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Realfword | It's a forceful word or a forceful woman Realfword It's a forceful word or a forceful woman What is realfword? My Story Bio What is realfword? My Story Bio What? I have an offsite meeting scheduled… with my spouse? By Kathy On June 14, 2016 In Personal Challenge I was knee-deep in researching potential destinations for my senior leadership offsite planning session when I had a bit of an ‘ah-ha’ moment. Similar to most other leaders, my objectives for these planning sessions, that are generally over 2 to 3 days twice annually, are: 1) To get the leaders away from the office, away from their phones, to remove them from their day-to-day stuff; allowing us a more focused approach on looking at our successes versus our objectives in the current year. The discussions are centered around what’s working and what’s not, and to generate excitement for the remaining six months and/or planning for the next year. I generally circulate a significant amount of pre-work ahead of time for a more productive session, allowing them time to speak to their direct reports for input and to gather the analysis related to their specific accountabilities. Additionally, this is the time to review where we are relative to our longer term strategy. And 2) To get together and to have some quality time, to reconnect as partners, and frankly to have some fun (hopefully experience something unique and great together). The part that I love is that this time together helps strengthen our relationships as partners and it is a learning opportunity to learn more about each other’s individual goals and challenges and as one another as unique individuals. I see both of these objectives as equally important; the reviewing, planning and brainstorming. The strategic review is vital towards building the company’s growth. The relationship building, and sometimes the rebuilding of specific relationships, is vital to my company’s culture. The success and alignment of the entire team starts with this group and ultimately is fundamental to the success of the company. These are non-negotiable for me or my team. In an effort to find a creative venue, I asked one of my friends about the European vacation that her and her husband (of over 20 years) had just taken. She mentioned some wonderful villages and sights, but I could really see the passion in her when she described that the best part of her getaway was the opportunity that her and her husband had reconnecting. She said, “It’s an opportunity they had put on the back burner for a bit–the opportunity to reconnect as a couple, to rebuild their partnership away from the pressures of their demanding careers, away from the familial demands.” They had time to have meaningful conversations to talk about challenges, goals and the future. Like a first date, they had fun together through new experiences and they each had a voice. Her response caught me off guard, and stuck in my mind for several days. It’s the first time I’ve ever heard that kind of candid response when asking someone about their vacation. Usually their favourite experiences are the dinning, memorable sights, amazing golf, shopping or finding the best Caribbean hangover cure. Most of us just say, “Man, we had to get away for a break!” I began to compare their trip with the strict discipline many of us put into our professional team building sessions. We wouldn’t dream of saying, “Nah, not this year, maybe we just wing it and get together next year and plan as a team ; life at the office is just too busy right now.” But I’m fairly certain many of us put off or never even contemplate an offsite or trip focused on reconnecting with our life partners, and reviewing our lives and goals as partners. I’m not exactly certain what the partner/spouse pre-work might look like, but my gut says it could be quite similar; review of our past year against our goals, what worked, what are we individually pleased with, how are our other team members performing (the kids, the dogs), what’s not working according each one of them, and what are their individual goals, then sharing their perspectives. I’ll bet a bit more wine/vodka might be involved, but a lot more laughing too. I do have a picture in my head of the spouse setting up his/her PowerPoint presentation against the backdrop of a beautiful crimson Hawaiian sunset with pointer in hand and circulating handouts! Perhaps a weird concept to most of us, but when we consider that 40% of marriages end in divorce, this exercise may be worthy of consideration. I don’t know if 40% is a factual number, reports vary between 40% & 50%, but it is in my social circle! About 75% of the people I know well have been or are divorced. And let me tell you, I’ve certainly done more than my fair share of contributing to that statistic. Imagine the type of crisis management we would implement, if we thought 40% of the team would likely leave the company. Or if our projects had a 40% failure rate or if we lost 40% of our customer base? Can you hear the stampede of elephants running? That’s the sound of our employees, shareholders, and customers running to another company, trampling the existing leadership underfoot. A few interesting facts, taken from a recent study conducted by the Social Science Research Network: Marriages are 39% more likely to succeed when the couple has dated for 3 years or more before marrying or cohabitation. Could this mean that people who spend more time getting to know each other’s goals are more likely to succeed??? Gee, isn’t that goal number 1 of my leadership offsite; team building, planning, setting goals together, getting buy- in and establishing the future together? How weird is that? I know that if there was a business practice that was going to improve any element of success by 40 % in my business…oh ya, we are going to pull out all the stops on that puppy and implement, right freaking now. For both men and women, who were least interested in their partner’s appearance and wealth, are 40% and 18% less likely to divorce. In other words, if you placed less emphasis on your partner’s looks or wealth, you are 1.5X more likely to stay married. Again, number 2 objective of my management offsite—along with building goals, to respect each other and the value that they bring to the table. Sharing experiences together and having a ton of fun together is much more important towards the building the success of any relationship. Successful business partnerships are based on trust, respect, and on understanding each other’s needs. Successful personal relationships couldn’t be that different; listening with intent, holding each other accountable, and treating each other as equal’s leads to solid relationships. End of story. Many of us don’t put enough effort to maximize results. Isn’t that what life is supposed to be about? Maximizing our lives to be the best they can? Especially those things that matter the most. The ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ approach doesn’t apply to professional or personal relationships, because relationships fall apart if we don’t work at maximizing the results. No one, on their death bed, ever said, “Gosh, I wish I spent more time at work and less time with my family or my partner,” or “ I wish I spent more time with my buddies playing darts , hockey golf or shopping and spa treatments .” As my father used to say to me, they don’t put “world’s best leader, sales person, or cook or golfer” on anyone’s tomb stone… their epitaph are usually engraved with “loving wife, husband, mother, father, daughter, son.” When people talk about work-life balance, I don’t think they are referring to time management or an equal balance of hours spent on work and family. They’re often referring to making the most out of the important relationships in our lives. Maybe some of us don’t have a spouse/partner, but you are best friends with someone, a daughter/son, mom/dad. These relationships are also the ones that keep us grounded…the sanctuary in our lives. So perhaps hosting a spouse/partner relationship planning session, at a terrific location, filled with fun, accompanied with a meeting agenda, talking about life goals and reconnecting with the person we are supposed to love and care for the most…isn’t such a crazy idea?? But…maybe skip the PowerPoint presentation and Excel work sheets! Share this: Share Email Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Pinterest Google Print It’s a “Mother” of a day! Let’s celebrate! By Kathy On May 8, 2016 In advice, career, family, Personal Challenge In the past 10-15 years, the most common question that’s posed to me, by young women, is, “How do you achieve work-life balance?” What these young women and mothers are really asking me is, “How can I be a good mom and have a career too?” So, on this special day of the year, I thought it would be a good time to explore the makings of a good mother. If you look up ‘mother’ in the dictionary, here’s what is says: Noun: a women in relation to a child to whom she has given birth Verb: bring up a child with care and affection. The art of mothering Frankly, I don’t think these definitions accurately describe what a mother is. First, a mother may not have given birth to her child, so that’s stupid. Second, sure care and affection are important, but there are countless other traits that make a good mother. But if I had to pick, I’ll side with the verb definition, versus the noun. I don’t think I’ve ever met that idyllic supermom. Who is she? What is it that makes her supermom? I’ve met super CEO, super sales people, and super-duper people. Without question, I’ve met some pretty darn terrific moms, who love their children deeply, who guide their children between right and wrong, who are there for them to help pick up the pieces when they make mistakes (who let them make their own mistakes), and who set good examples as thriving adults. But everyone is flawed; there is no perfect definition for being a super