November Networking Event Recap

Last night’s event was exactly what I had hoped it to be. Passionate young women connecting with each other and broadening their networks. I recently joined the volunteer team here at YWiB Toronto as an Events Coordinator. I had been looking for ways to network and find women who were equally as passionate as I was about helping young women navigate the business world.

Guests gathered around lindsay johnson, our keynote speaker for the evening.

Guests gathered around lindsay johnson, our keynote speaker for the evening.

Our November Networking Event hosted around 50 young, bright women. We gathered at The Citizen, a great casual space for working professionals to connect located right off King West. The venue had plenty of room to accommodate standing conversions and had bonus couch sections for more intimate one-on-one talks.

As someone who is always on time (or usually too early, let’s be honest!,) I appreciated that many YWiB members were ready to meet and mingle with the first few guests who arrived. There is nothing worse than showing up at a networking event to find that there is no one to talk to for the first 15 minutes! As everyone started arriving, guests were encouraged to mix and mingle with others. The conversations I had with some of the attendees were amazing and really broadened my understanding of business. I work in the music industry but enjoyed that I was able to get to know passionate women from different industries across the city.

After 45 minutes, Sandra Riano, President of the Toronto Chapter introduced our keynote speaker, Lindsay Johnson. Lindsay teaches first-time entrepreneurs everything they need to know about building their business from the ground up. Thanks to a technical difficulty, what was supposed to be a speech about how to become a client magnet, turned into two intimate sessions catered towards two groups of women: first-time entrepreneurs, and young professionals. Lindsay was able to interact with us and answer our questions about how best to go about networking, starting a business, etc. This intimate setting ended up being one of my favourite parts of the evening. The opportunity to be in a small group with a leader like Lindsay was so insightful.

As the final part of the evening started, guests were asked to split into three groups to network further. Everyone around me seemed to be having compelling and eye-opening conversations with one another. During this time, Sandra did three giveaways from a couple of YWiB’s loyal supporters. A big thank you goes out to Tangerine Bank and Shoppers Drug Mart!

Ywib toronto team at the november networking event

Ywib toronto team at the november networking event

Reflecting on my first YWiB event, I am impressed by the group of women I was surrounded with. If you are looking to find women who will help lift you up, or who are facing similar challenges as you are, or who simply want to widen their network and make connections, then you’ve found the perfect organization to help you do so.

Hope to see you at our next event!

Meet Lindsay Johnson: The Radical Connector

With our November networking night just a few days away, we would like to introduce our YWiB community to our keynote speaker: Lindsay Johnson from The Radical Connector. Lindsay has made it a point in her career to help others build their business, and at our networking night this Thursday, she will be teaching those in attendance how to Become a Client Magnet in 3 Easy Steps. But until then, we hope you enjoy learning more about Lindsay and the amazing work she is doing.

What exactly is the radical connector?

The Radical Connector is a company that’s dedicated to teaching entrepreneurs how to grow their businesses and themselves! On the surface The Radical Connector is a business development company here to teach entrepreneurs the skills and strategies to build their businesses and make money with their perfect clients. Under the surface however, this radical biz is all about connecting folks to a deeper sense of self-acceptance and self-love for a richer life and more fulfilling business.

What made you want to build a business like this?

I’ve spent my entire life surrounded by entrepreneurs and I’ve seen the high times and the low. I’ve witnessed the toll that stress from running a business can take on an entrepreneur as well as the wasted time and money spent on working harder and harder (and harder) on something that isn’t growing. I started The Radical Connector because I wanted to teach first-time entrepreneurs “how” to grow their businesses effectively while connecting to their own inner biz badass so that they can build their business their way based on what has value to them.

One of the key elements I’ve gotten from your site is the idea of combining business development with personal growth. Why do you think this is approach is best when building a business?

Your business will only grow as much as you do. When we are building a business from scratch we are pulling a vision from deep within ourselves and bringing it out to the world. This process also brings all sorts of deep-seated gremlins out to play. Impostor Syndrome, self-doubt, self-sabotage and all of the negative stories running through our heads and keeping us up at night take over our headspace really quickly. Entrepreneurship brings the gift of self-awareness and growth, if we embrace it. Working on yourself will help your businesses grow so much faster.

How have you seen businesses fall short in this respect?

