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Time to shut down the pregnancy questions

There are certain things, as proper etiquette, you may not ask a woman: her chest size, her weight, and her pregnancy plans. It seems like common sense, but I guess sometimes men need reminding.

Jacinda Ardern is a newly elected 37-year-old politician in New Zealand and she is the youngest ever leader for the New Zealand Labour Party. Of all the questions that Ardern has faced, this one seemed the most absurd. While appearing on radio talk show, The AM Show, Ardern was asked by male host Mark Richardson of her pregnancy plans. Ardern was asked live on air if she plans on becoming a mother during her time in parliament. Richardson based his questioning stating he thinks it’s a legitimate question to ask on behalf of New Zealand because she could potentially become their Prime Minister.

In what world is it okay to ask this type of question to a woman, regardless of the position she may hold? Ardern, however, quickly shut down the radio host, calling the question out of line.

That is unacceptable in 2017,” Ardern said. “It is a woman’s decision about when she chooses to have children and should not predetermine whether or not they are given a job or have got opportunities.”

Ardern is familiar with Richardson’s stance on women and pregnancy in the workplace, as the host previously said that employers should know this information from their female employees. Richardson’s bold question asking if it is ok for the Prime Minister to take maternity leave left many upset.

Ardern has already publicly spoken out about her plans to to start a family and she doesn’t mind discussing it, however the comparison to women in the workplace is what caused the upset. Ardern insists that women should not have to be worried about maternity leave and consider this a struggle in the workplace.

Ardern even went on to ask Richardson if he would ask a man this question, to which Richardson responded with an unenthusiastic “yes”. Instead of focusing on the accomplishments of this young woman, many seem to be stirring up drama and provoking emotions from the public about her personal decisions. This is not the first time that Ardern was asked this question. During an appearance on a New Zealand TV show called The Project, she was asked by male co host, Jesse Mulligan, if she planned on having children. In this case, Ardern responded politely and said her situation is no different from any other working woman looking to balance priorities and responsibility.

In New Zealand, many activists are debating this form of sexism. The Human Rights Act of 1993 prohibits any employer to discriminate on the grounds or pregnancy or plans to start a family.

Ardern’s case is no different.

Simple Mother’s Day ideas in Toronto 2017

Use this Mother’s Day to celebrate with your loved ones, whether it be your own mom, your children, or other friends and family. It doesn’t have to be a big affair — the most important thing is to make time for that special person in your life, that person that gave you hope and encouragement. If you happen to live in Toronto, there is a plethora of events you can choose from if you are looking for something to do that’s a bit outside the box. Whether your mother loves art or nature, history or salsa dancing, there is a little something for everyone to enjoy. Here are a few of our favourites at Women’s Post!

Georgia O’Keefe at the AGO:

What better way to celebrate the power of motherhood and women then to look at the stunning art of Georgia O’Keefe? She is a phenomenal artist and the AGO is hosting their largest ever exhibition with over 80 works on display. There is also a floral Georgia O’Keefe cocktail that will be offered at the Mother’s Day brunch at the FRANK restaurant on May 13th and 14th. (327 Dundas St. W.) The brunch itself is pretty expensive (and reservations only), but if you are just looking for an after-exhibit beverage and a cozy atmosphere, you should absolutely check it out.

Spadina Museum:

The historic Spadina Museum is beautiful and elegant, perfect for a classy mom date out on the town. The museum is putting on a special exhibit called “The Language of Flowers”. A portion of the event includes designing a floral ‘talking’ bouquet where each flower has a message hidden inside. This event requires registration, but is a simple way to enjoy the prettier things in life while learning about the history of Toronto. (285 Spadina Rd.)

Check out the cherry blossoms:

The cherry blossoms are in full bloom in Trinity Bellwoods and High Park, and everyone is flocking to see how beautiful they are. It is also the perfect location for family photos. The cherry blossoms only come out for a limited time and they are breathtaking to witness in full bloom. If you go to Trinity Bellwoods, there are a host of delicious brunch spots. Maybe check out Trinity Bellwoods Brews if your mother fancies a pint on her special day. There is also delicious vegan ice cream at Olenka’s, which never disappoints.

