March 2014


5 questions with Morgan Baskin, Toronto’s 18 year old mayoral candidate

Morgan Baskin isn’t a household name — yet — but with her sharp and fresh eyes on the mayor’s chair she is certainly a young woman to watch. We had the pleasure of chatting with her to talk about her start, her ideas, and her advice for her peers who might also want to get involved in their civic communities.


How did you get your start in politics?

In traditional politics I started when I filed my papers to run for Mayor. In more grassroots community politics? When I was born. I have always been active in my community, I was fortunate to have been born into an incredibly active family. I was involved in Scouting at a young age as well as in my church community and made my way through various leadership roles in those communities, many of which I continue to fulfil.


What needs to change at City Hall?

I could write a very long list of things but I’ll stick to the basics.

We need to figure out how to be a team and work as one. Divisive politics have plagued our city for too long and it needs to change. Anyone who says it can’t be done needs to find some optimism. We have to try to find a team spirit, otherwise we will be having the same conversations we have been having for thirty years for the next thirty years.

We need to trust our professionals. We need to work closely with and listen to them. They were hired for a reason and they deserve to be listened to and trusted to do their jobs. The final decisions are often made by politicians, and we need to ask good questions and query the results, but we need to respect the information we pay for.


What is the issue most important to Torontonians in this election?

I can’t speak for the several million of us, but in my opinion transit is shaping up to be a big one. Public transit, bike lanes, roads the whole shebang. It’s causing stress and safety problems and is strangling our economy.


What advantage does your age give you over other candidates twice or three times your age?

It gives me a fresh perspective free of previous political baggage. I am still at a period in my life where I am used to listening, to asking for help when I need it and admitting when I am wrong. These are all skills that I think City Hall could use. I think we need truly fresh voices in politics. I think I can be that voice.


What advice do you have for your peers on how to get more involved in civics and their communities?

Jump in with both feet. There are many opportunities to get involved. Pick one and do it. Whether it’s being an activist on an issue you feel strongly about or quietly working to improve your community through the various community organizations or even party politics. Do something that feels productive and interesting and makes you feel hopeful about your community.


Follow Morgan on Twitter at @MorganBaskinTO.
Follow Women’s Post on Twitter at @WomensPost.

How to dress for the job you want

by Susan Hodkinson

Mark Twain famously said  “clothes make the man,” and for generations men in the business world have adhered to an easy-to-interpret dress code of suits and ties. When women entered management ranks, the feminized version of the traditional corporate uniform marched into boardrooms all over the world: a navy skirt, matching jacket, white shirt, pantyhose, and sensible pumps. Oh, and if it was 1985, probably a little silk scarf tied in a bow. Red or burgundy. I remember those days well.  Not fondly.

Fast forward to 2014, and we are now the establishment. We baby boomers, being single-mindedly focused on our goal of corporate acceptance, and the journey up the corporate ladder, didn’t question many of the traditional expectations of how we should dress for work. We rewrote some of the rules, and put our own stamps on them, but clothes still do “make the (wo)man”, a fact of which we are acutely aware.

So what about Generation Y, our children, who are making their way into the corporate world? According to the Australian Centre for Retail Studies, “compared to earlier generations, Generation Y consumers … [are] the most ethnically and socially diverse cohort, [and] loathe stereotyping and demand to be treated as individuals”. No navy suits and little silk ties for these girls.

Jill is my 20-year old daughter, a university student specializing in communications who has her sights focused on the corporate world. Jill considered my question concerning how she would amend her personal style when she enters the business world. “Well, obviously I have my own style, but I admire the women who have gone before me, and I do want to be like them. I want to fit in, and show that I am serious about my career,” said Jill.

Debra McLaughlin is an image and wardrobe consultant with Images That Suit, a consulting firm that has answered the question “What do I wear?” for businesswomen for over 20 years.  Her advice to her clients in their 20s and 30s mirrors Jill’s thought.

“I would advise a younger client to look to some of the better dressed senior executives, and while she does not want to dress exactly like them, she will see that they have their look ’packaged’ and pulled together. If she is smart, she will try to figure out how to work that for herself, for her own age group, and for her own personality,” she says.

“You are your own brand, so you should be investing everything you can in supporting that brand. Your wardrobe is an investment in yourself.”