I’ve watched entrepreneurs work really hard to build businesses that are not aligned with what they really want to be doing. I think this plays into a weird shame or guilt a lot of folks feel around doing what they really want instead of what they think they “should” do based on what they “can” do or what will be the most profitable. I’ve also seen so many businesses compromise and take on clients or projects they don’t want to do or even accept abusive treatment from others for the sake of building their business. I’ve watched as entrepreneurs ignored red flags in partnerships, collaborations, and with clients or customers that almost always burn them in the end. But mostly, I’ve just watched entrepreneurs become unhappy and live with constant stress, disconnected from their own joy and fulfillment in their biz. When we don’t do our own internal work, it affects our business’s trajectory and the activities we do to make it grow

How has the radical connector helped you in your own journey through personal growth?

I’ve had to face all of the same gremlins that any entrepreneur does. I’ve had to overcome that voice in my head telling me I’m crazy, that I can’t do it, or that nobody cares. The biggest opportunity for growth that has come out of The Radical Connector is recognizing that I can’t do it alone and I am allowed to ask for help. Whether it’s support from family and friends, purchasing a course, or hiring a professional; building a team of supportive superstars who can help my biz grow has been essential. I’ve also learned to listen to my gut and follow my instincts when something lights me up.

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What are some of the challenges you’ve faced while building your business and how did you overcome them?

Money! Or lack thereof. Also, time. Like most self-funded service based entrepreneurs, I didn’t have much funding and I still needed to work full time to pay my bills (which seem never ending in a city as expensive as Toronto). In order to build my business, cover my operating expenses, and still put a roof over my head and food on the table, I had to make a lot of sacrifices for the first few years. I moved into a shared living space with cheap rent. I stopped spending money going out unless it was to networking events, business meetings or something that would put me in front of my ideal clients or collaborators . I stopped spending money on clothes, movies, vacations, etc. I asked family members to help support me financially with small amounts of money per month for two years so I would only have to work a job part time. And I left my full time marketing gig for a job as a nanny (that’s right…a nanny!) so that I could have more time (and less stress) to focus solely on my business. In short, I got creative and did anything and everything I could to focus on my business and grow it the way I wanted, compromise-free.

Was there any support available to you? If not, did you seek out any? What kind(s) of support?

There is not a lot of financial support available to service-based businesses outside of traditional bank loans. In fact, access to funding for service-based businesses owned and operated by women has now become a part of The Radical Connector’s mandate. I’ve seen what women can do with $5000 and the right business support and mentorship. Access to funding and support for women starting service-based businesses is something I’ll be working on in the very near future.

How have you been able to carve your own career path during a time when so many people seem to be taking that career route?

I’ve never been a corporate career woman. There was something very weird to me about picking a career from a piece of paper in high school and then building my entire life around my selection. I had no idea what I wanted to do at that age so I chose to follow my heart and do things that lit me up and excited me. That’s not easy to do when surrounded by super focused friends who are getting, what felt like, a big head-start in their professional lives. It was hard not to compare myself to my peers and feel like I was falling short. There were definitely times I wish I knew what it was I wanted to do with my life; it certainly would have made my life easier. But I didn’t want to sell myself out for financial security or to fit in with the status quo. I stuck to my guns and worked in various roles, always following what lit me up and leaving things that didn’t fit behind. Eventually I got to the point I am today where I get to do work that fulfills me, makes a difference in the lives of others and serves my greater purpose. I’m so happy I didn’t give up on myself and my dreams.

What role does your personality/personal style play in your do business?

I have been called a ray of sunshine since I was a little girl. To this day, that is one of the first things people say when we first me. Having an optimistic, outgoing, and caring personality definitely plays a role in my business. I’m also super strategic and my brain is always trying to understand how and why things work and how to get from A to B in the most effective and fun way possible. Add to that my open, authentic, and accepting demeanor and it’s clear to folks that they are safe to open up and be real with themselves and me about what they really want out of life and their business. Then it’s my job to help them get there.

How important is it to have a community, either of other entrepreneurs or women in general, in helping to build a business?

Community is EVERYTHING! Entrepreneurship is very different than working in the corporate world and if you don’t have a supportive community of fellow entrepreneurs you will feel lonely and isolated very quickly. Without a community of likeminded folks who are on a similar journey you’ll notice your own creativity and drive dry up. Being in community is essential to your own inspiration, motivation, and sanity! I have several communities around me for both business and my life in general. I tend to get involved with women-identified communities as we face a lot of the same challenges and frustrations…and really we just speak the same language. There’s an ease and depth to the interactions of a group of women-identified folks that allows for authenticity and vulnerability that results in deeper growth and connections. Being part of different communities has led to friendships, business growth, a wealth of resources, and opportunities I would have never had access to if I was trying to do it all alone.

