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Woman of the Week: Karen Farbridge

Karen Farbridge is a straight-forward, confident, and extremely successful woman in Ontario’s sustainability community.  As a previous leader in municipal government, she is charismatic and focused on making the world a better place.

When the former Mayor of Guelph is asked about her proudest accomplishments from her 11 years on council, she is quick to bring it back to the importance of community engagement. “Advancing our practice around engagement and rethinking how local government is involved with sustainability is what I feel the most proud of,” Farbridge says. “People are looking for connections to place and community and they find them in different ways in their lives, and I found it in this way in my own life.”

Farbridge has been involved in the environmental and government non-profit and public sectors for over 20 years. Most recently, she established her consulting agency, Karen Farbridge and Associates after her final term as mayor in 2014.  “The key focus is to implement projects that accelerate growth to create low-carbon and resilient communities,” Farbridge says. “That can entail work with the public sector, [for example] with Natural Resources Canada and Municipal Affairs Ontario, and also in the private sector. It also includes work with Research institutions, such as University of Guelph and York University and the Columbia Institute out of B.C.”

Farbridge has several projects on the go and uses her extensive experience in the political realm to help various organizations with sustainability initiatives. She helped the Columbia Institute in B.C. write a report, Top Asks for Climate Change: Ramping up Low-Carbon Communities, that included a report card assessing climate change initiatives, labelling the successes and which areas needed improvements. The report was released on June 1 and focuses on how the federal government is progressing towards goals pertaining to the Paris Agreement.

Farbridge is also contributing to a collaborative project with the Ontario Climate Consortium and the University of Guelph via the Community Energy Knowledge Action Partnership. This project studies net zero and low-carbon developments across five different Ontario municipalities, taking into account testimonies from a number of urban planners, economic development officers, and community management officers.

Long before becoming mayor, Farbridge was involved in municipal politics. She became a city councillor in 1994 while also working for the Ontario Public Interest Research Group Guelph at the same time. She obtained a PhD in biology and spent 10 years in academics at University of Guelph. Farbridge encouraged council to develop a group plan on climate change that focused on the Kyoto protocol. As her career progressed, she served her first term as mayor of Guelph in 2000-2003 and her second and third terms from 2006-2014.

In between her terms as mayor, Farbridge worked with the University of Guelph to develop a community energy plan that was later implemented. “I ran again for Mayor in 2006. That community energy plan was brought forward to the new council and it was adopted,” Farbridge says. “Since that time, I put a lot of time into promoting the community energy plan.”

Farbridge has received several awards including the City Builder Award from the Canadian Urban Institute in 2014 for her leadership in sustainability and community energy. She also received the Clean 50/Clean16 Award from Delta Management Group in 2014, which is awarded annually to 50 individual leaders who are advancing clean and sustainable development in Canada. In 2012, Farbridge was the recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal from the Governor General of Canada for her contributions and achievements to Canada. Farbridge was elected Guelph’s first female mayor in 1999.

Farbridge is passionate about mentoring women and plays an integral role in environmental charity Nature Canada’s Women for Nature initiative, which promotes women leaders involved in nature. The organization is currently creating a mentorship program where Farbridge and other notable women in the environmental sector help younger women forward their careers. She is also a part of a mentoring project to help women who have a start-up businesses in Guelph, and has a relationship with a woman in the city to help her build up her start-up.

When Farbridge is taking a break from combatting climate change, she enjoys gardening, hiking, and is looking forward to a canoeing trip in Algonquin Park this summer. She is clearly a nature lover and has made a considerable impact within the sustainable community in Ontario.

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Women of the Week: Patti-Anne Tarlton

Patti-Anne Tarlton is one of the women magnates of the music industry in Toronto. Her success can be attributed to her charismatic business attitude and exceptional managerial skills with her staff. She has a friendly, down-to-earth demeanour, and values collaboration and connecting people invested in music across the country.