mom. There is only a general direction we should take of consistent love and support. There is a plethora of literature on what it takes to be a great parent, and most pregnant moms or moms with teenagers eagerly gobble up every possible publication they can get their hands on. I encourage that. But many of us moms still sit back and think to ourselves, “Wow, if I could just be more like Suzy’s mom.” Or, “Wow, Johnny’s mom has it so together.” Here’s what I can tell you for certain after raising three children. If you get to know Suzy’s mom or Johnny’s mom a little better, you will find they too strive and struggle; trying to be a better, parent. I’ve gotten to know many of Suzy and Johnny’s moms better over the years, they aren’t what they seem to be on the outside. Trust me. Over the years, I have also met some pretty horrific mothers. But it wasn’t just that they were terrible parents, they were fundamentally terrible people! Angry people, tyrants or self-absorbed, indifferent or egotistical, dishonest, insecure etc. My view is, in order to be a good mom, you really have to be yourself. You can’t fake it for 25 years or so while you are raising your children. They will inevitably find out who the real you is, and if you have terrible character traits, then, guess what, that’s what you need to be working on. Being a good mom (a good influence on our children), is simply being ourselves and knowing what our flaws are, and trying to constantly improve ourselves as people. One of my favorite things to do in my head (ya, sometimes that place in my head is a bit scary) is laugh at myself and look back at how I’ve grown as a parent. I had the unusual benefit of having my three children very far apart in years. My oldest is 33, my middle daughter is 26, and my youngest son is 14. As I grew older, and wiser my parenting skills changed dramatically. I learned not to sweat the small stuff and just be who I am, and use my maternal parenting instincts to give them the love and guidance they need. That’s not to say that I was an idiot mother with my first child (although I wouldn’t recommend having your first child at 21!). I’m sure even she would agree, I’ve mellowed over the years and my youngest probably won’t hear the words, “You’re grounded for the rest of your life,” or, “I don’t care what the other kids’ curfew is,” or, “You are 17, and you will be home by 10pm!” Advice I would give to my ‘young mother self’ would be: Stop feeling so damn guilty about being the world’s best mother Don’t sweat the little things. It’s a waste of time and you can spend more time and energy doing the fun things with your kids. Continue to grow as a person. Try to be a better individual and you will be a better parent. I don’t know what it is about mom’s that makes us feel totally responsible for every single thing that goes wrong with our kids or that we aren’t doing enough of this or enough of that. We just can’t seem to take credit for their successes in life: “Yay, Billy got an ‘A’ in French. Aren’t I a fantastic parent!” No, we can’t do that. So why do we take it to heart and feel responsible for their mistakes and failures? I think it’s a generational/societal thing. I remember my father saying to my mother many times, “Look what your daughter has done now. You better do something about it!” As though he had just disowned me and I was all her problem now. (Believe me, I gave them lots of reason to want to disown me, but of course they didn’t.) We are responsible for providing the guidance, support and discipline. But you can’t lead a horse to water and you can’t make your kid go to medical school. I spent the better part of 30 years of my oldest daughter’s life feeling pretty guilty that I put so much time and effort into my career and not enough time with her. I think I even apologized to her for it during my speech at her wedding. Ya that was a freaking good thing to say on her freaking wedding day. I’m sure everyone just thought, ya there’s another mom feeling guilty. Yep, I’m flawed too. When she gave birth to her son, and we were having the “what makes a good mom” discussion again, I asked her if she felt like I didn’t spend enough time with her and if I dedicated too much of my life to my career. She looked at me strangely, you know that look our kids give us when they want us to know they think we are nuts and she said, “No mom, I didn’t miss out on anything. That’s who you are and why I love you so much. You taught me so much and I’m so proud of you. You know most of the time, I forget you’re CEO and just think of you as my mom.” Yes, I definitely wasted a lot of energy feeling way too guilty, and all my children feel that way. And yes, when I was a younger mother, I did sweat the little things, like the mess on the kitchen table, the unmade bed every once in a while, the hours upon hours my girls would talk on the phone and I would yank it and yell at them, take the phone away etc etc. In retrospect, so bloody what. The house was going to get messy from time to time, it’s called life, they are human. Girls are going to giggle and talk on the phone for days on end or text themselves into oblivion. Teenagers are going to break curfew from time to time and push the envelope. Your teenage daughter is going to take your car without permission and smack it into something. Wait, that last one is not one of those little things, that was a big thing and worthy of a lifetime of grounding and cleaning toilets seven days a week!! But did I fail as a parent? No. That was her pushing the boundaries way too far. As my son enters his teenage years, I’m sure boys will be much easier to manage as teenagers. Ugh! One of my favorite things on mother’s day is sitting around listening to my kids talk about the crazy and funny things mom used to do. “Remember the time when she made us do this and made us do that?” I don’t take it seriously and laugh at myself along with them. They know who I am as a person. They know that I’ve made some mistakes as a parent, but they know that they I love them more than the air I breathe and their hearts are full of love for me too. So, on this mother of a day, I would say to my younger mother self and to any young mom to lighten the heck up, not only be who you are, but be transparent about who you are. To strive to the better you. To love your children and show them you love them. Don’t waste a moment being someone you are not or worrying about being perfect mom. Let go of the guilt. Instead, use that valuable time to reap the great love they have for you. Share this: Share Email Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Pinterest Google Print Sisters, Impenetrable Relationship, But Why? By Kathy On April 10, 2016 In family, Personal Challenge I am embarking on a flight to Regina to pick up my aunt and to bring her to Toronto. This will be the last time she sees her sister–my mom. As you can imagine, I have this terrible unwelcoming feeling in the pit of my stomach. The next few days are going to be extremely difficult for my sister and me, as we watch the two of them interact for the last time, and there is nothing I can damn well do about it. I’m not used to not having control over an outcome or my emotions. Alas, these are one of life’s experiences and I’ll need to put on my big girl pants. My mom is in the last stages of Alzheimer’s and we thought it would be important for my aunt to see her before she passes. My mom won’t know who her sister is. Hell, she doesn’t know who she is. But what we do know is that there is this an unexplainable bond between sisters and maybe this will give our mom a bit more peace as she passes out of the nightmare this disease has inflicted upon her for the past year and half. Without question, my aunt will need to say goodbye to her only sister. I can’t imagine saying good-bye forever to my sister. I don’t even want to think about it… so ya… this sucks. But it got me thinking about what sisters are to each other. What was this inexplicable connection between my aunt and my mom, and also between me and my sister? Obviously, there is a parental connection, but there is a history of growing up together, forging childhood memories and a collaborative, impenetrable defense against the wrath of their parents. I believe that the bond of sisters is different from the bond of brothers and I wanted to figure out why I had this preconceived notion. When I think of both my mom and aunt, there couldn’t be two more different people with such different outcomes in their lives. My quiet, introverted aunt stayed in Saskatchewan, where they grew up, married a farmer’s son (until his death), had one son and lived in rural Saskatchewan. They weren’t poor, but… they sure didn’t have significant luxuries in life. My outgoing sociable mother, married a business man (until his death), moved to Toronto, had two daughters, owned a cottage, a house in Florida, had a good career, and traveled the world. So, ya, they are night and day. At a glance, one might say my mom’s life seems much more fruitful. However, I’m certain that’s not true, as my aunt’s home was always such a peaceful and fun place to visit. She built a wonderful home and life for her small family. To me, they always seemed to sit back in amazement of our crazy, busy family and certainly seemed to have zero jealousy towards our hectic lives. And that’s when it hit me! Neither my mother nor my aunt ever displayed or felt any jealousy towards one another. There wasn’t a single competitive spirit between them. They were always happy for each other’s success, and caring for their troubles. When I think back there were so many long distant phone calls, where they shared laughs, tears and life stories. The same thing exists between me and my sister. I have had very different career successes than her. I have more material things “just meaningless stuff” than her. And she’s ONLY ever said how proud she is of me. She has only ever provided support in everything I’ve done in my life, even when she thought