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Woman of the Week: Kim Smiley

A look back at our Woman of the Week from 2013 …

Beneath its glittering surface, the jewelry world can be a pretty ugly place. From blood diamonds to ivory poachers, the history of jewelry is filled with examples of the darkness to which a person can descend in the pursuit of precious stones.

That’s why it is such a relief to see people like Kim Smiley, the creator of Sapphô by Kim Smiley, using jewelry to create a positive impact on the world and giving these baubles a reason to shine.

“The essence of my vision,” Kim says, “is to use fashion as a platform for empowering women with meaningful work.” By providing marginalized women the opportunity to work for Sapphô and earn a living wage, Kim is changing lives.

“I have always loved fine art and fashion, but my heart has always drawn me to the charitable sector. Sapphô marries my passion for social justice with my love of aesthetics and style.”

Sapphô, Kim’s jewelry collection, is named after the ancient Greek poet. Known for her lyrical odes to the beauty of women, she is a fitting namesake for a jewelry company that is aiming to use its pieces to introduce people to great poetry.

Each one-of-a-kind and handmade piece of jewelry in the collection is inspired by a poet, and comes with a poem from said poet’s collection.

“We juxtapose Nobel Laureates like Pablo Neruda with brilliant emerging poets like American Jessica McFarland, whom I met while a graduate student [at Harvard] in Boston,” Kim says.

This unique marketing scheme is one of the many ways Kim sets her company apart from the pack. However, this was not a decision made just to creatively market her collection. Kim really believes in the power of poetry.

“We’re using fashion as a portal to open people’s eyes to the beauty and wonder of poetry,” Kim explains. “Many people are turned off by poetry because they think it’s inaccessible or elitist. We want to turn them on. Who ever thought jewelry could get people to read Pablo Neruda? We’re feeling pretty optimistic.”

Drawing attention to beautiful poetry by linking it to stunning jewelry, the impact of Sapphô would be enough reason to laud Kim as a supreme businesswoman (as well as a fashionista). But she doesn’t stop there. Kim also has solid work experience in the non-profit sector.

Currently, she serves as the vice president of community capacity building at the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto. This role allows her to once again use her social consciousness to make a difference, but focuses it more on the Jewish community in the GTA.

Prior to her work with the UJA Federation, she served as vice president of marketing and development for Habitat for Humanity and assistant director for the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre & Museum.

Clearly, Kim has spent much of her life striving to make the world a prettier place, both literally and metaphorically. What’s the next step for her?

“I’m joking with friends that maybe I should start a modest poetry library where people can check out books and try on jewelry,” she says.

All joking aside, such an endeavour would be a natural fit for a woman who has so adeptly combined the worlds of charity, literacy and jewelry.


*** Kim Smiley is doing even greater things to find out what she is up to now go to: https://www.kimsmiley.com/

Women of the week: Pauline Fleming

Pauline Fleming is truly unique. A professional life, business and leadership master certified coach who is also a certified speaking professional, Pauline is one of only three people in the world who hold these accreditations. Coaching clients through both personal and professional matters gives both Pauline and her clients a comprehensive coaching experience. “I’m not strictly a life coach… I cover all three: life, leadership and business coaching. Where those [aspects] intersect on a venn diagram is the sweet spot for the individual’s success. Those successes or learning opportunities are transferable,” Pauline explains, “We… go deeper, and [clients are] able to leverage what’s already in them.” By focusing on all aspects of her client’s lives, Pauline can pinpoint what’s missing and help them apply a solution to both their professional and personal lives.

Pauline first began coaching after moving across the country from British Columbia to Ottawa in 2001, finding herself in a new city shocked, and with no family nearby. Looking for guidance, Pauline hired a coach for herself to help with the effects of moving thousands of kilometres. Through being coached, she realized that coaching would be a great fit for her professionally. “I realized through the coaching that that’s what I had been doing as a teacher that I loved,” she says. Eager to begin coaching and helping others, Pauline organized a Ladies’ Retreat for the Heart and Soul at her home. “I knew about 50 women so I invited them over for [the Retreat]. It turned into a retreat for women on a quarterly basis. The first was in August of 2002 and 20 of the women couldn’t make it… but the other 30 showed up and asked ‘when’s the next one?’” Pauline reminisces.

