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SmartTrack could be operational by 2024

Toronto’s Executive Committee will discuss and debate the concepts for the SmartTrack stations next week.

SmartTrack will use existing rail to shuttle residents from the further neighbourhoods and areas of the Greater Toronto Area into the downtown core for the cost of a TTC fare. There will be 14 stations built and trains will run every six to 10 minutes. The plan also includes an extension of the Eglinton Crosstown from Mount Dennis to Pearson Airport with an approximate additional 10 stations.

“The people of Toronto want choice and convenience when it comes to their commute. SmartTrack takes the concept of local rail travel to a whole new level,” said Toronto Mayor John Tory in a statement. “SmartTrack is an important part of the city’s transit network plan that also includes the relief line, the Eglinton East LRT and waterfront transit.”

The executive committee will review the concepts for stations at St. Clair-Old Weston, King-Liberty, East Harbour, Gerrard-Carlaw, Lawrence-Kennedy, and Finch-Kennedy. Each station has been designed to serve the specific neighbourhood, with King-Liberty station including strong connections for pedestrians and cyclists, East Harbour station integrating with a high-employment area, and Gerrard-Carlaw optimizing connections with the planned Relief Line station.

City staff are also requesting that Metrolinx, a provincial transportation agency, consider pedestrian and cycling pathways when connecting GO corridors to Bloor St. and that they work in partnership with the city to push forward the Spadina-Front GO Regional Express Rail station and the Rail Deck Park proposal. The Rail Deck Park will also be discussed next Tuesday, with city staff recommending council move forward and that all rail projects should keep the park in mind during design.

“Rail Deck Park will be the largest downtown park outside of the Don Valley,” the report reads. “The proposed decking structure will support a fully functional park that, at full build-out, will comprise a total area of approximately 8.3 hectares or 20 acres, excluding the Metrolinx property at the corner of Front Street and Spadina Avenue.”

The cost estimation is $1.665 billion.

If these reports are approved, they will be sent to city council in December. Metrolinx estimates that service along SmartTrack will be available in 2024.

EU proposes 40 % quota for “non executive” women

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t let fear stop you from seeing the Eiffel Tower in Paris

While at a recent dinner party, I was asked an interesting question: what’s your favourite city to visit and why do you have a connection with that place? I thought about it for a while and decided on London, which has always felt like home to me. It’s probably my obsession with British fashion and even the depressing weather. I heard other guests reply with places like Manhattan, New York, Tokyo, Japan, and other destinations. I got to thinking to what my answer might have been a few years ago—Paris, France.

France is one of the most popular European countries, with the City of Paris attracting a lot of attention. However, in 2016, the French Tourism Board reported a dip in tourists in the city, with the industry losing almost £644M. This sharp decline was mainly caused by terrorism fears and concerns. France is a country that relies heavily on tourism, with seven per cent of the country’s GDP  generated from those sales. Even the Eiffel Tower had about 1 million less visitors last year.

 

Paris is known as the city of love and, before terrorism became an active concern, it was seen as a peaceful and romantic destination with odd crimes and pick-pockets. French tourism does not look so positive, as a few weeks ago, in the City of Nice, nine people were arrested after a thwarted terror attack.

However, one of the worst things you can do is let fear restrict you from travelling to the places you dream of. We are living in an unpredictable world, but that shouldn’t prevent someone from experiencing other cultures or relaxing with friends and family. Here are four small tips to travel without fear.

  • Consider your anxiety and don’t let proposed fear outweigh actual concerns. As a tip, maybe stay away from overly populated tourists spots or make sure your valuables are kept safe. Try getting a small lock for your backpack to deter pickpockets.
  • Know where you’re going. Research the neighbourhoods and know roughly how to get to your destination. Don’t wander down dark streets on your own.
  • Don’t let regret plague you from missing out on a good trip. At the end of the day, you don’t want to think “Oh, I wanted to go to the Eiffel Tower, but I was too worried about pickpockets”. You will always regret not going to see this iconic and historic marvel. Just do it!
  • Stop worrying about something that is out of your control. Sometimes, shit happens. Just take every minute as it comes and remember that as long as you are safe, everything else is small potatoes.

Try to venture off the beaten track a bit and explore less popular neighbourhoods in Paris, including Quartier Chinois (Chinatown), Bastille, Canal Saint Martin or Saint-Germain-des-Pres. This way you can soak up all the food, culture, fashion and romance the city has to offer without having to line up for hours with hundreds and thousands of other tourists like you.

Will you be planning you next trip to Paris? Comment below.

Soccer players and distance runners share similar training

Over 28,000 fans attended the Canada vs. USA Women’s soccer game held at BC Place, Vancouver, BC. It was the largest crowd ever at a national women’s match.