it was, well… stupid. My sister has had the privilege of having more time with her family than I. She puts her heart and soul into building a wonderful home and family. Every day she goes to see our mom in the nursing home and does all the heavy lifting. She’s amazing! There is no winner when it comes to sisters; they are pure with their hearts. Sure, we wanted to kill each other as teenagers, and find different paths as adults, not be as close for a while, even move away, but when we face that difficult and competitive world out there, we always seek them out. There is a saying, “you can fool the world, but you can never fool your sister.” It has deep meaning and a profound effect on our lives. They know exactly who we are and love us anyway, and I can rely on her to tell me the truth. They are our touchstone. What a comforting feeling to know we have that. But sisters aren’t just blood relatives. We all know that, even Webster’s dictionary defines sisters as a) related by parents b) a close female friend c) female members of a group, sorority, feminist group etc. So, does my definition of a sister still hold true if they aren’t related? A sister is also a girlfriend who knows exactly who you are. There’s no fooling them. A sister loves you, encourages you and always has your back; and is NEVER in competition or jealous of you. She tells you the truth. Sure, sister-girlfriends may not have teenage memories of crawling along the floor sneaking out at midnight past your parents’ bedroom to go out to a party, (yes, my sister did that!!! Ok fine! I might have led the way!), but sisters don’t “try to keep up with the Jones'” between one another. These girlfriend-sisters help us make new memories. While this is a generalization, I’m not a brother, nor do I have one, I think that’s a fundamental difference between men and women. Men are typically much more competitively driven. It’s the hunter vs nurturing thing (ex: their love of sports where there is always a winner, and our love of drinking wine and sharing life stories, where there is never a winner). Yes, women are competitive and yes brotherly love is unwavering. But… it’s highly unlikely a woman is going to build a strong bond with another woman if they are in competition with them. While we all know it’s important that we take time to appreciate the important relationships in our lives, I think it’s important to understand why they are important and why they work so well. Understanding sister relationships helps us appreciate them more. We hear guys reference “brother, bro” all the time. I’m going to use the reference “sister” more often as it sure has significant meaning to it and I think says a lot to the recipient. Thanks for listening to me and letting me indulge my thoughts at this time. In closing, there are few things in life that are worse than death, and this disease that my mother has is one of them. I’m hoping that this visit gives my mom the closure she needs as well, maybe she can get a glimpse of a better life with her little sister from long ago. Maybe even a smile might appear on her face with a brief recollection of a moment in time with her sister. I’m hoping she can now let herself peacefully pass away and end the torture and fear she endures everyday… the suffering will end. I’m putting a lot of faith into the value of the sisterly bond between my aunt and my mom– perhaps too much. But without question, this is what sisters do throughout their lives for each other, right to the bitter end. Please take a moment and watch this beautiful video by Chris Mann. Remember Me, an anthem for Alzheimer’s patients and their families. Share this: Share Email Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Pinterest Google Print Parents… Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be A**holes By Kathy On March 24, 2016 In Personal Challenge Guest Blogger – Sally Aitken When I started this blog, the concept was to have an interactive blog which included comments and feedback from the readers as well as occasional guest bloggers who want to write about something that is important to them. I think this makes for much more interesting dialogue and provides a variety of topics and opinions on things that are important to us. For the next little while, I want to focus on the most important job in the world–being a parent. Without question being a parent is an honour and privilege, and the most difficult, yet rewarding thing most of us will do in our lives. As such, it is a privilege for me to introduce our first blog on the matter of parenting–Sally Aitken. Don’t let your babies grow up to be a**holes! I hope you find it as insightful as I have. ——- I often wonder what the future will look like with a generation of kids growing up so differently than we did. More often than just wondering, worry creeps in that we are raising a generation of entitled, unaccountable and overly delicate adults. As this generation’s parents, we take a big chunk of the blame – our “over-parenting” (excessive levels of involvement, control and problem solving) is, in my mind the biggest cause of this “Soft Generation.” As parents in 2016, we see the world; full of potential dangers – physical, digital, social – and we work hard, too hard in many cases to shelter and protect our kids from these seemingly negative experiences. In this role of “protector”, we’ve taken it too far – extending parenting into very damaging territory. We all know and own examples of over parenting – completing a child’s school project, calling other parents if our son or daughter isn’t included in an event, preventing activities that are risky (dodgeball, tobogganing). Our quest to love and protect generally has good intentions. However, where does the line get drawn for what’s appropriate? I’ve been witness to some much deeper, and what I believe to be intrusive parenting. Calling teaches to strong arm better grades or demanding a coach make a spot on a team that their kid didn’t make, not sending kids to summer camp, managing the post -secondary entry process – applications, exams, interview coaching. Studies are now showing that such intensive parenting makes young people ineffective and overly entitled (yikes!), robs them of coping skills and life tools, fostering a level of narcissism, anxiety, depression and stress. Think about it – If you’re a young person who’s short on coping skills because your parents have done the coping for you, the most minuscule bump has the real potential to send you into a tailspin! The most recent example of damaging “helicopter parenting” was a friend of a friend …Their teenager was busted at high school for having drugs on them – suspended and the police are involved – the parents’ response? “the search was illegal”. Time out – your kid had drugs at school, was peddling them to other kids…and you’re calling illegal search?!!!? Is it just me, or is that the most irresponsible reaction the parents could have? What kind of message is the parent’s reaction sending to this young adult? What kind of adult is the kid going to be? Why are we as parents struggling to let our kids experience the consequences of life? Is it the high rate of divorce, with single parents feeling that “extra” parenting will help fill the void of a non-traditional household? Is it our heavy careers that interrupt having dinner at the table every night, forcing us to meddle in other areas to quiet the self-guilt? Maybe it’s the world itself – the risk we see at every turn; violence, turmoil, angst – we need to shield our kids from all of the risks, right? My strong believe is we are WRONG – we need to show our kids love by letting them experience challenges and consequences – whatever that may be – losing a spot on the team, flunking the exam, spending a night in jail, screwing up a college entrance interview – How else will they get the skills to craft a life? Not every kid deserves a trophy –let’s not celebrate or validate mediocre or poor behaviour and performance. How else will kids learn what the real word has in store? We all want to give our children the best chance at being a competent and productive adult; but we owe it to our kids to take a step back and evaluate if we are doing more harm than good. It’s not easy and none of us are perfect at it. A couple of good reads on the topic: “The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed” by Jessica Lahey “How to Raise an Adult” by Julie Lythcott-Haims. Let’s all try to do less solving for our kids and see what happens? We could be pleasantly surprised. About Sally Aitken Sally is a working mom of a 14 year old son. She’s been working in financial services for her entire career in both technology and business roles. When she isn’t taxiing her son to various sporting events, she enjoys running, good food and drinking wine! Share this: Share Email Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Pinterest Google Print International Women’s Day….the only thing we have to fear, is fear itself By Kathy On March 8, 2016 In career, family, Personal Challenge Today is International Women’s Day, and I want to write about something I’ve been talking to women about for years. What I believe is getting in the way of our women’s quest towards reaching equality and being viewed as less than second class citizens in every country in the world. First, let’s understand why we have “International Women’s Day”. It started over 100 years ago; first in New York in 1908, and then in 1910 by German Socialist Clara Zetkin. This day brought women together from other European countries to fight the fight for women’s right to vote and for equal rights. Not easy given the sexist times and the difficulty in international connectivity (remember that the internet didn’t exist back then). Fast forward to today, last year (over 100 years later), Saudi Arabia finally granted women the right to vote. In 1977, the United Nations recognized International Women’s Day to address the numerous global political and social inequities women face. Every year, March 8th is a reminder to keep fighting the fight and address the lack of female representation in the political arena, wage gap, sexual and physical abuse that continue to plague women. It’s estimated over 120 million women, under the age of 20, are subjected to sexual and physical abuse. 