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Is Toronto Women’s Fashion Week just a side project?

Professional fashion designers of women’s clothing have been at a loss on where to show their clothing since Toronto Fashion Week announced its closing in July.

Toronto Men’s Fashion Week (TOM*) has stepped up to the plate, announcing a Toronto Women’s Fashion Week (TWFW) that will launch in February 2017. Details are to follow, but the event will most likely run twice a year in February and August alongside TOM*.

Previously, IMG Canada and IMG Fashion were running Toronto Fashion Week and shut it down due to a lack of financial support.  World MasterCard was the main sponsor for the event, and dropped out earlier this year. The organizers reported that the event also lacked local support in the fashion community. In turn, the event was criticized by the fashion community as being too late in the fashion season to attract buyers, not to mention it was poorly advertised. Having buyers at fashion runway events is essential for new designers looking to make a living and the annual event was failing to do so.

TOM* has a better reputation because of the way the event is planned. It includes parties, industry talks, and a lucrative prize for the top local designer, in addition to the runway shows. The event also includes a magazine that advertises the designers and wallpapers that advertise men’s fashion. The runway shows take place in the Mattamy Athletic Centre.

It is interesting that there is a fashion week dedicated to men, yet there isn’t already an event that focuses on women’s clothing in fashion. It also stands to question whether the women’s event will follow TOM* and stand in the shadows of the already established male-oriented event.

If a challenge of the fashion industry is the expense of having runway shows and fashion events, it seems that it would be easier to create one event that has both men and women’s clothing together. It would also blur the lines between acceptable gendered “men” and “women’s” clothing. In the fashion world, it appears that the concept of dividing genders still persists despite Toronto being known as a progressive city. It will be interesting to see how the women’s and men’s events are run, and if Toronto Women’s Fashion Week can gain the notoriety its male-counterpart has, or if it will be of secondary influence.

What I really, really want

I usually don’t pay too much attention to viral videos — but this one is pretty spectacular.

As a child of the 90s, the Spice Girls’ song “Wannnabe” was an integral part of my life. I may — or may not — have danced to it during an elementary school talent show (probably to the chagrin of my parents). So, imagine my surprise when I opened up my Twitter and Facebook this morning to see that song plastered everywhere.

The video, which is called “#WhatIReallyReallyWant…” is reclaiming the 1996 song to tackle 21st century problems. It features extraordinary dancers of all ages from around the world, all pointing to signs that talk about what they “really really want.

And what do these girls really want?

  • End violence against girls
  • Quality education for all girls
  • End child marriage
  • Equal pay for equal work

This is what the viral video, produced by Project Everyone, hopes to achieve. It is feminism in one of its truest forms — using a song about what women want in a lover to talk about what women really want; equality. It’s absolutely brilliant in its simplicity.

Project Everyone is an organization that spreads awareness on the U.N.’s Global Sustainability Goals, an ambitious 17-point list of things to achieve by 2030. One of those goals includes the blanket statement of gender equality. The idea is that by ending poverty, climate change, and inequalities, the world would be a better place.

As it says on The Global Goals Youtube page, “Girls and women are disproportionately affected by these challenges and are key to building resilient communities to withstand them. That’s why we need to ensure that World Leaders and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon listen to the voices of girls and women and put them first in policies and plans. 2016 is our chance to use our collective power and tell world leaders what we really really want for girls and women. If you make the noise, we’ll get your message to world leaders at the UN in September.”

The video is encouraging people to share their goals and wishes for women on social media using the hashtag #WhatIReallyReallyWant . These messages will then be shared during the September U.N. Sustainable Development Summit.

So, what do you really, really want? Let us know in the comments below!

What’s the true cost of birth control in Ontario?

Women are forced to pay for birth control, feminine hygiene products and take responsibility for their fertility in a way that men are not. As a country that purports democracy and equality, steps need to be taken to ensure women aren’t forced to pay for much-needed products.

Birth control in Canada is expensive and cuts deep into the pockets of young women already trying to make ends meet. Without insurance, birth control has an added cost and women are expected to fork out the cash. One third of women in North America have reported struggling to pay for birth control at one point in their lives.By providing it for a cost in Canada, it questions whether protecting yourself is actually a right of women or is it instead a cash cow for greedy pharmaceutical companies who are actively taking advantage of women.

