who have a positive outlook and a passion for what they do. That kind of enthusiasm and commitment is infectious, and a source of energy for me.   


The future excites me because…As an organization we have a very strong vision and an aligned and engaged team to execute on that vision. That’s a magic combination, and there’s no end to what we can achieve.


My next step is…To be determined.  I’m loving my role at BlueShore and am continually looking for ways I can make an even greater contribution. What that will look like, who knows, but I’m open to the opportunities!


Want to hear more from seasoned HR professionals? Purchase your ticket to our April 26 Luncheon, Untapped Resources: How to Hire, Advance, and Retain Women.



Meet Yana Barankin, a Woman Challenging the Fashion Industry to do Better for People and the Planet

Yana Barankin is the female lead of TAMGA Designs, a clothing line with integrity at its center. Before embarking on this journey, Yana and her business partner asked themselves two simple questions is it too expensive to produce a socially and environmentally responsible piece of clothing? Does style have to be sacrificed for accountability? The obvious answer was no  so they set out on a mission to prove it. Here’s her story.



My first job ever was… sales clerk at a clothing store!


I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I realized that I can have much more of a positive social and environmental impact by pursuing my passion rather than sitting at a 9-5 desk job. 


My proudest accomplishment is… Getting my Masters in International Development from Kent University.


My boldest move to date was… Taking a leap of faith and buying a one-way ticket to Indonesia with my fiancee to set-up a responsible and transparent supply for the company.


I surprise people when I tell them… I lived in Dhaka, Bangladesh for 2.5 years working in international aid.


My best advice to people trying to get an idea off the ground is… Surround yourself with creative and like-minded people! Know what your weaknesses are and don’t be afraid to ask for help and inspiration!


My best advice from a mentor was… It’s a marathon, not a sprint.


“Know what your weaknesses are and don’t be afraid to ask for help and inspiration”


My biggest setback was… My personal biggest challenge was moving to Canada at the age of 12 and what felt like at the time adapting to a whole new world.


I overcame it by… Giving it time.


Work/life balance is… Knowing when to a call it a night (laptop and cellphones OFF) and enjoying the weekend with family and friends.


If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… I’m a self taught photographer.


I stay inspired by… Being outdoors.


The future excites me because… There are endless possibilities! We’re starting to see a shift where businesses can’t just take away from people and the planet — to get customer loyalty they have to show how they’re giving back. Combining profit and purpose is the challenge of our generation, and there are so many amazing entrepreneurs and companies working on it.


“Combining profit and purpose is the challenge of our generation”


My next step is… My next steps are all about TAMGA at the moment! We’re developing some amazing new pieces and prints with our team in Indonesia, and will be introducing some awesome new eco materials to our line. This summer we will be doing lots of in-person festivals, pop-ups and markets in the Toronto area. And we can’t wait for lots of sunshine, TAMGA clothing, and meeting all our amazing customers.


Meet the founder of Lucky Iron Fish, a company with social responsibility at the heart of its business model.



Meet Emily Rose Antflick, a Chief Community Cultivator Bringing Women Under One Roof

As the founder and Chief Community Cultivator of Shecosystem, a co-working space that nurtures the personal and professional well-being of women, Emily Rose Antflick is a champion of working with integrity and fostering a positive sense of community. And this has served her well — while walking away from both an ill-fitting career and relationship simultaneously was a challenge, she has since emerged energized, hopeful, and fueled by a true sense of work-life integration, which she believes beats the mythical “work-life balance” any day. Here’s how she does it. 



My first job ever was… Working at a vintage store/art gallery in Kensington Market, my soul’s home in this city and the neighbourhood where my ancestors first settled in Toronto in the early 20th Century.


I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I had creative energy that needed to be released, and after bouncing around different education institutions for over a decade, I still hadn’t found a workplace place where I would want to show up every day. Everywhere I worked I felt like I had to compartmentalize or present a certain way, and I wanted to truly show up authentically at work.


My proudest accomplishment is… Taking Shecosystem from a dream to a bricks and mortar business in just over a year. I worked hard to build community and to shape the business around that community’s needs, and as a result I opened the doors with twice my target number of Founding Members.


My boldest move to date was… Walking away from my teaching job and ending my engagement in the same week. I had gotten to a point of such acute energetic depletion that only a bold move would give me the opportunity to reshape my life from the ashes.


My best advice to people trying to get an idea off the ground is… To get it out of your head first — write it down and talk it over. And then let it exist in the world in its perfectly imperfect state, because if you wait until it’s perfect to launch, it won’t happen.


My best advice from a mentor was… To stop playing small out of fear, but instead to listen to what that fear might be telling me. Courage is not the absence of fear; it’s feeling the fear and doing it anyway.