120 million young women….in 2016?? So, ya…we still need International Women’s day. On this day, I want to yell from the roof tops, the one thing (yes, there are many others) that I believe women need to focus on, in ourselves, in our daughters, granddaughters, sisters and our colleagues; the one thing that continues to stand out for me when I’m meeting women across the world, and in my own back yard, that we seemed to have cornered the market on…FEAR. The fear to push back hard from oppression. The fear of speaking out; speaking what’s on our minds. The fear of following our dreams. The fear of failing. The fear of succeeding. The fear of being in control of our own lives and our own bodies. The fear of asking for help. The fear of standing out and being counted. Fear: a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil pain, whether the fear is real or imagined. Sure, I’m speaking in generalities and there a zillions of amazing examples of women throughout history who have demonstrated unbelievable courage. Rosa Parks, Susan B. Anthony, Amelia Earhart, Helen Keller, Anne Frank, Indira Gandhi, Gloria Steinem, Malala Yousafzai, Catherine The Great (I just had to throw Catherine in, I like the name). I’ve tried to research to really understand if our fear stems from social and family influences or if our fear is part of our gender character traits. I don’t believe the average man suffers from fear to the same degree we do. As a gender, what oppressions do they suffer? My personal belief is that it stems from centuries of social influence. Read any religious book, women are quoted as being the evil, impure and sinful. The world has spent an enormous amount of energy and time creating this lower tier status for women; this position of being dominated across so many cultures for 1000s of years. Yet, we are in a very unique place in history, where even a single voice can speak out and be heard across the plant; where equal rights are viewed as a fundamental human right. Where the vast majority of the world will not accept slavery, racism, brutality, yes, even war is considered a failure among the human race. This is where we can learn to mitigate our fears and make meaningful change in our lives and the lives of other women. How? We must address our fears and deal with the emotional side of what is holding us and other women back. Here’s the thing. I really don’t have much fear in life. I don’t know why, and over time my courage has certainly evolved throughout my 20’s and 30’s. Now that I’m into my 50’s (early 50’s I’d like to point out, cause I have a fear of well, getting really old), I’d say my fears have evolved to the point where I can instantly identify if my fear is real or a product of my emotions. Sure, I have fears. I’d call them dumb fears. Somehow in my 40’s I developed a ridiculous fear of heights. I’m afraid of snakes, spiders, death, and manipulative people. Oh and, I am fearful of hurting other people’s feelings. I always have and I’m holding onto that one. But I don’t let these fears get in the way of my life of moving forward. Fear is just another one of my emotions, no big deal. How do we overcome our fears? The only method I know on squashing fear is to recognize that fear is an emotion. It may be because of something real or something imagined. But, we all know our many emotions; happy, sad, depressed, anger, worried, alone. They can run away with themselves and snow ball into something massive simply by their own momentum. Fear most definitely does this as well. So, when faced with fear, we need to use the thinking part of our brain. You know, the one part of our brain that is the logical side, that forces us to look at the pros and cons in the decision-making process. It’s our logic and common sense that needs to rise to the top, to tell our fears to take a bloody back seat. Here are a few “fear fighting” actions that I think work well when making a decision and facing your fears: Use your thinking brain. List all the things that can go wrong and all the things that can go right–Pros and Cons. Apply your best guesstimate and probability to each of these. Use only your thinking brain and call bullshit on yourself if either the con or pro is so remotely ridiculous. Be practical. Share your fear with someone you respect (no, not that person who is going to talk you out of it that “glass is half empty” person. They are afraid of their own shadow) and tell the truth: “I am afraid of doing this. Here are the pros and cons, what do you think? “Don’t expect them to have the answer; you are just getting their input. You’re the decision maker. Visualise it: When you successfully navigate through this issue, what will it look like? Go look at your list of pro’s (not the con’s) and think about what that will look like. Think it through: You don’t need to decide right this minute. Give yourself a deadline, a short one (eg : in the next 12 hours I will decide or once I’ve researched this, then I will decide.) Go back to #1 and review. Breathe! When we are afraid, we get all red in the face, our palms get sweaty and we stop breathing and our emotions take over. Just ensure you breathe through it as you think it through. Drink Wine? I’d really like to say this works. Grab yourself a nice Shiraz or Pinot Grigio, but, guess what, drinking exaggerates our emotions and dulls our thinking brain. It doesn’t work, ever. Think about all the great ideas we come up with when drinking? Like drunk texting your ex or emailing your colleague or boss! Let’s call this fake courage. In the light of day, these never turn out to be brilliant ideas, just drunk fake courage ideas. So, go for a walk, run, clear your head so you’re thinking brain is in tip top shape to think this through. Ask for help: When I think about this, it’s not just help in making the decision, it’s about getting help to support you to get to the place you want to be when your fears may be taking over. The best example I can think of are women who are in abusive relationships, and feel that they can’t get out. They are fearful of what will happen to them physically, financially, emotionally if they do. It’s a terrible fear and a real We generally don’t even know who these women are because they are good at hiding the abuse and their fears. They are afraid to reach out and ask for help for so many reasons. At the end of the day, getting help is their only solution. They need to and should reach out to anyone, hell everyone and ask for help. And we need to overcome our fears of asking them if they need help, when our gut says this woman is in trouble, there is an inkling that they are in an abuse situation, we need to reach out before it’s too late. Regrets: You must list on a piece of paper the possible regrets you will have if you don’t do it. Even lean on your emotional side to help you with this list (ex: I will feel sad when I look back a year from now and I didn’t even try or I will feel like I could have set a much better path for my future or set a better example for my children etc.) Ya, these will likely bring a tear to your eyes. I sat at my father’s bedside as he died and now am sitting at my mother’s bedside as she is slowing passing away. The one thing I know for certain that occupied much of their thoughts as they were passing away, were their regrets. I wish I had XXX. It’s human nature, but we need to minimize any regrets. Finally, this is the big one, my favourite and I use it all the time in my life and tell women who are faced with decisions: are you ready?? Is anyone going to die as a result of me failing at trying this? Sure, it’s black and white, but it forces me to think in practical terms. People often ask me, how did you decide to start your company? You were getting divorced, had a huge mortgage, three kids, just got fired and you were 42? Weren’t you terrified of the consequences? Of course I was. But, I really did use my thinking brain in making the big decision. I made a list of pros and cons, and believe me the con list was huge! Bankruptcy, selling my car, buying my kids’ clothes at second-hand stores, all stood out on the page for me. But the pros outweighed my fears…, visualizing my dream stood out much further. Most importantly, I didn’t want to regret not taking this risk and succeeding. I didn’t want to be looking back when I was 60 and say, ”Kathy, you were such a chicken shit. If you failed, you would be fine; you have a great family who loves you. Sure you would have been poor as hell, and would have really crappy shoes, but you would have found another path and life would have gone on and you would still be happy. No one would have died.” Oh, I should point out, once I made the decision, I drank a hell of a lot of wine, which helped! This is just one example; there are so many others where parking fear made all the difference in being decisive. Not all my decisions were good ones, some failed and that’s life. But, again, no one died. Don’t get me wrong, fear is the root of all evil. But it isn’t the only cause of failure. As my father used to say, sometimes it’s just because we are lazy asses. Sometimes, it’s just lack of effort or giving a damn factor. Lack of self-motivation, generally isn’t because we are afraid, it’s because, well …we are lazy asses. My son isn’t doing his homework because he’s afraid of getting an A in chemistry; I’m not working out because I’m afraid of that size 4 dress (okay, size 10). Your colleague, who is doing half the amount of work, is coming in late and leaving early isn’t afraid of getting promoted or rewarded. You’re not dealing with your high cholesterol levels because you’re fearful of not having a heart attack. We are well…just