As COO, Canada for Ticketmaster North America, Tarlton oversees the business-end operations of the Canadian ticketing market. She is in charge of the features and products that Ticketmaster sells, including the technology that is used to sell and market tickets. These products are sold on international markets across North America. Tarlton is also in charge of overseeing the business relationship with Ticketmaster’s clients, managing business deals with clients (teams, festivals, clubs) and holds relationships with B2B to sell product on their behalf.

Before joining Ticketmaster, Tarlton worked as the Vice President of Live Entertainment at Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment. “I spent 13 years at Maple Leaf. There are a whole host of precious moments, including New Years Eve with the Tragically Hip and when Googoosh performed for the first time in 21 years outside of her home country Iran,” Tarlton says. “It is always fun to see Canadian attractions sell out the arena. It is also great to see how the Toronto marketplace is so multicultural.”

Tarlton’s interest in music began at a very young age when her Uncle, Donald Tarlton, who was one of the most famous record label owners in Canadian music history, came to visit her hometown in Vancouver and his nieces would accompany him to various music events. Donald Tarlton owned Aquarius Records, which represented April Wine, Sum 41, and Corey Hart. “It was likely a slow burn to my love for music,” Tarlton says. “Donald was always a part of our lives and very close to my father. He always had a great record label and grew that over the years. It was always about the next thing and a bunch of vinyl would come my way.” Tarlton got her start in operations as a concert promotor in the music industry. Over the next 14 years, she was a concert promotor for Perryscope Concerts, DKD Concerts, and House of Blues Concerts.

When Tarlton reached adulthood, she decided to move to Montreal and pursue her dream of working in music with her uncle. She recollects the first concert she attended in Montreal was to see Paul Simon and she was impressed by the crowd. “Having grown up in Vancouver, the audience settings were quite different,” Tarlton says. “Montreal audiences stand on their feet and it had this super international flavour to it.” Even as a young adult, Tarlton was interested in how live audiences were affected by the music and how to engage people to enjoy shows they attended.  Her passion with live shows eventually led her to being the VP of Live Entertainment for the Air Canada Centre, the fifth largest venue in the world.

Tarlton believes music creates better communities and a stronger cultural environment. She is an appointed member of the Toronto Music Advisory Council, which is a group of individuals in the industry that meet to exchange ideas and advice on how to create opportunities and respond to challenges in the city’s music industry. She is also a board member on Music Canada Live, which promotes live music. “I feel as I live here in Toronto I, I can advocate for the rest of the country. It was natural for me to try and rally the arenas in sports and entertainment,” Tarlton says. “The benefit of being in Toronto is you have the population and local economy and it is in part our responsibility to advocate for every neck of the woods in Canada. Canadians tend to network and collaborate, be it a local level or countrywide. It is our natural tendency as a nation. Even in a multinational setting, Canadians tend to lean in to find solutions rather than elbows out.”

Tarlton has received the Women of Influence Award from Venues Today, won Coach of the Year from Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, and was nominated for Facility Executive of the Year twice for Pollstar.

Tarlton wants to inspire women to reach for high-ranking roles in the music industry. “While I have enjoyed a career and not been set back by my gender, I have two girls and I envision a world where they don’t have to think about gender. I do know that we have a network of really talented women across the country though there are not enough women on civic or government advisory boards,” Tarlton says. “I do feel like I have a responsibility to push women along as well as well as motivate and inspire. If I take lessons from my own life, it is about putting yourself out there. I do not think twice about delivering myself in a conversation and pushing something forward without the one to one.”

When Tarlton isn’t working, she enjoys going to the cottage and waterskiing. She also finds cooking very relaxing after work. She was an avid sewer when she was younger and made over 150 costumes that her two daughters enjoyed playing with as they grew up. Tarlton’s sense of humour and positivity is infectious and listening to her stories is wildly entertaining and deeply inspirational. It is moving to see a strong and high-ranking role in the music industry.  Just don’t forget Tarlton’s advice for Canadian women; network, get yourself out there, and do it on your own terms.

