PHOTO CREDITS LAUREN TOYOTA – PHOTO BY: VANESSA HEINS
TRICIA SMITH – PHOTO BY: CANADIAN OLYMPIC COMMITTEE

Power. In the inanimate world, it’s the ability to do work: mechanical power, electric power, nuclear power.

In the human world, it’s the ability to change the world, for better or worse. Its varieties include political power, military power, economic power, academic power, artistic power, and the most elusive of all—personal power.

This quality is hard to define, but you know it when you see it. Or rather, feel it.

All of the women you’ll read about here are harnessing their unique strengths and using that power to change the world for the better. They all saw a gap in the world and decided to use their power to fill it.

Theirs are stories of resilience, determination, fearlessness and passion. They all have that special ingredient and once they learned how to use it, there was no stopping them.

The tricky part for everyone is that life is a maze and we all have to find our own way. Open doors may lead to dead ends and obstacles may be the learning experiences we especially need.

Our Power Women all had to find their own path. As they did, their worlds expanded, and they turned their own lessons into gifts for others.

PRESENTED BY

Lauren Toyota

Where vegan meets comfort

When Lauren Toyota was a new vegan, she discovered a problem: the food didn’t taste all that good. She was lost in a world of smoothies and salads, desperately searching to satisfy her cravings. She didn’t want cold; she wanted warm, tasty and comforting.

She saw the niche, had the idea and needed the opportunity to make it happen. Like many great success stories, it was adversity that provided that impetus. After being abruptly laid off from her job as a television host in 2008, she found the motivation to make her side hustle—‘hot for food’ – her full-time gig.

What started as an Instagram account has blown up across many platforms (from video to books) and emphasizes nutritious, warm and comforting vegan recipes that appeal to vegans and non-vegans alike. 

Toyota is a long-time lover of food, which is why she felt so passionately about people enjoying their vegan food, not just tolerating it. As a child, she watched her mom be adventurous in the kitchen, and it sparked her love of cooking. 

Fast-forward almost 15 years from her fortuitous lay-off, Toyota has amassed some 38 million views on her YouTube channels and her books, Vegan Comfort Classics: 101 Recipes To Feed Your Face, and hot for food all day: easy recipes to level up your vegan meals, are best-sellers. 

And ironically, she finds herself back in the world of television frequently—this time as the expert—as she brings vegan comfort food to Canadian homes on shows like The Social, CityLine and Breakfast Television.

HOW DID YOU DECIDE TO PURSUE YOUR CAREER PATH? WHAT WAS A PIVOTAL MOMENT?

When my nearly 10-year television career came to an abrupt ending, I knew I needed to dedicate myself 100% to my blog and brand that I was pursuing as a hobby before that point. The day I lost my job in broadcasting I hit the ground running to work full-time on hot for food. There was no other option and it’s where I knew I needed to focus my energy.

WHAT ARE YOUR SUCCESS HABITS?

Don’t force yourself to do something you aren’t motivated or inspired to do. You can’t create when you’re not feeling creative or inspired so go do something else! Visualize the outcome you want. Surround yourself with people you admire and respect and who are pursuing life and career in a way you want to, as you are a direct reflection of those you surround yourself with. For the most part, don’t do things for free. There should always be some type of energetic exchange – doesn’t always mean monetary exchange, but ensure you are getting something valuable from the projects you contribute to.

WHAT WAS YOUR GREATEST CAREER CHALLENGE AND WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM IT?

I think the greatest challenge was when I lost my television job in 2008. It was sudden, unexpected, and certainly not how I had planned or visualized my career going. I didn’t handle it well. I hadn’t built any resiliency at that point. It took a while to really learn from it and humble myself, but it did help me and prepare me for it to happen again. And it was that second challenge of losing my dream job that allowed me to see clearly and see the big picture. I made the most of the situation—I had a better attitude. I had come out of this challenge before and rose from the ashes so I could do it again. My mentality was so much different and that actually made a huge difference for what happened next.

WHAT IS ONE IMPORTANT THING CANADIAN WOMEN NEED, BUT WHICH THEY RARELY TALK ABOUT—AT LEAST IN PUBLIC?

Time to rest. I think there is a general sense that you aren’t supposed to rest or stop or take breaks or ask for help. It’s a chronic problem and I myself am habitually wired this way too. We need to find and make space to rest.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE YOUR YOUNGER SELF?

Ease up, you’re doing everything right. There’s really nothing to worry about.

WHAT IS YOUR POWER WORD?

Resilience.

Jennifer Ettinger

A JEN OF ALL TRADES

Author, CEO, red carpet correspondent, certified personal trainer, health coach: Jennifer Ettinger wears so many hats her closet must be overflowing.

But it wasn’t always that way. There was a time when Ettinger wore only one: patient.

She found herself bedridden with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, an autoimmune disease that stripped her of her ability to work or enjoy life. After almost two years, she decided to take her health into her own hands, using a holistic approach to her recovery with an emphasis on spirituality.

It worked and as her body began to recover, her star began to rise. She became a pioneer in the social media world, carving herself a role as a “social media correspondent” before that was even a thing. She’s now a member of some of the most influential social media collaborations, including the Twitterati.

