Monday, May 31, 2010


Istanbul is a city of contrasts. It has one foot in the western world, symbolized by the tall high rises on the city landscape, but with over 2,200 mosques across the city; the women, young and old, wearing headscarves and the chanting throughout the day, you cannot deny the strong religious and eastern overtones. And then there’s the pockets of poverty, where buildings that are crumbling and collapsing, are actually lived in and like any other major city, where street beggars, often children, approach you for money.

The International Women’s Leadership and Entrepreneurship Summit was very much like the city.

Organized by Kagider, the Women Entrepreneurs Association of Turkey, like the tall buildings, these women stood out. To be a member of the association they have to achieve a certain level of success and with their power and influence, they wanted to create awareness and dialogue about the important role of women in Turkish society.

And they are to be congratulated on bringing such a diverse group of speakers together – from senior ministers within the Turkish government, to leaders in the corporate world, to academics and a handful of “experts” from around the world.

However, like the city itself, you could not ignore the religious implications of being a woman in Turkey. Without doubt, the most heated discussions (and I mean heated) centred on religion and diversity. Listening through an interpreter made it hard to follow at times and it became so explosive that you could see that these issues are deep-rooted and not going to be resolved easily. It’s complex but at least the summit opened the doors for dialogue on topics that are not normally aired in a public forum.

While outwardly Turkey appears to be a progressive country , like the pockets of poverty, there are areas where they have a long way to go in supporting women. With only 26% of women in the labour force, the infrastructure is just not in place. For example, child care for working mothers is minimal and gender equity policies not developed or implemented.

In Canada our research has shown that the first six years of a child’s life are the most important in terms of learning. In Turkey, preschool programs for children are only for the few families who can afford it and the compulsory starting age for school is six. All of which has implications for the growth and development of children, and impacts their mothers’ potential to work outside the home.

Listening for two days through a translator, has given me a fresh perspective on what it is like to come to a country and not understand the language. It is hard to concentrate for that long and in not knowing the language, you also miss the nuances of what is being said.

All this to say, that I am still digesting all that I learned at the summit – about Turkey, the plight of women living there and my own understanding and acceptance of cultural differences. But one thing I do know, I met some fascinating and wonderful women who enriched the experience and with whom I hope to keep in touch.

And hey – I can now say I am an international speaker!!

Thursday, May 20, 2010


Recently I had the pleasure of interviewing Pamela Wallin, someone I have admired and respected for a long time. She started off as a social worker in the prison system – a far cry from where she has landed as a Senator in the Canadian Parliament.

When I asked her about whether she had any idea of how her life would unfold, she told me that her rule was to say “yes” to anything that took her out of her comfort zone.

I remembered her words when I was asked to come speak at the Global Women’s Leadership Summit in Turkey, because my first reaction was to decline as public speaking is definitely not in my comfort zone! Plus no pressure, Hillary Clinton was their keynote last year. So with some fear and in trepidation, I said yes, and here I am today, getting packed up and ready to go.

The organizers have sent me the questions in advance and I am glad they did, because the role of civic society is not something I tend to think about on a daily basis. As I look at the array of speakers in place – professors, diplomats and women leaders from around the world, I am trying not to get intimidated.

I’ve done my homework. In fact, I was still researching on the weekend and then decided to stop. I have to remind myself that I need to talk about what I know, as someone “in the trenches” if you will.

So stay tuned as I go global.

Monday, May 17, 2010


Did you know that Canadians carry out on average 143 searches on Google a month? Or that the location of Tim Hortons is the most downloaded information in Canada?

These were just two of the facts shared at our Toronto breakfast when Sabrina Geremia
from Google came to share the latest from Google.. And for those of you who were not there, here are the seven tools she recommended for small business owners:

1. Ad words
2. Google Analytics
3. Google Insight and Search
5. Google Enterprise
6. Moderator
7. Webmaster

Many of these resources are free of charge.

It is predicted that by 2013, the mobile will be the most common way to access the Internet.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Doubt be gone

As I go through the surveys recently completed by women who are part of the Company of Women community, I am struck by how many have told us that they feel isolated and suffer from self-doubt, questioning their ability to make their business a success.

It’s good to know really because all of us go through those emotions, and we tend to think we are the only ones who struggle with our confidence. Wrong. Everyone, even the most successful, has had moments of self-doubt.

The key is not to let the fear paralyze you, making it impossible to move forward with your dreams.

Whenever I have felt overwhelmed and out of my depth, I have called on my friends to bolster me up – and they do – just as I do for them when they need an injection of confidence. Think about who you could call on – who’s on your team?

And if my confidence reaches a real low, I go to my Success Box, where I have kept press clippings, thank you letters and other evidence of my abilities, and I read through the contents. They remind me of the skills and strengths I bring to my business. What would you keep?

When I was first working at home, I would consciously arrange meetings so that I had something and someone to meet most days. This helped to reduce the sense of isolation I would feel. It was good to get out beyond the four walls of my home office – even if it was just to meet a friend for coffee – it worked.

One of the challenges when you first start out, is you don’t know what you don’t know. I found reading business books, talking to other more seasoned business owners and taking courses helped to build my repertoire of knowledge.

Mary Kay once said if you think you can, you can and if you think you can’t, you’re right. Believe you can, and it will happen.

PS There are some great suggestions in our Company of Women LinkedIn group