Where are the women in Canadian green tech?

The environmental sector is often thought of as progressive and forward-thinking, but when it comes to gender diversity in low-carbon economies, is it truly equal?

At the Ontario Climate Symposium hosted on Friday May 12, York University environmental studies professor Christina Hoicka facilitated a panel that discussed gender diversity and how women experts are leading the way on energy research. Part of Hoicka’s research focuses on discovering which women academics are influencing the field of energy research, and whether or not enough is being done to encourage women to be a part of the renewable energy (RE) industry.

Women make up less than 20 per cent of the renewable energy sector workforce. Jobs are opening up in this sector thanks to the the growing popularity in green technologies, which means it’s the perfect opportunity to close the gender gap in STEM fields.

Canada Research Chair in global women’s issues at Western University, Dr. Bipasha Baruah, was one of the panelists and explained that because there are so few women leaders in clean technology, she feels she actually gets more attention in her role. “Sometimes I feel hyper-visible. Part of that is that you can check so many boxes with me. Even if you are acknowledged, you can still be tokenized,” Baruah says.

Women are clearly under-represented in the green sector in Canada, representing only 20 per cent of jobs, but 50 per cent of university graduates. Most women within the industry are found in sales, administrative roles, and technology positions. For women that are in STEM jobs, the wage gap is smaller, with women earning 14 per cent less than men compared to 21 per cent in other fields. But, they are still massively underrepresented. According to Baruah, women are often discouraged from entering engineering and technology fields because of the misperceptions of the ‘dirty work’ involved and that they typically feel inadequate in the technological aspects of certain occupations.

Baruah’s research did emphasize that Canadian women are increasingly becoming leading entrepreneurs. She interviewed Women in Renewable Energy (WiRE) CEO Rebecca Black, who pointed out that of the membership base of 1000 women in the province of Ontario, at least 20 per cent were entrepreneurs in RE. Women are often more community-based leaders and renewables thrive off a grassroots cooperative business model.

Julie MacArthur, Professor at University of Auckland, reinforced this idea through her study of the evolving socio-technical community-based approach in the renewables sector. In the wake of moving away from large fossil fuel corporations, several renewable community-based organizations have popped up that focus on alternative energy sources. Many of these grassroots organizations are spearheaded by women, who are essential to this movement of cooperation and community-based growth. MacArthur explains that ‘energy democracy’ is growing and there is a changing socio-political focus that is happening right now, as the environment grows as a central concern in the Canadian economy. Obviously, women have a key role to play in this change.

Including women in the move from a brown to green economy will only make RE more diverse and versatile. Being able to provide even more data about women in clean technology helps society to understand where we stand in regards to gender diversity and how we can better accommodate women looking to enter these fields. It is important to provide a discursive research space and more panels to educate women invested in an environmental career, and Women’s Post hopes to learn more as amazing women researchers grow and learn in green technology.

Stupid Dove campaign gets body positivity wrong

Do you ever pick up a bottle of body wash and think: this doesn’t represent my body type? Or do you look at that tall and slender piece of plastic and wonder: wouldn’t I love a bottle that’s just like me, short and pear-shaped?

No? Me neither.

Apparently, Dove — a company that prides itself on celebrating “real beauty” — wants me to care about the shape of the body wash I purchase. In a ridiculous new campaign, the beauty corporation is showcasing diverse body types in their packaging.“From curvaceous to slender, tall to petite, and whatever your skin colour, shoe size or hair type, beauty comes in a million different shapes and sizes,” a Dove statement read. “Our six exclusive bottle designs celebrate this diversity; just like women, we wanted to show that our iconic bottle can come in all shapes and sizes, too.”

That’s right — Dove has changed the bottles for their body wash to represent different body types. Take a look at some of the examples below:

Photo courtesy of Dove

This is one of the stupidest attempts at body positivity I’ve ever seen.