If you don’t follow her on the socials, you’d probably recognize her vivacious smile from the red carpets (including the Oscars) which she patrolled for ETalk and Vanity Fair, to name just a few.

Oh, and when she’s not rubbing shoulders with the Hollywood elite, Ettinger is running her two businesses: Fit Your Style Inc., a fitness and holistic lifestyle company and Pink Dreams Inc., a social media PR agency.

Her bestselling novel “Find Your Inner Goddess” ties a pretty pink bow around an incredible career, using her victory over Chronic Fatigue Syndrome to motivate women to embrace their body, shape, beauty, mind and spirit.

HOW DID YOU DECIDE ON YOUR CAREER PATH?

I guess you could say my career path chose me. My entire life I have struggled with auto-immune issues. In the 1990s, my health came crashing down on me. I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and wound up bedridden for a year, collecting disability checks. I could no longer look at myself in the mirror; I could hardly get out of bed. I became a shell of the woman that I used to be.

One day after staring at the ceiling, I turned on the tv to watch Oprah. She had a special guest called Billy Blanks, who created a fitness craze, Tae Bo. Immediately I was drawn to him. His light ignited something within me. I was determined to regain my life.

I researched everything I would find on CFS from a natural “holistic” perspective. I raised my spiritual game, my awareness, by working with a mentor. I created my own plan. Within one year, I was out of bed and practicing Tae Bo! A holistic lifestyle changed my life. Now, I want to make it clear; this isn’t a hardcore definition of holistic. For me, it is about moderation, movement, awareness, and a whole lot of self-work.

WHAT ARE YOUR SUCCESS HABITS?

I feel my passion for what I do fuels my success. Nothing gives me more joy than when a client achieves progress and personal transformation of body, business, mind, and spirit.

I also believe my continuous “self-work” impacts my career. I have two mentors what I work with regularly, and I am always taking courses to further develop my interests and skillset.

Most recently, during COVID, I completed a well-being course at Yale. Presently, I am back in school to obtain another specialist designation in Behavior Change and taking a mental health course at the University of Toronto.

WHAT WAS YOUR GREATEST CAREER CHALLENGE AND WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM IT?

My greatest career challenge was during a time I lost my inner circle friends/colleagues. They were my chosen family. My intuition kept telling me there was something wrong; they kept saying things were “fine.”

On one of the biggest days of my red carpet career, this group decided not to support the work I retained them to do. To make matters worse, one person kept feeding the others spiteful text messages that I wanted them ALL to fail. I wanted to be the star. This was ALL going down in front of the client in real-time—a total train wreck.

Thankfully, I had other friends and colleagues who witnessed this occurring and stepped in to complete the job. The bottom line, money, friendship, and a change in leadership roles can impact relationships.

This lesson made me grieve; then I learned the process of releasing with love. I had to take on more responsibilities, learn new skills, but I did it, and I also created a new beautiful community to work alongside.

WHAT IS ONE BIG MISTAKE WOMEN TEND TO MAKE AND HOW COULD THEY AVOID IT?

I feel the most significant mistake women make is the “compare syndrome.” Women can avoid this by honouring their own self-worth, accolades, and celebrations. Spoiler alert, what we “see” on social most of the time isn’t real!

Get in touch with yourself by going inward vs. trying to keep with others’ outward appearances. Self-work takes work! We are all works of progress, but there is something beautiful about a woman who recognizes her truth and flaws. Perfectly imperfect, I like to say.

HOW DO YOU STAY FRESH AND FOCUSED IN THIS BUSY WORLD?

I like to change the word “busy” to productive; it is different energy altogether. Productivity takes a goal, a dream, and breaks it into a plan. I use my planner, a daily to-do list, an outlook calendar, and a dry board as my organization sources. I also believe in the power of letting others lead. I don’t micromanage my fantastic team. They lead with their skillsets and gifts; I trust their abilities.

As for staying “fresh,” I hit the trails daily to ground myself, practice meditation and mindful movement.

WHAT IS YOUR POWER WORD?

Light.

Jordan Stewart

Sewing success one stitch at a time

Toronto-based designer Jordan Stewart is creating luxury fashion for the modern woman. If that modern woman is kicking ass. Her fashion house RVNG quite literally means revenge; a nod to Stewart’s perseverance and confidence.

She’s taking the fashion world by storm and that should come as no surprise; fashion is in her blood. Her great grandmother was a European dressmaker and her grandmother a seamstress, so she learned her craft early. She now uses bold colours to create pieces that feel glamorous yet wearable, with a sprinkle of whimsy for good measure.

Stewart began her fashion career in 2008 with several high-end women’s boutiques where she had the opportunity to network and style some celebs. But it was not a fully satisfying experience; she didn’t want to hawk others’ clothing, she wanted to make her own.

RVNG was born in 2014 and has since garnered international attention. Her designs have walked the red carpets of the Oscars and Grammys.

At home through the pandemic in 2020, while many designers were facing low sales and confusion around when the world would return to normal, Stewart was able to put together a stunning show at New York Fashion Week. It was virtual, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t make an impact.

The show—which she considers the most thrilling moment of her career—showcased The Beyond Collection. Noticeably devoid of any dark colours, it was an interpretation of life after the pandemic—an optimistic look forward to brighter days ahead.

HOW DID YOU DECIDE TO PURSUE YOUR CAREER PATH? WHAT WAS A PIVOTAL MOMENT?