Mother’s Day Chocolate Tour: 

Almost every mom I know loves chocolate — it is a fact. Luckily, there is a chocolate tour that will lead you and your mother through a sweet and delectable experience. There is a chocolate demonstration and many samples will be provided on route. It’s also one of the more reasonably priced chocolate-themed events this May. This tour promises to be a delight, just make sure you don’t eat too much sugar! (443 King St. W.)

Mother’s Day Roncesvalles Food Tour:  

Keeping in the food theme, maybe try something a bit less sugar-laden. This Rocensvalle tour pairs delicious foods and neighbourhood history all into one fantastic afternoon. Roncesvalles is a hip and trendy part of Toronto, full of delectable eateries. At $30 a person, it’s a great opportunity to do something different with your mom, while still enjoying the food nooks in the area.

 

Happy Mother’s Day from Women’s Post!

Celebrating Women: Entrepreneur Dyana Biagi

Building a business from the ground up is no laughing matter, but it doesn’t mean you can’t do it while smiling all your way to the top. Founder and CEO of Aji Gourmet Products Dyana Biagi is one of the friendliest and most charismatic people out there, and she really defines what it means to build a business with an affirmative attitude.

Biagi sells a Colombian hot sauce commonly known as Aji and it is positively sizzling with popularity along the west coast. She began the business when her family migrated to Canada in October 1999. “I wanted to keep a little piece of Colombia. When we had our own little place, I made Aji. It is a typical condiment in all of Latin America and I thought this would be my little bit of Colombia at meals,” Biagi says. “When parent get-togethers started happening, someone said you bring the guacamole. I told them ‘I’m not Mexican, but okay!’ and I decided to put the Aji in it. The people at the party were blown away. They thought it was delicious.”

From there, Biagi began selling the product at farmer’s markets in British Columbia around the Lower Mainland and quickly noticed that Aji was a hit. Her husband joined in to help sell the product at markets, and after her son, Nicholas Gonzalez, graduated, he joined in as well. Now a family business, Aji has expanded exponentially and is in over 100 stores, including Whole Foods in B.C. and Save on Foods. The next step is to launch into the United States.

Biagi believes family is imperative to the success of her business. “I wouldn’t be where I am without the support of my family,” she says. “Starting a business on your own is really tough. If you start a business, I think that it would have a greater chance of succeeding with family support.”

The social climate of the farmer’s markets are also like a big family, according to Biagi. Instead of the typical competitive cut-throat attitude that exists in many business markets, the grassroots approach in the farmer market community in Vancouver is very inclusive and accepting. “At the farmer’s market, we are a family. We see each other every Saturday and Sunday, and there is always a little bit of time to talk to each other,” Biagi says. “We are all there rain or shine and I’m open to helping anybody who needs. I don’t doubt in helping them find jars, labels, information, or grant money.”

Despite the obstacles of building up an organics product in a competitive market, Biagi is a mentor to other women on how to never give up on your dream. “Persistence is definitely important. You need to keep going and not give up after the first mishap,” Biagi says. “I’ve gone through a lot of ups and downs, but I believe in my business. I want Aji to become a staple in North America and I believe in it.”

Aji regularly gives silent auction items to several charities, including the Parkinson Society B.C. Ronald McDonald House Spinal Cord Injury B.C. CBSA UBC Land and Food Systems Society, Crossroads Hospice Society, and JDRF Rocking for Research Gala for diabetes. Biagi and her family also foster exotic birds from a rescue called Grey Haven in the Lower Mainland area. They have had one of their Macaw parrots, Hobbes for seven years, something that reminds Biagi of being back home in Colombia.

In her spare time, Biagi loves to horseback ride and has a degree in Equine Studies. She is also an avid photographer and loves to cycle. Biagi is an example of a female entrepreneur that has embraced her culture and passions and fused them into making an amazing product that is becoming successful. She also reminds us of the power of family and persisting through obstacles with a winning smile. Aji truly is an inspiration for all product entrepreneurs working hard at farmer’s markets across Canada. Follow your dreams, you never know what can happen next.

“The day I walked out of that store with my supplies when I first decided to make Aji, I never thought I’d get to where I am, but yet here we are.”

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How to handle March Break on a budget

As parents, we often hear ‘I’m bored mom’ or ‘why do we never do anything fun?’ when the kids are stuck at home. Instead, here is a survival guide to March Break that includes tips on how to entertain kids kids and celebrate the week off school on a budget.