There is nothing about a regular body wash bottle that is offensive to women, not unless it displays sexist remarks or hate messages on the label. It’s a bottle. It is a package for what is inside it. The fact that it is “skinny” or “lengthy” does not make me, a pear-shaped woman, feel uncomfortable. You know what makes me feel uncomfortable? Staring at a shelf wondering whether I will get weird looks if I pick a bottle that doesn’t “represent” my body type. Will the cashier look at me and go “she really thinks she looks like that!”

I understand the concept — kind of. Women are constantly bombarded by images of what society indicates is “perfection”. Social media is even worse. According to the Dove press release, “one in two women feel social media puts pressure on them to look a certain way.”

And that statement is true. The problem is that this campaign does exactly that. It reminds people they may not be their ideal body shape. It may cause those body conscious people to overthink about their body type, wondering whether or not other people see them as short, skinny, plump, or pear-shaped. Instead of encouraging body positivity, the campaign encourages women to think of themselves differently. It ultimately forces women to consider their body type in comparison to others. Isn’t that what Dove is trying to avoid?

Just because something is described as “feminist” and “body positive” doesn’t mean it should be. In fact, this seems more like a money-grab, capitalizing on the women’s movement in a really moronic way.

What do you think of this campaign? Is this #RealBeauty or #ReallyStupid? Let us know in the comments below!

Celebrating Women: Kristy Fletcher

Kristy Fletcher didn’t expect to work in the music industry. She left her previous job at Maple Leafs Sport and Entertainment after 20 years with the company in 2016 and hasn’t looked back.

Fletcher started working for the NHL’s Calgary Flames when she was 15. It was, as she puts it, the “family business”. Her father Cliff, a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, was the President and GM of the Flames at the time and provided both Kristy and her brother Chuck, the current General Manager of the NHL’s Minnesota Wild, an insight into the world of sports business and management.  As an avid sports fan herself, she knew that was where she wanted to be.

Fletcher did a little bit of everything, working in communications, PR, sales, and premium ticket service. She was also instrumental in the development of the Leafs Fund, the precursor for what is now the Maple Entertainment Foundation. This position allowed her to merge her love of sports with the charitable world and help create a fundraising strategy for the company.

And then, after 20 years of working with the NHL, Fletcher decided to take the plunge and try something new.

“On paper I had reached a level of success within my company,” she said. “It was taking a big risk to quit my job, but I felt it was the moment. I had 2 kids [and] I wanted to feel like I was contributing to the community in which I lived and worked.”

Fletcher is now the Executive Director of MusiCounts, a music education charity that raises money for instruments and programs in schools across Canada. She said that as soon as she walked through the door for the interview, she immediately knew MusiCounts was where she wanted to be.

“I always liked the music industry,” she said. “I had friends in the industry. It was not a big stretch to me. I think both of the industries have a lot more similarities then imagined. Sports and music bring people together, rooted in passion, social connectors, everyone has an opinion. It was a natural transition. “

Over the past 20 years, MusiCounts has awarded nearly $10 million worth of musical instruments to schools and community groups across Canada. Their mandate is to raise awareness about the importance of music education, as much as it is to generate funds for these programs.

“Our priority for this year is making people aware of the work we do and that music education is at risk. [There is] a generation of students missing out on the value of creating and understanding music,” Fletcher said.

In September, the charity is set to launch this year’s Band Aid Program. Schools are welcome to apply for musical instruments in increments of $5,000 or $10,000. They also started a micro-funding campaign in which Canadians can donate by texting MUSIC to 20222.

Fletcher said she feels lucky to have been involved in both the sports and the music industry, and has never felt anything but supported by her mostly-male colleagues.

“I was certainly aware that I was in a male-dominated industry,” she said. “But I found my own way to manage it. I never let it get in my way. I have not personally felt I was held back due to gender, but I also think that has to do with women who blazed the trail before me.”

In that form, Fletcher offers advice to women trying to move up in their respective fields.