How were you able to find your community?

Lots of networking! I love meeting new people, so that’s an easy one for me. Going out to events that interest me or where I know I’ll meet like-minded folks and then starting a conversation with a new face is how I expand my own community and learn about others. I’m also a member of a few different co-working spaces so that I not only get out of the house (just say no to isolation) but I’m also constantly meeting new and fabulous people. And finally, I’m a member of several Facebook groups, including my own called Rad Connectors. Facebook groups give me 24/7 access to support, resources, and fun conversations around the world.

What are some of the projects you are currently working on?

I have just launched a beta version of a new online program called, Irresistible Entrepreneurs Academy. It’s an 8-week virtual program that teaches entrepreneurs exactly what to do to build their businesses with their perfect clients. I’m really excited about this program because it will cut through so much confusion and overwhelm many first-time entrepreneurs experience and get them attracting the best clients and making money, fast!

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Entrepreneurship is a personal growth goldmine. You’ll develop patience, persistence, and resilience along with a deeper connection to yourself. Radical self-acceptance and trusting your gut will propel your business forward. And if you get stuck come connect with our kickass community of entrepreneurs in my Facebook group, Rad Connectors, where we support your entrepreneurial journey inside and out!


Lindsay has over 14 years of experience in the world of business development and community building. Born into a long line of business owners and pioneers, she is no stranger to the world of entrepreneurship. She started her first business, a neighbourhood babysitting collective, at 14 and hasn’t looked back. Never one for the corporate world, Lindsay has dedicated her life to learning the art of sales, marketing, community building and business development.

Whether running the show in her family’s businesses or consulting with small businesses on how to: connect to their target market; create high-demand products and services; strengthen their reputation and build a loyal community; or simply develop and train teams on how to become stronger in sales, Lindsay has a knack for electrifying businesses and bringing them to life!

However, Lindsay knew that entrepreneurship wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. She’s watched as folks have worked themselves to the point of exhaustion and burnout, wasting years and thousands of dollars struggling to understand how to build their businesses.

Lindsay’s passion for speeding up the learning process and cracking the code for rapid growth inspired her to create, The Radical Connector, in 2013. Now, she spends her time teaching first-time entrepreneurs how to build their businesses from the ground up. She has rolled her vast experience into a powerful system for faster growth and unshakable confidence 

Beyond Lindsay’s business coaching she also: travels between BC and ON supporting her thriving entrepreneurial community, Rad Connectors; speaks around North America on topics related to business development and radical self-acceptance; facilitates the Radical Biz Retreat twice a year; and is the Vice President of the Ontario Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce where she supports sustainable growth and business development programming for LGBTQ+ business owners.

Lindsay will help you get crystal clear on your deeper purpose and big, bold business vision and then teach you how to bring it to life!

If you would like to learn more about Lindsay and The Radical Connector checkout these links:

Rad Connectors Facebook Group

Irresistible Entrepreneurs Academy

Facebook and Instagram: @radicallinds

Meet Our Advisory Committee Members

YWiB Toronto would like to formally introduce you to our Advisory Committee Members. The advisory committee members will help us ensure that YWiB programs and initiatives are current and relevant to the communities we serve. We are excited to have these exceptional women as part of YWiB’s advisory committee members. Welcome ladies!

Diviya Lewis

Diviya was part of YWiB Toronto back in 2016. She was a speaker at the YWiB Toronto launch Conference that year and then joined the organization as the Director of Community Engagement. She then supported the former President as co-President, and now is proud to join the Board of Advisors. As a woman who has been in both industry and as an entrepreneur, her values align with YWiB’s and she is excited to support the growth of the organization. She hopes to advocate for mental wellness of women in Toronto, and share insights from her diverse background with the team.

Diviya Lewis, is a Mental Health Therapist, Founder of Choose Gratitude & LIFO® accredited workshop trainer/facilitator. She provides individual, couple and group therapy in Toronto in the Bloor West area of the city. A former researcher, she strives to connect the insights found in the field of psychology and psychotherapy with interactive and relevant exercises, and she conducts lunch'n'learns, psycho-educational workshops (for a range of industries including tech, financial, entrepreneurs, non-profits, etc.), and has spoken at various Conferences (i.e. Conference Board of Canada Workplace Mental Health Conference, Young Women in Business Conference) on wellness, resilience, and positive psychology.