The retreats eventually turned into pro-bono coaching for stay-at-home moms, but quickly evolved into a larger scale operation, with Pauline coaching Fortune 500 business leaders and business owners looking to improve and expand their company.

“I found a groove in working with service providers, people who care so much [it’s] to their own detriment… they’re people pleasers. They’re leaders who care, and I love working with people who put people first,” Pauline says. “Now I focus on both of those sizes, whether it’s a small business with a leader that has no employees but knows they need them or [a larger company.]”

Enthusiasm, Pauline says, is one of the most important aspects of coaching. While she is passionate about coaching and helping her clients, Pauline’s goal is to impassion her clients and help them realize their potential. “They’re not just there for a pay cheque; it’s not meaningful, it’s not giving them purpose. Whether they have a salary job or they’re running a business and they’re not sure if they’ll be able to pay their mortgage. Whatever it is, they all want to make a difference,” she says. “I’m an optimist, I’m not a Pollyanna. I’m a realist. I choose to look at the positive and strengths [in my clients].”

The passion and enthusiasm that Pauline exudes in both her personal and professional life are one of her strengths, but the qualities have tragic origins. “My dad passed away from heart disease at the age of 42. I was only 18,” she says. “So I learned at a young age that you shouldn’t wait until retirement to have a trip of a lifetime, or to do the things that we love. We have to do that sooner and stop wasting our lives.” Pauline’s unique philosophy combines Carpe Diem with analogies of chocolate. “We have a lot of things in our day that we have to do, but the things we love to do are our ‘chocolate’ for the day. In your life, what’s your ‘chocolate?’ What do you love to do?”

A self-proclaimed “recovering over-achiever,” Pauline Fleming has overcome personal difficulties and combined her unique set of skills to become a successful coach whose goal is, simply, to help and inspire.  Working with clients from different businesses all over the world, she works to help everyone and anyone find the “chocolate” in their professional and personal lives.

Woman of the Week: Eva Wong

 

When I first started giving some thought as to possible profiles of women of excellence to feature in the Woman of the Week section, I decided I wanted to write about women working in the technology space in Canada, namely Eva Wong. This is a very vibrant and growing sector, with the Toronto-Kitchener-Waterloo corridor nicknamed the “Silicon Valley of the North,” including innovation, AI, and fintech startups.

Eva Wong, is one of the co-founders and COO at Borrowell, a financial technology (fintech) company whose mandate is to help Canadians make great decisions about credit. Their service offering includes free credit scores and credit reports, advice and recommendations to improve customers’ financial well-being and personal loans.

Founded in 2014, Borrowell has grown to a 50-employee firm with 700,000 users to date, making it one of the largest fintech companies in Canada.

Eva’s professional background in business and years spent working for a non-profit prepared her for the creation of her present venture. Being a woman who was told that she did not have the ‘right’ background, she faced the prejudices of those who thought she was not qualified enough. However, thanks to her growth mindset, and memories of how she had faced challenges in the past and overcame them, she kept going to achieve her current success.

One of the things that she acknowledged as being a great help when she first started was not being afraid of asking questions, which in turn allowed her to build confidence over time and considers herself very fortunate to have  had of a strong co-founding team. She has had the opportunity to work in a team of people committed to the project and bringing different experiences and insights to the process. The founding team, embedded in the tech community, were part of an accelerator at Ryerson DMZ as well as the One Eleven scale-up hub. Therefore, “there were many people to connect to and talk to with similar experiences,” Eva said.

A lot of lessons were learned along the way, one of them being that success results from continual testing and trying new things.  “There are a hundred small things you have to do as opposed to one big thing. We were data driven in everything we have done, organizing, collecting data and making decisions.” said Eva.

Although Eva stresses the importance that a great team of people makes a huge difference in the level of productivity, and that great people are great people no matter the gender, she also emphasizes that one of her company’s goals is to reach gender balance. “Currently 40 percent of our team identifies as female.  It’s important to build diversity.”