After watching the game, I decided to revisit the similarities between soccer players and runners, specifically the need for athletes in both sports to move for long periods of time without rest. It could be argued that soccer requires more stamina than other team sports because 120 minutes of play, including overtime, is common before a shootout decides the winner.  By comparison, a regular season NHL hockey game is 65 minutes, including five minutes of O.T. before the shootout, and NBA basketball games are 48 minutes before unlimited mini-halves of overtime – rare in basketball – decide the outcome.  MLB baseball, with its superb athletes, does not operate on the clock at all, though a typical nine-inning game takes about two hours and 30 minutes to play, with mega-stops and delays added in.  Even the tiring effects of physical contact from football, hockey and basketball don’t balance because of rest time that’s built into the stoppages.  Soccer, which has its own share of contact, rarely stops play.

Runners, like soccer players, are challenged by speed and the need for stamina and endurance. A world class runner can complete a marathon between 125 to 130 minutes — roughly the time it takes to play a soccer match.

Soccer players do a lot of sprinting in addition to their constant running back and forth on the field. Overall, to be competitive and on top of their game, they need both speed and endurance.

Interval training for marathoners and running drills for soccer players helps increases speed and can benefit both athletes. Running downhill is good for developing strong quads.  Running uphill will increase lung capacity and stamina.  When you add strength, focus, and mental toughness to the mix, you get a clear picture of what soccer players and runners share every day.  All athletes need to stretch every muscle group before and after a workout or match.

As for where the similarities end, soccer players explode for bursts of speed, which requires balance, control, and strength. These factors are what separate the soccer platers from runners, who simply have to focus on a singular task. It’s a sport that is up tempo and uses considerable physical and mental reflexes…and lots and lots of running. I was incredibly impressed.

Photo credit:  D. Laird Allan

5 benefits of doing yoga in the morning

I’m a big yoga fan. The movement and breathing wakes my body up and forces my mind to start working, without the added stress of work or life’s challenges. Even a short five or 10-minute practice is enough to to wake me up and send positive vibes throughout my day. While many people say doing yoga at night is advantageous, I think doing it in the morning has just as many benefits.

Here are five benefits of doing yoga in the morning:

Peace of mind: People often start their day by thinking about all the tasks they have to complete before 5 p.m. And then we think about what we need to take out for dinner and who is going to be home and who is going to take out the dog. It gets crazy. Instead of starting your day off stressed out, a 10-minute yoga routine can help you slow down and be completely in the present. Whatever you need to do can wait. These 10 minutes are yours alone.

Focus: The peace of mind you get from practicing yoga can help you set an intention for your day. What do you want to accomplish? What do you want to feel? Whether you want to maintain positive thinking, despite a meeting-packed day, or if you want to be confident during a presentation or networking event, an intention will help you create the frame of mind first thing.

Helps digestion: Practicing yoga in the morning can help your body metabolize food throughout the day. By doing gentle stretches, especially twists that massage the internal organs, the body becomes more capable of releasing toxins from the body. It also allows for the body to better absorb nutrients in food.

Better posture: Many yoga poses focus on muscles in your back, forcing you to push your shoulder blades back and breath deep into the stretch. Once you start actively thinking about how your head connects with the rest of your spine, there will be no going back. These type of exercises are ideal for those with a desk job.

Overall fitness: While yoga may not burn as many calories as running a 5k, it can help you strengthen your muscles and tone your body. Through the movement, you are essentially supporting your entire body mass using your own muscles. Whether it’s a simple downward dog or something more challenging like a balancing practice, every movement activates your core. If you are looking for something to supplement your cardio — yoga is the perfect routine.

Do you practice yoga in the morning? Let us know your favourite poses in the comments below!

5 things you can do to keep your skin healthy

The secret to healthy and youthful skin can seem like a mystery . There are countless beauty products and companies that claim to know the secret. While our skin can benefit from extra hydration, moisture, and certain mineral boosts that beauty products offer, there are a few things you can do as a base that will help you achieve your best natural glow. Follow these five tips for healthy and beautiful skin, no matter your age.

Let your skin breathe.

Starting this off simple, you should know your skin is an organ. In fact, it it the largest organ of the human body. It protects us from microbes, it regulates internal temperature, and permits various sensations. When you get in the habit of wearing heavy makeup daily, you are suffocating your face! Essentially, the key is to let your skin breathe. By all means wear your make-up ( especially if you are a makeup addict like me ), but keep it minimal and save the extra glow highlighter for special occasions.

Sunscreen is your friend

UV rays and sun damage are your enemies! While it feels good to have the warm sunshine caress our faces, it is also essential to have some sort of barrier or protection. Having a good moisturizer, or even a bb cream with included SPF can do wonders. Try looking for a moisturizer with a broad spectrum SPF of 30 or higher.

