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Woman of the Week: Meg Davis

Meg Davis loves to witness change in a neighbourhood. It’s her passion — to watch a vibrant community evolve over the years. As Chief Developent Officer of Waterfront Toronto, Davis gets to see this kind of transformation on a daily basis.

Davis has worked for Waterfront Toronto for the last 10 years, and says the change within the neighbourhood is heartwarming.

“When I arrived here we had a couple small parks and wave decks, which were stunning and beautiful and got a lot of attention, but we hadn’t built a building yet,” she said. “In the last 10 years we’ve built an 18-acre park in the West Don lands, Pan Am athletes village, condos in the West Don lands, [and] East Bayfront. People are starting to build down here and one of the things we have started is programming. Cultural events, the sugar shack program, partnering with Luminato — we are really animating the waterfront.”

The waterfront, a 46-kilometre stretch of Harbourfront property along Lake Ontario between Etobicoke and Rouge River, is constantly transforming. Waterfront Toronto is a public advocate and steward of this revitalization process. It was created by all three levels of the Canadian government with the purpose of overseeing and implementing strategies to transform the area.

One of the things Waterfront Toronto stresses is the difference between redevelopment and revitalization. Redevelopment, Davis explains, refers to the selling of land to the highest bidder, regardless of what they plan on doing in the area.

“Revitalization means achieving public policy objectives such as reducing urban sprawl, providing transit, reducing carbon emissions, contributing to economic vibrancy, addressing affordability and providing excellent public realm and architecture by leveraging public land,” she said.

It’s this kind of urban development that Davis is passionate about. Her love of urban planning was encouraged by a geography teacher in high school, whose lesson plans focused on urban affairs. “It really grabbed me. I took as many courses like that as I could,” she said.

Her education is mixed. She has an Honours Bachelor degree from Western University in urban development, a Master’s in business Administration from the University of Toronto, and recently completed an Executive Leadership Program. She started her career as a junior planner with Bramalea Limited, focusing mostly on real estate. From 2005 to 2007, Davis acted as Director of KPMG Canada, focusing on public-private partnership projects, including $1 billion long-term care facilities and the sale of Highway 407.

“I love the physical aspect of it,” she said. “I love to see things come up from the ground and take shape. For me, the use of P3s were a unique opportunity to see how the government and the private sector could come together.”

This is especially true of Toronto’s waterfront, which Davis describes as essentially “one big P3.” Waterfront Toronto is putting a large emphasis on affordable housing within its neighbourhoods, and using that as a foundation for planning.

“You can have affordable housing and expensive condos, [but] if you don’t provide the public spaces, it’s not a place anybody wants to live,” she said. “You can’t squander the opportunities – being by the water is unique in Toronto and you have to make it a complete community.”

As Chief Development Officer, Davis is responsible for leading the development of all lands controlled by Waterfront Toronto. She is particularly proud of the Pan Parapan Am Games Athlete’s Village in the West Don Lands, which was transformed after the games into affordable rental housing, vibrant retail properties, student housing, market condominiums, and public art. Davis says it advanced revitalization of the neighbourhood by over five years.

“We are really animating the waterfront. I think the transformation is huge,” she says.

Davis helps co-chair the Women’s Leadership Initiative ULI Toronto. They are working on a speaking series that will help promote the voices of women in real estate, which she says is still a heavily male-dominated industry.

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What’s in the title “First Lady”?

The title of First Lady is widely recognized around the world as the descriptor of the wife of the President of the United States. But, what do you call the partner of the Prime Minister of Canada? This question actually popped into my head when editing a piece for Women’s Post. When addressing Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau do you use a title or do you just call her by her name?

In Canada, the spouse of the Prime Minister has no title. While some have mistakingly referred toSophie Grégoire-Trudeau as the “First Lady of Canada”, the fact of the matter is that the partner of the leader of this country has no official responsibilities in parliament. They can be as active as they want to be.