March Break is here and there are many free or discounted events going on around Toronto to entertain kids on their days off from school. Are your kids bouncing off the walls at home? It’s important to get them out of the house and exercising — too much TV will just make them cranky or hyper. The City of Toronto is offering free swimming during March Break and free indoor leisure skating at their facilities. You can also simply go for a walk or a hike in a local ravine or park. My daughter and I like to walk in the ravine near our home and learn about different types of nature in the woods. This promotes a sense of attachment to nature from a young age and also helps us get fresh air.

If you have budgeted for March Break, head to the Ontario Science Centre, which is hosting a special exhibit on the biomechanics of the body, or pay a visit to the Legoland Discovery Centre Toronto. There are many indoor play zones with bouncy castles, tunnels and mini golf located around the city too in case the weather takes a turn and going outside isn’t possible.

Want to try something with a bit more of an end result? Try scheduling some spring clean or bring donations to a Salvation Army. My daughter made special art cards for the kids that would receive her old toys to prepare for our planned donation during March Break, which made her feel included and excited to give her things to kids that need them more!

Finally, put those aprons on and get messy in the kitchen. Baking and cooking healthy snacks always makes for a a fun afternoon or you can break out the arts and crafts after to complete the messy day. Children love art and collaborative projects always turn out to be pretty special bonding experiences.

No matter what, remember to enjoy the time with your kids and don’t feel guilty for not spending thousands of dollars on a luxury March break vacation. Most children just want to hang out with mom and dad and have a good time. Even if you can only take a couple days off work to enjoy quality time with the kids, it will be fun for the whole family to herald in the spring.

How should parents deal with child bullying?

Parenting challenges you in unexpected ways. Recently, my daughter confessed to me that a boy is bullying her at school for being vegan. This little kindergartener is a constant source of sorrow for the other kids, teasing and kicking other children at will. My daughter has mostly managed to escape his abuse, but not since he discovered she was vegan.

As a parent, how do I deal with this little bully? I can’t directly confront the child myself as I would if someone was teasing or kicking me, but I also cannot just let it go. Bullying is one of the most devastating things kids can go through in school, and it can have traumatizing effects if not dealt with properly. It does fall to parents to manage it and ensure that all the appropriate parties are aware they have a bully in their midst.

This leads to step number one; telling the teacher and/or daycare. Having open communication with the school and daycare teachers will help the problem. Most times, they simply aren’t aware that a child is being bullied in the first place. If the teacher seems dismissive of the problem, don’t be afraid to go to the principal. Your child matters and putting up a big stink about bullying is necessary to protect kids from harm.

If the bullying continues despite informing teachers or daycare instructors, the next logical thing to do would be contact the child’s parents. This can be difficult to do because parents want to think best of their children, and it is hard to admit when your child isn’t acting appropriately. At girl guides recently, another little girl tried to exclude my daughter from playing in a group of girls and luckily, my daughter held her own and played with another child. I could tell she was upset though and decided to step in after the fact. Being friends with the little girl’s mom, I decided to approach her about it. I made sure to not accuse or blame in any way, and having a friendly rapport with her helped a lot. It is important to build relationships with other parents, so that if there is a problem, it is much easier to speak to the other parent openly and honestly. If this isn’t possible or the parents aren’t receptive to being friendly, contacting them in the most polite and calm way possible is the best way to get the results you want.

Other suggestions include preparing your child against bullies through open communication. After both incidences, my daughter and I had a thorough discussion about how bullying is bad and is often a result of the ‘bully’ being insecure and sad. We also discuss how important it is to walk away from a bully, to be brave, and to tell the teacher. Practicing what to say in case a bully teases her helps her feel more prepared. Now, when someone teases her for being vegan, she knows and understands from our discussions that it is because she is different, but in a good way. Bullies often pick on kids that are vulnerable or different. I try to help her understand that being different is great and she should feel empowered for being known as the token vegan at school.

For younger kids, the book “Have you filled a bucket today? A guide to daily happiness for kids” is a great read that helps promote good behaviour towards others. The story explains that everyone has a bucket and filling other people’s buckets with love and kindness will make you happy. Alternatively, if you are mean and selfish, or you take from people’s buckets, then will be unhappy. It is very simple and helps kids relate better to the abstract explanations of emotions.