What about some specifics?  A few pieces of sage advice from Debra, a professional in this area, with some editorial comments from the writer,  who is enjoying watching Gen Y women making their way in the world in both her personal and professional lives.

Don’t wear worn shoes.  (Fix those lifts!  The sound of nails on a bare office floor … not pleasant.)

If you are wearing light-coloured clothing, make sure your underwear is not showing through.  Don’t dress provocatively or too casually.  (I am aware that it’s now fashionable to treat your bra as an accessory rather than a foundation garment, but not in the office please.  Oh, I sound very old.)

Casual Fridays – a minefield.  At Images that Suit, they emphasize “the third piece” – a jacket or beautiful cardigan over a shirt and well tailored, dark denim jeans.  (If you would paint your house in it, sit on the dock in it at the cottage wearing it, or wear it to a club, don’t wear it to the office.)

My conversation with Jill about this topic was illuminating and helpful. It is clear to me that the generation of women following us into the business world is perceptive, optimistic, and eager to be successful while remaining true to its own values and style. I asked Jill how she would prepare for her first big corporate interview in terms of image. She considered my question carefully, smiled, and replied: “I would definitely replace my nose ring with a small stud.”

Generation Y women will make us proud.

Queen Bees aren’t just in high school anymore

This week, for the first time in my entire corporate experience, I found myself face to face with what I used to assume was the mythical workplace “Queen Bee.”

I’ve read the studies countless time that analyze the prevalence of mean girls in the office environment.  A Zogby study even indicated that 71% of workplace bullying is women harassing other women, and a study by researchers at the University of Toronto showed that women who worked with female bosses were more likely to show high levels of work-related stress.  I understood the facts but, in my personal experience, I had never encountered any woman in the workplace that fit into this bullying stereotype.

This week, however, in preparing for the last few business trips going into the year end, I had the unfortunate luck of running into who I now refer to as “that woman”.  She answered the phone “Yes?” – which immediately threw me for a loop (what happened to hello?) and for the rest of the conversation, I could almost SEE her scowling through the phone.  Meeting in person was so disconcerting that I literally felt dizzy walking away.  The thing is, there was no crisis, no issues, no problem to necessitate that level of stress, so I couldn’t imagine what energy I’d receive if there was actually a problem at hand!

I understand the concept that women in business often operate from a position of power scarcity and in an environment of constant competition, and that there may be little incentive to help who we perceive to be current or future competition.  Another reason that’s been thrown out is that acting meaner and yelling louder can often give the appearance of efficiency when leading a team.  I’d like to share my perspective

When I see a “Queen Bee” who resorts to work place bullying to lead, get her point across, or establish her status in an office, much like high school “Queen Bees”, what I actually see is a woman who is lacking in confidence, self-esteem, the ability to ask for help, the ability to listen, the ability to accept constructive criticism, and the ability to delegate effectively – all key management capabilities.  I see a show of false confidence and assume automatically that it might be overcompensating for a lack of competence.

We can lift ourselves up without breaking others down, and we can be effective team leaders without being slave-drivers.  It is absolutely possible, I know it is.  I do it every day.

Why does my husband fall asleep before me?

It baffles me and angers me at the same time. My husband and I are tucked in bed. He scrolls through his Facebook newsfeed as do I. After around 10 minutes, we turn our iPads off, kiss each other goodnight, and prepare to sleep.

That’s where it all changes. While I am still making mental notes about what I am going to wear in the morning, I hear a faint snore. It doesn’t even astonish me anymore, but I still turn around to check. Yup, peaceful as a baby; my husband is always asleep way before I am.

It’s like every night he tries to race me and humiliates me with the low hum of his snoring not even five minutes into the competition — and it’s not that I don’t try to beat him. I squeeze my eyes tightly shut and force my brain to just think “black.” I stay cocooned in one position and try to relax. Yes, I make a conscious effort. While I’m trying my darndest to enter slumberland, my husband is asleep!

How does he do it? Why can’t I do it?

When I asked him how he bags the zzzs so fast, he said, “It’s simple. I just think about cars, and I am in my happy place.”

I suppose I could try it. I’d probably be so bored that I wouldn’t even have to try to fall asleep.

