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Women of the Week: Elizabeth Reynolds

“What is this life, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare.”

William Henry Davies’ poem elucidates that our constant urgency and multitasking have left us with fewer moments for solitude.

Elizabeth “Betty Lou” Reynolds champions the cause of helping people take a pause in their life through her Lifessence Wellness Workshops.

Being a teacher for 40 years, the most satisfying aspect of her job was seeing students succeed in achieving their academic goals. Using techniques such as visualization, meditation and journaling, she was able to help them overcome obstacles and reach for their goals.

Through her latest business venture, she now helps parents, working professionals and geriatrics that are looking to combat confusion or pressure to realize their objectives.

Reynolds leads by example and her interest in wellness was triggered after she met with a car accident and developed a long term chronic health condition. She fought through it and today is extremely empathetic to her participants. She has even tailored her wellness workshops to meet the specific needs of individuals. And it is not boring lectures: the class includes journaling cafes, as well as creativity seminars. The aim of the workshops is to de-stress and clarify the values and aims partakers have for their life. “Through group work, sharing, fun and interactive exercises, the participants gain greater insight into their ideal lifestyle and how they can achieve it.”

Her inspiration and lucidity comes from her teacher-training education, where she says, “I was taught to be open minded, optimistic and a critical thinker. My training for teachers taught me that big changes happen when one starts with small adjustments. It is very important to keep your eye on the eventual outcome, never losing sight of your long term vision.”

The consumer industry is booming with cosmetic quick-fixes to keep us looking younger; Reynolds’ aim is to improve people’s ideas about aging. She believes that it is possible to age while still being active, healthy and fit as we grow older.

What sets her apart from the many wellness centers mushrooming through the city is her holistic approach. Reynolds begins with the inner self, asking the most difficult questions: What is happening inside your head and your body? How do you feel about yourself and your health? How do you want to feel?

In spite of the alarming statistics in mental illness, she has experienced a visible shift in thinking. In her recent workshop of 45 teachers, about half of whom were men, she claims, “More men are starting to take their own health and wellness seriously. Many of them related that they practice meditation and yoga regularly and put their families as a priority, when considering work/life balance issues.”

Reynolds turned entrepreneur at a stage in life when people decide to throw in the towel, so for her the challenge to succeed is one level tougher. Her entrepreneurship advice to anyone moving careers is to have a lot of patience. “All those who plan on starting their business must take time to develop the connections and opportunities that will fit the best with their product or service.”

The year 2013 looks exciting, as Reynolds expands her Lifessence wellness workshops to Mississauga. She says the words of Julia Child keep her going: “The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” And the same holds true in business.

Women of the Week: Dr. Laurelle Jno Baptiste

WOTW Laurelle Jno Baptiste

When Laurelle Jno Baptiste was growing up in Dominica, an island nation in the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean Sea, she had a chorus of strong, motivational women who inspired her to live out her dreams.

One such woman was her mother, a passionate advocate for education. The other was Dame Mary Eugenia Charles, a lawyer who served as the Prime Minister of Dominica for 15 years.

“Imagine this kid, in this village of a few hundred, but we have this great Prime Minister and she’s educated at the University of Toronto,” she says. “So I’ve got it in the back of my mind that I want to go to the same university that this Prime Minister went to.”
Jno Baptiste has an undergraduate degree in Computer Information Systems, a Masters and a Doctorate in Education. She followed in Charles’ footsteps by completing her Doctorate at the University of Toronto.

Even though Dame Eugenia Charles wasn’t there physically, she was there in a portrait.

“Her picture is at the university and very often, when I was having a hard day, I would walk by her picture for inspiration. That was very motivating for me.”

For the last 12 years Jno Baptiste has worked in the innovative field of e-learning, building online universities for companies.

In 2009, she co-founded ScholarLab with Robert Taylor, a technologist with a deep interest in the transformative potential for technology in education.

“There was synergy,” she says. “At the time, we were both involved in the open education movement and saw an opportunity to revolutionize online education through digital multimedia.”

The ScholarLab learning platform brings together a virtual classroom with real-time collaboration and a single easy-to-use toolset. Learners can instantly snap together multimedia apps and centralize content. The platform covers everything from live webcasts to short self-directed presentations and sophisticated semester-long online courses.

“I did a lot of work on the digital divide [in university] and how different disadvantaged groups within society lack the technological expertise to successfully compete because they don’t have access to information and access to knowledge. Increasing access is an important goal for ScholarLab.”

Since 2008, Jno Baptiste has chaired the membership committee for the Open CourseWare Consortium. The OCWC is an international community making information more accessible by providing educational materials free and open digitally.