Bullying is a common problem that kids and parents are forced to deal with on a regular basis, and being prepared will help. Overall, I try to give my child as many compliments a day as I can to help boost her self-esteem. I try to not stick to compliments solely based on appearance, but compliment her intelligence and skills as well. A child that feels better about themselves can be better armed against bullies, and I want her to feel protected and loved.

What are your solutions to dealing with bullying as a parent? Let Women’s Post know in the comments below.

Single on Valentine’s Day? It’s going to suck

It’s Valentine’s Day. Isn’t that great?

Two months ago I had a boyfriend. This year would have been the first time I celebrate this “holiday” with a partner. As you can imagine, I was already planning the details. How I would act all surprised when he brought me flowers with a small heart-shaped card asking “will you be my valentine.” He would cook a romantic meal that we would eat by candlelight. Afterwards, a little dancing outside under the stars (in my dream, it’s always warm in February). The perfect, romantic, Valentine’s Day.

And then it all went to shit — as it always does around the holidays. Am I right ladies?

Now, I’m single again. Single on Valentine’s Day. It feels slightly akin to this:

But, I’m used to it. I’m used to the numbing reality of being lonely, with only your parents to send you a quick “I love you” e-card and a box of chocolates to make you feel extra special. Imagine the talk in the office: “ooooo, who gave you those heart-shaped cupcakes??!! Who is the special guy/gal? – Oh, it was my mom.”

But, does Valentine’s Day have to be so crappy for single women? All the magazines tell us that it’s totally fine and there are lots of ways to celebrate this holiday without a partner. Let’s run through the options:

I’m going to focus on self-love this Valentine’s Day: What a bunch of bull shit. Do you think that by going out to a pedicure or treating yourself to a glass of wine, you will forget about how single you are? You know what sounds like a fun time? Going to a fancy restaurant and having a luxurious dinner by yourself while watching as all the couples around you kiss and laugh and dance….yes, that sounds lovely. Sure, I can spend a few hundred dollars on a spa day, surrounded by equally single (or retired) women, drinking gross cucumber water and pretending to be happy. But honestly, it’s just a waste of a lot of money. I’d much rather go to the spa on a day where I can enjoy it.

I like the sentiment. The “I don’t need a man to complete me” philosophy is a good one, but on Valentine’s Day, it all goes out the window. Even the strongest of women are entitled to feel crappy as they watch everyone else pair off. No amount of “self-love” can change that.

I’m going to hang out with my single friends: What single friends? As a millennial in my mid 20s, all of my friends have paired off, and all the single ones bat for the other team. Hanging out with them makes me feel even more alone. Don’t get me wrong, hanging out with friends is always the best bet, especially if you are feeling a bit sad, but it’s not always the best solution. Your friend invites you to a dinner party that night and you may be stuck sitting between couple A and couple B, trying to explain why there was no guy….literally no one….you could have brought.

Let’s say, for argument sakes, you have a solid group of single friends, all looking to hang out and forget about this terrible Hallmark holiday. You go out, drink your fill, and spend the next few hours trying to get the cute guy in the corner to give us the time of day. At the end of the night, all you are left with is a splitting headache and a lot of regret.

 

I’m going to find someone online to spend the evening with: Bad idea. Just a really, really bad idea. I don’t know how much clearer I can be. Anyone online on Valentine’s Day is looking to do just one thing — find a desperate and sad woman willing to have a one-night-stand. I’m sorry, but it’s true. This isn’t Hollywood. No one finds their soulmate on Valentine’s Day. Remember ladies: you never know who is behind the screen. And, if you do decide to meet up with someone, it will never be Ryan Gosling.

 

I’m going to spend time with family: Hi mom! I’m back! Thanks for the cupcakes and the card! Yes, I know I shouldn’t be upset I don’t have a date for Valentine’s Day. Yes, I know I deserve better. No, I’m totally fine! Can I have a second helping of mac n’ cheese please?

Seriously though, spending time with family is great. They can be a real comfort when you are feeling down. But, it also emphasizes the fact that, well, you have no where else to be. Unless your family has a tradition of getting together on Valentine’s Day, it’s just a nice reminder that your siblings and friends are all having a romantic evening out and here you are, watching a movie with your mom and dad, pretending everything is normal.