lazy asses. A totally different blog conversation! Franklin D Roosevelt was the one who said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”. I believe he was talking to you and me. He’s right that fear is the number one thing that will get in the way of us achieving our dreams as individuals and as women striving for our equal place in the world. It is fear that sets us backward and impedes our progress. Maybe it is our career, family happiness, freedom from abuse, control over our lives, pay equality, general respect or making a difference in this world, but we can’t let fear get in our way and let others have power over us. It is fear that makes us feel inferior, insecure and unworthy. These are simply emotions and emotions aren’t facts. We aren’t going to die as a result of trying. So let’s try. Happy International Women’s Day! It takes a village. Let’s help solve our fears together. Then, we can drink wine together! Share this: Share Email Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Pinterest Google Print I prefer it if you bend over when you’re talking to me… really? People say this still? By Kathy On March 2, 2016 In advice, career, Personal Challenge I was recently at a lunch meeting with a group of young women who began talking about a young man whose employment was recently terminated for sending texts (lots of them) to other female employees about his body parts, specifically how they were making one particular body part stand up straight. That’s right, some dumb, young guy texting about getting a “boner” (his word, not mine) to female colleagues. Oh sure, there were other inappropriate things that were texted, but this one kind of “stands out” in my mind. Sidebar: I don’t understand the need for a man to send photos of his private parts around. I mean, are these pics supposed to be our high-tech version of a mating call? Yes, I’m shocked too, if it wasn’t for this form of communication (texting), I’d swear it felt as though we were in 1952. Anyway, the dumb ass was terminated. I mean his employment was terminated. Sadly, Arnold Schwarzenegger wasn’t called in to deal with this particular situation. Somehow, it just doesn’t seem like enough of a punishment. I’d like there to be some additional form of humiliation we can apply as retribution. And referring to this as “inappropriate communication” just doesn’t cut it either. How is it that inappropriate communication encompasses talking about your boner to not using spell check in your emails? And what’s to stop this moron from being a repeat offender at his next job? There are only a small group of people who know the full details about this event: the offender, the victim(s), Human Resources and management. Nope, not even his wife! Due to our privacy laws, if anyone calls for a reference, we can’t share this information. It’s too risky and he could potentially sue us. Sure, being terminated from your job is very hard. I know, I’ve been terminated but it sure as hell wasn’t because of inappropriate communication and a horrendous lack of respect of another human being. There are many ways in which disrespectful, insulting, unkind communication can take place. It’s often masked as humour, “I was just joking around, don’t take it so seriously”. No, just because you say something with a smile doesn’t diminish the impact. My sense is that inappropriate communication is becoming more prevalent with email, texting, and social media. It’s all too easy to hide behind these forms of communication – all too easy to write something that we wouldn’t say in person. And of course, there are those who are quite comfortable calling you names or insulting you to your face, either in the work place, socially or in intimate relationships. After my lunch chat with these ladies, I reached out and conducted some adhoc research with others. I asked them for examples of inappropriate things have been said to them as a woman. These comments fall into two categories: 1) Really Bad stuff, get fired & go to jack ass jail and 2) Hurtful/unkind & stupid. Not only was I inundated with responses, but the emotion (anger, hurt, embarrassment) that came along with the responses was overwhelming. I thought I would list a few examples. Category #1 – Really Bad stuff, go directly to “jack ass jail” 1.1 Stay away from me, I can’t stop thinking about you and want to do dirty things to you (from someone’s boss) *this is just one example; there were lots of these sexual comments. 1.2 Is it that time of month? (Colleague) 1.3 You’re in the baby making years; it’s just not possible to move you to the next level yet (boss) 1.4 I prefer it if you bend over when you’re talking to me (boss) 1.5 You’re so pretty, if you could just drop a few pounds you would progress further in your career (colleague) 1.6 I’ll bet you are a real kitten in the bedroom (boss) 1.7 You obviously wear the pants in the family and must drive your husband nuts (boss) 1.8 Seems to me your husband is pussy whipped (colleague) 1.9 I see you chose a career over family (colleague) 2.0 Women are like men, only cheaper (speaker) 2.1 You ladies let your emotions get in the way of being good managers and whine too much (boss) 2.2 I like you; you’re more like a man than a woman (colleague) 2.3 You’re to argumentative and emotional and just need to shut up and do what you’re told (boss) 2.4 That’s where I like you, on your knees (boss) 2.5 She’s a bitch. Or don’t be a bitch, or female bosses are generally bitches. Category #2 – Hurtful, unkind & stupid things 2.1 You’re not just another pretty face. 2.2 Most of our customers would prefer to speak with a male manager. 2.3 You should really smile more, you would be prettier. 2.4 She got what she deserves; have you seen how short her skirts are or the cleavage she shows? 2.5 You need to toughen up and learn to ignore people’s comments, you are too sensitive. 2.6 Are you still pregnant? Are you ever going to have that baby? (She had the baby 3 months ago!) 2.7 I don’t know if I could ever work for a woman 2.8 I find it disgusting when women swear and try to sound like a man. 2.9 Men are hunters, and women are nurturers, you can fight it. 3.0 Always calling me ‘young lady”. 3.1 Why is there a quota on the number of women versus men in the work place, that’s not fair. This equality thing is unfair to men. 3.2 Women are just bad negotiators. 3.3 Women are their own worst enemies and try to take each other down. (I’m calling bullshit on this one! For certain) This is really just a taste of some of the jack ass things we hear in our work and personal lives. I’d love to hear from you with some more examples. But the question is, what can we do about it? Here’s the thing, people don’t talk to me this way. This isn’t because I’m the CEO; I’m referring to my entire career. And this discussion gave me pause to ask why? It’s not like I haven’t heard others speak this way. I think about what I do with even the slightest dumb comment – I shut it down immediately. I let them know what they said is unacceptable, usually in a nice way, but not always. I recall a colleague many years ago called me “Babe”. He said it once and I said, “Don’t call me that again.” He did it again, and I said, “I’m not kidding, you don’t get to call me that, ever.” Fast forward a couple of hours and he did it again. I lost my shit, and I lost it in front of everyone. I remember saying, “Who the hell do you think you are? I asked you nicely and you ignored me. How could you possibly be this bloody ignorant?” It never happened again. For the most part, I find that when you ask someone, with a smile on your face to cease and desist from an inappropriate commentary, they do. But, if anyone ever used a term or statement from list number 1, the jack ass list, without question, I would pull them aside, (boss, colleague or anyone), and very strongly tell them it’s inappropriate, not one bit funny and that they just lost my respect as well as anyone else within ear shot or who may learn about it. I am very disappointed and they are to never speak that way to me again. I don’t think we need to tell them it hurt my feelings or yell and call them names, but we do need to be very succinct in a non-combative way in our response. They need to be made aware and they need to learn. And they only get one warning. That’s it. From here, we either go over their head and/or erase them from our lives completely. If you’re just not comfortable responding to inappropriate comments, like most things, it takes practice. I recommend that you come up with a response (a line or two) that you can practice so that it rolls off your tongue. One that is non-combative yet gets your point across. It’s your “go to” response that you’ll become familiar with and whip out when you need to. Go-to lines such as: “You didn’t just say that to me did you?” “You may be kidding, but seriously what you said just stinks” “I’m surprised you think that it’s okay to talk to me or anyone like that.” These are very simple phrases, yet to the point. It’s equally important not to sweat the small stuff. Some silly and stupid comments are just that, and these comments make the Big Mouth look bad. We need to be careful not to turn everything into a personal attack and sometimes just raising an eyebrow at them or ignoring the buffoon is the best course of action. However, if you are offended, then you must say so, and it’s not about gossiping, it’s about being perfectly transparent that what they said is wrong and that you didn’t like it. I do understand that it’s much more difficult when it’s an individual in a position of authority and power. It’s scary to think that they may retaliate against you and the effects may be devastating. But, do you really want to work for this individual if that’s the case? If you can’t raise an issue without retaliation, then you really need to find a role somewhere else with a boss who does care what you think. Hard to do, but a great conversation to have with Human Resources on your exit interview. So, we