My advice would be … you need to build your network and you can’t let it go. It takes time to do that and it takes energy and a lot of confidence. You need to get out of there and establish those contacts,” she said. “We get busy in our careers, but you have to be out there making sure you are promoting yourself.”

It is MusiCounts 20th anniversary this year. To commemorate this occasion, MusiCounts announced that, with the support of singer Eleanor McCain, they will issue five enhanced “True North: The Canadian Songbook” commemorative Band Aid grants of $20,000 in conjunction with her new CD release.

 

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Wonder Woman partners with thinkThin

I want to be excited about the new Wonder Woman movie coming out this year, but at every turn Warner Bros/DC Comics does something insulting and sexist that makes me change my mind.

Like accepting a promotional partnership with thinkThin, for example.

Wonder Woman, one of the strongest and fiercest female superheroes and first to receive a standalone film, is now the face of a diet bar. Good job Warner Bros. Good job.

Photo curtesty of thinkThin.

Now, before I go any further, I should say that I have never tried a thinkThin bar. The website does not emphasize weight loss, but rather promotes general wellness and healthy lifestyles. The bars themselves are described as a “nutritious” snack to satisfy hunger without the guilt.

But, with a name like thinkThin, the image it creates is not a positive one.

This is what Michele Kessler, the president of thinkThin, was going for in terms of message: “We wanted to celebrate a hero film featuring a woman in the leading role,” she wrote in a press release. “We love that Wonder Woman has super strength and we’re proud to offer delicious products that give women the everyday strength they need to power through their day.”

 

I respect that comparison, but I doubt that message will get through. Instead, most people, particularly young girls, may see it as body shaming.

It’s bad enough that most female leads in film, especially superheroes, are extremely lean and thin, representing a certain type of woman. The larger, plus-size woman is always the funny friend or the wise confident. Magazines and news publications are jam-packed with articles about diet fads, offering up 10 ways to lost that stubborn belly fat while showcasing dresses only available in size zero. Women are berated with these images on a daily basis — do we really need it from Wonder Woman too?

Wonder Woman should be promoting acceptance as much as physical strength. She should be focusing on self-love, courage, intelligence, and independence. This character is a huge inspiration to young girls worldwide! Remember when the U.N. announced this fictional character was to be the honorary ambassador for the empowerment of girls and women? Think thin — is that the message this former ambassador is sending?

This is a serious missed opportunity. Warner Bros screwed up big time and I’m not sure if they can do anything to rectify it now. Wonder Woman is supposed to be a role model for girls. She is supposed to represent a strong-willed woman, someone who doesn’t need a man to save the day — someone who is smart enough to save both Batman and Superman at the same time!

But so far, all I see is another disgraced sell-out.

What do you think of this new partnership? Let us know in the comments below!

American women are being screwed by health care

This is one of those moments that make me want to face-palm, or scream as loud as I can in hopes that someone, someone with the ability to actually listen and then act, will hear me.

And then I thank god that I live in Canada. This country may not be perfect — it absolutely has its own set of problems — but at least I don’t have to be scared of going to the doctor.

Thursday, the Republicans passed a health care bill to replace Obamacare. The bill passed by a slight margin, 217-213. This is being hailed as a big success for the Trump government, who was unable to pass the first version of the health care bill. But while the government may be laughing and smiling at their success, a lot of people in the United States are going to get screwed, particularly women.

The full version of the American Health Care Act hasn’t been made public yet, and has not been analyzed by the Congressional Budget Office, so there is no way to know what economic impact

There was also an amendment made by Republican Tom MacArthur of New Jersey that would allow states to opt out of “essential health benefits” in order to opt their own.

Here are some of the items that are considered “pre-existing” conditions and therefore not coverable under the new health care plan: c-sections, sexual assault, mental illness, domestic violence, depression, acne, asthma, irregular menstruation, pregnancy, diabetes, sex reassignment, cancer, and other debilitating diseases.

