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May 2015

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Women of The Week: Amy Cross

Promoting gender equality and supporting women-held businesses? There’s an app for that. Amy-Willard Cross, founder and editor in chief of VitaminW is set to release a new phone application, BUY UP Index, to encourage companies to serve female consumers better and promote gender equality in the workplace. Essentially a consumer report for women, Buy UP Index rates consumer-based companies on how they serve women as employees, as leaders, and as consumers. It gives them a score out of a hundred based on their treatment towards female employees, and whether or not they have positive marketing messages and women in leadership positions.

With about 140 companies involved, including ones that sell cell phones, cars, athletic apparel, and even banks, the app is already creating major buzz in the press and has even caught the attention of Forbes magazine. I spoke to Amy Willard-Cross and asked her a few questions on her great initiative. Here’s what she had to say:

Why did you begin this initiative?  

The whole point of this is so women can support companies that serve them well. It’s how we’re using consumer power to create social change. The Human Rights Campaign launched a similar initiative a few years ago to rate companies on their LGBT policy. At the time, only 14 companies met the standards of these policies. Now, 8 years later, 366 do. Just putting transparency on these types of topics helps move the needle. We’re currently waiting on the App Store trying to get final approval so we’re hoping it will be in consumers’ hands soon. I hope that lots of women download it and use it so they can choose what to buy.

What are some trends you’ve noticed within the market?

The results are quite stunning. When you look at it more thoroughly, you find interesting trends in more US-based products. For example, when we look at US maternity leave policies, we already know how shockingly absent this concept is in the workplace for Americans.  Only a few companies offer it and you can’t really get a good grade on our index unless you have at least 8 weeks maternity leave, which is the benchmark in the United States. Very few companies do. I think the beauty industry and the bank industry pay for most maternity leave. Only one company in the household goods sector does. And only one car company does. Information like this can really make or break consumer perception about the company.

How do you plan on marketing BUY UP Index?

That is the hardest part. We’re the only app in the app store with feminist economic content. In the United States alone there are 12 million women and hundreds of women’s organizations. We know there’s a big population of women that want to see change.  We have partnerships with those organizations and additional partnerships created through VitaminW. We used to BUY UP methodology to rate women’s organizations such as Women’s Parenthood, Girls Scouts, Mom’s Rising. So I’m hoping that they’ll help us spread the word. In addition, we’ll be doing a crowd funding campaign this summer with women’s businesses to include them on the app.

Several people have thought of the idea but no one spent the time and money to do it. My partner and I have, and we’re really happy too because these days. I want to offer the world real, hard hit facts instead of just my opinions.

How will this app benefit the feminist movement?

I’ve been a feminist since I was nine years old. I wrote a play called Men’s Liberation. I’m actually a fourth generation feminist. My great grandmother was a feminist. I thought that everything was done when I came out into the real world. I went to a women’s college called Wellesley. I thought everything was over. And then, I get out in the world and the older I get, the more barriers I come across. I see a lot of political movements trying to occur but we still have only 20% representation in congress. So I realized that we could help the feminist movement with the market, instead of with political change. I’m no economist, but I believe we can create economic change by either using our capital power or creating capital. If you look at women’s consumer spending, that’s a huge amount of capital. When we add up women’s consumer revenues, business revenues and women’s assets, it’s a really big trillion number.

Was feminism your inspiration behind this app?

Sure! You try and be useful to the world and I had a career in magazine, wrote books, and then I thought, “What can I do that’s useful” using my skills as a writer or journalism and that is for the women’s movement. There’s a definite feminist agenda behind what I’m doing. I’m hoping that its useful to consumers as well as companies, such as L’Oreal, who are doing things right for women. There’s a big push towards what they call ethical marketing and purpose marketing – a buzzword these days- and McDonald’s even created an app to show their customers their ethical practices. I think this might be a good and an objective way for companies to communicate their good practices. Millennial consumers really care about this. People are starting to switch brands. Canadian studies show 40% of people making 100K a year have switched brands due to their ethical practices.

Do you foresee any challenges with the release of the app?

The larger companies who don’t score well will definitely be upset with me. That’s a possible challenge we may have to face. However, the main challenge is getting it out there and seeing if people want to use the app. My goal is to keep it important and interesting enough that people will keep coming back. I’ll be putting out new content and providing alternatives to other women-held businesses. Essentially, keeping it lively will be an ongoing challenge.

What do you hope to accomplish with the release of this app?