Many startups have a reputation of being male-centric, Borrowell is an exception, striving to create a more inclusive culture and a more appealing environment for women and other under-represented groups to work in.

Eva acknowledges that it is a great moment to be part of the technology community in Canada. She continues, “We are on the cusp of something that can be really big. The community is still small enough that people want to be helpful and a sense of collaboration pervades the community. It’s very exciting!”

In her youth, Eva used to keep a scrapbook where she collected articles and photos of people who inspired her while growing up. She always wanted to make a difference. She recalls ,“I remember reading an article about some high schoolers belonging to the Junior Achievers group who had started their own business. Years later, I went to university with one of the people featured in the article.”

Being a young industry, technology holds a lot of young talent who are very helpful if you want to stay current and up to date. Eva said, “I am fortunate to work with people who are much younger than I am. Also, there is a news media company I’m subscriber to and found that it’s a really good source of information providing in-depth knowledge .”

As a woman and as a woman of colour, she believes that this is the best time for women to break through in executive roles and in traditionally male-dominated sectors.

Not only a co-founder and senior executive, but also a mother and wife, Eva’s hardworking attitude and strong work ethics may have led to spending too many hours at work. However, the pull of the family is strong and drawing a line between professional and private has become an imperative. With so many hours in a day, she wishes she “didn’t need to sleep to have more time to do things” and that is the superpower she wishes she had. In the absence of a real superpower, she is quite content with exercising the daily power of making things: she enjoys cooking and baking. Lately, she has experimented making sourdough bread and pizza.

Eva warns against a misconception that revolves around technology that a career in this sector is impossible without the necessary background. Just like any other sector, there are a lot of jobs within tech companies that are waiting for smart people to do them. She said, “I would encourage people who are interested in a career in tech, whether it’s founding a company or joining a startup. It’s been the most exciting time of my career. There are great opportunities, meaningful work, and a real chance to make a difference.”

Woman of the Week: Janet Mohapi-Banks

Janet Mohapi-Banks is nothing short of a truly inspiring woman.

Hers is a journey of never giving up and of having the faith to continue to push towards your dreams, even when all the chips are down and hope is in very short supply.

In today’s fast pace and seemingly hectic culture, it is never easy to feel as if all of the time, effort and love you put into creating the life you were proud of, all seems to be crashing down around you; and it takes a very special, committed and brave woman to not only weather the destruction, but to also stand up and do it all over again.

Mohapi-Banks is one such woman.

She  went from being at the top of her game as a Luxury Wedding Cake Designer,- even winning a Precious Business Award in 2010 to being burnt out and trying her best to manage a seemingly incurable digestive disorder as well as chronic fatigue  in just under a two year span.

“By 2012 I had burned out so badly I was left literally at death’s door for nearly 5 years with a rare (and according to my specialist at The Royal Free Hospital) incurable digestive disorder and chronic fatigue.

As a result, I was forced to close my cake business which was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do.  I moved out of the London area, got my affairs in order and prepared for the inevitable.” She said.

For any entrepreneur, being forced to say good bye to your ‘business baby’ is a very hard and painful process which can fill you with feelings of guilt, frustration, resentment and a lot of fear.

It was unbelievable to her that in only a span of 18 short months she had gone from delivering cakes to some of the most prestigious venues in the UK, including the Ritz Hotel Mayfair and winning awards for her fabulous designs, to being so exhausted and in pain that she was not able to even get out of bed to care for her children- a boy aged 12 years, and a girl 15.

A second chance on life came for Janet in the form of a chiropractor who by cracking her spine released her vagus nerve, thereby curing her and allowing her to grow back to optimal health.

With this new lease on life, Janet launched her coaching business in an effort to help other women to grow their ideal business without the stress that had nearly crippled her.

“Before I was critically ill, I used to overwork, which lead me to burnout.  I now realise that my overworking was due to a lack of self-belief that I truly deserved my amazing successes,” the Transformational Life Coach for Entrepreneurs revealed.

Mohaphi-Banks, who is a proud and happy mother of two explained that women almost always tried to do everything by themselves and her biggest take away from her own experiences was to know when you needed help and to outsource reliable people for the job.