My biggest setback was… Not having all of the operating policies and procedures firmly in place when I opened Shecosystem. There were lots of uncomfortable conversations and lost opportunities in the early days, but in the end it meant that these policies arose from a more organic place. They took shape around real learnings rather than being imposed based on some hypothetical idea of how things “should” work.


I overcame it by… Cultivating a healthy trust in the unknown, asking for help and input from stakeholders to develop these policies cooperatively, and as one of the members put it, continuing to move forward “bravely and tentatively.”


A sense of community is important to your career because… Working for yourself shouldn’t ever mean working alone. I see my challenges and my successes mirrored in the women who work at Shecosystem. Knowing that I am supported, seen, and celebrated by this sisterhood gives me the courage to move forward with my business.


Work/life balance is… A myth. I prefer to talk about work-life integration. If we are going to cultivate sustainable businesses and abundant lives, self-care needs to be a part of our business strategy.


“If we are going to cultivate sustainable businesses and abundant lives, self-care needs to be a part of our business strategy.”


My past experience helps me today by… Reminding me that I am resilient and  resourceful. Also my background in curriculum design, teaching and facilitation means I have a toolkit that can be applied to lots of different contexts because, after all, I’ve always believed that real learning happens outside of the classroom.


If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… My bank account number, but that’s about it. If you go back far enough you’ll uncover my travel blog, old teaching resources, even the story of my first menstrual period.


I stay inspired by… Dancing and getting into nature as often as possible.


The future excites me because… The feminine is rising and more people are waking up to our potential to discard broken systems and return to more human scale, soul-centric and eco-centric ways of situating ourselves in the world.
My next step is… Simply taking time to observe how Shecosystem works — then refining, modifying, and preparing to scale based on the insight drawn from these observations.


We met Emily Rose Antflick, the founder of Shecosystem, at the 2017 Feminist Art Conference held at OCAD, where she sat on a panel of feminist entrepreneurs, alongside Petra Kassun-Mutch and Valerie Fox. Check back to meet more of the incredible woman entrepreneurs that attended. 



Meet Valerie Fox, Canada’s Reigning Queen of Innovation

Meet Valerie Fox, the woman who’s been at the center of innovation since the 80s as a designer for IBM. Since then she co-founded the Ryerson DMZ, North America’s number 1 university business incubator, and started a new venture which helps build successful incubation models with corporations, academic institutions and regions, and brings communities of diverse skills together to collaborate, design and deliver impactful innovation, world-wide. With over 30 years in the creative digital industry, Valerie has been recognized for multiple awards, including the 2016 Canada Innovation Leaders team, and the Sara Kirke Award for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, CNE Woman of Distinction. Get to know her here.



My first job ever was… As a printing press operator, graphic artist and camera room operator in a print shop. Up to that point, I had gone to university and college for art and design, and wanted to illustrate children’s books.


I decided to be an entrepreneur because… In the 80s I could see that tech was changing the landscape of design, communication and education. I wanted to be on the bleeding edge of what I knew was going to be the future of everything.  I had an incredible career at IBM as an intrapreneur. From there I was asked to join Ryerson University by the then President, Sheldon Levy to help in its transition to become a leader in entrepreneurship and innovation.


My proudest accomplishment is… My family, and meeting the many professional experiences I’ve had, like being the creative director of the Sydney Olympics web experience and co-founding and growing the Ryerson DMZ business incubator to be recognized as number 1 in North America and number 3 in the world. 18 months ago, started a company to help develop incubators and entrepreneurial ecosystems in towns, cities, academic institutions and corporations in Canada, the U.S., and Internationally.


My boldest move to date was… Getting the gig for the Sydney Olympics for our Canadian IBM team. We had a week to prove to the executive producer in Australia that we had what it took to design and deliver an exceptional online experience to the world. We super-stretched the capability of the internet in the year 2000 to create an incredible interactive and immersive experience. It showed what happens when design and technology work closely together.   


I surprise people when I tell them… I’m 63 and a grandma.


My best advice to people starting out in business is… To hold on tight. It’s filled with the most incredible high’s and lows. The best things you can do is to stay in perpetual motion, learn, iterate, team, share, and create long lasting relationships.


Mentorship is important because… It’s a beautiful way to learn and build mutually beneficial relationships.


“The best things you can do is to stay in perpetual motion, learn, iterate, team, share, and create long lasting relationships.”


My best advice from a mentor was… Not to worry about what others think, but listen, learn, apply, while continually holding on to core values.


My biggest setback was… Health related. My back went out and I was house-bound for 3 months. It stopped me cold. I realized how important health is, to do anything.