Birth control is universally covered in Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and China, among other countries. Canada does not offer birth control for free or subsidized without insurance coverage, and this limits accessibility for women looking for different options.

 

After comparing prices at three different pharmacies in Toronto, the average prices for the five main types of birth control are astronomical. Mirena, a hormonal IUD offered by Bayer who is one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in Canada, has an average cost of $416. Though it lasts for five years, finding this type of money as a young woman is unrealistic and often prevents women from accessing this option.  The Nuva ring is the second most expensive option because it must be bought monthly. It is approximately $31 per month and this cost adds up quickly throughout the year to $328. Though oral birth control appears affordable month to month at $20, it adds up to $240 per year making it the third most costly option.

Women who are low-income have alternative options to seek cost-free birth control, but the availability is certainly limited. There are 14 sexual health clinics in Toronto, most with extremely limited drop-in hours. These clinics will help provide low-to-no cost birth control to women who need it, but these clinics have long waitlists and are drop-in only. Oftentimes, these clinics are so busy that there will be over 20 people waiting at the door prior to its opening.

Other options include Family Planning, which offers certain birth control options free and charges a discounted price for others. The IUD is discounted, but still has a price tag on it. If you are looking for an IUD as well, you must phone at the beginning of the month to schedule an appointment that will be at least three weeks later. The other option is the Bay Street Centre for Birth Control, but book quickly. The waitlist to book an appointment at the centre was three months long.

It is clear that Canada has is an issue when it comes to birth control. The act of charging women to protect themselves from getting pregnant is arguably discrimination.  Canada needs to join the other countries that have moved to universally cover the costs of birth control, and grant access for women of all incomes to different types of protection. Only then will I say that Canada is a country that truly supports the rights of 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.

Equal Pay Day brings awareness to gender gap

In 2014, women in the United States were paid 79 per cent of what men were paid.

This statistic should shock me, but it doesn’t. Despite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s revolutionary claim that “it’s 2016”, women are still facing incredible adversity in the workplace. Similar statistics have been shared, and re-shared, and re-shared every year — but nothing seems to change.

That’s why this date is so important.

April 12th marks Equal Pay Day in the United States, the symbolic day in which a woman’s salary from the previous year catches up to that of their male counterparts. What does that mean exactly? On average it takes a woman three and a half extra months to make the same amount in salary a man earns in a year.

Despite the slow decline in the wage gap, the country still has a long way to go. The Institute for Women’s Policy Initiatives predicts that women won’t see equal pay until 2059, which is absolutely ridiculous. And a new report published by the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee (JEC) says on average, women in the United States earn about $10,800 less per year than men.

According to this report, women of colour face an even greater challenge. African-American women on average are paid only 60 cents per every dollar made by a white man, and Hispanic women are only paid 55 cents. The report also attributes about 40 per cent of that wage gap to sexism and discrimination.

Considering how far we’ve come, it’s startling that this type of gap exists in North America. The world is on the verge of a feminist wave — politicians, celebrities, and activists are all talking about women’s rights on public platforms — but there is still a lot of work to be done to ensure true equality.

But, what’s even worse is that the gap increases when it comes to positions of power. In the United States, women make up only four per cent of CEOs and 16 per cent of the board members at the 1500 companies reviewed by the JEC. Without women in positions of power, there is no way to change the sexist mentalities that exist within the business world.

The question is: how do we change this mentality? Education and awareness is the number one solution, but it’s not enough. Equal pay laws must be enforced and men and women must stand together and demand salaries that are determined not by gender, but by ability.

There are simple ways to ensure that you (and your company) play a part in this revolution. Take the BUY UP Index as an example. This app allows you to make purchasing decisions based on the company’s commitment to gender equality. Criteria for the products listed on the Index includes whether or not the company achieves the benchmark of 16 per cent women on their board and 40 per cent in management, and whether there are leadership programs for women.

Why aren’t people using these types of services to promote and encourage gender equality in the workplace? The Buy Up Index provides a simple way of ensuring that business is conducted with companies that honour the promise of equal pay and treat women with equal respect.

Until every company takes the idea of equal pay seriously and commits to promoting gender equality in the workplace, I fear I’ll continue to be disappointed. Let’s hope that next year the gap decreases significantly — this doesn’t mean by one or two per cent either. In order to be satisfied that the government, and the respective business community, is taking this issue seriously, there would have to be a difference of five per cent.

