Tuesday, May 30, 2006


Tonight I attended the YWCA's Women of Distinction Award Dinner. What an inspiring evening, as we watched video clips about the women who were receiving the awards, and later heard from them in person.

Several were strong advocates for the rights of women - to live a violence-free life; to be an elected public official; to pursue a career in science, or to discover their unique and special talents. Each used their acceptance speech as an opportunity to speak further on issues of importance to her.

The most touching story was of Beatrice, who seemed to overcome tragedy after tragedy from sexual abuse as a child, to being a sex trade worker, to the death of her young son.

Today, she is training to be a community worker, helping other women to get on track with their lives, just as she has done.

I admire her inner strength to keep going, to keep striving for a better world, for herself, her family and other women.

It made for a powerful evening, one full of inspiration and a reminder to all of us that we still have a long way to go before women are equal in our society.

Thursday, May 25, 2006


May is Entrepreneur month and last night we had a panel of women entrepreneurs. Each had started her business at a different stage in her life.

At 31, Amy Halpenny, owner and founder of Ella's Pregnancy and Parenting Centre, was the "toddler" on the panel, having started her business just two years ago. While she may have been the "new kid on the block" we all could learn from her business accumen and focus.

Gail Friedlander, of Images that Suit was the seasoned entrepreneur, having started her business back in 1984. She has grown her business from the basement of her home to two locations in Mississauga and Toronto.

Last, but by no means least, Margaret Sarrasin of MJ's Fine Foods, shared her story of how she started her business at the age of 59, baking her flatbreads in her home kitchen. Today, her products are sold in 3,500 retail stores across Canada.

A pretty diverse group of women, yet there were many similarities in the stories they told. Both Gail and Amy have taken an innovative approach which has been part of their branding. They are very much customer-focused and intent on creating an experience rather than just provide a service. Both had gone that extra mile to provide the environment that makes the customer feel special and of value.

Human capital was also another essential ingredient in their success and Margaret emphasized the importance of treating employees with respect; valuing and recognizing their contribution to the company's progress.

But perhaps the most inspiring aspect of the evening was hearing how they started their business, realizing how far they had come, and that we too could aspire to achieve such levels of success.

Friday, May 19, 2006


Forgive my silence - I took off for a mini-vacation. I'm back now but still in holiday mode and reluctant to burst that relaxing bubble that has cushioned me the last few days.

We went on a cruise - a wonderful opportunity to relax, read and I confess ... people watch. With 2,400 people on board the ship, we had plenty of scope!

What did I discover? Sad to report, but my main observation is people can be quite rude. Whatever happened to the manners their parents tried to instill in them? Clearly it isn't working. Few ever said "please" or "thank you" to the staff who looked after us; others demanded immediate service and when they didn't get the answers they wanted to hear, they turned it up a notch and had a temper tantrum! Kudos to the staff on board who had to smile, be courteous and tolerate such behaviour.

Don't get me wrong, we had a wonderful time. We ate far too much, walked miles on the ship to counter the extra pounds we could gain, and truly enjoyed the break from the routine. As a mom, it was so nice to have someone else look after me. A gal can get quite used to all the pampering.

Now if I could just get my husband to leave a mint chocolate on my pillow... it would be a start.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006


Tonight marked a new first for Company of Women. A group of us - around 80 women - went to see a provocative play in Toronto.

For many, it brought back all sorts of memories I am sure as we travelled into the city on a school bus. For me it was exciting to see members of our Burlington Chapter meet and mingle with members from Toronto. The play served as a catalyst to bring people together in a different way.

The play itself was thought-provoking. At first glance you would say it was about a woman in midlife who had an affair with a fifteen year-old, but as the actors played out their roles, it was more and more clear that this was about their marriage, their relationship.

And for Company of Women members, maybe it was also about broadening our relationship with each other too.