Choose Gratitude strives to bring the insights from the field of positive organizational psychology to workplaces and organization through presentations & workshops. Choose Gratitude uses an evidence-based approach, disseminating research of the various factors that improve our well-being and happiness. Presentations and workshops are informative and interactive, tailored to unique challenges of today, and typically include both psychoeducation, discussion as well as a hands-on practical opportunity for practice of tools shared.

Project Gratitude is her latest passion project. Project Gratitude is a documentary web-series, which takes the form of round-table discussions on the topic of appreciation, and how it manifests within our personal, as well as professional lives. This initiative focuses on obtaining perspectives from a wide range (i.e. gender, age, industry, role, sexual orientation, religious views, attitudes towards gratitude) of individuals within the city of Toronto. The purpose of this web-series will be to dig deeper about issues that millennials face in our rapidly changing society (e.g. our fears, ingrained beliefs, challenges in relationships, social media landscape), and what role (if any) gratitude has in the lives of Torontonians.

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Catherine Vendryes

We are pleased to have another previous YWiB member as a part of our advisory committee, Catherine Vendryes. She served as the Vice President, Community & People for Young Women in Business Toronto. Catherine is a storyteller. With a background in digital communications and literature, her focus is on translating brand messages into artful communications to capture audiences' imaginations. She currently works as the Marketing & Communications Specialist at Munich Re, Canada (Life) and in her spare time organizes zine workshops. Her passions are community building, storytelling, and arts programming.


Rachel Kelly

Rachel’s first “real” job was a typical 9-5 desk gig where she would spend most days daydreaming how she would redesign the office and where her next adventure would be. When the reality of freelancing with an unstable paycheque hit her hard, she decided to make some lemonade. She spent a year researching coworking, studying the market, searching for an office space, battling renovation nightmares, 'till she was finally able to open her very own coworking space, Make Lemonade. Now she's on a mission to make sure women-identified entrepreneurs are connected with the resources to make their own lemonade.

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Chanèle McFarlane

Chanèle McFarlane is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Do Well Dress Well, a career lifestyle website for women. The site provides valuable content on topics such as personal branding, networking, conferences, style and career development. Chanèle also leads Confidence Through Conferences, a non-profit initiative created to get more diverse women into conferences and networking events by minimizing the financial barrier. Through this work, Chanèle has become a sought-after conference consultant for her expertise in developing unique programming and curating diverse speakers. With her experience in developing compelling personal and corporate content, Chanèle is also a member of Humber College's Professional Advisory Committee for their Content Strategy program. Chanèle is a passionate freelance writer and speaker and has been recognized as one of PR in Canada’s Top 30 Under 30, one of the Top 100 Black Women to Watch in Canada and one of the Top 25 Women of Influence.

Chanèle says The most exciting thing about being a part of YWiB's advisory committee is that “I'll get to play an important role in creating professional development opportunities for young professional women in Toronto. I truly believe that the women in our city have incredible potential to become global leaders and with the right programs and networks - they'll achieve it!”


Niduk D’souza

Niduk D’souza has been a nonprofit leader and advocate for over 17 years. From working at the grassroots with small community organization across Africa and Asia to large donor organizations in the UK and North America, Niduk has helped hundreds of nonprofits raise more money, think strategically and implement their programs effectively. In 2006, Niduk helped to build Kenya’s first free children’s library - Nguuni Children’s Education Centre. Over a decade later, over 100,000 children have read, studied and played here.

In 2018, she launched her latest social business, Impact With Intention, an online educational platform for nonprofit leaders. Taking her years of experience teaching and practice in the field of helping nonprofits both online and in-person she has designed this educational and learning resource for small nonprofit changemakers and leaders to strengthen their capacity across 4 pillars: Governance; Fundraising & Communications; Project Management and; Monitoring & Evaluation.

Niduk has also recently joined the leadership team at UP Fundraising, where she is leading a new division focused on fundraising strategy and stewardship.

Previously, Niduk founded and ran an international development consulting practice working global across all major development focus areas. In 2018, her practice was acquired by PGM Africa. She has also served on the boards of a number of nonprofits from development charities such as The Haller Foundation, Livingstone Tanzania Trust to arts based nonprofits such as The Red Betty Theatre.

Earning the Max Rotman Humanitarian Award, Niduk is also recognized as a community influencer for visible minorities and women by the Canadian Armed Forces.