“I disrespect stereotypical limitations that are placed on individuals based on gender or race,” she says. “I do believe that access to education and online learning is playing a very vital role in promoting equality in society”.

As a successful woman in technology, Jno Baptiste is still a minority in her field.

“I’ve always been the minority in my technology classes and therefore I advocate for more women in Science and Technology.”

This fall, Jno Baptiste will be releasing the book Learning in the Digital: Disruptive Technologies and the Future of Education.

 

Women of the Week: Anita Emilio

Anita Emilio always dreamed of working in the travel industry. At age 30, after 10 years in the Art House Movie industry, she took a leap of faith and left to follow her passion. Somebody recognized that passion and provided her with a great opportunity to train her. Initially her salary was cut in half, but there are no regrets. “It is the best sacrifice my family and I have ever made,” says Emilio.

She was always drawn to the world of travel, seeing it as a leveler since everyone can experience it despite their age or upbringing. “It is something that even those who have nothing in common can chat about and I had big dreams of seeing the world. There’s no better way to achieve those goals than to work in the industry.  I have been extremely fortunate to have travelled extensively both for work and pleasure.”

Despite choosing not to pursue a post-secondary degree, she credits her success to the notion that if you work hard, good things will happen. This appears to be working for her since she started leading Travellers Counsellors. “Put the world’s nicest yet most driven people in a room, inject incredible leadership, give them the right tools to do the job and believe in them 100%,” says Emilio. Her approach is “built entirely on relationships, with customers, suppliers and each other.”

She still manages to make her company distinctive. “Our agents are the best in the business, with many years of experience and this is their career and passion. We are a family-run business and extend that sense of family to our agents, our head office team, our partners and our clients,” she says.

Work-life balance is an integral part that comes from within. There are “long hours and often a lot of travel for work so you must be very careful to juggle the balance between home and work and know when to say no.” She remarks that the younger generation understands this element.

Emilio remains focused on recruiting in the travel industry and will be launching an online televised broadcast on February 12th; later, she will meet those great candidates. “I personally go out and meet them to make certain that we are right for each other and that it will be a successful relationship,” says Emilio.

When Emilio is not working, she is an avid marathon runner. “Absolutely, running a marathon is proof that when you set your mind to something, anything is possible,” she says. When she is alone with her thoughts, she can think, plan and dream.

“Be strong and daring. Know who you are and be proud of it, don’t do anything your future self would not be proud of.  I have left and lost positions when I was asked to do things that were against my values and beliefs.  At the end of the day you have to look yourself  in the mirror, do it with a clean and clear conscience,” says Emilio. “You can be nice and kind and succeed in the business world.”

Women of the Week: Rhiannon Traill

When Rhiannon Traill was finishing a degree in arts and contemporary studies at Ryerson University, she was taking part in an event, speaking on a panel. Unbeknownst to her, in the audience was a founding board member of The Economic Club of Canada.

When the board member approached her after the event, he mentioned that the club was looking for someone to fill an entry-level position.

“I had heard a little bit about [the club], but not much, to be honest,” says Traill.

She took his business card, but she wasn’t looking for employment at the time and had plans to do a graduate degree.

“I came home that night and I sort of spoke to my husband and he said, ‘Why don’t you just go and meet them? What’s the harm in checking it out? You don’t necessarily need to take a job with them, just see what they’re offering.’”

The Economic Club of Canada is a non-partisan organization hosting events all across Canada, introducing its members and guests to the greatest leaders of our times. The club has hosted senator John McCain, former president Bill Clinton, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the president of Ukraine Victor Yushchenko and Arnold Schwarzenegger when he was governor of California.

“It was kind of like magic,” she says. “When I walked into the tiny little office and I met Mark Adler, I just kind of fell in love with his vision for what he wanted to do with The Economic Club.”

Traill started out as the club’s director of operations in 2008. Within three years she became the club’s vice-president and in 2011 she was promoted to president and CEO when Adler was elected as a Member of Parliament for York Centre.

“I grew up the ranks pretty quickly and helped Mark to grow the club into a national organization. So it’s pretty interesting and fluky,” she says.

In 2011, Traill came up with the idea of the Jr. Economic Club. It’s an offshoot organization from the club and mandated to educate Canadian youth on personal money matters and financial literacy.

“It has exploded,” she says. “It’s done really well. I’m really thrilled with the program and just the outpouring of support we’ve gotten from the corporate community.”

Traill has always had an entrepreneurial spirit. She’s a natural self-starter. At 10 years old she started a dog training business with a friend. The business ran for about four summers and all of the money was donated to the humane society.