I overcame it by… Changing my perspective. It’s okay to take time to eat, sleep, take care of oneself and enjoy that too.


Work/life balance is… I don’t believe it’s a balance. For me it’s integrated. I love my work, it’s a part of my life. But it’s not the only thing in my life.


Something you can’t learn in a classroom is… So many things. Life is learning. Experience gives perspective, relevance, and application. But I would add that it depends on the classroom. There are some amazing classes out there that encourage team and project building, and knowledge sharing.


To me, innovation means… Change that makes a difference.


If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… I’m a pretty open book.


I stay inspired by… Hanging out with people I love and learn from and meeting new people to learn from. Also reading, walking, traveling…never standing still.


The future excites me because… It’s filled with possibility.


My next step is… Continuing to help build connections and learning opportunities that will shape our world to be a better place.


We met Valerie, the founder of The Pivotal Point, at the 2017 Feminist Art Conference held at OCAD, where she sat on a panel of feminist entrepreneurs, alongside Petra Kassun-Mutch. Check back to meet more of the incredible woman entrepreneurs that attended. 



Meet Petra Kassun-Mutch, a Former Executive Turned Feminist Entrepreneur

Petra Kassun-Mutch wants to revolutionize the way entrepreneurs do business, bringing social consciousness and a feminist mind-set to a space that is all too often profit-centric and male-dominated. A former executive turned serial entrepreneur, Petra is determined to demonstrate how a business can be both responsible and profitable, widening the definition of innovation to be more inclusive and altogether more exciting.



My first job ever was… a fry girl at McDonald’s — I also had lobby duty.


I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I wanted to be able to show up authentically, create opportunities for others, and design and launch innovative, values-led enterprises that helps transform institutions and systems.


My proudest accomplishment is… leaving my 18-year corporate career and role as President for a $46M division of a multinational publishing company to found, build and grow a Platinum LEED (first in the world), a mid size award winning artisan goat and sheep milk dairy in Prince Edward County — even though I had no experience in cheese, farming, or the food processing industry. I didn’t even know you could milk a sheep! But I do now! We won the Premier’s Award for Agri-Food Innovation two years after opening.


My boldest move to date was… Combining activism with scalable entrepreneurship.  


I surprise people when I tell them… I was once a certified milk and cream grader, licensed HTST operator, and drove a milk truck.


My best advice to people starting out in business is… Everyone should start their career in sales. You will learn about markets, people, and learn how the world really works. For me personally it was transformational.


My best advice from a mentor was… Be the market you intend to serve. In other words, don’t try to sell something to people (or markets) you don’t truly love, respect or understand.


Women can support other women by… Leading with intersectional feminist values at the heart of all you do. Investing in women, including trans and gender non-binary female entrepreneurs.


My biggest setback was… Having to sell the business I loved and started because of an ill-timed divorce. In entrepreneurship, business is personal, and the personal is business.


I overcame it by… Taking a break, reflection, lots of self care, trying new things (not always successful), and surrounding myself with dynamic, diverse, creative kick ass women friends.


Something you can’t learn in a classroom is… How to cope with and recover from major loss.


To me, innovation means… A lot more than just high growth/extreme cheap scale tech.  Today’s definition of innovation is too narrow and leads to a gender gap in innovation policy that goes under recognized.  We need to support process innovation alongside product innovation.


If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… That I know how to macramé.


I stay inspired by… Watching The Walking Dead and working with entrepreneurs.


The future excites me because… I believe we can and will create a human-centric, values-led economy in the future, one that will promote individual, community and global wellness, a world without fossil fuels, a future where structural and cultural gender driven inequality for women, trans, queer-identified people (anyone experiencing discrimination based on gender) are a thing of the past.


My next step is… To pioneer what it means to design and operate an enterprise based on feminist business best practice.  


We met Petra at the 2017 Feminist Art Conference held at OCAD, where she mediated a panel of feminist entrepreneurs. Check back to meet more of the incredible woman entrepreneurs that attended. Until then, hear more from Petra at liisbeth.com



Meet Bridget Russo, CMO of a design brand with a bigger purpose

Bridget Russo joined Shinola in 2012, relocating from her native Tribeca to the company’s Detroit headquarters in 2014. As Chief Marketing Officer she oversees global marketing and communications, building the American design brand through storytelling and well-made products. By bringing skilled manufacturing jobs back to Detroit, Shinola is also having a positive social impact on the community — a key element of their brand. It’s a perfect fit for Bridget, who made a name for herself in the fashion industry by pursuing projects she found ethically compelling, including the establishment of her own consulting firm focused on fashion ventures with a philanthropic angle.