Niduk holds a Bachelor of Arts specializing in Industrial Relations from McMaster University. She conducted a review of minimum wage policy in Ontario for the Ministry of Labour. She continued further academic work in worker’s rights, economics and law, at the London School of Economics and Political Science earning a Masters in (Economics) International Management and a Masters in Research Methodology and Statistics at Middlesex University while pursuing her doctoral research. Most recently she completed a case study on Coal Mining in Mozambique and the Leading of Nonviolent Social Movements at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. She has published and presented at numerous conferences.


Rita Houkayem

From Canada’s most cosmopolitan city, Rita is a proud Torontonian but also a spirited global citizen on a mission to positively impact youth and women through her work and activities. With a Master’s degree in International Affairs specializing in International Development Policy, she currently works for the Government of Canada at the Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development as a Policy Analyst. She focuses on various issues and programs related to Internet governance and Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) and works with different international organizations to empower communities and girls in accessing ICTs. She has also been recently nominated as a focal point to ensure that Canadian policies developed in the Department are gender-sensitive and inclusive of all groups of people. Rita had the recent opportunity to work at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris as an international development consultant, providing support in programs and publications on gender equality and comprehensive sexuality education.

Rita’s globetrotting nature, adventurous spirit and polyglot skills (English, French, Arabic and Spanish) have been enriched through her constant encounters with dazzling cultures, remarkable people and astonishing places. While she considers herself a citizen of the world, she is also an active leader in her local communities and has founded a national chapter which seeks to promote her culture and connect her diasporic community together. She is also the United Nations DPI/NGO Representative for her cultural organization and promotes its initiatives at the UN platform in New York.

She is currently a Miss Universe Canada 2018 National Finalist and will be representing Canada internationally in the coming months in Colombia. Through this experience, she has won the Humanitarian Award for successfully engaging her community in raising awareness and funds for SOS Children’s Villages, an international charity she holds very dear to her heart. She is currently an SOS Ambassador and continues to do a lot of advocacy and charity work for orphaned and abandoned children. Her years in pageantry have surrounded her by brilliant-minded women and remarkable opportunities for self-growth. Through her experiences, she has had various opportunities to mentor women and is really looking forward to developing and engaging with the Young Women in Business!

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has”. With that in mind, Rita hopes to become an influential leader for her community, country and world and believes that she can reach her goals successfully with an army of strong ambitious women by her side. Thrilled to have YWiB be part of that journey!

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Janelle Chalouhi

Janelle Chalouhi has an extensive background in nonprofit management and fundraising consulting across the globe. Currently the Head of Business Development at Communitech, Janelle is responsible for private revenue generation for the organization. Prior to that Janelle was at the University of Waterloo where she was the Director of Principal Gifts responsible for any philanthropic partnerships that exceeded $1 million.

In the years before 2013, Janelle was Assistant Director to the Medical Director at St. George University Medical Center in Beirut, Lebanon. Also in Beirut she was Founder and CEO of her own Fundraising and nonprofit management consulting firm (Addo International Consulting). From 2003 to 2009 Janelle lived in NYC where she was Director of a Capital Campaign at Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY and Executive Director of the Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital Foundation in Valhalla NY. Before 2003, Janelle also worked for CCS Fundraising a PR and fundraising firm out of NY where she worked on both the Archdiocese of Washington DC and Boston Campaigns.

A graduate of the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts (a private Jesuit University) with a double major in Political Science and Studio Art. A Masters in Business Journalism from Hofstra University.

Born in Chatham Ontario, Janelle and her family are happy to have moved home and now reside in Waterloo Ontario.

Social link:

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We would like to thank these wonderful women for sharing their insights and expertise with us, and the YWiB Community.
Welcome to our Advisory Committee!

Margaret Saliba

Margaret always had a passion for writing and recently accomplished one of her goals to start a lifestyle blog. She is interested in strengthening her knowledge in Digital Marketing, Social Media, and turning her lifelong passion for learning into a career. 

Follow Margaret on IG and Twitter!

Personal Presentation for Success: Roxana Radulescu

Next week we will be holding our Personal Presentation for Success: A Public Speak Workshop, so we thought it was a great time to introduce you to our facilitators. First up is Roxana Radulescu, the Founder of All Personal, a bespoke training and coaching agency, as well as host of the All Personal Podcast. We sat down with Roxana to find out a little more about our workshop warrior.

How did you discover your interest in public speaking/personal skills development?