shouldn’t sweat the small stuff, but at the same time, we shouldn’t take crap from anyone! Share this: Share Email Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Pinterest Google Print Abandoned Pets? or Abandoned Children? By Kathy On February 17, 2016 In advice, family, Personal Challenge Okay, I know I’m going to get tons of push back on this issue so let me first begin by stating that I love dogs, cats, cute little gerbils and turtles. We had a dog and his name was “Robbie”. He was old, and sadly, he died last year. My son would love for me to buy him a new puppy and suggests he will be scarred for life if I don’t. I’ve explained that I have dedicated the rest of my life to addressing the terrible inequalities in the world that women and children face. As a result, I don’t have time to babysit puppies. There’s a problem with stray dogs and cats in Canada. I know this because images of strays are broadcasted daily on my Facebook, Twitter and just about every other social media network my friends, colleagues and family use. There are sad photos of little abandoned puppies and kittens. Some even abused. So many people beg me to adopt these lost or abandoned animals, which of course would make my son very happy. So, everyone wins. Well, everyone except me! At this stage of my life, I cannot allocate the appropriate time. Now, you might be thinking make it your son’s responsibility to take care of this dog. If you’re thinking this, you have never had a busy teenage boy who you have to constantly remind to make his bed and unload the darn dishwasher! I love him to pieces, but if he can’t convince me, then no one can. It got me wondering just how bad this animal situation really is. It must be at enormous proportions – otherwise why would my friends and family spend so much time on the internet searching for these pictures and dedicating so much of their spare time to it? So, I looked into it and learned that it isn’t a pretty picture at all, particularly for a country as prosperous and wonderful as Canada. Aren’t we this great country that’s known as a polite, humane and tolerant culture? Here’s what I found: There are approximately 175 animal shelters across Canada. Annually, there are approximately 115,000 dogs and 45,000 cats in shelters. 45% of dogs are adopted and 47% of cats find homes. 25% are reinstated with their homes (they obviously wandered off). 16% are euthanized. This means about 17,500 are put down every year. Not to mention wandering pets that the shelters aren’t able to find and bring into safety. Those numbers are unknown. Luckily there are some dogs and cats which are fortunate enough to be in foster care. Those numbers are unknown. Wow, these numbers are really much higher than I imagined! This is a problem. To add to our problem, Canada is increasingly accepting abandoned dogs from other countries such as Russia, Mexico, China and Greece. It’s not clear how many of these foreign rescues are represented in the numbers. It’s estimated that there are over 200 million stray dogs around the world. What? Okay, friends and family keep posting away. Well, I now agree this is a problem but I am also comforted knowing that so many people donate their time and money towards helping these animals. It’s equally important that all of us have something we passionately believe in– Something where the focused is giving to others. Something where it isn’t about us all the time, otherwise we run the risk of becoming self-absorbed, self-centered, even eccentric nut heads! However, what makes me go ‘WTF – are you freaking kidding me?’ is that I don’t see postings or even hear conversations about the abandoned and poverty-stricken children in our own back yard. You know, humans beings. The little people we count on to build a better world than the one we left them with. The little people we want to flourish and make us proud by carrying on the legacy of our great country. Where are all the advocates helping abandoned kids? This is a huge issue in Canada. I’ve studied it as much as I can over the years. It’s not pretty. Allow me to share some of these horrific statistics: Canada ranks 15th out of 17 among the worst countries for dealing with child poverty (a westernized, wealthy country) What?? We do? 640,000 children in Canada live below the poverty line. This results in health problems, behaviour disorders, lower levels of education which results in them likely staying at the poverty level as adults, and that in turn makes them more susceptible to criminal activity, just to name a few. More than 1 in 7 children live below the poverty level and this number has been growing since the 1990s. Currently, it’s above 15%. 25% of children living with a single parent (82% are moms) and live below the poverty line. More than 67,000 children live in foster care or other government care, 45% of them are in a two child foster home, and 20% in a three child foster home. Annually, about 240,000 cases of child abuse or neglect are reported and over 50% are confirmed. This number is thought to be much higher due to unreported cases. Sex trafficking in Canada are (of) girls ages 13-14 This is pretty darn embarrassing to say the least. Frightful to think that these children are seriously screwed over and they don’t live in some developing, backward country. It is happening right here on Canadian turf. So, what can we do to help? Let’s become less self-absorbed individuals who are concerned about their new shoes, new car or the vintage bottle of wine. Extend your helping hands and become more fulfilled, kinder and wholesome people. First, we must build awareness! Share this information. Post it. Tweet it. Send it through whatever social media means you have, and do it often. Talk about it over dinner, with your kids and work colleagues. The more people know, the more people will care. Secondly, get involved. There are local charities and associations in every region, city and town in the country. Google it, you won’t believe it! They all need volunteers. Maybe it is simply donating money or even giving up some of your time, or mentoring a child in foster care. We won’t know until we try. I am a strong supporter of the CWF (Canadian Women’s Foundation) which helps women and their children find their way out of poverty and violence. Check it out. www.canadianwomensfoundation.com or http://canadianwomen.org/sites/canadianwomen.org/files//CWF-TraffickingReport-Donor-EN-web.pdf Here are a few others I haven’t personally checked out, but you and your family may want to: http://www.children.gov.on.ca/htdocs/English/topics/childrensaid/childrensaidsocieties/index.aspx www.thesunshine.ca/childrens-charity.ca www.canadacharity.ca/childrens-charities www.bigbrothersbigsisters.ca http://www.cpj.ca/vision-and-mission http://www.canadian-universities.net/Volunteer/Poverty.html www.jumpstartcanada.ca www.kidssport.ca www.therighttoplay.com If you worship at a church, synagogue, temple or mosque, perhaps inquire what children’s charity they support. So, before you write to me tell me that it was wrong to suggest not to support animal shelters (that is not what I said by the way) it is obviously very good, especially if you are passionate about it. What I am saying is that we need more people to think about the children in our own back yard. To stand up and help in any way we can. By the way, if we don’t help these children toward a better life, they may end- up getting pets when they’re older and may abandon them and these animals may end-up in shelters! Just sayin! As Canadians, we should do our best at wrapping our arms around our poverty-stricken children. It takes a village. Let’s be a village together. Share this: Share Email Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Pinterest Google Print Mortgage industry, is falling short By Kathy On January 29, 2016 In advice, career, Personal Challenge Women are under-represented in the Canadian Mortgage industry. For those who are unfamiliar with this industry, we facilitate Canadian home ownership. This is an honourable industry because every day we help Canadians realize the dream of investing in their families and in their future. There is a great sense of pride that comes along with home ownership. It’s something that the hard-working people in our industry are proud to be a part of. It may sound a bit corny, but it is real and truly an honourable vocation. Despite all the virtues that come with our industry, there is something terribly wrong and we should all be embarrassed, and that is there are NOT many female leaders who are affecting real change in this industry — especially when it comes to the top ranks. It is apparent that women have increasingly become more involved in the mortgage industry over the years, but a magical disappearing act occurs when you start looking at the higher rungs of the corporate ladder. The mortgage industry is a trillion dollar industry and is primarily supported by: banks, mortgage banks, mortgage insurers, mortgage brokers, suppliers, appraisers, title insurers, law firms, technology firms, securitization firms, regulators, and the thousands upon thousands of Canadian employees who work for them. None of these firms have women running the company at top of the house! Well, okay I know of one, but trust me I’m not tooting my own horn here. It’s not as if I’ve been extremely vocal about this inequality and attempting to invoke change. I too, am embarrassed. Just in case you are thinking I’m a bit full of it, let’s take a closer look at the CEOs in our industry: Big banks: CIBC, RBC, TD, BNS, Bank of Montreal, National bank Not one female banking CEO! Not ever in our history? What the hell, even Pakistan has a female banking CEO Small banks: e.g. Home Trust, Equitable, Bridgewater, Laurentian Zero, not one Insurers: Genworth, Canada Guaranty, CMHC Yes, of course CMHC had a female president for many years! Yippee, definitely a big win! One third of the insurers are represented by a female leader. But alas, they