Ever since I can remember fashion has been my constitution. It is for certain a part of my soul. I don’t believe that some choices belong to us, sometimes we belong to them. The runway and haute fashion have been a calling since I was a girl. It was a sequence of beautiful events that brought me to my home New York fashion week. I will show my collections biannually on the runways and continue to create fashion for as long as I am blessed with the grace to do so.

WHAT ARE YOUR SUCCESS HABITS?

I truly believe that success is derived from consistency combined with a deep-rooted passion. Every little step counts towards the bigger picture, one stitch at a time. It is an interesting journey to be in a career that has no direct route of success. Success comes from implementing your instinct, knowhow combined with respect for the process.

WHAT WAS YOUR GREATEST CAREER CHALLENGE AND WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM IT?

Taking my runway production to the virtual audience was very challenging It was learning an entirely new industry inside my own. That said, there are so many new rewards in expanding these limits. Since going virtual I have been able to build a global audience. My New York fashion week runway productions walk the internet all day every day, that is a truly brilliant thought.

WHAT IS ONE BIG MISTAKE WOMEN TEND TO MAKE AND HOW COULD THEY AVOID IT?

The “psych-out” can be the biggest downfall for a woman entrepreneur. I feel that we often think markets are oversaturated, when in fact there is room for all of us. We fail to see space for our ideas and creations. This is simply said the worst kind of mind frame. Always keep faith in your own abilities and that you can do something unlike anyone else. Know that we always have something unique to offer. Success truly starts in the mind.

WHAT IMPORTANT LEGACIES—GOOD OR BAD—DID YOU RECEIVE FROM YOUR MOTHER, YOUR GRANDMOTHER?

My mother taught me to always keep going no matter what stood before or behind me. That my calling as a woman is to be strong, no matter what. That my perseverance is valuable and to never forget to bend a knee in gratitude. I choose what defines me—no one else. Kindness to others is more rewarding to yourself than you could ever imagine. Choosing is just as important as the choice. To not choose is choosing, so make up your mind!

WHAT IS YOUR POWER WORD?

Perseverance.

Rabiah Dhaliwal

Young and on a mission

Rabiah Dhaliwal is an activist, mental health ambassador, former Miss British Columbia, Terry Fox National Scholar, and a 2020 L’Oréal Paris Women of Worth Honouree. Oh, and she’s not even 25 yet.

While most teenagers are enjoying the lack of responsibility that comes with youth, Dhaliwal was awarded the L’Oréal Paris Scholarship for her work as volunteer Vice President of the One Blood for Life Foundation, a non-profit organization that aims to increase the ethnic diversity of the National Stem Cell Registry. In this role, she led the recruitment of 1,410 stem-cell registrants and 3,350 blood donors.

The L’Oréal Paris scholarship prompted Dhaliwal to invest money in creating her own mental health organization, a passion project that stemmed from a dark personal experience.

A former beauty queen, Dhaliwal is proof that sometimes our outsides don’t necessarily match our insides. In grade 11, she struggled deeply with her mental health. Her deteriorating mental state led to a suicide attempt, which left her in a coma and recovering in a teenage psychiatric ward.

This experience fueled her fire to dispel misconceptions about mental health and illness and shed light on these “invisible” health issues.

She is now the Founder and Director of the Voices for Hope Foundation, a non-profit that challenges mental health stigma through intersectional frameworks. She has spoken nationally at the House of Commons where she testified to introduce a Mental Health Parity Act.

At the heart of the organization, she is building a platform to amplify BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and Women of Colour) voices. This is particularly important because culturally sensitive representation and resources truly matter in the mental health space, something Dhaliwal wishes she saw when struggling with her own mental health battle.

HOW DID YOU DECIDE TO PURSUE THIS PATH (MENTAL HEALTH)? WHAT WAS A PIVOTAL MOMENT?

I spent more of my childhood staring at hospital walls than school hallways due to struggling with mental illness and brain injuries. Some may consider this to be a misfortune, but it was a pivotal moment that changed the lens through which I viewed and navigated life forever. I truly believe there is power in reclamation and I am proud of surviving and clawing my way through adversity in a world where it often felt like the cards may be stacked against me as a Punjabi-Sikh and neurodivergent woman. I’ve accomplished things that my 14-year-old self could not have fathomed in her wildest dreams during a time in which I couldn’t see a future for myself beyond the present day. Because of my experiences, I garnered a passion for mental health advocacy and awareness.

WHO IS A KEY MENTOR AND WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM THEM?

I didn’t grow up seeing a lot of women in positions of power, particularly women of colour, so the few that I did see and know all served as mentors and inspirations to me in their own ways through their respective fields, whether that be medicine, the arts, or politics. The commonality between all these women who inspired me was that no matter what they were pursuing, they all did so unapologetically despite many adversities along the way and were barrier-breakers.

WHAT IS ONE IMPORTANT THING CANADIAN WOMEN NEED, BUT WHICH THEY RARELY TALK ABOUT—AT LEAST IN PUBLIC?