As you can see, the choices are slim. I apologize for my pessimism, but there really is no escaping it. Valentine’s Day is going to suck. Might as well embrace that fact and do it properly — alone, in my pyjamas, with Chinese food and a giant stack of candy, watching A Walk To Remember while clutching a box of Kleenex.

Pro tip: Get to your closest grocery store super early the next day for discount chocolates. It’s really the only positive thing about this stupid holiday. You are welcome.

Will you be single this Valentine’s Day? What will you be doing? Let us know in the comments below!

It’s 2017! God, it’s gotta be better than last year, right?!

Thank goodness 2016 is over! Am I right?!

It’s been a rough year. A lot of crazy stuff happened around the world and, personally, I’m feeling the weight of it all. But, the best part about a new year is that that last one is over. There is no need to think about it or wonder what could have happened to change things. Instead of dwelling on the past, it’s time to look to the future. And that is a refreshing thought.

The only problem with a shit show year is that people may feel pressured to overreach, maybe even try to make up for 2016 all at once. Trust me, there is no need to change your entire life in the month of January. You have an entire year, let’s not rush things.

You aren’t going to listen to me, are you? That’s okay! Starting anew can be a wonderful feeling. What I worry about is the February crush, when everyone realizes the goals they’ve set are unattainable, and all of the bad things that happened the previous year have consequences that could last until 2020. What happens then?

First thing first. Let’s tackle THIS year before we worry about the next one. Here are some tips for setting those New Year’s resolutions and planning for that high-expectation 2017:

Take time to reflect: I know you would rather not think about the past year, but it’s important to do so. Reflection offers insight into who you are and who you want to be. Think about the decisions that led to happiness and the decisions that led to that depression. Use this time to find out what works for you and what doesn’t. Also find out what is within your control. The results of certain elections and the needless deaths around the world may influence your unhappiness, but there may not be much you can do about it. Maybe you need to get involved in a charity or nonprofit? Make some donations to the causes you are passionate about? These decisions can only happen if you reflect.

Forget physical health: You will always want to change something about your appearance. Whether the goal is to lose weight, get rid of that muffin top, or simply put more effort into your wardrobe — this type of New Year’s resolution never lasts and always leads to disappointment. Instead, why not focus on mental health and feeling happy. This will still include going to the gym, but you will be going for YOU and not for those few pounds you still have to lose. Spend more time outdoors, meditate, think about your own happiness for once. Be selfish this year. I promise it’s okay to do so!

Start small: Pick one thing per month to do or change. That way, your body and mind are able to adjust. For example, say you will go to the gym two days a week in the month of January. In February, you can start eating less sugar. In March, maybe start a weekly dinner with friends and family. Start meditating for 10 minutes a night in April. If you keep this up, by the end of 2017, all of these habits and new traditions will come naturally to you.

Spend more time with friends and family: Nothing incites depression more than loneliness. Everyone is always “too busy” with work, kids, and commitments. Make 2017 the year of re-connecting and/or making new friends.  Plan a monthly dinner with friends so you can catch up and break from the craziness of regular life. Use this opportunity to vent about work and ask for advice about personal problems. And laugh. I’m a firm believer that laughter is the natural cure to everything!

Be active: No, this doesn’t mean spend more time in the gym. This means do more outside of your home. Get rid of your daily work-home-television routine and put down your phone. Go for more walks, go skating, or visit a museum on their “free” days. Get to know the city you live in. Plan a trip somewhere. Travel or plan a staycation. Nothing lifts spirits as much as a new experience.

Ultimately, focus on yourself this year. I hope these tips help make your 2017 a hell of a lot better than 2016.

And remember to walk away from 2016 like this….it will not hold you back!

 

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Don’t fall prey to the holiday blues

Every morning and evening I log into my computer or cell phone to check my various social media apps. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram — It’s all the same. All I see are messages of despair or people asking others to leave notes of hope and prayer. It seems like everyone is sad this time of year, and I get it.

The holidays tend to make people a little stressed and depressed. It’s a time of reflection and thoughts of the future. And if 2016 was any precedent, the future doesn’t look really bright. That, in combination with the pressure of gift giving, family, and work, it can all get overwhelming.

Women’s Post explains some of the reasons for these holiday blues, and offers a few suggestions to beat them — however, it should be known that the best cure to the December depression is to spend time with those you love, whether that’s family, friends, or your dog.