What we hope to accomplish is encouraging companies to make the right decisions. When you see a company that has no leadership programs and see that you have a low rate of women managers, you see that they can maybe fix that by adding a leadership program. We want the companies to score well and say, ”Oh, look what they’re doing right!” I’m hoping to create change and I’m hoping to reward companies that do it well. Eventually we’ll be adding coupons and transactions to the app. This is our way of working with companies that serve women well. That’s my dream!

For more information, visit http://www.buyupindex.com/.

Andy Byford: Serving The Rocket Through Transformative Change

Whether you’ve seen him on the subway with other fellow passengers, or heard about his five-year corporate plan to modernize the Toronto Transit Commission’s (TTC) operations, it’s evident that Chief Executive Officer, Andy Byford, is bringing significant change to the TTC. However, there is much more about Mr. Byford than meets the eye. In a mere three years, he has managed to overhaul his senior leadership team and has  brought some crucial change to the TTC.Mr. Byford has replaced his Chief Executive Officer (CEO) with Gary Shortt, brought in Mike Palmer as the Deputy CEO for Subway Operations, Chris Upfold as the Deputy CEO, Rick Leary as Chief Service Delivery Officer and Susan Reed Tanaka as the acting Chief of Engineering, Construction and Expansion.

Mr. Byford has not neglected the importance of bringing women into leadership roles. While there are three out women of the 11 member, including Vice-Chair, Maureen Adamson, Councillor Shelly Carroll, and Anju Virmani. The TTC executive team has Chief of Staff, Joan Taylor, Chief People Officer, ‎Gemma Piemontese, and Chief Capital Officer,  Susan Reed Tanaka.

 

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Service has also improved significantly since Andy Byford became CEO in 2011. Performance measures show that punctuality and device availability are at an impressive 90+%.  Steps were taken to refurbish rundown subway washrooms, step up subway-car cleaning and improve announcements about service disruptions.

Andy Byford’s other efforts to complete expansion projects, improve customer service, and modernize the outdated system cannot be overlooked. In 2013, Byford introduced six, new Group Station Managers (GSMs) as part of his continuing commitment to modernize and transform the TTC. And just last year,  debit and credit machines were introduced to 69 stations, allowing passengers to buy tickets and passes the more convenient way.

Byford’s dedication and expertise has shaped the TTC into a much more efficient transit system. He is slowly changing the culture at the TTC, building confidence in his team, and tackling the thousands of changes needed to create better process at every level.

Mr. Byford is slowly turning the biggest transit system  in Canada around. The cultural transformation he promised is  happening, service has improved significantly, and despite the lack of transit infrastructure  and funding (4 million from this years budget) Byford has managed to keep Toronto moving with equipment that is long overdue for replacement.

His mission is clear; to have a transit system that makes Toronto proud and despite the lack of investment, the barrage of political attacks that come with his position, and the terrible mess he inherited, Byford just may pull this off.  We can only hope the politicians will leave him alone long enough to bring about the transformation the TTC so desperately needs.

Olivia Pope: PR Mastermind & Fashion Goddess

Olivia Pope has been handling tricky situations for the past four years on ABC’s hit show, Scandal. With the Season 4 finale airing tonight, its only fair that we look a back at all the Scandalous fashion statements Pope has made strutting down Washington, DC. Scandal withdrawal may cause some depression amongst fans but there’s no need to worry because actress Kerry Washington and her team are giving you the opportunity to channel your inner Olivia Pope with these pieces at The Limited. Now you, too, can be the powerhouse of your office!

Lace it Up

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Bring femininity into the office with this lace overlay skirt. The black and white contrast creates a bold statement but still allows you to play with the piece, pairing it with either a bright or neutral colored top. Who says business casual can’t be fashion forward?

Keep it a Mystery  

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Stay warm and chic on cool, spring mornings with this tailored trench coat. At under $120, this structured look can be all you need to pull your look together. The bright white adds freshness and confidence to your outfit while the length adds an elongating effect.

Day to Night 

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Don’t let your social life take a toll! Take your work outfit from day to night with this beautiful lace insert dress. The structured look shows off your curves while still maintaining professionalism. Wear it with simplicity or add a statement necklace to take this outfit from 100 to 110.

Power Up in Pants 

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Everyone needs a pant suit in their wardrobe. At just under $50 (whoa!), these wide leg trouser pants  can get you feeling like a Pope without the price. Perfect for busy days on the run, the right dress pants are an essential for any business lady.

There you have it! Master her strut, obtain some sass, and show off that bad-ass persona all at once with these perfect pieces for your professional wardrobe!