Go get that facial !

We all know a little bit of self-care and love goes a long way. With our day to day lives, we can experience lack of sleep, stress, imbalanced hormones, and pollution.  All of these thing (and more) have a negative impact on our skin. It is recommended that you get a deep cleansing/moisturizing facial done by a professional about once a month. While our budgets may not allow this luxury, you can also take matters into your own hands by doing an exfoliating treatment at least once a week, or trying out a ready to use sheet-mask to target your problem areas. Remember to keep your skin type in mind so you don’t harm yourself.

Develop a proper cleansing routine

Repeat after me: cleanser, toner, serum, moisturizer…

At the end of a long day, the best thing you can do is wash off your makeup and baby your skin. Once you get into this habit, it will become a routine for you, It is essential you find products that are wholesome and alcohol-free to take care of your face.

Hydrate Hydrate

Water is my best-friend ( not actually ). I always have a large bottle of water by my side to ensure that I am hydrated during the day. Water is the ultimate hydrator to your skin and can instantly make your skin looked refreshed, starting from the inside out. Our bodies are already about 55 per cent water, so when we re-hydrate what we lose, we are maintaining the balance. Water flushes the toxins out of your body and can also be used to help symptoms of acne.

Are you thirsty for better skin ? Comment below and let us know what your skincare routine is like!

First hijab-wearing Barbie launched in ‘Shero’ line

Barbie is getting an international makeover. During Glamour’s Woman of the Year summit, a hijab-wearing Barbie was revealed as one of the first of a line of dolls based on the image of inspirational women.

This particular Barbie is modelled after United States Olympian Ibtihaj Muhammad, who won a bronze medal for fencing in Rio last year. The doll wears the white fencing uniform, complete with training shoes, mask, sabre, and of course, Muhammad’s hijab.

Muhammad told the press that she used to make her own hijab for her Barbies when she was younger, and that she hopes this new doll will encourage and inspire young girls to feel included.

“I’m proud to know that little girls everywhere can now play with a Barbie who chooses to wear hijab! This is a childhood dream come true,” she tweeted.

Barbie has often been criticized for their lack of diversity and the size of their dolls. This inspirational line of “Sheros” is the company’s attempt at breaking that image. The line recognizes women who break boundaries and inspire the next generation of young girls. Last year, Mattel, the company that creates Barbie, revealed a variety of sized-dolls inspired by plus-size model and advocate Ashley Graham.

Other “Sheros” include African-American ballerina Mista Copeland, filmmaker Ava DuVernay, Olympian Gabby Douglas, and actresses Kristin Chenoweth and Zendaya Coleman.

The release of the Muhammad-inspired Barbie comes at a time where muslim women are being persecuted around the world. In Canada, Quebec’s Bill 62 law makes it illegal for women to wear the niqab or burkha, while oversees in Europe muslim women are being targeted for wearing burkinis on the beach. In the U.S., white supremacists are protesting immigration and the removal of confederate statues.

The “Shero” line will go on sale in 2018.

What do you think of this Shero line? Does it make up for Barbie’s previous reputation? Let us know in the comments below!

Woman of the Week: Cheryl Hickman

Cheryl Hickman is the founder and general and artistic director of Opera on the Avalon, a company in Newfoundland that showcases traditional opera and musical theatre. The company is dedicated to promoting work by female artists and empowering them through mentorship programs and gender parity policies.

A singer herself, Hickman was inspired to create Opera on the Avalon after being mentored herself. She has performed with some of the most prominent operatic companies in North America and Europe, including the New York City Opera, Vancouver Opera, Calgary Opera, Pacific Opera Victoria, Manitoba Opera, Canadian Opera Company, Florida Grand Opera, and Opera Français. When she speaks, she does so with passion and poetry. She wants Opera to adapt to the times, employing more women and engaging more youth.

In 2017, Hickman was appointed to the Canada Council for the Arts and is the chair of the Governance Committee. Women’s Post spoke with Hickman over the phone about the future of Opera, how to keep a community engaged in such a traditional art form, and the potential of women in positions of power.

Question: Did you always have a passion for music? When did you first discover opera?

Answer: I discovered it at quite a young age. My mom tells me I sang before I spoke. I was a child of the 70s. I still remember terrible 70s lyrics that should be out of my head, but alas, it’s not. My first memory is singing in a Kindergarden production in Newfoundland.

Were you able to get a job as a singer right after graduation or was there a delay? 

I did an undergrad at the University of Toronto and graduate work at The Juilliard School. Literally one of my mentors called New York City Opera – across the square. I walked out of my masters program to a job. But again, that was a mentor who believed in me and picked up the phone. I didn’t realize how lucky I was at the time. 