I have to wonder if the title of First Lady creates an image that American’s can’t shake — that the role of a woman is to be sitting at the side of her man. That there is a President, and there is a First Lady. The First Lady has a very specific role within the White House, to be involved in political campaigns, to manage the White House, to champion social causes, and to represent the president at official events and ceremonies. This is an important job to be sure, but it also creates a dangerous association between women and the role of managing a household and representing your spouse’s interests.

Whenever a woman gets close to running for president, there is always discussion about what her husband would be called. Is it First Gentleman, First Man, First Husband? It boggles everyones mind. People become consumed with this idea – of what that man’s title would be and what his role would be, as if it would be different than that of a woman.

In Canada, this association is non-existent. There is the Prime Minister, and then there is his or her spouse. This person does not receive special standing simply because of who he or she married. Most choose to take up social causes and to attend events, but it is not mandatory. And there is no gender-association with the role.

I guess to answer my first question — it’s simply Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau, no title, no fuss.

Remembering the Montreal massacre

Dec 6 marks the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. This event is commemorated each year to mark the deadly Montreal massacre at the Ecole Polytechnique in 1989. A gunman went on a shooting spree, killing 14 women, most of whom were engineering students.

This somber day raises awareness of gender-based crimes. The shooter, who later turned the gun on himself, proclaimed his hatred for feminists and was actively targeting women enrolled in the engineering program, since in his mind he believed it should be a field of study for men. This senseless massacre left Montreal wounded, but all people in Canada, especially women, feel the loss as well. It is unfortunate that we still endure crimes based on gender and sexuality.

The good news is that the shooting did not deter women from enrolling in STEM ( science, technology, engineering and mathematics). In Toronto, a community gathering will be taking place hosted by the Department of Engineering. This is just one example of many small and private remembrance ceremonies that will be held around Canada.

Professor Deepa Kundur was a first year engineering student at UofT when the massacre took place in 1989. Today, she is the chair of Engineering Science and a professor at the Edward S. Rogers Sr. Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. In the official press release, she noted the importance of her not being deterred by the shootings to leave an area of study.

“The university, the educational system is a very special and important place and it’s important to value education in fields like STEM where it provides opportunities for people where diverse backgrounds and opinions are needed very much.”

In Montreal, citizens are invited to attend the ceremony this evening at 5pm at the chalet on Mount Royal, which will feature 14 beams of light illuminating the night sky in memory of the 14 women who lost their lives. This is the 28th anniversary of what is still the worst mass shooting in Canadian history. Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante and Sophie Gregoire Trudeau will be present to mark the ceremony and interact with other survivors of violence. The symbol in the campaign to end violence against women is a white ribbon.

The National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women is part of the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence, which started on Nov 25. This year’s theme is #MyActionsMatter and calls on people to speak up against gender based violence. The final event for the 16 days of activism is International Human Rights Day on Dec 10.

Share positive thoughts in the movement towards ending violence against women. Comment below

The way we view powerful men is about to change

One by one, they all fall down — men of power, men of money, but clearly not men of finesse. Simply put, men that are lacking any form of respect for their female peers, co-workers, or acquaintances. The movement that started with the allegations against Harvey Weinstein, has grown into a festering and disturbing monster over the past few months, with almost daily cases of high-profile men who are now being exposed for their alleged sexual misconduct. What do these stories prove to us? How has society allowed these powerful men to dominate and get away with locker-room talk and disgusting predatory behaviour?

For me personally, it started with watching the fall of British actor Ed Westwick. I was a fan of his work and I grew up watching soapy drama’s like Gossip Girl. Sure, his character on the show lacked morals, and the way he played with women’s emotions was atrocious, and that time he attempted to ‘rape’ a fellow character on the show…that was all teenage drama. After all, he was playing a role. He was being ‘Chuck Bass’ . But, when this transferred into real life, and woman after woman described similar scenarios where he pinned them down and forced himself upon them, I knew he had no right. I feel terrible for the women in these situations. While no charges have been filed against Westwick, his reputation is certainly paying the price, as his shows have either been cancelled or halted.