The pandemic has had a gendered impact. There’s been an increase in gender-based violence in Canada and depression and anxiety is about twice as likely to present in women as compared to men. There is a lack of safe spaces for women to express their experiences and mental health needs. Going forward, in a post-pandemic world, there needs to be women-centered mental healthcare in Canada, particularly care that is both culturally sensitive and informed towards the unique experiences of BlWOC (Black, Indigenous, and Women of Colour), trans women, and non-binary women. Canada is a diverse country, and it’s time that our healthcare system reflects this.

WHAT IS ONE BIG MISTAKE WOMEN TEND TO MAKE AND HOW COULD THEY AVOID IT?

Realizing their power and that their inherent worth is not connected to being somebody else’s version of acceptable. This is something I have struggled with personally, and it’s difficult to find personal fault in this, because it is society that often dictates that all women must fit a certain mold and live up to a certain standard in order to be deemed worthy. It is truly a life-long journey of unlearning this and relearning to step into your power and owning your truth.

WHAT IMPORTANT LEGACIES—GOOD OR BAD—DID YOU RECEIVE FROM YOUR MOTHER, YOUR GRANDMOTHER?

My grandmother and mother are both immigrants who came to Canada and sacrificed their own dreams in hope of a better life for their children. Today, because of them, I have the immense privilege and freedom of choosing my own path because of the groundwork they laid before me. Through their perseverance and sacrifice, I learned how to become the best version of myself.

WHAT IS YOUR POWER WORD?

My power words are “purpose” and “community.”

Lately, I’ve been struggling with finding a sense of purpose and have been asking myself, what am I fighting for? And I came to realize that I’m not just fighting for myself, but I’m here to be a mirror for those who look like me, I am carrying my whole community with me. These two words serve as a daily reminder as to why I became a mental health activist for my community in the first place. Learning the stories of young women who say my story and advocacy efforts gave them courage to speak on their own experiences, gives me the strength and motivation to continue my work. The power of community is a sacred one to me, and it is my driving force.

Tricia Smith

Fair’s fair

In the rough-and-tumble worlds of sport, law, business and human rights, Tricia Smith stands out. An athlete, lawyer and businesswoman based in Vancouver, Smith is one of the most powerful women in Canadian sport.

You can sum up her approach to life in one word: fairness.

The president of the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC), she is also a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). A four-time Olympian in rowing, Smith earned a silver medal at the Los Angeles 1984 Olympic Games, seven world championship medals, and a gold at the 1986 Commonwealth Games.

With her passion for the ideals of sport, she puts the athletes and coaches first and believes strongly in the Olympic values and the positive power of sport. Her legal experience has helped make her a pioneer in sport arbitration for more than 35 years.

Her advocacy for the rights of women is reflected in the award of the Canadian Olympic Committee as one of Canada’s 2021 Best Workplaces for Women by the Great Place to Work Institute Canada.

Smith made the team that would have competed at the 1980 Olympics in Russia. After missing the Games due to the boycott, she realized that the athletes alone paid the ultimate price for the international protest, while governments and businesses continued to deal with Russia as usual.

Elected to the Board of the International Council of Arbitration for Sport in 2001 after being nominated by the IOC Athletes Commission, she has been re-elected four times since.

Smith was recognized by the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women in Society as one of the “Most Influential Women in Sport” and by the BC Sports Hall of Fame for leadership in women’s sport.

WHAT ARE YOUR SUCCESS HABITS?

Many of my success habits come from what I learned as an athlete. Being focused, determined (never give up) and goal-oriented, all which have helped me throughout my life, especially when faced with challenges. My values have always been my compass. It comes down to integrity in all you do and respect—for yourself and for others. It’s also so important that you make sure there is time for fun in what you are doing. A sense of humour is key!

WHAT ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT TRAITS IN SUCCESSFUL LEADERS TODAY?

Respect and integrity are integral to credibility in leadership. Successful leaders ensure that decision making is rooted in those values. Also, vision and creativity, great communication and listening skills, positivity, encouraging and allowing those around you to shine, and an understanding of the critical importance of good governance.

WHAT IS ONE BIG MISTAKE WOMEN TEND TO MAKE AND HOW COULD THEY AVOID IT?

I would put it this way: Do not hesitate to get involved and to be confident in presenting your ideas.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE YOUR YOUNGER SELF?

There’s so much I would tell my younger self, many of which I was fortunate to have been told:

  • Education is never wasted
  • You can achieve anything if you put your mind to it—it’s just one small step at a time
  • Don’t waste, that includes everything from the physical (think about the environment) to the mental (don’t waste energy on the negative)
  • Include and bring others along with you—it’s not work if you do it together
  • Take every opportunity to master both official languages—at least!
  • Stretch/do yoga/stay flexible
  • Wear sunscreen
  • Learn to dance/golf/ski/try things
  • Have fun; laughter and hugs are also important
  • Get a comfortable bike
  • Always leave the place better than you found it.

WHAT IS YOUR POWER WORD?

Excellent!

Maayan Ziv

If you don’t like it, change it.

Born with muscular dystrophy, Maayan Ziv has been in a wheelchair since childhood. She knows first-hand the challenges of accessibility in Canada’s public spaces. It was her frustration with these challenges that fueled her mission to make real and substantial change.

That change came in the form of an app called AccessNow. The crowd-sourced, interactive, map-based app helps those with accessibility concerns navigate cities. Her main mission has always been to help those with disabilities live a more independent lifestyle, and the app goes a long way in achieving that goal.