Fact of the matter is that it makes no difference as to how hard I try; I just can’t switch my brain off. At some point during my active perusal of thinking “black” my mind subconsciously drifts towards what I will cook tomorrow. Then I think about and the catty comment my aunt’s nephew’s son posted on a picture I put up on Facebook and then I think of a million ways to respond to him. When I’m done, I imagine running into him on the street and mentally prepare the cool and calm encounter I’ll have with him. Of course I’ll exit with a catty comment of my own.

“Think black, think black,” my brain abruptly reprimands me. Yes of course, I forgot about the black.

Right then, my husband let’s out an ear-splitting snore. It’s as if he’s mocking me. Exasperated and now even stressed, I squeeze my eyes shut again.

Um, now I’m thirsty.

I try to ignore the thirst that has dried out my tongue as if I’ve been traveling under the desert sun for hours, but it’s no use. I sigh and get up for a glass of water because if I don’t, there’s really no way I can focus on thinking “black.”

Back in bed and now content, I can refocus on sleeping again.

It’s working! My brain is blank. I’ll soon be joining my husband, defeated, but not beaten yet! My breathing gets heavier and my brain lighter — just then, my bladder perks up and reminds me about the glass of water I just downed. It’s really a no-win situation.

I head to the bathroom and prepare to be defeated again the next night, and the next, and the next.

Follow Zahra on Twitter at @ZahraPeer.

Follow Women’s Post on Twitter at @WomensPost.


Do you have enough antioxidants in your diet?

by Dr. Suzanne Bober

The term ‘antioxidant’ seems to be everywhere these days, from the front of juice cartons to make-up containers. What is it about antioxidants that everyone is so excited about?

Essentially, as our bodies carry about their daily functions they produce massive amounts of debris called ‘free radicals.’ This debris is in the form of unstable molecules that can cause damage to the body’s cells. These molecules are produced during the breakdown of food, for example, and also from environmental exposure to things like radiation and cigarette smoke.

Antioxidants act by protecting the body’s cells from free radical damage, or what is also known as oxidative stress. This is the primary cause of degenerative diseases, including heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.  Because antioxidants work in every cell, in every part of the body, they respond to just about all health issues.

Antioxidants play an important role in boosting immunity, such as warding off the flu and common cold. They also aid in improving digestion, lowering blood pressure, and improving circulation.

Marketing of skin creams and make-up today centers around antioxidants and their anti-aging effects.  Indeed, they do promote younger looking skin and are responsible for the youthful glow that seems to be sought after all over the world. Other benefits to women include relief from menstrual cramps, improved sleep quality, as well as improved energy. They also help to increase concentration and improve memory.

So how do I get antioxidants to start working for me?

I incorporate vitamins C and E into my diet by eating loads of berries and nuts, as well as avocados. I drink green tea, as it contains flavinoids and eat baked fish at least twice per week, as it contains selenium, both of which are antioxidants. I also make sure to eat fresh tomato sauce with whole-wheat pasta as it increases my carotenoid intake, another powerful antioxidant.

If I find that my diet is lacking antioxidants at any point in time, I will add supplements to my diet to make up for the deficiency. Speak to your health care provider about supplementation if you are unsure whether or not you are receiving adequate antioxidants through diet alone and start feeling the benefits of antioxidants today.

Beware: Over-sharing on social media can bring trouble

by Heather Lochner

Raise your hand if you are on Facebook or Twitter. And raise your other hand, if you make somewhat regular status updates on either site. And what about 4square? Do you check-in there and have that posted to your social media accounts?

Sure, we all like to keep friends, family, and tweeps up-to-date on what we’re doing and where we’re doing it. We post pictures, share interesting links, and broadcast our opinions and thoughts.

But step back for a moment. If you are on Facebook, is your site locked down? In other words, is your security as tight as can be or can ‘non-friends’ read and see all about you?

All too often I stumble upon a Facebook page where I can gather a ton of information on the person – their birth date, their phone number, and even they city they live in.  So imagine, if your status says “Loving life on the beach” and attached is a photo of you on holiday. Or if you are on Twitter and you say, “Family is all at the airport – we are heading out for a weeklong vacation”.