Fiscal frustrations: This is the biggest factor contributing to holiday blues, especially if you are a parent. No mother or father wants their child to get less than others. And when you have a mom, dad, sister, brother, and then your aunts, uncles, grandparents, friends, and coworkers — it all adds up to big bucks. Stockings alone can add up to a hefty bill. When you are counting your pennies (and even when you aren’t), gifts can get expensive.

Remember that expectations for gift giving are never as high as you think. A simple book, pair of socks, or even homemade cookies will put a smile on someone’s face. If you can’t afford to give everyone gifts, do activities instead.

Inability to be with loved ones: This is by far the hardest thing to deal with during the holidays. If you’ve recently lost a loved one, let me first say that I’m terribly sorry. Whether it’s because you’ve experienced a recent death or are miles away from your family this December. The holidays will be really tough. There is no denying it, and there is no “cure”. If this is the case, the best way to handle it is to call up some good friends and invite yourself over. Don’t feel ashamed to say “hey, I’m a bit lonely this holidays, can we get together sometime for some drinks or coffee? Or would you like to come over for dinner?”

If that’s not possible, try skype or calling those you are missing. Otherwise, do things you find enjoyable. Take yourself out to the spa or to a fancy dinner. Don’t stay at home watching sad movies — unless you find it cathartic. Ultimately, know that there are people out there who love you and care for you. That’s all that matters.

Review of past year: A lot of people start to panic around December when they realize how little they’ve accomplished. It’s almost the new year, and there is still so much to do! You have to cook for Christmas dinner, but also get that gym membership you promised yourself 12 months ago. What about the job you’ve been searching for? All of those unfinished projects? All that weight you wanted to loose?

I’m here to tell you to STOP IT! It’s December, and there is no way to change anything right now. Instead, focus on all the fun you will have this month. Go eat at nice restaurants, visit with friends, and go to a museum. Who cares about the missed opportunities! Take advantage of your holiday. All of your decisions and everything that you’ve done over the past year has accumulated in you being you. And you are amazing!!

 

Above all else, remember that you are a wonderful human being who deserves to have a wonderful holiday season. Try not to sit in the dark and feel sorry for yourself. Get out there and enjoy life. Kick those holiday blues in the butt!

Woman of the Week: Marni Dicker, VP Infrastructure Ontario

Marni Dicker truly believes women can have it all, even if they work in a male-dominated industry like infrastructure.

The bulk of Dicker’s career has been in “a man’s world, with a hard hat on and steel toe boots.” A self-described “energizer-bunny”, she works full-time for Infrastructure Ontario (IO), chairs Women Build with Habitat for Humanity, is a distinguished visiting scholar at Ryerson University, is a mentor for the Women’s Executive Network, an executive sponsor of Women IO, and chair of IO Gives Back. All the while, she makes time to go to every single one of her sons’ football games.

“You don’t have to be ashamed to be a mother,” she says. “I almost over do it because I’m trying to lead by example. I have a young team with little kids. I want them to know it’s okay to go to your kid’s play at 11 a.m., because you don’t get those days back, and I get a better productivity from my team. Nothing is suffering. Work is getting done and family appreciates it.”

As Executive Vice President, General Counsel, and Corporate Secretary at Infrastructure Ontario, Dicker has a wide portfolio. She oversees six different departments — legal, procurement, strategy, communications, record management, and insurance — all the while being responsible for corporate governance. Essentially, there isn’t a file Dicker isn’t involved in.

Infrastructure Ontario is responsible for all major construction projects in the province, including the Eglinton Crosstown, which is part of a 12-plus billion dollar transit plan for the region. “That was my deal and transaction, putting the deal into market, procuring a partner who would be ultimately delivering the project.” she said.

The other big project she was involved in was the venues for the Pan Am Games, including the athletes village, which is currently being converted into a multiuse community.  For Dicker, the most exciting part of her work with the Pan Am Games was that they weren’t just creating a venue for a singular event; they were actually making a difference in people’s lives. “We aren’t only building infrastructure, we are building communities.”

Before joining the ranks at Infrastructure Ontario, Dicker spent 16 years with the SNC-Lavalin. She was recommended by a friend, and despite the fact that she didn’t know anything about engineering, construction, or real estate at the time, SNC-Lavalin recognized her capabilities and hired her anyway. They said they wanted someone smart and eager to learn — and that was Dicker in a nutshell.