Focusing on the accessibility of places like businesses, public transit, restaurants, and other public spaces, the app now offers ratings for spaces based on how accessible they are. AccessNow, available in 30 countries, encourages all members of communities to contribute to the app, allowing everyone to have a hand in creating a more accessible world.

Ziv’s app has garnered nation-wide attention, receiving a $2.7 million grant from the Canadian government in 2019, and winning Startup Canada’s Resilient Entrepreneur of the Year Award for 2016.

Always looking for opportunities to evolve, Ziv recently launched Access From Home, an app that helps people with disabilities stay connected during the pandemic. This directory of companies and services empowers people to get their needs met from home.

As CEO of AccessNow, she has become a central figure in the global discussion on accessibility. This position allows her the platform to share her message and push for changes in public policy as well as in the private sector.

Plus, by putting it in the digital space, Ziv has pushed the issue into the mainstream; connecting thousands and making positive change for those living with disabilities.

How did you decide to pursue your career path? What was a pivotal moment?

I started my career as a photographer. One thing I always loved about working as a photographer was the sense of advocacy I felt as a person with a disability carving out a space for myself in an industry where disability is rarely seen. That sense of advocacy led me to search for other opportunities to create awareness about disability in general. Accessibility is one of the most important tools for me as an advocate to communicate empowerment on my own behalf and for others. In my masters program at Ryerson University I quickly began drilling deeper on the topic. I never set out to be an entrepreneur but I realized I had a huge opportunity to solve a problem—the lack of accessibility I was experiencing in the world around me.

What is the biggest factor that has helped you to be successful?

I’ve always been a very driven person and a storyteller. I believe my ability to communicate passionately and raise my voice has been one of the biggest factors that has helped me gain success. Being an effective and authentic communicator has been monumental in building community, creating allies, and nurturing a movement around the importance of accessibility.

What mistakes have you made along the way?

The biggest mistakes I’ve made were often made in times when I was second guessing myself or ignoring that feeling in my gut that tells me when something is wrong. Intuition is incredibly powerful.

What questions are you asking yourself lately?

How can I make sure to empower as many people around me as possible to be their best selves? What can I do to remove barriers for others, whether they be physical, mental or emotional barriers?

How do you stay fresh and focused in this busy world?

When I feel like I can’t hear myself think or get information overload I know burnout is not far away. I’ve made a much more intentional effort lately to schedule time for myself for quiet. This could mean going for a walk, sitting in my favourite spot in the sun, listening to music, drinking a cup of tea or anything else that allows for some reflection. It’s just time to sit with my thoughts and not engage in consuming more information. It’s usually when I take this time that I gain some clarity and come back to my work refreshed.

WHAT IS YOUR POWER WORD?

Resilience.

Sarah Young

Harnessing her energy to generate change

Pow-er-house (noun): a person of great energy, strength or power.

By dictionary definition, Sarah Young is a powerhouse in the Atlantic Canadian business scene. Her energy, strength and power or on full display as she works tirelessly to foster economic growth across the country.

Young is all about sharing her gifts, using her unique skills to help organizations and entrepreneurs succeed and thrive.

Her latest project, Sandpiper Ventures, was founded by a group of internationally networked women who harnessed their collective expertise to promote interest in venture capital.

The Sandpiper Ventures women come together with a shared vision to radically change the venture capital landscape and ensure fair representation of women’s innovation.

The female sandpiper is known for taking the lead and establishing and defending its territory, which is an apt metaphor for Young herself. She is a leader who continues to defend her territory: Atlantic Canadian businesses.

As a managing partner at NATIONAL Public Relations, Young is sought-after for her strategic counsel and guidance. She helps private and public organizations across Canada tackle complex challenges.

As an advisor to RE$EARCH MONEY, she connects and supports Canada’s science, technology and innovation ecosystem.

She also lends her skills to help out close to home by serving as director on several boards, including the Trans Canada Trail, Develop Nova Scotia, Mount Allison University’s Board of Regents, and the YMCA for Greater Halifax/Dartmouth Board of Honorary Trustees.

WHAT ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT TRAITS IN SUCCESSFUL LEADERS TODAY?

Empathy, kindness; being a multiplier. Being a multiplier is helping the people around you be great – bringing out the
best in others and amplifying their capabilities.

WHAT ARE YOUR SUCCESS HABITS?

Family time. Finding humour.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE YOUR YOUNGER SELF?

Failure is a good thing.

WHAT WAS YOUR GREATEST CAREER CHALLENGE AND WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM IT?

An exciting new career challenge for me has been establishing Sandpiper Ventures, a women-led investment fund that was formed with the intention of getting more women funders and investors involved in venture capital. Through the experience I’ve learned that we have a tremendous opportunity to get women participating in this space and seeing themselves on both sides of the table.

HOW DO YOU STAY FRESH AND FOCUSED IN THIS BUSY WORLD?

Reading, running and travel.

WHAT IS YOUR POWER WORD?

Joy.

Sonia Jhas

Trusting the power of your authentic self

It all started with a giant leap of faith.

A successful sales executive in technology, Sonia Jhas was feeling burnt out, stressed and unfulfilled in her career. She got her nutrition and fitness certificates while continuing her corporate job, thinking that she could do this in her spare time.