When I asked what got her through the day, she said it was her refusal to waste a minute of her second chance and her amazing children. She noted that while she had gone through some ‘incredibly challenging times in my life’ she continued to get back up with a smile on her face and a determination to face her challenges.

 

Woman of the Week : Imogen Coe

When you think of a scientist, who comes to mind? Albert Einstein? Nikola Tesla? Or, perhaps, Carl Sagan?

It’s rare that the popular answer to this question would be someone more akin to Shirley Ann Jackson, Dian Fossey or Chien-Shiung Wu, and that’s because women, among other marginalized groups, are severely underrepresented in the STEM community. This isn’t merely a matter of the past, in fact, Statistics Canada reported that only 22% of the STEM workforce in 2011 were women – a number that’s nearly on par with that reported in the late 1980s, despite an increase in women holding STEM degrees. Marginalized groups continue to be under-sponsored, underpaid and underrepresented in the professional field, and so, the main character in humanity’s modern snapshot of science remains to be, more often than not, a straight, white male.

Imogen Coe, however, is attempting to change the terrain by increasing awareness of equity, diversity, and inclusivity in this ever-evolving environment. Having experienced this challenging reality herself, she has used her platform as the founding dean of Ryerson University’s faculty of science to convey a message that is crucial for the future of the STEM community.

“It’s about human potential. It’s about human capital,” she says. “When you’re leaving human capital at the side of the road or it’s not present at the table, then you’re missing a whole bunch of brain power. You’re missing a whole bunch of ideas, solutions, creativity, perspective, all of those things that are going to help us find solutions, drive innovation, ensure that we can maintain our quality of life and our standard of living, and that we can find solutions to the really wicked, complex problems that we have, like climate change, urban sustainability, and antibiotic resistance. We’re going to need all of the brain power at that table. We can’t be relying on a subset of humanity to come up with all the answers.”

Imogen, herself, is globally recognized for her pioneering research on membrane transport proteins, which are important in the body’s uptake of anti-cancer, anti-viral and anti-parasite drugs. She has powered through the rough seas of science and academia to build a career seasoned with grand accomplishments, all the while nurturing a natural sense of curiosity that women are so often conditioned to suppress.

Growing up in the UK, Imogen says she can’t remember a time when she didn’t enjoy questioning the natural world – why the earthworms looked the way they did, why the plants grew so tall, and how it all meshed together to create the harmony of life. Naturally, she pursued an education in biology at Exeter University before moving to Canada to work in the mingling fields of science and academia.

She was met along the way with setbacks of all sorts – personal, professional and cultural – a common occurrence for any person, but one that often creates a “glass obstacle course” for marginalized groups. The glass obstacle course is a metaphor that Imogen describes as a set of invisible barriers, such as cultural stereotypes, biased hiring committees, and perceived gender roles, that all add up to exclusionary behaviours, which in turn, can create massive hurdles for certain groups of people.

One memory that Imogen points out, was when she was involved in a major scientific project that the newspapers reported on. When the story went to print, her male colleague was named for his contributions, but Imogen herself was not. “It was, you know, ‘Doctor X and his co-presenter.’ It’s like, well actually, I have a name!” she says with a laugh.

This example goes to prove that the gap is not only perpetuated by the STEM community, but by the greater culture – the media, the marketing, even the educational tools. Identifying these pillars that uphold an unfair playing field is key for the future of women and marginalized groups in STEM, Imogen says.

“We focus a lot of attention on mentoring women, leaning in ‒ things like science camps for little girls ‒ all of these that focus on the problem being the women, or being the underrepresented group,” she says. “All of that stuff is useless if we don’t, at the same time, fix the context and the culture. There’s no amount of leaning in that will help if you have a boss that’s biased or misogynistic or sexist, or if you’re a person of colour and you go into an environment where they don’t understand that jokes are racist. You have to look at the culture and context and shift out to educate people around what equity and diversity really is, and then give them the tools and strategies to make those environments, those workplaces, those educational places, those pathways truly inclusive and welcoming so people can feel comfortable bringing their full selves to work.”

Imogen has shattered the perceived fears of speaking up on these issues, something which she believes women are conditioned to absorb. She regularly speaks out on the problems affecting underrepresented groups in STEM and often works directly with men and other privileged groups to equip them with the knowledge and strategies for creating inclusive work environments.