I was an IT trainer for an international law firm (about 15 years ago). And one day I had to do a mini-training session for all the lawyers in our office – in 5 minutes. On Excel! I remember I worked for those 5 minutes about 5 hours to make it easy to understand, engaging and fun! And it was. Imagine a room of about 30 lawyers, eyes on you. Imagine you speak about Excel. Imagine they laugh and shake their heads in understanding. And now imagine they ask for a next one. That’s when I knew I loved presenting. And then I went for learning & development, creating and designing ‘soft’ skills courses and having such a great time doing that! To me, it’s easy: presenting and public speaking are the same as providing services. If there’s value in what you give, people will love it. And you will love it more.

Thus far in your career, what would you say are some of your lessons learned?

Biggest lesson: asking questions is the ultimate proof of really listening to someone! And it’s one exercise I am practicing each day, because good questions at the right time are sometimes all we need, especially when we want to work well with others.


Why do you think communication skills are important, especially when it comes to the workplace?

Communication skills are at the core of what makes us human. The better we’re able to communicate our wants and needs, and the more we’re able to depict them from others around us, the better our relationships are. The better our relationships, the better the quality of our lives, because, ultimately, we are ‘social animals’ – both at work and at home. We all crave to be heard, understood and accepted. Or, better yet, loved.

Given your experience training executives and professionals, when it comes to communication, what is one mistake you often see women making?

Not communicating – their expectations, their ideas, their wishes, their refusals, their frustrations, their needs. Not communicating and trying to fix the problem themselves, before anyone else knows there even is a problem.

What advice would you give to women either starting out in their career or making a transition?

I don’t like to give advice, I love asking questions. ‘If you had a Superpower, what would it be? What would you do, how would you walk, how would you talk? Who would you be? How much of that power is already in you now? Who are You and what do you really want for Yourself?’

Roxana Radulescu is the Founder of All Personal, a bespoke training and coaching agency. She helps individuals (re)discover and work-out their personal skills ‘muscles’, so they increase their self-awareness and improve their confidence, impact, relationships, and ultimately, quality of life. She trains and coaches executives, business owners and professionals on practical techniques that they can easily apply in any area of their life, with a strong focus on communication (verbal and non-verbal), change, feedback, presenting & speaking, team & self-management, teamwork, leadership, coaching & mentoring.

Women in STEM Recap


While an increasingly larger number of women are choosing to pursue degrees in the traditionally male-dominated STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) the percentage of women actually working in these fields has not changed much in the last three decades. There has been much research into the reasons behind these stagnant numbers, yet many of the forces keeping women from progressing remain invisible from the outside. With the recent rise of movements like #metoo and #timesup, issues of blatant harassment and discrimination have been brought to the media spotlight.  But there are also deeper, more implicit issues embedded within organizations such as gender stereotyping, implicit bias and even women holding themselves back.

As I walked out of the elevators into the beautiful space provided by Telus Digital for the STEM Panel hosted by Young Women in Business, I couldn’t help but wonder: What am I going to learn today that I don’t already know?

After my pre-event duties as part of the organizing committee, I settled into my seat amongst the crowd which, I happily noted, was very diverse. People of all ages, genders and career paths had come out to listen to the wisdom departed by the panelists.

This, to me, was enough evidence these issues we tend to associate with women actually indirectly affect everyone. It speaks to the importance of having colleagues and friends from all walks of life in one’s support system. At the front of the room sat our accomplished, professional panelists – Dr. Ilana MacDonald, Abhilasha Bhatia, Barbara Robinson and Dr. Sarah Mayes-Tang.

Who were the panelists?

Check out these blog posts to learn more about the panelists:

Ruth Fernandez, MAPC

Dr. Ilana MacDonald

Abhilasha Bhatia

Barbara A. Robinson, M.A.Sc., P.Eng.,

Dr. Sarah Mayes-Tang

The conversation, moderated by Ruth Fernandez, covered a wide range of topics that ranged from anecdotal experiences of discrimination in the workplace, to tips and strategies on how to overcome these obstacles in the workplace. Amidst jokes about sewage systems, Barbara talked about starting off as an engineer and eventually becoming so good at her job she was able to start a company of her own. That, to me, is the definition of perseverance and her passion for her work is something that I strive to have in my own life.

When the impressively-dressed Dr. Sarah Mayes-Tang mentioned she second guesses the way she dresses out of fear that she won’t be taken seriously, I wanted to stand up and say “hey me too”. As ridiculous as it might seem, it made me realize women tend to think about things that wouldn’t even cross a man’s mind! The conversation continued with Dr. Ilana MacDonald confirming that, “No, all astrophysicists do not act or talk like the guys from the Big Bang Theory”.  Dr. MacDonald went on to discuss all the stereotypes she constantly has to dispel around both astrophysics and being a woman in astrophysics.