Think for a second, what did I, a total stranger, just learn about you? You just told me you are away. And yes, I may be paranoid, but I never post on Facebook or Twitter that my house is empty. I share after the fact, when I am home.

That is just a small social media tip I tend to follow.

I do use the internet and blogs for travel research. I love visiting to read reviews on the city I want to explore or the resort I want to stay in. I know they are people’s opinions, but so far I have not been let down by reading the comments. I also buy travel apps for my phone – ones that give me information on the destination and what’s not to be missed. And I frequently visit the site, where fabulous tips are shared on travelling with kids.

I have also used both Facebook and Twitter to find out information about destinations. Just a few months back, I asked on Twitter, “Does anyone have a recommendation on where to stay in Cuba with kids?” You would never believe the response I got. People shared and shared their favourite and not-so-favourite hot spots. I also learned that Cuba has very limited internet access (kinda nice to go black from time-to-time and not be constantly plugged in).

So, just be careful how you use social media when headed away from home. Think before you post.

Revenge porn — it could happen to you

My phone beeped. I was sloughing away on a location in the early morning and didn’t have the patience to be doing much more than getting my can of energy drink to my lips while making sure everything around me was going smoothly. Is this person in the right light? Check. Is the sound going to show up on this recording? Check. Oh, right, and my phone — I should check.

It was an old friend with a message asking if something was me or not and a link. I’d seen this phishing trick a million times, a friend’s account gets hacked and an innocuous message from them with a link is a trapping to get your personal information, so I ignored my phone and got back to work.

It wasn’t until a few hours later that I took another look at my phone and saw that the link wasn’t an anonymous or shortened URL, it was a full address to a blog purporting to show the best in real Canadian girls. My blood went cold as I clicked the link, I had never felt so vulnerable in my entire life as I did in that moment. There on my screen was my face, my name, and my body posted for anyone to see.

Beginning with guys sending in pictures of their gals to nudie magazines in the 80s revenge porn has gone from a curiosity to a full fledged industry. The definition of revenge porn has grown from simply sharing photographs to posting images and videos, along with personal information about the subject, online. Last year over half of Canadians owned smartphones (a number that is growing) and that means unlike in the days of yore we all have a high quality camera and immediate access to MMS, e-mail, and social networks at the tip of our fingers. Even for those of us who have no intention of sharing photos of any kind we still keep our images stored on devices with near constant wifi and 3G connections.

Many people report hacking as the start of their battle with revenge pornography — hacking was in fact the source of much of Hunter Moore’s stash on revenge porn blog, a site that shut down after it became so mired in legal troubles as our laws strove to catch up to holes in our privacy.

I wasn’t so fortunate to have a villainous figure like Hunter Moore to rage against. I had no idea who was behind this blog and what they were after. Close to a thousand different people placed online for anyone to see. Worse still I could see that my post, my body, had been viewable online for almost a year without my knowledge. I was still dumbfounded when I asked my friend what this was and what to do.

She was luckily more ahead of the curve than me. She gave me a quick once over of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act as a tool for me to use. Most importantly she had already contacted the host of the blog (it was created using a free blogging service) and only an email address that she couldn’t make heads or tails of.

A couple of quick searches on Google and social media turned up the information I needed. The email address was associated with a familiar face. An even sicker feeling washed over me. I hadn’t been hacked, phished, or duped – I had willingly given over my photos to this person.

Couple in bed with laptop and tablet

A year prior I had been playing around with various apps designed for dating and, erm, less than dating. Apps that are desinged with a primary focus put on your pictures are unsurprisingly a great way to have your pictures snatched. But I wasn’t that girl, at least, I didn’t think I was. I had only met up with a handful of potential suitors and of them the chats only got sexy with a smaller set.

The connection of apps, texting, calls, emails, and occasionally real face-to-face interaction with someone you find attractive can be intoxicating, and when you are conversing behind a screen it is easy to forget that when you send a photo of yourself our into cyberspace and receive a photo of another person in return that you aren’t playing at some sort of homemade porno slot machine, there is a real person on the other side whose intentions might not always be to get off.

Photos sent in the strictest confidence can’t be trusted to be deleted or stored away anymore. Pictures can be copied, posted, re-blogged, tweeted, and duplicated into infinity to the point where they are impossible to remove.