In 2012, when Imogen joined the team at Ryerson, she pulled science out from under the broad umbrella of architecture and engineering, to a place where it’s able to flourish on its own. Although her current term as founding dean is now coming to a close, I have no doubt that she will continue to shine a light on the power of science and all of its diverse and brilliant minds.

The Intuitive activist ~ Danielle Da Silva

Danielle Da Silva’s photos do more than entertain the eye‒ they provoke the mind. Scrolling through her portfolio is an experience that pulls at your core and demands your attention. Each compelling image tells a story of the people she’s met, the places she’s been and the moments she’s lived; a journey, which she says, was guided by none other than intuition itself.

As a photographer, filmmaker, conservationist and activist, Danielle has catered her career to producing stories that rouse interest and inspire change. In 2009, she founded Photographers Without Borders (PWB), an organization that connects visual storytellers with grassroots initiatives, nonprofits and non-governmental organizations around the world. She is the sitting CEO and, since PWB’s creation, has connected over 175 storytellers with over 175 organizations, all the while addressing all of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals in over 35 countries.

“Storytelling helps us visualize and imagine new possibilities,” reads a quote from Danielle on her website. “That way we can manifest new realities.”

Growing up, Danielle says she was always filled with a burning sense of curiosity. Having a Portuguese mother and a British father of Indian-Pakistani descent, she said, prompted her to carry forward a quest of identity that was passed on from the generations before her. Her circumstances manifested into various solo travels at a young age, but it wasn’t until 2008 when she visited Kerala, India and worked with the Swami Vivekananda Medical Mission that she was truly propelled on a path of self-discovery.

“I took photos the entire time I was there and produced these amateur images that people seemed to really like when I came back. And that kind of struck a chord in me,” she said. “With those images, we were able to raise money to build nine schools in little villages. And that was a huge indicator to me of the power of storytelling.”

With no real formal training behind the lens, Danielle’s knack for photography came about rather organically. Following her trip to India, she was urged to pursue this apparent gift, and slowly, she began to merge her newfound passion for storytelling with her education in science and global development. Her work was met with a strong momentum, and has since carried her to more than 80 countries working with humanitarian groups that assist women, children, marginalized communities and conservation efforts.

In 2016, after a trip to Indonesia with PWB, Danielle co-founded the Sumatran Wildlife Sanctuary, which works to conserve rainforest habitat near the Gunung Leuser ecosystem. That same year, she also co-founded a local non-profit called The Dandelion Initiative, which, after witnessing cases of harassment in her field and experiencing the trauma of assault herself, advocates to end sexual violence through community action.

Throughout this dynamic journey, she’s mastered six languages and garnered the inspiration for two powerful TED Talks. But, the real goal in each of her ventures is to produce a narrative that evokes something visceral. “My photography is very, I think, unsettling sometimes…and I find that that’s something that’s really necessary right now. We’re so overloaded with information and imagery…and I think that my images make people look twice,” she said. “I think that can have an impact on people’s emotions, how they view different situations in the world and how they view their relationships to them.”

Danielle believes that it’s this exact push and pull between photograph and viewer that can reshape perspectives and breed positive change. Her motivation for setting the stage, so to speak, is rooted in her intuition‒ a natural, instinctive feeling that tells her what’s right, she said. Using this guiding force to navigate through the world, she hopes that her content continues to shed light on her own self-discovery, and not only inspires the communities that are featured through her work, but also other female storytellers who are awakening to the true potential of their art.–

“Don’t let anything get in the way and always follow your intuition because we [women] have a very strong sense of it. It’s something that a lot of men don’t have or have to work hard at, and I think that that can really be a good guide,” she said. “Using that intuition will help you flourish and thrive, and reimagine what the industry can be.”

 

Woman of the Week: Jennifer Dobbelsteyn

What always astounds me about women I’ve chatted with who have become CEO’s and presidents of notable companies or of ones they founded, is that they all have a sincerity and generosity towards others while also being driven, focused and intelligent. Dr. Jennifer Dobbelsteyn, President of Dobbelsteyn Consulting Group International Inc. is no exception to this.