She thrived in that environment, embracing every challenge. Twenty years later, she is one of the leading experts in infrastructure development and corporate counsel, something she would have been unable to claim if she hadn’t taken the extreme risk to leave her job in litigation for something completely out of her comfort zone.

Dicker’s heart and passion for the industry is revealed when she speaks of this difficult transition. She went from being a litigation lawyer to a businesswoman, but every new step has given her skills that make her incredibly successful in her field. As she says, she uses her legal training to provide excellent business leadership.

This dedication to the field  is noticeable when she speaks. She talks a mile-a-minute, exuding excitement over seemingly-small details of a project. You can tell she thrives under pressure and doesn’t back down from a challenge.

Dicker is very aware of how male-dominated her industry is, but acknowledges it’s changing, albeit slowly. “What I think we need is more examples of women who have been successful in those fields and we women need to actively mentor young women and take them under our wings to show them the ropes, because if we don’t they will be left behind.”

And that’s what Dicker is trying to do with Women IO and the Women’s Executive Network. She wants to be a mentor for other women seeking senior leadership and guidance. Some of the big topics during networking sessions include work-life balance and how to grow your career.

“We need to go out and show them [women] that working in the infrastructure world is no different than the female-dominated industry of nursing. If they see more women in the industry, it will incite them to joint the ranks of architecture or project finance.”

Dicker’s biggest strength is her ability to do it all, something she says is only possible “because I’m crazy.” She is one of those people who goes to the gym at 5:30 a.m., works hard throughout the day, and then still finds time to give back to the community. “I’m not happy sitting down, because I feel like I have so much to do and I have so much to offer, whether it’s personal to my family, professionally in the workplace, or in a volunteer capacity. It’s really gratifying to me.”

Dicker admits that this industry has made her a stronger person, but counters that it doesn’t mean you have to give up your femininity. And that’s something she hopes all women can begin to understand.

Last year, Dicker was recognized as one of Canada’s 100 most powerful women.

Separate parental leave for dads could become a Canadian reality

Having a newborn is a life-changing and miraculous experience, but can leave parents exhausted if they are forced to split their time between work and taking care of an infant.

Luckily, the Canadian government is looking into granting new dads separate parental leave so that both parents can help raise a new baby together. Currently, the government splits employment insurance (E.I) benefits for new parents, which puts unnecessary stress on the first year of a child’s life. Maternity leave is 35 weeks and is most often taken solely by the mother.

The system of splitting parental leave allows the mother to take the first 17 weeks of maternity leave and the father can take the remaining 18 weeks of leave if desired with E.I benefits. This leaves both parents in a tough position and most often, the mother will continue to stay home during the second half of parental leave.

Quebec is the only province that has a different parental leave arrangement set in place for families. Quebecois dads can take an extra five weeks of parental leave and will continue to make up to 70 per cent of their pay check while they do so. Seventy-eight per cent of dads decided to stay home in 2012 . Federal Labour Minister, MaryAnn Mihychuk will be opening discussions to obtain similar standards for every province in the country.

Changing these standards and encouraging paternity leave more would benefit families, and women. First of all, both parents could take parental leave together. Raising a baby is hard work, especially in the initial years, and removing the need to work right way would lower stress for both parents.

Parental leave is also beneficial for women because it would reduce the stigma that men are more dependable employees because they don’t take parental leave as a mother is expected to. Having equal opportunity for both parents to stay at home would even the playing field in the job spectrum.  Any opportunity that increases gender equality in the workplace and at home is a welcome one.

Furthermore, discussions around parental leave will also potentially allow parents to have 18 months of parental leave rather than 12 months. When a child is only one year old, it is very difficult to  leave them in someone else’s care to return to work. At 18 months, toddlers have reached more substantial milestones such as walking and beginning verbal skills. From experience, it is much easier to leave a child that can walk and communicate at childcare than a baby who is still crawling.

Even if the necessary approvals for separate parental leave lie well in the future, it is exciting that these discussions are occurring at a federal level. The Canadian government is finally moving away from monetary solutions, such as childcare benefits as a replacement for extended parental benefits. Instead, the liberals are seeing the value in staying at home with your kids. This quality versus quantity approach to governing feels like a fresh start for Canada and, hopefully, these discussions will become realities for families in the future.