So, if you are a woman, suffer from any sort of mental illness, or have been diagnosed with a serious disease — the Trump government just said you didn’t matter. They also just said the state could decide that whatever coverage the bill did have, may not actually be what you will be given (for better or for worse).

As a side note, congress and their families are exempt from many of the effects of the bill; although they claim there will be a revision made to correct that and make further changes.

Of course, as very few members of congress are female, this makes perfect sense.

As I don’t know the exact wording of the bill, I can’t say much else about it. But I can say this: I find the inclusion of pregnancy and mental illness as pre-existing conditions ridiculous, and can’t believe that something like menstrual cycles made it into the list. Honestly, it feels like spite — spite for the protests and women’s marches that have plagued the White House during President Donald Trump’s first 100 days.

The bill will now go to the Senate for revision. Who knows how much this bill will change (or if it even will), but for the sake of American women, I hope it does. While Ontario includes abortion pills and free birth control for women under the age of 25, it looks like the United States is going the opposite route.

And it makes me feel ashamed to be part of the same continent.

What do you think of the new health care bill? Let us know in the comments below!

What’s trending in spring fashion 2017

April showers bring May flowers — and funky, printed outfits. This year’s trends are all about merging your own wild personality with business professionalism. Light colours, flowing moveable materials, and off-the shoulder tops are popular in most retail outlets, but each one has an element that is work-appropriate. Perfect for those who crave the bohemian styles of the 60s while still wanting to impress their partners in the boardroom.

Unleash your inner creativity with these top five trends for spring 2017:

Florals: This spring, embrace the floral. Tops, pants, skirts, and dresses — colourful prints are making a comeback. The colours, the patterns, and the style are all very flowery and young. The key is to find a dress or shirt that doesn’t overwhelm. The dresses shown below, for example, are the perfect example of how florals can work without making a woman look like a young girl. Each one ties at the waist to give shape and the colour palettes are a little more natural, which is a nice reprieve from previous years where it was all about neon colours.

Zara, $68.90s

Jumpsuit: This piece never really went out of style, but it’s making a comeback in a big way. Most women feel like they can’t pull off a jumpsuit, but in fact, it’s flattering on almost everyone. Most jumpers have a drawstring that can be adjusted to your waist, so it can be as tight or as loose fitting as you are comfortable with. There are also a number of styles — there are some that are more professional (as pictured below) and other styles that are floral and fun! Try pairing it with a blazer and a pair of heels for a  business meeting or a pair of strapped-sandals and a chunky necklace for a walk on the town.

Additionelle, $118.00

Light shawls: Keep your blazer in the closet and instead throw on a light shawl or kimono. These are great for the workplace where the air conditioner or heater reigns supreme. There are so many styles to choose from, but remember the golden rule — if you wear a print tank top, make sure your shawl is a solid colour. The opposite is also true. One of the biggest trends is to have a tight fitted shirt and then a loose-fitting, printed shawl overtop, preferably with a funky patterned collar or sleeve.

Anthropologie, $258.00

Wide Leg Pants: These are the hippie version of the dress pant, but do you know what? They work! Most are really professional looking and pair wonderfully with a fitted top, a blazer, and sandals or a flat shoe. In addition to providing a more unique and independent fashion style to the boardroom, the wide leg pant is also a lot more comfortable in the summer.

Anthropologie, $98.0

Urban flat: This spring is all about being comfortable, yet stylish. This type of flat shoe is perfect to wear with jeans or dress pants, making it the ultimate accessory. The urban flat has a slight heel to help with ankle support, but not enough of one to cause actual pain while walking around the office or the streets of your home town all day. They also have just enough of a design to make them more chic.

Call It Spring, $44.00

 

What style are you looking forward to wearing this spring? Let us know win the comments below!

Woman of the Week: Jennifer Reynolds

Jennifer Reynolds, president and CEO of Women in Capital Markets (WCM), thinks there is an ingrained corporate and economic culture that is to blame for the lack of gender equality within the financial industry. The number of women in positions of power has stagnated, and in 2017, that isn’t a good thing.