Jennifer has worked in the healthcare industry as both a nurse and in management but saw there was a gap in the system. Staff, who assist and care for ill patients that are often in devastating condition, often lack support themselves.  She decided to begin her consulting company as a way to improve “healthcare work environments for staff, thereby, improving the caring environment for patients,” after completing her PhD and MBA.

Jennifer shared with me about the importance of the work done by her consulting company:

“This work is timely and extremely important currently because of the changing demographics. The population is aging in Canada at an unprecedented rate, making long-term care the healthcare environment of the today and tomorrow… I work collaboratively with organizations to resolve the problem, involving front-line staff which allows organizational leadership to target their resources strategically.”

Through her firm, Jennifer aims to effect a positive change within organizations by providing necessary education sessions, valuing all staff and encouraging team work. Healthcare workers take on a lot of stress and a safe and supportive environment is key to motivating workers to be at their best for patients.

Despite achieving great success with her business, there are still changes that Jennifer feels are necessary to be made in Canada’s healthcare system. She sees a need for improvement and for a focus of provincial governments to be on working environments in healthcare, including “preventing violence, insuring occupational health and safety, promoting professionalism, managing workload, and stabilizing staffing.”

“I guess I thought that someone needs to do more about these problems facing the healthcare system. My next thought was that the someone can be me and my company,” she added.

Jennifer also sees a need to be a support to women in her workplace by inspiring them to speak up and fostering confidence in the environment. She motivates women in her field to strive for success, persevere and accomplish goals that make a difference.

One woman in history that certainly made a difference is Mother Teresa. Jennifer shares that if she could go back and meet one woman, it would be her, because of the inspirational and amazing work she devoted her life to.

As to what superpower Jennifer wishes she had, the realist shares how everyone has a superpower innately within them.

“We all have a superpower. We just need to discover what that is and use it to make a difference in our own small way,” she said, then added that she would love to have the power to make a workplace that is safe and perfect for all, despite this likely putting her out of work!

She is not a dreamer, but a doer and Jennifer is about getting things done that have positive and long term effects on society, while motivating others to do the same.

 For more about Jennifer and her consultation firm, visit www.dobbelsteyngroup.ca

Woman of the Week: Li Koo

There need to be more women in politics.  Li Koo is one woman in Toronto working hard to change this reality and level the playing field. She is in the running to be the Toronto-Danforth’s next MPP. When I met Li, I immediately was drawn in by her charisma, humour and warmth. She shook my hand and chatted  with me as if we were old pals and I felt comfortable to ask for an interview right away.

Li explained what first drew her to politics, stating that experience is what shapes us, and adding that she has known from a young age that it’s “not a level playing field, even in a great province like Ontario.” She shared how her parents arrived in Canada with only $8 in their pocket and that “they worked twice as hard as everyone else around them to get half as far.” Admitting that she was once an underdog, Koo now vows to make a positive change through politics by creating a more “open, inclusive and fairer society.”

“Fighting for positive change that will make other people’s lives better is what this is all about for me,” she said.

 Politicians by times seem out of reach and disconnected from the public they are representingThis is not the case with Li. She admits that the best part of campaigning as a candidate is knocking on doors of people in her community and learning about the issues of most importance to them. Li even admits that she wishes she had the superpower of time travel to help her meet more people from her community, ahead of election day.

“It’s incredible what we learn by listening to our neighbours,” she said. Li was raised to be conscientious to others around her and to give a voice to those who may not have the benefit of a platform. Her parents instilled a strong work ethic in her and taught Li to always hold the door open for others and assist in anyway she can.

She is clearly quite close to her family and wishes that more time with loved ones could come along with achieving her goals. “I’m so fortunate to have such a supportive partner and such strong support from my extended family and friends. I could not do this without them. “

As a young Chinese mother, Li has faced roadblocks. She admits that women have made strides and shifted workplace cultures, but  adds that barriers are still there, keeping women from getting ahead.

“We need to shift what qualities are valued in our workplaces to create spaces that are creative, collaborative and kind. And most importantly – fair,” she stated.