Once I knew what I was up against the road ahead seemed daunting. Lawyers I couldn’t afford preparing cases that wouldn’t end, all to get these filthy photos off the internet. But I did it. Not because legislation makes it easy or because I had any real tools available to fight for the removal of my own body off of the internet. I did it because I got lucky.

I remembered that, in my few experiences with this guy, he had mentioned his shaky immigration status and his application to be a refugee here to Canada. At the time it had seemed almost sexy that he had fled his war-torn Latin country right into my arms, but this little bit of information was my saving grace when I got him on the phone.

I let him know in plain terms, perhaps lathering on the good-cop tone a bit too much, that I wasn’t a bad guy here. I told him I believed him when he said it wasn’t him who had done this and it was a real shame that all the evidence pointed directly to him. I told him in a soothing tone that it would really suck if he couldn’t get this blog deleted because once lawyers had to get involved it would almost certainly lead to his deportation, and boy would I ever feel awful about that.

He stumbled on his lies for a little bit before I said he’d get a call tomorrow from my lawyer. After a morning dealing exclusively in cybersluething I went home, lo and behold when I clicked on the page once again expecting to see the shame of my mistrust all I got was an error page.

Not everyone is as lucky as I was, unfortunately. Real discussion and real punishment for distributors of revenge porn is beginning around the world right now, but we’ve got a long way to go before people can don’t have to worry about spectres from the past resurfacing.

I’ll never feel completely private again. In the time that post was online there’s no telling how many people saw. A lingering glance on the street could be someone who recognizes my face. A number I don’t recognize could be someone who has tracked me down. Even though the plug has been pulled on that blog the aftereffects will be in my life for a long time.

Baking midnight treats makes for the best date

Last Saturday was quite possibly the best date I’ve ever had, knocking a date I had on a boat when I was 17 out of first place after seven years at the top.

I met the boy after his family dinner on Friday night around 10:30 p.m. with a plan to watch movies and keep it relaxed and easy. We didn’t manage this for even half an hour before tackling each other – come on, we hadn’t seen each other for a whole week! After that we decided to walk over to the grocery store in search of brownie ingredients and breakfast fixings.

There is something about grocery shopping with a man that is so deliciously domestic and different for me. I’m rarely at home, so the food I keep there is limited to alcohol and condiments. My breakfast is usually limited to a coffee on the way to work, so the idea of waking up to a real breakfast, that isn’t needed to cure a hangover, was too tantalizing to pass up.

Returning back to his loft, I unpacked the groceries I needed to bake some heavenly gluten-free brownies and he put away what would be breakfast the next morning and the ice cream he’d insisted on buying.

As I mixed and stirred and poured he fed me ice cream on a spoon, which was actually cute rather than disturbing. I’m a fiercely independent woman and I can say confidently I’ve never had a man feed me, not even when I was sick and my ex was taking care of me in the hospital, but there was something sweet and intimate about being in his kitchen, cooking, and sharing dessert.

As the loft filled with the smell of chocolate, I curled up next to him on the couch to watch the movie and wait for my midnight treats to be done.

I’ve never been the kind of girl to curl up next to someone. I don’t bake unless I’m stressed out and I never let people feed me; I have my own hand, thank you. But this particular guy has me wrapped up in him. He’s brilliant and funny and challenging and he makes me want to be domestic, at least a little bit.

Maybe I’m growing up. He’s away for the next week on business and I find myself wanting to tell him everything, wanting to share my stories, and wanting to have him around; it’s a strange feeling to want someone just to be here. To be honest, I’m a little freaked out; the idea of an honest and open relationship that isn’t completely centered on the sexual chemistry is foreign to me. The sex is wonderful, but I had completely forgotten how amazing all the other pieces of a relationship could feel.

So, after seven years of wandering through relationships, stopping for one that broke my heart into a million little pieces, I have a real date with someone I actually enjoy being around with my clothes on. It’s about time.

Follow Shannon on Twitter at @Shananigans.

Follow Women’s Post on Twitter at @WomensPost.

How to fit fitness into your schedule

by Deborah Lowther

At the top of almost every parents’ priority-list is making sure their kids eat well, stay healthy, and keep active. But what about mom? We may think we are doing enough by eating healthier foods and popping a daily vitamin, but exercising is really the key to better health. Unfortunately, it is typically the first item to be dropped from our long list of things to do.