Why did you found Opera on the Avalon? 

The reason why I started Opera on the Avalon was because of Diana Leblanc at the Canadian Opera Company.  I was in the ensemble and as a young performer you didn’t really see a lot of women. It’s a very male dominated world. She was the first female director I worked with. I think it made such an impact in terms of how she worked. It was a revelation. It was such a rewarding and creatively and artistically and emotionally satisfying experience. I realized later I was trying to re-create that experience in my whole professional life.

I started also, because in my genre, there is little opportunity for women. There are very few artistic directors, heads of companies, producers, and little opportunity in the higher levels.  If you aren’t going to invite me to the party I’ll start my own. The company has evolved.

Power balance will only change if you act on it. And so, in the East coast or in Canada we are the only company that insists on gender parity. We hire people from diverse backgrounds. We also insist on parity in all hiring.

Why is it so important to insist on gender parity in the arts?

It’s so topical now. As a young singer, [opera] was a school of “if it doesn’t kill you it makes you stronger”. There was a lot of sexism and misogyny. It was an unconscious bias people aren’t aware of. It’s only when you are aware of the fact that people of power are all men, you don’t realize how much that impacts you. 

How do you deal with it? You don’t deal with it. You realize what the rules are. The person who gets fired isn’t going to be the abused. You learn very quickly that in the arts talent forgives all. Success is a motivator for people to look beyond someone’s faults and sometimes the faults are quite large and harmful to other artists. You want to work – if you complain you won’t work. You put your game face on.

What is making Opera on the Avalon such a success?

We embrace artistic risk. What interests me is that we are bringing a quality, high callibre to widest audience possible – especially attracting younger generations because that’s the audience we are building. If we are going to attract wider audiences we need to widen the stories we are telling. We can’t allow stories we tell to be only those of dead white men.

I think one of the things we do is you have to reflect the lives of the community you live in back on the stage. We did a new show “Ours” [about] WWI battle that has a tremendous impact on Newfoundland and Labrador. We are doing an opera called ”As One”, focusing on the transgender [identity] and young people finding out who they are and discovering at a young age who you are as a person.

Do you believe in mentorship? What do you do to help young women?

I mentor through a couple of programs, university programs, and through Opera on the Avalon. We mentor young conductors. The number of female conductors in Opera in this country is shameful, so we are working to change that. I often think there is an unconscious bias – men hire men. That happens with mentorship and encouragement. It is really difficult for set designers, conductors, and directors if they don’t see women in power doing those things. You have to have guidance from somebody that has that lived experience and can also speak about the difficulties and challenges, and encourage you every step of the way. I was mentored by some pretty amazing women and we have to lift each other up. 

Any final thoughts?

I guess what’s interesting, or what’s important is that for too long we have been afraid, as women, to speak up because it’s fear of embarrassment or retribution or contempt. And I think now is the time [to speak]. In the last couple of weeks you’ve seen how that is changing. Someone said to me that a young man got hired for something and someone said he was a boy wonder. The female equivalent is bitch and for me, that’s true. As women, we owe it to the next generation to speak up without fear of retribution. It is incumbent on us.

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What the hell is a basic bitch?

Apparently, I am “basic”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hundreds march in protest of Quebec’s Bill 62

Hundreds of people took to the streets in Montreal to protest the provincial government’s decision to enact Bill 62, also known as the religious neutrality bill.

This bill makes it illegal for public service workers, as well as people seeking government services, from wearing this any face-covering garb such as the niqab or the burka. The ban also includes the use of public transportation.

While the bill itself doesn’t mention these pieces of clothing, it implies a religious and ethnic target — muslim women. Very few other people wear face-covering materials. The protestors are calling this bill racist and hateful, something that is inviting Islamophobia in Quebec.

The protested marched down Berri St. between Ste-Catherine St. and De Maisonneuve Blv. One hundred and sixty groups from diverse backgrounds were represented in the crowds. They also signed an online petition asking for an end to Islamophobia and hate.

Bill 62 is being challenged at Quebec’s Superior Court. The plaintiffs claim “The Act gravely infringes the religious and equality rights of certain Muslim women in Quebec.”

“While purporting to promote the goals of advancing the religious neutrality of the state and facilitating communication between public employees and private citizens, the Act does the opposite,” the court challenge reads. “It imposes a significant burden on the exercise of religious freedom, and it does so in a discriminatory manner that will isolate some Quebec residents, making it much more difficult for them to participate in Quebec society.”

A judge is expected to review the case on Wednesday. If the judge agrees, the law will be suspended temporarily.

What do you think will happen on Nov. 15th when the judge looks at the court challenge? Let us know in the comments below!