Li recognizes that women often let competition get in the way, and that this needs to be replaced with collaboration and kindness, reminding that “together we stand, divided we fall.”

Despite her success so far, Li has experienced challenges in both her personal and professional life. She shared these and about how she moves forward and pushes past them daily.

“I’m a woman, I’m Chinese, I’m gay, I’m a parent. I’m a new candidate. As a result of this, I’ve never taken anything for granted and have always worked hard to overcome many systemic barriers. I also recognize that the sacrifices my parents made and the education and experiences that I have gained is a privilege that I hold now and it’s my duty to pay it forward to my community.”

She says Joan of Arc and Hua Mulan are two women in history who inspire her.  Her own fighting spirit is reminiscent of these figures’ strength that saw both women rise up courageously for their ideals and values.

The MeToo movement has swept across North America, uniting women on the issue of harassment. Every woman has experienced a #MeToo moment and Li shared that each of her own moments are a reminder and a “wake-up call” that change must happen in the workplace and beyond, to make ours a nation that is safer for girls who are growing up. Li reminds that Kathleen Wynne and the Liberals have given full support to the movement

She is a person for the people and may soon be a Member of Parliament. For more about Li Koo, visit hello@LiKoo.ca .

Woman of the Week: Laurie Young

Caring is the word that first comes to mind when reflecting on my meeting with Laurie Young, CEO of Ogilvy & Mather. She has a strong handshake and a big smile. Not pretentious, rather a combination of thoughtful and spirited.

We met to discuss the #MeToo campaign in Canada and the role women leaders must take to bring about social change.

Young’s office is orderly and functional. In jeans and a blouse, she is relaxed and open. She told me about her family – two kids, aged 24 and 28, and her husband of 30 years (a rarity in the media industry). She describes him as “amazing” and explains that his hero status comes from his consistent and unwavering support through all the ups and downs in her career – “the cancelled vacations and 2 am talks.”

Laurie graduated with an Arts degree and was immediately attracted to a job in advertising, where she found the commercial and creative successes appealing. “I could use my creative side but it also fed my competitive side. And I was constantly meeting interesting people.” The advertising industry is all about building relationships and it is obvious that she enjoys getting to know people, but this isn’t what drives her.  “Others would say I am driven by success, and I am competitive, so I’d have to say they are right.”

I asked Young about the gender balance in the advertising industry.  She explained that the industry still has men dominating board positions, but she’s hopeful it will change as more women gain leadership roles.  Laurie spoke about a week-long conference Ogilvy held in Saville – their “creative cadre” – a meeting for their top offices from around the world to share their current campaigns. Each office presented their campaigns on stage and when it was Young’s turn to present, she decided to go off script… and focus on the fact that it was International Women’s Day. Her speech began “What has struck me today is the number of campaigns about domestic violence, sexual harassment and gender equality that have been presented from around the world, but especially from India, South Africa and Indonesia. On the eve of International Women’s Day, we should not only celebrate great work, but we should strive to ensure that these campaigns make it to market and that they change attitudes and behaviours, so that fewer of these are needed in the future.” The room was silent for a few very long seconds, but then one woman, followed by another began to clap and then the entire room suddenly broke out in applause.

Young isn’t afraid to lead on tough issues like sexual harassment and gender equality. She acknowledged that her industry still has a long way to go when it comes to gender equality and admits her desire to break down the barriers. As CEO of Ogilvy she hosts networking events for her women clients that are specifically designed to help them develop leadership skills.

We talked about how society still expects women to dismiss sexual harassment and assault, how women are still blamed if they speak out about it.  I asked Laurie to tell me about some of her #MeToo experiences. She remembered a time she was sitting in a boardroom full of her colleagues (mostly men). She had just landed a big client and was excited to share the news with them until one man joked that her male client signed on because he “wanted” her. Laurie remembered her raw anger and the snickering from all of her colleagues.