But, when you know, you know. Fitness was her calling. With every client she trained, she started to feel her more like her authentic self. She just knew she had to take it full-time.

She trusted her gut and quit her job in 2011, and now engages an audience of 250,000 followers on Instagram. She offers tips, techniques, motivation, and encouragement, all with a focus on seeing people’s lives change as they find new ways to take control of their health.

Jhas has become one of Canada’s leading health and wellness experts, and that includes both body and mind. Having struggled with negative self-talk and poor body image in the past, she is determined to change the narrative. She encourages women to start being more kind to themselves by engaging in activity that makes them feel good.

She says that her love for healthy living and activity stems from childhood. She grew up in a health-conscious household, which instilled a love for nutritious food and exercise in her at a young age. She remembers starting sports like tennis as young as age three.

Her debut book, I’ll Start Again on Monday: (And Other Lies I’ve Told Myself), is a hilarious deep dive into the complex daily narratives that hold us back from experiencing happiness. It’s a how-to guide to becoming the best version of yourself.

HOW DID YOU DECIDE TO PURSUE YOUR CAREER PATH? WHAT WAS A PIVOTAL MOMENT?

Like many women, most of my youth was spent on the “hamster wheel” of weight loss. I wasn’t born particularly skinny, but I did learn early on that if I made myself suffer enough, I too could fit myself into a size 0. Sometimes I dieted. Sometimes I exercised. But most of the time, I dieted and exercised, which doesn’t sound all that bad. But I’m not talking about scaling back on takeout and eating more leafy greens. I’m talking about extreme deprivation. The cycle continued for years until my mid-twenties, which is when I officially hit my breaking point.

l got to the point where I couldn’t stand the constant yo-yo dieting, negative self-talk, and feelings of failure. I didn’t care what I looked like anymore; I just wanted to be healthy. I wanted to be happy. I didn’t want to have a panic attack every time I ate a carb!

I decided enough was enough. I started from the beginning and re-taught myself the fundamentals of fitness and nutrition. For the first time in my life, I abandoned the idea of dieting. I began eating better—and more—than ever before, and focused on small wins at the gym that focused on my strength and not my size.

It wasn’t until I decided to focus on my health and wellbeing, instead of my size, that I ultimately achieved my ideal body and subsequently my ideal life.  Somewhere along the way, I had also uncovered a very deep-seeded passion for health and wellness. I wanted so badly to share what I had learned with every single person I met. More than anything, I wanted to help people avoid making the same mistakes that I had made.

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST FACTOR THAT HAS HELPED YOU TO BE SUCCESSFUL?

I believe my ability to connect with people has played a significant role in my success. I mean real “connection”—the magic that happens every time I interact with a client or speak to an audience or share my journey online. my ability to articulate, in extreme detail, the struggle that so many of us face when it comes to health and wellness is what enables people to feel like they can actually trust what I have to say. That I’m not just some genetically gifted health and wellness professional who doesn’t “get” what the struggle is really like. I get it, and I’m deeply honest about it, and I think that’s what continues to make all the difference. I value my ability to be authentic more than anything because I spent the first 23 years of my life being anything but.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE YOUR YOUNGER SELF?

I would tell little Sonia to stop worrying so much about “making it” and start focusing more on really getting to know the “real her”. Being raised by high-performing South Asian parents, I spent so much of my youth trying to play the part of the “perfect Indian girl.” I was desperate to become a doctor, even though I hated science. I was desperate to be considered pretty, even though what I needed was to feel good in my own skin. And I was desperate to get married and have kids, even though I needed to find myself as an individual first. It was a perpetual race to feel like I had made it, and in the process, the real Sonia got left behind.

It was only once I had achieved all of the “ticky marks” that my parents had laid out for me that I finally sat back and realized I had no idea who I was or what I really wanted out of life. While I’m so grateful for the way the journey has unfolded, because it’s made me who I am today, I know so many of my struggles could have been prevented if I had been more in tune with who I really am.

Nothing is more important than cultivating your true, authentic self, and I believe my younger self could have used a lot more of that messaging while growing up.

WHO IS A KEY MENTOR AND WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM THEM?

I’ve been so lucky to cultivate close relationships with many inspiring women who have pursued their passions, triumphed over every hurdle, and built successful businesses. I see some common themes: authenticity, drive, work ethic, courage and resilience. These characteristics have been instrumental in their success and I continue to learn so much from them when it comes to getting clear on what you really want, building a personal brand, showing up in the world without fear and self-judgement, and bouncing back every time you hit a wall.

Often, as women, we feel like there isn’t room for all of us at the top. We fear the success of other women, because deep down exists this narrative: “if she makes it, then maybe that means I won’t.” However, as someone who has been truly blessed to have a network of strong, powerful women who have achieved so much both personally and professionally, I can honestly say that women supporting one another is a truly beautiful thing.

WHAT IS ONE IMPORTANT THING CANADIAN WOMEN NEED, BUT WHICH THEY RARELY TALK ABOUT—AT LEAST IN PUBLIC?