replaced her with a male. I guess there wasn’t a single qualified woman in this vast country. As such for insurers, it’s back to the norm– zero female CEO’s Title Insurers: First Canadian Title, Stewart Title, nope not one Mortgage super brokers: DLC, Verico, Mortgage Alliance, Invis/MI, TMG, Mortgage Centre, Mortgage Architects, etc…NOT a single female CEO/president. Appraisal firms : Not one Credit Bureau’s : Zero, zip Technology suppliers: No, of course not Mortgage bank lenders & servicers: Me, but that’s less than 15% female representation in the big fat strategic seats of mortgage lenders Now, if we take a look at the level above the CEO, the chairman of the board or even board members, don’t even bother asking. It’s freaking ugly. The Federal Minister of Labour, Dr. Kellie Leitch, has set a goal to reach 30% female representation across all industries in Canada by 2019, up from today’s 10.5%. Good for her for leading this initiative, this is a huge undertaking. But let’s look at the level below the CEO (likely the people who do all the heavy lifting and affecting progressive change). How does this look? One word—deplorable. Here are a few highlights of female senior management representation: (reporting to the CEO/President) Big and small banks: (keep in mind, this is the most recent data I have, these seats change so often!) National bank: Wins the prize here, they are highly represented with female leaders (compared to their peers) in the big chairs under the captain of this ship, Louis Vachon the CEO, 40% female senior executives. I like this guy! TD bank: Recently announced a female leader to oversee their retail bank, reporting to the President/CEO! Yay, finally! Their head of mortgage division is a woman, and about 31% of their total senior leadership is female. RBC: 38% CIBC: 27% BNS: 30% BMO: 25% Home Trust: 29% Equitable: 30% MCAP: 0% First National: 25% All super brokers combined: I’ve done the math, let’s lump them all together as they are similar. Less than 20% in the decision making roles vs. decision taking roles. So, this is where you’re probably asking, what my company’s distribution of female to male senior leadership is. Currently, my recent female senior leadership has dipped to 40%, from 50%, after a few personnel shifts. However, including all executives, it’s over 50%. My goal, since I started the company, has always been 50%. We strive towards maintaining this. Why? First – Over 60% of my organization’s work force are women. As long as there is a perception gap between genders, it will be harder for the organizations to pursue the goal of gender parity. It’s vital to make this statement out loud and meaningful towards ensuring change. Second – Approximately 40-50% of our target clients…the borrowers are women. These are the individuals making the purchase decisions. In fact, single women are the fastest growing segment of homebuyers, currently at 25%, versus single men at 10%. Third – The growth of women in both the broker channel and the mortgage sales channel in the past 10 years is off the map! Good for them, independent thinkers! This also includes female broker franchise owners and managers. Fourth – As a leader, it is my fundamental responsibility to ensure our organization is equitable, fair, and transparent, and that our organization reflects the opportunities without discrimination that all Canadians deserve. The Canadian disparity in wage & career opportunities will NOT close until we, as leaders, take responsibility to make the change. It is important that at every level we walk the walk, and talk the talk. Fifth – I can’t continue to grow my company without great thought leaders, who are passionate and energetic, and to get a breadth of ideas, I have to surround myself with a wide range of people. I’m pretty damn sure women are excellent thought leaders too! Hiring women to balance our leadership is an economic imperative. I think the issue of gender parity in our industry is the elephant in the room. But, why aren’t these issues being raised? Is it the fear of job loss, a reduction in career opportunities, or the label of being called a feminist? Or maybe it’s that we’ve become numb and too accepting of this disparity. The higher ranks of the corporate ladder are tailored for men. The prime career achievements are in your 20s to 40s, and this is also the prime time for building a family. This structure needs to change. Let me be clear here, I am not saying women should be granted roles simply because of their gender. They should and will be judged on the same standards of performance and skill-set as men, NOT gender. But to suggest that there aren’t women who possess the appropriate skill-sets is both naive and inaccurate and makes me want to reach out and slap someone when they take this position. What we can do is talk about it, in our companies, at our associations, with our clients and suppliers, and with our families. Recently, Intel’s CEO pledged $300MM to increase diversity to ensure that its workforce would reach full representation of women and minorities by 2020. *Loud applause* How about we take a page from Dr. Leitch and set goals internally and externally!! If you work for one of these employers, ask them what their gender equity goals are. If they don’t have any, ask them to consider it, and offer your assistance. Mention that you have an issue if they don’t have goals. We publish a great deal of industry information (CAAMP, CMHC, etc.). So why aren’t there more publications on gender disparity? This is a small industry. It’s common at our annual mortgage conferences for us to run into the same people year after year. What better place is there to raise this issue? But nope, this topic never comes up. There are panels of industry experts every year….yes, these panels are highly dominated by men. I know there are a ton of brilliant women, who are able to provide brilliant insights. Sure they might not be in a CEO role, but they know their businesses, they know this industry and have great successes to share, so why not invite them as panelists? Gender parity makes good business sense. We need support from men in order to level the playing field. I know of a company who promotes using suppliers who have a strong female representation within the company. Imagine that? I’m going to do that this year… just watch me. Leading a charge for gender parity isn’t just about appointing more women in leadership roles, it’s about the courageous men and women who should work together to ensure that our future generations have a more equitable role in the workplace. So, don’t be surprised if you get a call from me asking you to participate! Or better yet, call me/write me and tell me what you are going to do and what your idea is to change this age-old industry. Be that guy or girl who can say to his or her grandchildren that he created a legacy to balance the gender inequality in their company. Create a meaningful plan to invest in female leadership and do it now. Make them all proud of you. Make the industry proud of you. Hell, I’ll even buy your stock and put you front and centre on the realfword! Help make this disappearing act vanish! Share this: Share Email Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Pinterest Google Print Trump is a jack ass. I have the solution to the Middle East crisis! By Kathy On January 22, 2016 In Personal Challenge The only good thing about having news coverage on Donald Trump is that the media has stopped talking about our crackhead ex-mayor, Rob Ford. Other than that, he is a scary guy because there is the chance (albeit remote) that he might be the next leader of the United States of America. He is now back tracking a tad on his comments about prohibiting Muslims from entering the US, which is redundant if he is to be elected. Who in their right mind, other than far right evangelists, would want to move to the US if he were elected? It’s hard to disagree that he sounds like a fascist (more than anyone since WWII). I have visions of the supposed twelve-foot wall he is going to erect at the Canadian/US border to keep out the crazy radicals, and inevitably very polite Canadians, our moose, beavers and our much better tasting beer! I suppose he will keep the wall erected right up to the point of desperation when California needs our water, then he will probably invade us! Guess what Mr. Trump? If I held the deciding vote, this would be my message to you; you aren’t welcome in Canada. In fact, we are removing your name from the Trump tower in Toronto and Vancouver. It’s now called the Rump tower! Enough about him – the more media air-time he gets, the more we’re contributing to his confidence. He is very dangerous in terms of solving the crisis in the Middle East, addressing the racism that is spreading around the world, let alone encouraging it. I believe I have the solution. It’s a long journey, but it seems to make perfect sense to me. Are you ready? Here it is… Start mandating education for women in the most conflict ridden countries, right now! End of story. That’s it. That’s my solution. If you look closely at where the radicalism originates, and at the same time compare the utter oppression of women including the lack of education, high levels of illiteracy, poor health care, low life-expectancy, death from child-birth, rape, genital mutilation, honor killing, rampant physical abuse, absence of voting rights, ability to leave the house without an escort, restricted from driving a car, slavery, prostitution; of course I could go on and on. Female oppression isn’t just prevalent, it’s a way of life. Some of the worst ranking countries for female education are: Afghanistan, Sudan, Guatemala, Mali, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, Africa, Egypt, and Yemen. Here’s the thing, educated women won’t put up with crap like the atrocities I just mentioned. Furthermore, educating women plays a key role in the economic growth of any society. It seems odd that we have to point this out, but