Matt Lauer is a face I grew up watching. I thought of him as a respectable and well-known journalist on NBC. Waking up and watching the today show with Matt Lauer and Katie Couric was a tradition that many people can recall over the 20 years he has been working at the American network. And it was all ruined in a few minutes after hearing he was terminated for sexual misconduct. Lauer allegedly sexted interns and gave co-workers sex toys with notes about how they should use them. There is also the tape that TMZ found of Lauer telling once co-host Meredith Vieira, to ‘keep bending over like that’, when he thought the cameras were off air.  My view has certainly changed. How was this behaviour tolerated? Obviously the fact that he was the highest paid reporter and attracted over four million viewers with his charm each morning have him a lot of sway.

I’m now prepared to be disappointed by the familiar faces I see in the media and whose work I once admired as brilliant. Just this morning, entertainment mogul Russel Simmons stepped down as CEO from his string of companies after he was accused of “sexual misconduct”, where a woman alleged he forced her to have sex with him

Nothing gives these men the privilege to put women through years of mental and physical abuse? Probably just that — they are…. so-called men.

Let us continue to speak out against any form of abuse to women and may the fall from grace for these powerful men mark a turning point in history for women around the world .

 

Let’s end violence against women and girls

Thanks to the #MeToo movement, more and more women are coming forward with allegations of sexual harassment and abuse. Women and young girls are finding that powerful voice within them to speak out against sexual violence and crimes against women in general.

On Nov. 25, the United Nations will lead the annual worldwide campaign marking the start of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.  This will be a 16-day campaign with hundreds of events worldwide.

One in three women are affected by violence. According to the UN, 19 per cent of women between the ages of 15 and 49 have said they experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner within the last year. In 2012, almost half of all women who were murdered, were killed by an intimate partner or family member. The same can be said of only 6 per cent of male victims.

The theme for the campaign is Leave No one Behind, emphasizing the urgency of addressing these issues and not allowing them to be normalized. The campaign will educate the public on the types of violence women face and mobilize change.

During these 16 days, iconic buildings worldwide will be lit up in orange, the colour officially associated with the day. Orange symbolizes a brighter future without violence. Local events that could spring up in your city include marches, flash-mobs, concerts, football and rugby games, as well as other unique and creative public events to bring awareness to the issue. The hope is that this movement will mobilize governments and the public to take part in the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’s umbrella campaign to end violence against women by 2030.

“Violence against women is fundamentally about power,” Guterres said in a statement. “It will only end when gender equality and the full empowerment of women will be a reality.”

The rise of the #MeToo campaign on social media has awoken a global protest against sexual harassment and assault. Through this hashtag, women are sharing their stories of violence afflicted towards them from even politicians and celebrities. These women are acting as examples for others, finally bringing some of their attackers to justice. UN Women is now working towards implementation new laws and policies that will offer women and young girls further protection.

The specific theme this year is also directed at refugees and migrants who are at a higher risk of being targeted for abuse. This recognition covers all women and girls despite their age, race, religion, income or citizenship. Women and girls need to be protected and offenders should be prosecuted to ensure that there is a societal message of  a zero-tolerance policy  towards violence of any kind.

For over 20 years, UN Women has been supporting various organizations around the world that have proactively taken steps in reducing community violence directed towards women. Earlier this year there was a collaborative effort with the European Union on a special spotlight initiative focusing on domestic, family , sexual, violence, human trafficking and labor exploitation. This included an initial investment of $500 million (EUR) by the EU.

To show your support during the 16 day campaign, use the hashtag, #orangetheworld and #16days. You can also change your profile picture by adding an orange filter.

Canada’s top 100 most powerful women announced

Every year, the Women’s Executive Network (WXN) puts together a list of Canada’s 100 Most Powerful Women and offers awards for those who advocate for diversity in the workplace and inspire future leaders.

The winners of these awards are from the private, public, and non-profit sectors.

Thirteen women were inducted into the WXN Top 100 Hall of Fame, an honour given to past recipients of awards who have continued to do notable work.

“Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Awards showcases the leaders that are helping to drive positive change and progress and to remind us of the importance of empowering women in our workforce and in the community,” says Sherri Stevens, President & CEO of PhaseNyne (parent company of WXN), in a statement. “We are so proud of the steps taken by women, and the organizations that support them, and are thrilled that we have now surpassed a major milestone, with more than 1,000 women honoured since the awards were launched in 2003.”

Past Award Winners include some of Canada’s most iconic women trailblazers: Margaret Atwood, Best-Selling Author; Dr. Roberta Bondar, astronaut; Christine Magee, President, Sleep Country Canada; Michaëlle Jean, former Governor General of Canada; and Heather Reisman, Founder and CEO, Indigo Books & Music.

The winners for 2017 were chosen by an independent advisory board and were announced on Wednesday morning in Toronto.

For a full list of winners, please visit www.wxnetwork.com/top-100/top-100-winners.

More to come.

EU proposes 40 % quota for “non executive” women

The European Commission has proposed that companies whose non-executive directors comprise of more than 60 per cent men to prioritize the hiring of women when choosing between candidates of equal merit.

The proposal aims to have a minimum of 40 per cent of non-executive members on company boards to be women. The goal is to have this achieved by 2018 in public-sector companies and 2020 in the private sector. Annual reports on the composition of these boards will be required and sanctions could be imposed if the evaluation is negative. Those companies would then have to explain the measurements they intent to use to achieve the quota.

The quota will apply to companies listed on the stock exchange as of November 2012.

“Company boards in the EU are characterized by persistent gender imbalances, as evidenced by the fact that only 13.7% of corporate seats in the largest listed companies are currently held by women (15% among non-executive directors),” the proposal reads.  “progress in increasing the presence of women on company boards has been very slow, with an average annual increase in the past years of just 0.6 percentage points.”

This proposal has been on the table for years, with previous attempts to pass it blocked by certain European countries. According to the file, it is the issue of state independence is intertwined.

“Although there is a broad consensus across the EU in favour of taking measures to improve the gender balance on company boards, some Member States consider that binding measures at the EU level are not the best way to pursue the objective and would prefer either national measures or non-binding measures at EU level. They take the view that the proposal does not comply with the principle of subsidiarity,” the file reads.

The interesting part of this proposal is that it only applies to “non-executive” roles rather than direct managerial positions. In fact, the proposal actually goes on to say that the reason for this is to minimize interference with “day-to-day management of a company.” While I understand that most companies prefer to hire on a merit system, especially for positions of power and management; the proposal already indicates  the priority of hiring a female candidate should be taken when two candidates have the same qualifications. This focus on “non-executive roles” may actually encourage companies to hire more women, but it also reinforces the idea that top positions are reserved for men.

Why not say boards must be comprised of at least 40 per cent of both sexes. That way, it encompasses all roles and positions within the board? This proposal will be discussed over the next few days; which means there is a possibility for amendments and further specifications.

If the EU is really concerned about gender parity on boards or in positions of powers within big companies, it would step up with a stronger proposal that calls for real equality rather than a piece of paper that placates to the feminist cause without actually creating change.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!

New Canadian alliance created to achieve gender parity on boards

A new alliance has been created to help accelerate gender parity on boards. The Canadian Gender and Good Governance Alliance (CGGGA) is made of seven influential Canadian organizations dedicated to pushing forward gender equality in the workplace, especially on boards and in executive positions. 

Despite decades of advocacy, women are still outnumbered in senior roles, especially within financial services. Women hold approximately 14 per cent of all board seats and only 26 per cent of open board positions are filled by female applicants. A McKinsey & Company study in 2016 showed that only six per cent of Canadian CEOs are women.

The CGGGA is made up of Women in Capital Markets (WCM), the 30% Club Canada, Catalyst Canada, the Business Council of Canada, the Institute of Corporate Directors (ICD), Canadian Coalition for Good Governance (CCGG), and the Clarkson Centre (CCBE).