I think Canadian women, like all women, want so desperately to feel less alone in their struggles—whether we’re talking about motherhood, entrepreneurship, the corporate world, or navigating infertility (to name just a few). In this world of social media, it’s so easy to feel like you’re the only one who’s struggling. Everyone seems to have mastered their lives, and you feel like you’re the only one coming up against roadblocks and pitfalls. However, when you break past the online façades and focus on real connection, you see that everyone has the same longing: to feel seen, heard, and understood.

WHAT IS YOUR POWER WORD?

Courage.

Alessandra Piccione

No turning back

Alessandra Piccione was always aware of her roots. She grew up in an Italian family in Ontario and knew the stories of the mass exodus from southern Italy in the early 1900s, a time of great poverty in the region. When they arrived in Canada, the Italian immigrants wanted to find work and fit in, but they often faced discrimination and hardship in their new land.

Piccione always loved words. She studied English literature and was on a path to become an academic. At some point she needed a break and was asked to translate a play from the Italian. That was a life changer. Today she is an award-winning screenwriter, a producer, and a partner in S.N.A.P. Films Inc.

Her best-known film, Looking for Angelina, tells the true story of Italian immigrant woman who was convicted of killing her abusive husband in 1911. He had threatened to kill her if she did not work as a prostitute to earn money for the family. Instead, she murdered him and was convicted and sentenced to death. The storyline, which still resonates, shows how slowly attitudes toward women—and immigrants—are changing in modern society.

Piccione also wrote The Cuban, a 2019 film directed by Sergio Navarretta, her partner at SNAP. It is the story of a young woman working at a nursing home whose life is changed when she befriends Luis Garcia (Louis Gossett Jr.), a former Cuban jazz musician who has been living in the home since being diagnosed with dementia.

Piccione also produced the award-winning Over a Small Cup of Coffee; she wrote and produced the documentary Going to the Movies, as well as the film Il Bagno (The Bath), and the short Commedia for BRAVO! Among other projects, she wrote The Colossal Failure of the Modern Relationship, shot in Niagara’s wine country.

She is currently pursuing the story of a Canadian woman who was a mob boss in the early decades of the 20th century.

HOW DID YOU DECIDE TO PURSUE YOUR CAREER PATH? WHAT WAS A PIVOTAL MOMENT?

My career path was a bit unexpected. I consider myself a “recovering academic” because, at one time, I was pursuing a career in academia. After completing my Masters’ degree in English literature, I decided to take a break because I was feeling burnt out and starting to doubt whether I wanted to continue along that path.

I had been experiencing a lot of success, but there was this nagging feeling something was missing. During my time off, I was asked to translate a Pirandello play into contemporary English for a local theatre troupe. I speak and write Italian, but I’m not an expert translator by any means so the process was slow and arduous. I found my literary background helped me mine the nuances of the words and phrases, and, as I got deeper into it, I discovered I could get a little creative.

I will never forget the moment I sat in on a rehearsal and watched the actors say those words. It was like magic to me, and I knew I could never turn back.

Working on the Pirandello play was definitely the seminal moment for me, although it took quite some time after that to “un-learn” the academic mindset that had been blocking my creativity.

WHAT ARE YOUR SUCCESS HABITS?

My most important habit has always been to schedule three hours of writing time first thing in the morning. After that, I would deal with business matters. The important thing was always to carve out a sacred space for that writing time.

Since the pandemic started, however, life has had to become more fluid. We all work from home and my son is learning virtually, so keeping to a strict daily schedule has become more challenging.

Now my biggest success habit is carving out 30 minutes to an hour each day for yoga and meditation. Taking that time for myself every day enables me to stay grounded, have a positive outlook and have more clarity so that I can make effective decisions throughout the day.

I’ve also learned to embrace fluidity. Before the pandemic, everything had its place and time. Now, if business meetings happen in the kitchen, they happen in the kitchen. Strangely, this pandemic time also been an extremely productive period for my writing projects, so perhaps in some ways a more fluid approach to life can be more conducive to success.

WHAT WAS YOUR GREATEST CAREER CHALLENGE AND WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM IT?

I have found through the years that it has become imperative to surround myself with good people. The film business can attract people who are in it for the wrong reasons—like power, fame and glamour. These individuals are always focused on what they can get and dealing with them can be discouraging or even destructive.

At the same time, film is a creative business, so unlike many other industries it also attracts wonderful creative minds, people who are passionate about telling stories and about doing good work. I have learned from experience to seek out those creative minds and to surround myself with the people who do this work for the right reasons.

Now, when I come across someone who does not meet my values, I will minimize my dealings with that person or, if possible, walk away.

WHAT IS ONE IMPORTANT THING CANADIAN WOMEN NEED, BUT WHICH THEY RARELY TALK ABOUT—AT LEAST IN PUBLIC?

I strongly believe Canadian women need to know they don’t have to be perfect, and that it’s ok to make mistakes. We live in a society that tells women they can have it all—a fabulous career, great life partner, kids, a fit body, a perfect home and home life, etc.

Culturally, there’s a lot of pressure on North American women in general to handle it all with a smile and to appear perfect. But the reality of juggling it all is simply exhausting. There are a lot of women in the spotlight who make it look easy, but I don’t think that’s helpful.

I have great admiration for someone like Shonda Rhimes, the creator and showrunner of Grey’s Anatomy and so many other fantastic TV shows. When Rhimes was asked how she manages to juggle her career and being a mom, she admitted it was a struggle, because the truth is in order to be successful some part of your life is likely to suffer.