“It was funny, when I came into The Economic Club, the first event that I ever worked on was when we hosted Bill Clinton, so that’s a way to get you excited about the job,” she said. “I went in and I got to meet Mr. Clinton, and my eyes kind of lit up and I sort of thought all of these possibilities that we could do.”

At 28 years old, Traill’s story is an inspiration for youth with big dreams. Since she’s been with the club, she has assisted in rebranding it from the Economic Club of Toronto to the Economic Club of Canada, opening chapters in Ottawa and Calgary, with another in the works in Vancouver. She also started the Voice of Hope Award.

“You can do anything that you believe in. Part of it is about right time, right place, but not ever thinking for one second that you don’t belong,” she says. “Just really believing in yourself and your abilities, what you can bring to the table.”

Women of the Week: Amanda Petrovic

Some people don’t figure out what they want to be until their late 40s. They drift, unfocused, through mindless odd jobs, searching for something that suits them.

Amanda Petrovic is not one of those people. She has known for a very long time where her calling lay.

“At a young age I already knew I wanted to be involved in real estate. I was always passionate about becoming an entrepreneur. The real estate industry determines where people live, raise families, work, dine, shop and play. It has such a tremendous influence on the quality of people’s lives. It shapes the fabric of the city – and I wanted to be a part of that.”

Before entering the job market, Amanda first pursued a BA and an MEd. She now uses the knowledge and skills gained from that education to stay on top of the ever-changing market, which helps her do her job and ensure her clients’ needs are met.

As she explains, “My approach to client service is also steeped in education. Ensuring that my clients are well-informed allows me to pragmatically guide them through every phase of buying and selling. It is extremely important to me that my clients feel knowledgeable and fully confident in their decisions so that we can best meet their real estate goals together.”

Since 2011, Amanda has worked as a sales representative for Private Service Realty Brokerage, helping her clients through the process of buying and selling real estate. Offering what she calls a “full-service real estate experience,” a service which includes assistance in property and portfolio management and investment planning, she combines her in-depth knowledge of the Toronto market with her clients’ needs and goals to find them the perfect Toronto property.

And now is a great time for her clients seeking property in Toronto. Amanda believes that the last year has been exciting for this market, and she is quick to promote many new projects opening in the city. For example, new projects opening in Yorkville offer clients the chance to enjoy luxury living, while Yonge and Eglinton will offer opportunities for people seeking lifestyle communities in more of a neighbourhood setting.

Even though the incoming market is hot and she will likely be very busy finding people their dream homes, Amanda is also striving to make the world a better place. This year she will be working with the Canadian Centre for Diversity, a non-profit group dedicated to educating Canadians about the value of difference and eliminate prejudice and discrimination.

By the looks of it, 2013 will be a big year for Amanda Petrovic. Keep your eye out for her, as she is set to make a positive impact on the Toronto community.

 

Women of the Week: Elena Christopoulos

If the definition of superhero is ‘one who saves the world,’ Elena Christopoulos could be called a superhero. She has devoted her working life to renewable energy, striving to help reduce humanity’s carbon footprint.

This interest in environment started early: Elena spent time in Greece as a child, and their way of life formed her identity.

“My relatives always had a huge appreciation of the environment. That upbringing has left an everlasting mark on me.”

Ahead of her time, Elena started in the industry before the modern environmental movement really caught hold.

“Many have recently entered the ‘green’ space and unlike many of my competitors, I have worked in this industry since the ‘90s, which is not only rare, but has given me credibility in the industry.”

As the movement gained momentum, Elena pushed to integrate more environmental projects into the everyday world. In 2000, Elena worked as part of a team to bring the first urban wind turbine in North America to Toronto.

“I wanted to make my hometown city of Toronto the greenest city in the world. This was a very successful project because it integrated diverse political and environmental spheres.”

Elena is president of the Board of Directors for the Green Chamber of Commerce, a technical and consular advisor for E3NYC and a speaker/member of Women of Wind Energy (WoWE). But her skills in the field are not just recognized by those working for environmental causes. While flying into Toronto once, Elena met with pilots who were routinely flying the route and were familiar with her turbine. She says, “They told me that they brought their kids to look at the turbine and that all pilots flying into Pearson see the turbine, a beacon of renewable energy, a beacon of hope for the future of this world. It was at that moment that I realized the impact I had made and the footprint I already left behind.”

Elena, as a woman and an environmentalist, has to wage a steady battle against the lingering mindsets of previous generations. But as she sees it, ““Making a difference in this world, whether it is an environmental or political change, is not only a job for me, it is my passion.”

Now all she needs is a superhero name.