“I think sometimes people aren’t aware that Canada has fallen behind in terms of women in senior roles, on boards for examples,” Reynolds said. “Our representation is 12 per cent. Europe has representation up to 30-40 per cent. We, as a country, have fallen really far behind.”

WCM is the largest network of professional women in the Canadian capital markets. This group of women try to educate younger generations in the finance industry to consider careers in capital markets and advocate for greater gender diversity on boards and senior management. The organization hosts over 80 events a year and leads a number of campaigns, both in-person and online.

Reynolds became involved with WCM in 2000 and started volunteering for the then-grassroots organization helping educate young high school girls about careers involving math. She also volunteered for the mentorship program.

“When I graduated in 1994, I thought our generation would be the one where women would have leadership roles in the economy,” she said.

Obviously, WCM had an influence on Reynolds because she remained an active member of the organization for 13 years before becoming the president and CEO. The organization is shaking things up a bit under Reynold’s leadership, trying not only educate young women as to the many opportunities in finance and capital markets, but also trying to involve men in the dialogue.

“Most of these initiatives was about women discussing diversity. It took us a long time to get here, but now we are getting there and we have to involve men in the discussion because they are in senior leadership roles and we need to have dialogue with them to encourage progress,” she said.  “We need to give them a voice and an opportunity to see what they can do personally.”

One of the WCM programs Reynolds is most proud of is Return to Bay Street, an award that helps women return to the workforce after a career break. Each award-winning woman will receive a minimum four-month long paid contract with a sponsoring financial institution, $5,000 towards an education program, access to a WCM mentor, as well as a one-year membership with WCM.

Return to Bay Street is in its sixth year and will be accepting applications until April 13, 2017.

“Too often for women, if you need to take a break, it’s hard to come back,” Reynolds said. “You fall off the track because people think your skills are stale. [Return to Bay Street] helps replenish the pipeline for senior leadership. It brings back senior talent.”

Reynolds studied economics and political science at McGill University with the intention of becoming a lawyer. She found herself enjoying her economics classes immensely, and after four years decided she was better off in business.

“I ended up, fortunately, getting to know some people in the investment industry … and it sounded like a great career — fast paced, opportunity to travel, rewarding,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds worked with the Bank of Montreal as director of capital markets for 10 years before moving on to work with WCM. She is also on the board of the Canadian Development Investment Corporation, a crown corporation that works for the federal minister of finance and is responsible for a number of initiatives.

Reynolds thoroughly enjoys working on the board. In addition to her role with the Canadian Development Investment Corporation, she is also the director on the board of Studio 190, an independent, Toronto-based theatre company.  For her, being on various boards allows her to explore different industries and be creative. It’s also a great way to diversify her network.

As Reynolds explains, every organization has a president and CEO that runs the business, but that person reports to a board, “a bunch of senior people with expertise who help guide strategic vision.” This can be everything from where the company should be heading to overseeing financial statements — it’s also why it’s so important that boards be gender diverse.

“So, what does it matter? It matters because I think women should be part of creating strategic missions of businesses and companies in Canada,” Reynolds said. “From a purely data and research perspective, studies that show if you have that gender diverse boards, it makes your business more profitable. But, you need that diversity on your board – and from a common sense perspective, if you are recruiting from 50 per cent of talent pool, you’ve got to be limiting yourself. You are not getting the best. It’s common sense.”

How do companies do that? Reynolds said it takes two steps. The first is to actually hire women in positions of power and the second is to change your business’ culture. It all starts with statistics, ensuring the company counts and measures everything. “How many women in each level of organization, how long does promotion take, wage gap at each level, then you will figure out what the problem is. Is it that your leadership team only brings forward candidates that are men and non-minority, for example,” Reynolds said.

“If you leave it to chance, it won’t happen. But, if I have anything to say about it, it’s going to change!”

 

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Celebrating Women: Entrepreneur Dyana Biagi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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