While I learned something from each panelist, the one thing that resonated with me the most was when Abhilasha Bhatia was asked how she handles being an introvert in a job that requires collaboration. She gracefully replied, “You don’t have to be loud to do your job, right?”  The applause from the audience was awe-inspiring and reaffirmed for me that there is nothing wrong in being yourself, as you are. I think this is something women especially tend to struggle with and will often change how they behave to fit certain expectations in the workplace. In fact, I have even been told to speak up more during meetings at work because “that’s what great leaders do”.

As I walked out of the event that day, I thought to myself, I should have more discussions about these kinds of topics with both male and female colleagues. I might just surprise myself with all there is to learn and how shared our experiences can be.   

Parting thoughts

The panel noted how everyone, even accomplished women, will suffer from imposter syndrome quite often. They said that we all need to tell each other how great we are doing, and the great job we do everyday, and to recognize each other’s efforts as often as possible.

The panel reinforced the need to have a support network. Whether they are your friends, family or like-minded colleagues, they recommended to rely and uplift one another. They noted that there will be difficult times when you’d want to leave the industry altogether, but that having this support system and sounding board will help you persevere in the field you love.

Learning More

YWiB created a handbook with resources to support you, our community, as you continue to forge ahead and take action in your career. The dropbox link is below:

Please also utilize this folder containing resources from Canada Business Ontario.

You’re welcome to share this information with anyone.

Women in STEM: Barbara Robinson


What made you want to participate in this panel discussion?

I was moved to participate in this panel because it is essential that we get more women in STEM fields. Women think differently than men so we have a great deal to add to the conversation. However, working in a STEM field is not for the faint of heart. There are many reasons why it is more challenging to be female. Indeed, many studies have shown that women who graduate engineering leave the profession within 5 to 7 years, citing lack of acceptance, opportunity, respect, etc. I’d like women considering STEM fields to be aware of this.

What are some things you do outside of work to help you develop personally and professionally?

Well, I am naturally a jock so keeping up with sports was easy for me, but almost essential in STEM fields. I took golf lessons early in my career and golf about as well as the average men in my field. I also play hockey (which I have done all my life) so organized company hockey clubs as well as client hockey challenges, which again helped me to be one of the “guys”. This won’t be as important for younger women, but a lot of work gets done on the golf course. Long-term, I have many friendships in my field, mostly with men (necessarily). I have intentionally reached out to other senior women for a support network, but in my cohort, we were very few. I do an awful lot of volunteering. I maintain a balanced life, which is important in any career.

What has been the biggest learning curve in your career?

As I progressed in my career, I realized that being a woman in charge of men was always going to be problematic for some men. When I reached the “pinnacle” of my career (City Engineer for Kitchener), it became obvious that being female was a real detriment to succeeding. Also, on numerous occasions I went to HR with concerns over how I was being treated. It never worked out well. Also, how to deflect male advances without making a scene. Hopefully, in this day and age, that is changing. Now that I run my own company, I don’t (much) have to deal with these things.

When you think about your journey thus far, what would you say was the one trait that helped you get you to where you are today?

One trait that has worked for me was that I am naturally assertive. However, a woman who is assertive is considered “bossy” or “bitchy” as opposed to a natural leader, as a man would be perceived. I was told as much by very senior management in one of my senior roles. Not being assertive will probably result in not getting those promotions, but it’s a two-edged sword. But, regardless of anything else, always be kind to everyone around you, from the cleaners to the admin staff. That is the true test of character.

What advice would you give to other women working in STEM?

Do it!  Just be prepared, form a network of support, ask for help, work hard, and you’ll get there… Make sure you marry someone who believes in true equality (e.g. emotional energy of running a household and raising kids) 😊

Who do you look up to, and why?

Catherine Fife, MPP for Waterloo; my best friend (not in STEM) who is a beautiful soul, people who are actively involved in community, my sister-in-law.

Barbara A. Robinson, M.A.Sc., P.Eng., established Norton Engineering Inc. in 2015 following a successful 25-year private sector career and highlighted by two years as City Engineer for Kitchener.  Norton initiated the ongoing “Addressing Unacceptable Inflow and Infiltration (I/I) in New Subdivisions”, which is currently gaining national attention; she has given dozens of presentations on the topic.  She functions as senior QA/QC on Halton Region’s Downspout Disconnection projects and the Fort Erie Pollution Control Plan.  She has provided ongoing wastewater engineering services for the Township of Woolwich since 2001. Norton was works regularly with the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction (ICLR) to undertake various projects, including a long-term project to calculate the “Societal Costs of I/I” and “Engineering Data and Flood Risk”. Barbara is currently Chairwoman of the CSA committee to develop a new national Basement Flood Protection Guideline (expected to evolve into a Standard), which was just posted for public review.  She sits on the WEAO Collections Systems Committee, ICLR Municipal Advisory Committee, and advises on the Durham Climate Resistance Standard for New Houses and the new BC Housing Standard. She also works for NRC and SCC.