This is the first coalition of its kind in North America. The CGGGA Directors’ Playbook is their first initiative and presents practical tools companies can use to achieve gender balance on boards.

Women’s Post spoke with Marlene Puffer, partner at Alignvest Investment Management, who represents Women in Capital Markets within the alliance, to find out a bit more:

Why join forces with other organizations to create the CGGGA? 

There is power in having a coordinated message from the many high-quality organizations that all share a common goal – to enhance the numbers and impact of women on boards and in executive positions. The biggest impact will come from having a clear set of tools to offer to businesses, governments, regulators, institutional investors and other interested stakeholders to improve practices that lead to better governance and gender balance.

What will Women in Capital Markets specifically bring to the organization?

Our industry is at the heart of corporate Canada, where providers and users of capital come together.  Senior professionals in our industry and in related areas are extremely well suited to board roles, and we will be launching a lengthy list of high-quality board-ready women in the coming weeks. Women in Capital Markets has an active network of hundreds of senior-level women, and is working diligently to ensure that they have the support and exposure that they need to reach the highest levels within their organizations and on boards. We are a deep resource of information, experience, and research on what works.  We have partnered with members of the Alliance in the past, and we bring all of this experience to the table with the other Alliance members to continue to find innovative ways to move the dial.

What is the ultimate goal of CGGGA? 

The Alliance aims to amplify and coordinate efforts to increase gender parity on boards and in executive positions, and to contribute to public policy as an advisor for the governments and regulators. Enhancing gender diversity on boards leads to greater variety of thought and leadership styles, better understanding of the end consumer, a wider talent pool and ultimately higher-quality boards.

Obviously, after years of advocacy, mentorship, and change, not enough has been done in terms of gender equity on boards. What kind of difference can CGGGA make and why is the process so slow?

CGGGA can have a potent impact if we can get the Directors’ Playbook into the hands of every board chair and every CEO of Canadian public companies, as well as into the hands of the private equity investors who have influence over the selection of board members for private companies.  The tools that we present are logical, and straightforward to implement:  formal board evaluations, term and age limits, using a board competency matrix to ensure a diversified set of skills and approaches at the board table, having a gender diversity policy to set clear goals and to monitor progress, and a focused effort to broaden the networks that are used to recruit board members.

How did you get into finance? 

I got into finance because I loved math as a high school student, which led me to study economics as an undergraduate.  Finance was a field that was growing at that time (the early 1980’s!), and interesting models that we now take for granted had only recently been developed.  I pursued a PhD at a top US school.  I came back to Toronto as a finance professor at the University of Toronto Rotman School, and after about five years, I decided to join the financial industry as Head of Fixed Income Analytics at RBC on the trading floor.  From there, I have had an unusual variety of roles on the investment management side of the business, with a focus on long-term investors like pensions. I have been on the board at the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan for nine years.

What is your role in Women in Capital Markets? How long have you been involved and why did you get involved?

 I am currently the WCM representative to the CGGGA, and advisor to the WCM Women in Leadership network, where I have been focusing on the creation of the Board-ready list. I was President of WCM in 2001-2002 and previously I was co-Chair of the Education and Outreach Committee.  I got involved at the start of the organization to help encourage high school students to pursue math and to provide insight into the career opportunities in the capital markets.  I have since been involved in almost every committee along the way.

 

What the hell is a basic bitch?

Apparently, I am “basic”.

When I was told this, I immediately took it as an insult. Does this mean I’m naive or dumb? Does this mean I have no depth or that I can’t make an informed argument? Is this an insinuation of intolerance?

No — it all centres on my choice of drink, television shows, and music preferences. All of that combined makes me a #basicbitch. While some are embracing this new label (because what other choice is there), I find it just as offensive as my own personal definition.

Being “basic” is slang for someone who follows trends and lacks individuality. It is a term used to describe a person — particularly white women — who enjoy seasonal drinks, chic clothes, and healthy goods. A basic bitch watches Love Actually every Christmas, gets excited for pumpkin spice lattes, can quote Friends in any conversation, wears Uggs and leggings, and shops at Whole Foods.