Do you think that is even possible in today’s political climate? Let us know in the comments below

Ontario’s version of Equal Pay Day will occur on April 19.

Who rules Toronto’s transit? Girls!

Over the past few years subtle changes in the management structure at the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) have amounted to more women and visible minorities placed in key postions within the organization.

Despite the fact that there are not a lot of women wanting to change oil, or do heavy mechanical work, the TTC has, over the past few years, become a place where diversity being brought into the upper management is bringing a cultural change to the organization that is long overdue.

The 10 person TTC executive now  includes three women — the Chief of Staff, the Chief People Officer and the Chief Capital Officer.  This is a dramatic change from the executive just five years ago, which had no women on the executive team.

In the layer below the executive, there is an increasing number of women and ethnic minorities including Head of Stations, ‎Head of Wheel Trans, Head of Recruitment, Director of Employee Relations, and Head of Bus Transportation.

Jody Humble is the Director of Change Management at TTC and her role is to bring about the sort of cultural that CEO, Andy Byford, envisions.  When asked about the changes at TTC, Byford stated, “It is not unusual now, for men to be in the minority at high level, decision-making meetings. At a recent executive sub committee, ‎men, including myself, were outnumbered 4-10. This reflects the increasingly important role that women are taking in the running of the TTC.”

Out of six group station managers 50% are women.

In December, a number of media reports spoke about gender equality within the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC). Most writers focused on the fact that women only make up 15 per cent of the transit agency’s workforce. This number came from the TTC’s 2014 Annual Report on Diversity and Human Rights Achievements.

The city/provincial benchmark for female employment within the TTC is set at a lofty 48.7 per cent, a figure the media used to show the abysmal state of gender equality within the transit agency. They argued that women use transit in different ways than men. They take shorter trips, sometimes need to make multiple stops, and are often in caregiver roles which require greater accessibility. If more women were employed by the TTC, they said, more changes would be made to better transit.

However, what these articles failed to touch on is the number of women in positions of power—in senior management.

Before the holidays, we put a call out to both Metrolinx and the TTC to find out about the number of women within the agency that held decision-making roles. A spokesperson for the TTC reported that women make up 26.5 per cent of senior management, while Metrolinx said half of their senior management team positions are held by women.

This is a much greater accomplishment considering the city benchmark for senior management positions is 27.2 per cent.

The reality is that it’s difficult to attract women to the manual and physical jobs required of TTC employees. And even if the agency was able to get more female employees, the jobs they would employ would not be in roles of power. They are not positions that would allow women to make actual change within the agency.

Should the TTC be trying to encourage more women to be a part of their ranks? Absolutely! But, until that happens, Women’s Post will rest easy knowing that women are running the place.

#MoreWomen: Elle UK’s new feminism campaign

There has been a lot of discussion about the number of women elected into the House of Commons on Monday night. It was all over the news—Canadians were excited that the number of women elected was so high, while others were astonished that 26 per cent of elected seats was being considered “high.”

It all reminded me of a video I saw on my Twitter feed last week. The video was posted on Youtube by Elle UK as part of their November feminism issue.

This editorial film—which was created by Alex Holder and Alyssa Boni in partnership with RSA, Electric Theatre Collective/The Line and Wave—takes photographs of powers of authority such as the British Parliament and uses photoshop to remove all the men. What’s left is a powerful image of how few women are really in positions of power within these international governing bodies.

The campaign is incredibly powerful in its simplicity, which is why its astounding that its viewership is under 850,000 (or at least at the time of this post). You can see the video below:

The goal of this campaign is to create positive dialogue about gender equality.

“Our new initiative #morewomen, will celebrate the global power of women’s collectives in a playful, engaging way. Smart, successful women are too often portrayed as one-offs: fierce individualists concerned with their own success,” Elle UK wrote about their campaign. “There are too many instances in business, music, art and media, where women are represented by a single female.”

I hope everyone takes a look at the video above and continues to share it on social media, even when the campaign comes to an end. It’s important to remember that even though more women are being hired in positions of authority, it is still not representative of the billions of women living on this planet.

We really do need #MoreWomen. What do you think?