The people who are successful at fitting in fitness every week have a secret. They know the trick to squeeze exercise time into their busy schedules at work and hectic days at home with kids.

They schedule it. It’s as simple as that. The only way exercise will become a part of my day is to schedule it and make it important. Those who say they don’t have time to exercise are really saying that it is not a priority.

I was raised in an active family and have always understood the importance of a healthy lifestyle, but that doesn’t mean it has always been easy to fit in. As if work and kids are not enough, there are also the physical obstacles like a knee surgery and three pregnancies that can prevent staying active.  But you simply start again when you are able.

Once the kids were born, I became more determined to make exercise a priority in order to lose the baby weight. I decided to take up half marathons. I’d always been a casual runner, but this new goal gave me the push I needed.

My three proudest achievements are crossing the half-marathon finish line in three different cities with my husband and each of our daughters in a jogging stroller when they were just 8-months old.

I did whatever I had to in order to get in those runs. I started with a three km run/walk until I could run without stopping. I then added five minutes every weekend. Within a few months I was running for two hours and ready to try my first half marathon with our first child.

Twelve months later I had my second child and this time it was trickier to get out running as I am not a double stroller kind of gal. Determination paid off and eight months later my husband and I crossed the finish line at the Ottawa half-marathon with our second daughter.

When we had baby number three I wondered when I would ever run again. I got up early, I ran in the cold, I ran when I was tired, and I ran when I would have rather sat and had breakfast with my family. I ran to soccer games, hired babysitters, and took my babies to the local YMCA and put them in programs so I could run. Sure enough, eight months later we crossed the finish line in Quebec – with our best time yet!

Today, my daughters are five, seven, and nine and have already done their first triathlon and two family 5km runs – we are a truly an active family.

Choose something active that you enjoy and then make fitness an important item on your to do list, schedule time in your week, commit to it, do it with the family; make it your priority and it will happen!

How do you fit in exercise?

Revitalize your workspace with these quick and simple changes

I used to think that I worked best in a high-stress environment. After all, with the path I’ve chosen to take in business, it’s kind of a prerequisite to success. I realized, though, that while I’m often confronted with stressful situations, my productivity is highest when my pressure to work comes from a place of passion and drive, as opposed to stress and fear.

One of the biggest changes I made that helped me to work consistently from that place of positivity was to revamp my workspace, so that I could work productively for hours without feeling like I was going out of my mind. It all came down to following a single rule: if it feels right to me, than it’s right.

I spend a considerable amount of time in my office, so for me, a sterile vision of metal and beige just won’t work. Given the amount of time that most of us will spend living in our workspaces over the course of our lifetimes, it makes sense to make our them look attractive to us.  For me, that means vibrant colors, lots of natural light, a wooden desk, and a vase of fresh flowers. When I walk into my workspace, I feel great about it.  It really is one of my favourite spaces. The emotional response you pull from your workspace should mimic the way you feel about your work. I don’t want an office environment that makes me feel bored or overwhelmed. Peaceful, focused, alive — these are feelings I get from my workspace.

If my workspace is a mess, chances are, so am I. It automatically makes me feel stressed, overwhelmed, and disorganized. That being said, an empty desk and bare shelves makes me feel uninspired and a little lost. It reminds me of an Albert Einstein quote: “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk?” I like having artwork on my walls and meaningful knick knacks on my desk, and real reference books that I can pull off of shelves.

I’ve been known to burn scented candles in my workspace, but by far, the best thing about my office is the smell.  Real wood and fresh flowers and books and a breeze from an open window. I’m sure if I bothered to run the numbers, I’d find that it’s improved my productivity by a factor of 10. Scents do have a measurable effect on productivity. I think I read somewhere once that lemon and lavender produced the most significant positive results, but for me, it’s the wood and the books that do it.

There may of course be the down side of working for an employer who rejects the idea of these changes to a work environment. My reaction to that was to get a new employer — namely, myself! I live by the idea that my work should support my lifestyle, not suppress it. That, of course, might not be a feasible option. But why not do what you can? Clean up, add a photo, buy a plant, and relax! Work is a necessary part of life, so it might as well be enjoyable!