Barbara works as a paid infrastructure columnist with CBC Radio, speaking on a wide range of infrastructure and engineering issues such as sewers, flooding, potholes & water towers. The column is regularly delivered on CBC Radio’s morning shows across Ontario.

Women in STEM: Abhilasha Bhatia


What made you want to participate in this panel discussion?

I have found myself at the center of "Women in STEM" topic for over a decade now. I started observing the disparity in gender while I was pursuing my Bachelor's in Technology degree. It was annoying to get attention for being a woman in tech rather than being a student willing to gain knowledge and grow. This only became more stark when I pursued higher studies and worked alongside, mostly male, colleagues. I wonder why gender difference is even a thing when everyone is working towards the same goal. But unfortunately it is at the workplaces. I want to participate in the panel to discuss and throw light on some of the challenges that I have faced, measures I have taken to overcome them, and the few that I am still fighting off. I also want to participate on this platform to send out a message to young girls to not be afraid of technology careers, and to the dominant forces in tech to step out of the way.

What are some things you do outside of work to help you develop personally and professionally?

I am a science geek. I like reading science and technology articles, mainly around astronomical sciences and, in this past year, analytics and data science. For centering my chi, I resort to ways to let my artistic expression flow in the form painting and dancing. It is very important for me to see life through different perspectives, and therefore enjoy listening to panel discussions and podcasts.

What has been the biggest learning curve in your career?

I think working with startups has been biggest learning curve for me thus far. One hustles, develops, learns on a daily basis. You join the dots together piece by piece, block by block. There is an open environment of ideas flowing, there is a culture you are contributing to strongly. Another point I would like to add is, experiencing different ethnic cultures and work environments has also contributed significantly to my growth.

When you think about your journey thus far, what would you say was the one trait that helped you get you to where you are today?

I believe in not quitting. And you can only be confident about it if you are open to learning and open to changes. All this while, even today, I keep my mind open to learning new things, be it more efficient ways of approaching a problem, to improving ways I can be more efficient ways, to optimizing my contributions.

What advice would you give to other women working in STEM?

Do not give up. It is a fact that the number of women who actually pick STEM as their careers, do not continue thereon for long, for a variety of reasons. I would like to ask them to remind themselves of the reasons they chose to be in a scientific field and what's holding them off now.   

Who do you look up to, and why?

There have been many people part of my journey that I look up to. My family has all along been a guiding light for the path I have chosen. My friends to challenge me to a competition. My colleagues and mentors at workplace, some of whom have challenged my beliefs and some of whom have helped me with ways to let my voice heard in a crowd.

Some public figures whose biographies, writings, and speeches I have thoroughly enjoyed are Dr. Kalpana Chawla (an astronaut), Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam (a scientist, and former President of India), Jocelyn Goldfein, and Steve Jobs.

Abhilasha Bhatia is a software engineer at Finaeo Inc. Her forte is backend development. From time to time she delves into frontend and dev-op projects that give control of the full development stack. She is a self-proclaimed science geek and loves to read articles on scientific innovation, especially about astronomical sciences.

Abhilasha’s encounters with technology started of as a kid in India playing with handheld game consoles. The very first building blocks were learning the “turtle graphics” in 3rd grade, using the Logo programming language. Followed by the widely discussed Y2K bug which gave her a realization of how technology is converging the world. Ever so pumped up with it, she took off to pursue an undergraduate in Computer Science from a state university in India and then decided to move on to pursuing higher studies in the United States. These were the years she faced the stark truth about the number of women opting for technology as their major. The female:male ratios in classes were astonishing. Fighting off the complex of “being the only girl” or “one of the two” to raise hands or participate in hackathons, she continued to tread her way past it to enter the workforce where the story wasn’t very different. As one goes up the ladder, the ratio bends further towards one side.

Those experiences made her question the causes behind such disparity among female students picking up STEM majors to actually pursuing and staying in these fields as a career. This is the major reason Abhilasha want her voice to make a difference by reaching to a greater audience.