My first job ever was… At a store in New York,  which is now closed, called FAO Schwarz. I worked in the doll department.


My proudest accomplishment is… Somehow impressing my mother, who is not impressed, ever.


My boldest move to date was… Moving to Detroit.


I surprise people when I tell them… That I moved to Detroit.


The biggest marketing challenge companies face today is… Considering how much information is getting thrown at consumers on a minute-to-minute basis, the ability to break through and capture their attention is increasingly more challenging.


My best marketing advice for companies today is… Be authentic. Go with your gut. Stay true to the brand.


My biggest setback was… Leaving a job that I really loved too quickly for silly reasons. I would have eventually left, but I probably had a good five years to go before I did that. I did it in haste. I was turning 30 and thought I needed to grow up.


Work/life balance is… Never checking your emails after work, unless absolutely necessary. Keep two separate phones: one personal, one work.


My best advice from a mentor was… Take time to congratulate even the little successes of your team.


If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… That I am socially awkward and shy.


I stay inspired by… The people I work with everyday.


The future excites me because… I have hope, despite everything that’s going on in the world today. Human beings are human beings, and we’ll continue to do great things.  



See more from Shinola.



Meet Jill Purdy, the Woman Who’s Been Making Canada Sound Good for Over Two Decades

Jill Purdy

As a prominent Supervising Sound and Dialogue Editor in the film and television industries of both Canada and the United States, Jill Purdy has an extraordinary record of achievements and awards spanning over two decades. After graduating from both Queen’s University and Sheridan College and initiating her career via a successful internship with Sound Dogs Toronto, Jill gained a distinguished reputation quickly and has continued to thrive at the top of her field. 



My first job ever was… delivering the local newspaper, ‘The Oshawa Times’, in my neighbourhood when I was nine years old. Working consistently from that age – throughout high school, my post-secondary education and beyond – ingrained in me a very strong and driving work ethic.


I would tell my 20-year-old self that… aging is beautiful, to takes risks, to make my voice heard and to be aware that self-assurance and confidence increase with age.


Being a woman in the film industry is… extremely rewarding for me. Being a mentor to young women, encouraging women to pursue careers in such a male-dominated industry and supporting and championing women’s voices and work on an international playing field is important, inspiring and exciting.


My proudest accomplishment is… having a successful and recognized career that I love and am passionate about and having the respect of both my family and my colleagues.


My boldest move to date was… jumping into my career with little knowledge of the technology of sound. Although my film knowledge, both technically and theoretically, was extensive, I was nervous to delve into the sound world, but knew any skills attained would only further and benefit my overall awareness. I am extremely grateful I made this leap!


I surprise people when I tell them… that I am a goofy geek at heart and a lover of comic books, superheroes and horror.


I balance work and life by… dedicating time each day to myself, no matter how little, and planning last-minute vacation time whenever I can get it. ‘Work hard, play hard’ is one of my favourite expressions and one I wholeheartedly embrace. Also, as a lover of film and television, I am an active participant in my industry even when I am not working! I am able to view shows objectively and for the pure enjoyment of them, which I do often.


My biggest passion is… my career; having an impact on the enjoyment of others through the projects I work on and the potential of having a global platform for the distribution of media, however small or large a message.


“If you are passionate and skilled, your perseverance and hard work will likely be rewarded.”


My best advice to young people starting out in film is… to not be discouraged by rejection, a seeming lack of opportunity or the freelance nature of the business. Take initiative, create opportunities for yourself, be persistent and gain as much knowledge as possible through interning, volunteering and asking questions. This industry is an unconventional one; quite often, timing is everything when someone is needed. The ebb and flow of production in the city dictates the number of personnel needed at any given time. If you are passionate and skilled, your perseverance and hard work will likely be rewarded.


Engaging young women in non-traditional industries is… extremely important. The encouragement and mentorship of young women is essential for the fostering and continued growth of the voices of women, both individually and collectively. As the expertise of women in non-traditional fields reaches an expansive audience via growth in numbers and effectiveness, future generations of women will benefit.


If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… that I’m an extroverted introvert with a wicked sense of humour.


I stay inspired by… new possibilities that present themselves daily, both personally and professionally. With every day, the possibility of suddenly travelling internationally for work, which I love, or of working with directors and actors I’ve admired since childhood is a reality. On a personal level, I am inspired by the appreciation of life experiences, both on my own and with family and friends.


The future excites me because… of items I have yet to check off of my bucket list: creating an industry collective of and for women; developing, producing and directing my own projects; partnering with brilliant minds on ideas still in formation, travelling and growth.


Jill Purdy pictured with Fred Brennan, Stephen Barden, J.R. Fountain. Photo courtesy of Sean Bourdeau.