As women we should absolutely strive to reach our goals—just as men do—but I wish more women would talk openly about the never-ending search for balance. There is great value in genuinely sharing our experiences and in supporting one another. My wish for all Canadian women would be to abandon the fear of not being perfect and to replace it with a greater appreciation for all the joyful moments we experience along the way.

HOW DO YOU STAY FRESH AND FOCUSED IN THIS BUSY WORLD?

The best way I know is to practice yoga and meditation. This daily practice is necessary for me to function at my best. I also like to take walks when I can and to carve out some time with my son every day. Also, coffee is wonderful thing!

CREATIVE WORK CAN BE LONELY. HOW DO YOU STAY CONNECTED?

Get out there and meet people, find your tribe. Filmmakers tend to get to know each other.

WHAT IS YOUR LONG-TERM CAREER GOAL?

To keep working on projects I love. It’s important to enjoy whatever you are doing.

WHAT IS YOUR POWER WORD?

My power word is “Perseverance.”

Chrystia Freeland

CALL OF DUTY

Aside from being a classic overachiever, the Toronto-based Liberal MP Chrystia Freeland is hard to pin down. Her father was a farmer in Alberta, her mother a left-wing feminist from a Ukrainian family displaced by World War II. She attended Harvard, won a Rhodes Scholarship, and is friends with some of the global elites she has criticized in her books.

As a leading financial journalist, she worked in Russia and the Ukraine as well as the US and Canada. Despised by President Putin for revealing corruption in Russia, as a federal politician she has continued her fight against global discrimination.

Today, as deputy prime minister of Canada and minister of finance, Freeland has been dubbed “the minister of everything.” Her portfolios included intergovernmental affairs, foreign affairs, and international trade. She played a key role in negotiating trade treaties with the US and Mexico, which included staring down Trump’s trade negotiators, as well as Europe. She is the first woman to hold the finance portfolio.

Freeland is the author of Sale of the Century, about Russia’s journey from Communist state rule to oligarchy, and the prize-winning Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else.

Recently, she was named co-chair of the first Task Force on Women in the Economy to address jobs and gender equality in the wake of the pandemic. “We recognize an inclusive economic recovery is also a feminist recovery, with full participation of women in the workforce,” said Freeland.

“The COVID-19 recession has been dubbed a ‘She-cession,’ a catchy shorthand to describe the dizzying, regressive effect on economic gains made by women in recent decades,” according to one media report on the task force.

Women have paid a price for taking on more part-time work to blend with household responsibilities; for being more likely to work in sectors that are vulnerable to the pandemic; and for being front-line workers in education and health care.

A veteran international traveller, closer to home Freeland is known for not owning a car. Her preferred mode of transportation—the bicycle.

HOW DID YOU DECIDE TO PURSUE YOUR CAREER PATH? WHAT WAS A PIVOTAL MOMENT?

I call myself an accidental journalist! I had just graduated from university as the former Soviet Union was beginning to disintegrate. I was planning to go to graduate school in the fall, but I graduated in January, so I had a few months free. My mother was Ukrainian-Canadian and I speak Ukrainian so I decided to travel to what was then the Ukrainian SSR and see if I could do some writing.

What struck me very powerfully, and which I have never forgotten, was how quickly a political system could collapse. Ernest Hemingway described going broke as‎ happening gradually, then all of a sudden. The collapse of the Soviet Union was like that. An important life lesson in the possibility of dramatic, discontinuous change.

WHAT ARE YOUR SUCCESS HABITS?

I am a big believer in talking to primary sources. I like to hear from the experts directly, and talk directly to the people affected by the issues we are dealing with as a government. That is a reporter’s instinct, and I think it helps me not to get trapped in the Ottawa bubble.

I try to run four times a week and get a good night’s sleep if I can. My husband and I run together every Saturday morning while the kids are in Ukrainian school. We call it our “brain cleaning” time. And spending time with my children is really important—I call them my “battery rechargers.”

WHAT ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT TRAITS IN SUCCESSFUL LEADERS TODAY?

I think the most important trait for a leader is humility. And I don’t mean the “aw-shucks, why-are-you-nice-people-saying-nice-things-about-me” kind of humility. I mean deep humility, which means understanding that every decision you make is based on imperfect information. It means being willing to course-correct when you get new information; above all, it means a deep sense of duty to the people you serve.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE YOUR YOUNGER SELF?

Work hard, be sincere and take risks. Don’t require yourself to be perfect. You will make mistakes, and that is okay. What is important is to learn from your mistakes and keep going.

WHAT IS ONE IMPORTANT THING CANADIAN WOMEN NEED, BUT WHICH THEY RARELY TALK ABOUT—AT LEAST IN PUBLIC?

For privileged women like me—we need more help with the housework! The men in my generation do so much more than their fathers did, but they could still do a little more. To all the men out there—you will be surprised at how happy your partner will be if you load the dishwasher tonight and put a load of clothes in the washing machine!

For women working in low wage jobs, or without a job at all—financial security. Poverty and precarious incomes are a daily tragedy and a daily struggle. We all need to recognize that both are a reality for too many women in Canada.

WHAT IS YOUR POWER WORD?

My power word is two words: Team Canada.

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