we do. Educating women not only contributes to the size of the workforce but the output of production of any given country. More production output equals a better economy and better GDP. It also improves health care which translates to less poverty, better education for boys and girls of the next generation, and the generation after that, lowers infant mortality, decreases racism and wait for it… yes, less violence and war! When I mean educate, I’m talking about math, languages, science, arts and world history. The UN has declared education a basic human right. This means everyone in the world – all women in the world! I don’t have a well thought out plan on how to raise the money to roll out mass education in these regions. I don’t have a clue how an organization can begin to make dramatic, meaningful changes. There are a number of organizations dedicated to this and are succeeding, but these changes are slow. For example, check out what Tara Dawood is accomplishing with Ladies Fund and Educate A Girl. There are many more intelligent people than me, who are capable of coming up with a plan to work with the leaders in these countries to help them train teachers, build more schools, and invest in educational tools. As an educated woman and a mom, what I instinctively know is that educated women will not tolerate their children in committing mass murder. It is instinctive for us to protect and nurture the family through better education and subsequently a better life. So, yes our moms and educators can end the violence. I know if Canada went to war, my reaction would be to pack up my children and seek refugee status in Fiji or St. Maarten! I am clearly the least experienced individual in terms of home land security or military tactics. However, I know enough to distinguish that this isn’t as black and white as I’m painting it but at the end of the day, this is a human rights issue, and we should all own it. It has to be easier and cheaper to help build a school and implement educational programs than it is to send men to battle. How can we presume to impose this on other countries when this human rights issue of education is nothing short of world crisis? I feel strongly that this could very well be the beginning of the end of war. When you educate a girl, you educate a nation. But what about this? Canada just did a multibillion dollar weapons deal with Saudi Arabia. I guess that makes sense, but why don’t we demand that as a condition of this sale, we are happy to sell you armored vehicles, but only if you agree to build new schools for women/girls. Donald Trump, you have billions of dollars, and you profess to know all, why can’t you STFU and prove it? Get on your G5, head to the UN and make this happen. I’ll bet David Cameron, Justin Trudeau, heck… even Hillary Clinton will join you. I know I would. I will be spending the rest of my life trying to find ways in which I can support the education effort for women. I hope you will join me. http://ladiesfund.com/ http://plancanada.ca/ http://becauseiamagirl.ca/girlseducation Share this: Share Email Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Pinterest Google Print Stop Emailing Me! By Kathy On January 11, 2016 In advice Here is my easiest New Year’s resolution ever: rid myself of the BS emails I receive daily. The how to: 1) for the month of January, each day I will go through my emails and unsubscribe to every retail store and publication that fills up my inbox with ads. 2) for the rest of the year, hell for the rest of my life, when someone asks me for my email address and phone number either at a store or online, I’m going to say, “NO”, and /or I’m going to give them a fake email and Donald Trump’s office phone number – for those peculiar days when I’m feeling jolly and rebellious. I looked at my inbox on Boxing Day, and there were no less than 37 emails telling me about various sales. Look, I did 90% of my shopping online for Christmas this year and last year, so it makes sense I’m inundated. Did I save any money? Nope, not a chance in hell. I tried to track what I spend for the 14 people I shop for and I do a crappy job of it, but I have a pretty good idea that I over spent this year, like I do every year. I accept this huge character flaw and frankly, I don’t care very much. I like shopping and I like buying gifts for others, on my time schedule of course. Did I save time? Yes, most definitely. There are no line ups in my bedroom when I’m shopping in an insomnious state. And wow, the online shopping I can do while on a flight that has Wi-Fi is, well, utterly gluttonous, especially if they have a nice vintage white wine on board. Wait, a nice vintage white wine on Air Canada? Now, I’m just talking crazy. Yes, I am a shopper, but I don’t enjoy the shopping experience, so I am proud of how efficient I am at it. I recently read about the “gender price gouging” issue. Most notably, the Wall Street Journal published a study that clearly shows that when female products are compared to similar male products, they are priced higher 42% of the time, versus men 18% of the time! WTF? I get that we need more shoes and purses, but general products cost more because I carry a purse? Say it isn’t so. Let’s remind ourselves that women typically make less on average and now we also pay more? Again, WTF? Let’s look at a few of the examples of this chick price gouging; Starting with girl toys versus boy toys. Yup 15% higher, for the same toy, different colour Little girls’ clothing (pants, shirts, shorts), 4% – 13% higher Women’s T-shirts versus men’s 15% The real killer is personal care products: Hair care 48% higher Razors 15% higher…and no, the survey was not trying to lead us down some feminist garden path. The same manufacturers and product specs were compared in the survey. And guess what? There is currently a law in New York that prohibits gender price gouging, and the penalty is between $50 and $500. These pricing Sherlock Holmes’ find the biggest culprits are in hair salons and in dry cleaning services. So, now you may be thinking, this is an US issue which doesn’t happen in Canada. Well, you are wrong. CBC Marketplace conducted an investigation last year. Results? It’s the same of course and no, we don’t have a gender pricing law in Canada. Where are our pricing Sherlock Holmes’? Ad hoc, I did my own research. I stuff a number of Christmas stockings each year, at least 6, both male and female. They were primarily stuffed with bits of personal care items and I throw in other weird things that they wouldn’t buy for themselves and probably never use. It’s a long-standing family tradition – mom’s mental stocking stuffers. And yes, the cost of the male stocking stuffers is at least 30% less than the female. No question about it. So it got me thinking, what can I do about it? Well, obviously, buy more generic male items and put them in the female stockings. I’m sure my daughters and other female family members will get used to the smell of Old Spice and AXE eventually. It’s not like they need to go on dates on a regular basis anyway. But what if we ALL started shopping in the men’s aisles at Shoppers Drug Mart? Are the manufacturers all going to accept earning less on personal care products? Nope, not a chance in hell. They will undoubtedly jack-up the prices on men’s products. Similarly, it’s pretty easy to simply buy little Suzy the red scooter for $29 versus the pink one for $49, but you can bet your ass next year the red scooter price goes up! So what can we do? I believe even if we invoke a gender pricing law in Canada, they will simply increase the male pricing. So, sorry, I don’t really have a solution. Except, as the consumer, we determine what the manufacturers sell with our wallets. We can send a message that says, “FU, we aren’t prepared to pay more just because we carry a purse and want to use beauty products. We WILL buy the best products at the best prices.” We need to be more prudent with how we spend our hard-earned dollars and stop fattening up the profit margins for manufacturers. They are clearly cutting their costs with online shopping (less infrastructure and staff costs, which by the way, could result in huge unemployment issues for us in the future), but they don’t seem to be passing these savings en masse to online shoppers. So, let’s not add to their bottom line by buying higher priced female products when we have a choice. Back to my email shopping resolution, I have a rule for retail stores and services; do not email me or call me, unless I email or call you first! Ignoring telemarketers is pretty easy for me. I rarely give out my cell, and rarely answer my phone. Stop infiltrating my email inbox, well this is similar to a military invasion! It stops now! Try it, it’s cathartic. Vote these infiltrators off your island. It’s a bit lonely in the mornings, but now that I don’t have all these emails to delete, maybe I can use this time to get my butt to the gym and focus on achieving my New Year’s “healthy lifestyle” resolution! So, to refresh: 1) stop the invasion of the zillions of uninvited emails to my inbox and 2) stop fattening the margins of retail stores/manufacturers by continuing to buy over-priced female merchandise. Done! Kathy Share this: Share Email Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Pinterest Google Print Page 1 of 2 Next → Subscribe to real f word via email Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email. Email Address Like this fword Like this fword Follow me @realfwordMy Tweets Search my f words My past f words My past f words Select Month June 2016 (1) May 2016 (1) April 2016 (1) March 2016 (3) February 2016 (1) January 2016 (4) December 2015 (2) Your f words Peter Fabry "Please add me on your email distribution list for future posts/articles. Very well-written ..." Peggy "I like it Kathy, ... Didn't know exactly where you were going at ..." Kathy "Katie, thank you for your reply. Good for you. I hope you ..." 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