Miss Representation: A Misrepresentation In Itself

With a society that’s always plugged in, its difficult to get away from the media. Our lives revolve around TV, music, video games, and movies. However, it is only recently that audiences are starting to realize what the content of the media is doing to society– especially women. Although powerful campaigns and initiatives are being launched in order to showcase and prevent the misogyny present in society, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done.  Miss Representation is a documentary recently released on Netflix that brings forth what most of us are slowly becoming desensitized to; women in the media.

Consisting of interviews from a group of experts, the hour and a half film dissected the various aspects of the media that sexualize, dehumanize, and objectify women. Pat Mitchell (MA, President and CEO for the Paley Center for Media, former President and CEO of PBS); Jennifer Pozner (Executive Director of Women in Media & News); Caroline Heldman (PhD, Associate Professor of Political Science at Occidental College); Marie Wilson (founding President of the White House Project); and Condoleezza Rice (Secretary of State) are just some of the personalities that sat down to talk about the representation of women in the media. Montages of Reality TV stars in bikinis, journalists in low-cut tops, and pictures taken between Sarah Palin’s legs demonstrated the problem overtly and effectively. However, Miss Representation also indirectly brought forth other problems present in the media. Problems hardly spoken about by the line of experts and celebrities. But problems that are still there.

Women of colour (WOC), women with disabilities (WWD), and the LGBT community also should have been addressed. WWD are essentially non-exsistent while women of colour and LGBTs are also significantly underrepresented. Although Devanshi Patel, a young, WOC aspiring to have a career in public service, was briefly profiled in the documentary– she was essentially what WOC are in the media; ‘the token brown girl’ of the documentary. It would have been nice to see a discussion of the misrepresentation of celebrities such as Mindy Kahling or Sofia Vergara, who are known solely for their skin colour and foreign accent, respectively. The montages in Miss Representation showcased a series of privileged, white women who steal the spotlight time and time again. But it should be known, problems of sexualization, age discrimination, and objectification also apply to WOC and the LGBT community as well. Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, and yes, even Queen Bey always leave little to the imagination. Now whether their anacondas are actually empowering or objectifying is a conversation we all need to have. In addition, Mitch and Cam of Modern Family and Ellen DeGeneres are essentially the only representatives of the LGBT community and that too, from a comedic standpoint.

Essentially, the documentary didn’t consist of anything we didn’t already know. Women are no longer wear as much clothes as they used to, and the Kardashians are, whether we like it or not, plotting to take over the world. A powerful film would’ve been one that consisted of briefly showcasing the problems women face in the media followed by actual solutions to resolve said problems. Women need to stop victimizing themselves and need to start helping themselves- and most importantly each other.  All in all, Miss Representation kind of, well, missed the spot.

 

Rating: 6/10

Review: Strawberry & Nutella French Toast

Nothing gets me excited like Nutella does. So when I came across this recipe on Pinterest , I knew I had to try it with my roommate. Although you may find it to be a bit heavy for a traditional french toast brunch, these ‘churro-like’ rolls are the perfect dessert for fellow sweet tooths. In other words, you must try these Strawberry Nutella French Toast Roll Ups.

Ingredients 

8 Slices of Whole Wheat or White Sliced Bread

1 1/2 tbsp of Nutella or as desired

1/4 cup of strawberries, diced

1/2 cup white sugar

1 tbsp ground cinnamon

1 large egg

1 1/2 tbsp milk

Preparation 

1. Whisk egg and milk together, put aside

2. Mix cinnamon and sugar together on flat plate, put aside

3. Begin by removing the crusts and flattening the sliced bread out with a rolling pin

4. Spread desired amount of Nutella on each slice and place one side with 5-6 pieces of diced strawberries

5. Roll the bread up tightly and secure it with egg mixture

6. Dip each roll in the egg mixture and place in a pan with melted butter to fry

7. Once golden brown, remove each roll and dip them in cinnamon mixture

8. Garnish roll with chocolate syrup and strawberries and serve

 

Beware: It’s hard to have ‘just one’ Roll Up.

 

 

Social Media Takes Over FHRITP Hashtag

The derogatory phrase was first stated in 2014. Since then, the FHRITP trend has made its way into news media all across North America. Today, after countless occurrences of female journalists being victimized on live television, a Hydro 1 employee was fired after harassing Shauna Hunt, a reporter for City News.

The incident took place at a Toronto FC Soccer Game. Since losing his job early this afternoon, social media users have taken to Twitter to state their opinions on the matter. FHRITP may be trending on Twitter, but it’s important not to focus on what the phrase stands for, but what standing up against the phrase can do for women in society.

Tune in to CityNews tonight to hear Shauna’s thoughts on what happened. Check out what happened below:

Shauna Hunt fights back after FHRITP confrontation