This term has been circulating the Internet for about a year now, and doesn’t seem to be going away. If you google it, the term is synonymous with the word “airhead”.

Now, I know I’m not an airhead. I don’t brainlessly go shopping or talk like a valley girl. I’m an editor and a writer. I am capable of talking about anything from business, law and politics to fashion, food, and design. I am tolerant, intelligent, and I have a quick wit. I enjoy listening to other people argue about topics I don’t agree with because it exposes me to new perspectives. I love going to local coffee shops, watching documentaries, and reading.

At the same time, I enjoy a good peppermint mocha and will go to a Christmas market at least three times throughout the month of December. I practice yoga twice a week. I like going to health food stores and I love my blanket scarf. Do my consumption choices or habits overweigh the other aspects of my personality? Apparently so.

Ironically, the word “basic” is a lazy insult. It requires little thought and no creativity. It’s such a blanket term that very few people actually know what it means. Calling a woman “basic” is another way of saying “I have absolutely nothing to say about you as a human being so instead I’m going to make fun of you for what you are wearing, eating, and whatever activities you are doing over the weekend.” It’s a way of making people feel ashamed of who they are without actually pinpointing why they should feel ashamed.

It also shows an incredible lack of understanding into what makes a person an individual. I think you’ll find that most people are quite complex, and that just because a woman relishes in very female (I say with rolled eyes and air quotes) activities and likes to follow certain trends, that doesn’t determine who she is.

And yet, despite these arguments, the term it’s sticking. There are hundreds of quizzes online that will help you determine how “basic” you are. People are commenting on Instagram and Facebook with things like “so basic” every time a woman posts a travel photo of herself on the beach in a bikini or tasting a novelty dessert.

To me, the term “basic” is void of any meaning. It gives people the opportunity to mock and shame women for just being themselves. And anytime women are shamed for their personalities, society loses.

Let me put it another way: call me “basic” one more time and you’ll find out exactly what kind of a bitch I can be.

What kind of leader are you?

Being the boss can be hard, especially when you are a woman. You can be considered too authoritative, too compromising, or too emotional. It can be incredibly frustrating, but remember that your leadership style is yours alone – and it doesn’t mean it’s the wrong one.

There are a number of different leadership styles to consider as a manager, and the use of each style depends on the companies goals, vision, and workforce capability. Depending on your goals, it may be prudent to alter your leadership style in order to encourage or inspire progress. Here are a few styles to consider:

The autocratic leader: This is someone who knows what he or she wants, and demands results. This kind of leader can be quite successful in a cutthroat business, and is useful in times of crisis. The business centres around the boss, who has most of the responsibility and all of the authority. Employees are closely supervised.

The authoritative leader: This kind of leader takes charge and mobilizes their team towards a single goal. It’s a step down from autocratic, in which the boss has most of the authority, but is using it to help….. This type of leadership style is useful when the goals of a company change or when employees need guidance.

The coaching leader: In businesses that are choosing to invest in their employees and facilitate growth, the coaching leadership style is ideal. It involves actively teaching and supervising. This style only works if the employees are willing to grow in their role.

The pacesetting leader: Do what I do – this type of leadership style focuses on self-example. The boss has high expectations, and if employees cannot do it, the leader must be prepared to jump in. It is not the most sustainable leadership style.

The affiliative leader: Your team is more important than you are. This type of leader praises his or her employees and fosters a sense of belonging at the company. This kind of leadership can promote loyalty and instil confidence in employees; however experts warn that constant praise can also result in complacently among a team. Use this style in combination with another for efficiency.

The democratic leader: This type of leadership is great for smaller businesses and start-ups. Employees are seen as valuable and contribute equally for the betterment of the company. The team holds ownership and responsibility of the plan or business concept, and the boss simply fuels the discussion.

Above all else – remember that not all leadership styles will work with your role or personality. That’s okay. But, a good mix of two or three of these leadership styles is bound to produce results.

What kind of leader are you? Let us know in the comments below!