When I asked her if she had ever been groped, Young remembered a time years ago when she was 16 and backpacking. She was travelling by bus and had picked out a window seat. As she settled in a hand from behind her slipped in between the window and her body, grabbing her breast. She remembered her anger, jumping up and yelling at the man while people tried to calm her down. She remembered that the colour of the seats on the bus were blue. Our conversation touched on emotional moments and how they seem to embed themselves into your memory. To what extent do these embedded memories of harassment or assault cause women to lose confidence, hesitate, or pull back from experiencing the world fully? Young didn’t view her sexual assault as a #MeToo moment because she didn’t hide the experience, rather she had the courage to turn on the man and expose his actions. And that is what the #MeToo movement is about – women finding courage to expose men who behave badly.

Laurie Young has the courage to face adversity with confidence and grace. And whatever her next challenge might be, I know she will rise to it with a twinkle in her eye.

 

Woman of the Week: Jennifer Turliuk

Jennifer Turliuk is the CEO and founder of Makerkids, the first and largest facilitator of programs, camps, and parties focused on the idea of creation rather than consumption. Topics like coding, minecraft, and robotics are explored through fun and games, in hopes of encouraging more young people to take interest in STEM-related careers. She began coding at the age of 12 and has dedicated her life to opening up possibilities for young people interested in being creators or makers.

Women’s Post spoke with Turliuk about entrepreneurship, Makerkids, and being a DJ for Redbull:

Question: When did you learn you had a passion for business and entrepreneurship?

Answer: I realized I had this passion early on. I started my first business at age five. It was called Jenn’s Card Company and I made greeting cards

When you finished school, it looks like marketing was your path. What drew you to that part of business?

I love marketing because I believe it can make a huge impact on society. Everything from what products and services we buy, to who we select as leadership, to what we believe – comes down to marketing

Why change and found Koru Labs?

I found myself dissatisfied in the corporate job I took and I wanted to do something meaningful. Marketing has continued to be part of all of my roles though.

As an entrepreneur, have you ever experienced challenges as a woman? If so, how did you push through them?

Yes! I’ve been hit on by men who I thought I was meeting as potential mentors or investors. I’ve been told by organizers, after being selected for a prestigious speaking opportunity or award, “And it’s great that you’re a woman.” I hated that they insinuated that a major reason for selecting me for the opportunity was my gender. Even though it probably wasn’t, them saying “And it’s great that you’re a woman” made me feel as though it was and made the accomplishment feel false or hollow. I pushed through it by realizing that if an award or speaking gig is a great opportunity for my business, I should take it regardless of what the organizers happen to mention about my gender. Why bother to bring up gender? I want to be selected for things because of my accomplishments, not the body type I was born with.

How did Makerkids come about?

When I was 12 years old, I was being bullied and was disengaged at school. Then my teacher said that for my book report project, I should make a website, so I taught myself how to code, and made a website about Harry Potter. A few months later I found out my website had hundreds of thousands of views and was featured in a magazine. This was a very empowering moment for me. Suddenly the bullying didn’t impact me as much, and I became more engaged at school. Later on, I was selected for a program based at NASA called Singularity University, where I learned how to apply technology to education. It was afterwards that I got started with MakerKids, with the goal of helping more kids have transformative experiences like I had as a kid. We’re excited that thousands of kids have gone through the programs and some have started businesses, been featured on TV, and had positive mental health outcomes.

Why is it so important for young kids, young girls especially, to be exposed to the “maker” philosophy?

Studies show that kids decide between ages 7-12 whether or not they’ll consider STEM as a future career option. A positive exposure to STEM experiences is the key.

 How has Makerkids evolved over the last four years? What’s next?

MakerKids has grown from teaching five kids per week in 2013 to 500+ kids per week in 2018. We won the NextGen in Franchising competition at the International Franchise Association as the next top concept in franchising. We learned about the IFA competition and many other opportunities through the Canadian Franchise Association (shout-out to CFA) who have supported us and helped us grow. What’s next? More locations!

 Bria mentioned you DJd for Red Bull? When, why, and how!

Haha, I DJ’d for them for a mini-sticks tournament in Kingston once. I was on top of their Red Bull truck. Very fun! I used to be a DJ in university, DJing up to four times a week.

How have you helped other women?

I mentor other female entrepreneurs, and also many girls go through our programs and benefit from them.

What are you reading right now?

Inventing Joy: Dare to Build a Brave & Creative Life