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Why celebrate International Women's Day in Muskoka
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Why celebrate International Women's Day in Muskoka

Posted: 2024-02-29 13:04:56 By: thebay


Why We Celebrate Women’s Day

Inspiring Inclusion in Muskoka with an all-star speakers’s panel

According to Statistics Canada, a certified journeyperson in Canada with two years’ experience earns a median $65,940: if you’re a man. A woman journeyperson with the same certification and experience earns a median $28,240. This is just one reason why it’s important to recognize International Women’s Day every year on March 8, and to work collectively for equity and inclusion.

Inspiring Inclusion is the 2024 theme for International Women’s Day (IWD) and Muskoka will mark the day with an all-star panel ready for a fireside – strike that, a ‘dockside - chat on Friday, March 8 in Gravenhurst.

Organized by the Muskoka Lakes Chamber of Commerce with support from presenting partners TD Bank Group and Bala Cove Marina, all are welcome (all genders) to join this breakfast event, the first IWD event of the day in the eastern time zone starting at 7:30am. Tickets are $44. Get them here >

Featured on the speakers’ panel is the CEO and President of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada (TIAC), Beth Potter, who was recently recognized as one of the top 50 Women in Travel in Canada. She’s joined by former Gravenhurst resident and Chief Operating Officer of Restaurants Canada, Tracy Macgregor; Port Carling’s own visionary entrepreneur, Amanda McLennan, owner of RB Design and host of The Creative Influencer podcast; and from the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, the author of The She-Covery Project, Claudia Dessanti. Together they’ll explore this year’s Women’s Day theme, Inspiring Inclusion.

“Celebrating how far women and all genders have come while raising awareness of ongoing barriers in our community is why we gather each year, on Women’s Day, to push for what women started with that first protest march on March 8, 1908,” explains Norah Fountain, the Chamber’s Executive Director and panel moderator.

The Chamber believes the Muskoka business community needs to demonstrate Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), she continues, partially because it can help ease staff shortages. The need for DEI, however, goes far beyond workforce.

 “Muskoka is becoming more diverse, yet there’s still work to be done to make our region welcoming for all to live, work and play here. That’s what Inspiring Inclusion is all about,” says Fountain. Diverse populations have said they want to work in Muskoka, for example, but they don’t see themselves reflected here, and the housing cost is out of reach. Add to that the stark reality of the gender wage gap and the fact that the number of women in the workforce is at a record low.

Why is that?  “For starters, follow the money,” says Fountain. Statistics Canada data from 2021 pegs the median employment income for women in Muskoka at between $20,000 and $26,800. “It’s almost impossible to comprehend,” she says.

Women are being encouraged to enter the trades, which suffer from a lack of employees, and inspiring inclusion in that workforce is needed, too, says Fountain, but it can be a hard sell. She points out that two years after certification as a journeyperson, on average, a man earns a median $65,940 while a woman earns just $28,240.  “We’ve got to look hard at why these barriers exist and start removing them if we are going to achieve equity and inclusion in our top employment sectors,” she says.

While the stats may be off-putting, make no mistake, says Fountain. Women’s Day Muskoka is a celebration. “The energy last year was epic, and everyone will have a great time again this year.”

Attendees will be greeted with a non-alcoholic mimosa courtesy of Sobey’s Gravenhurst and the coffee will be piping hot, too, at 7:30am, as you catch up with old friends and make new ones. Indigenous business owner for 22 years in Bala, chef Nicole Richard, is whipping up a mouth-watering breakfast buffet. You can pick from an artisanal chocolate bon bon tree from the Cacao Boys. There are gifts at every table and door prizes, too. Plus, Fountain promises a surprise announcement about a new Awards program related to women in trades.

The Chamber thanks its partners for making Women’s Day in Muskoka possible. They include TD Bank Group, Bala Cove Marina, Chelsey Penrice, Broker, Harvey Kalles; Muskoka Wi-Fi, Red Maple Carpentry, PSR Brokerage, Sublime Graphics, The Hook and Ladder Bar and Grill with help from Stewart Food Services; the Marriott Residence Inn for providing accommodations for our speakers; Sobeys for their donation, Cacao Boys for their chocolate; and our media partners Muskoka Today and MuskokaRegion.com.

Meet our inspiring all-star panel

The main prize is hearing from our all-star panel of speakers Inspiring Inclusion. They bring leading expertise on the local Muskoka, provincial Canadian and global stage, some of them specifically in tourism and trades.

Beth Potter: one of the Top 50 Women in Travel

Beth Potter, President and CEO, Tourism Industry Association of Canada (TIAC) is an accomplished leader with more than 35 years of diversified provincial, national association experience, and close to 20 years in the tourism sector.

Since joining TIAC as its President and CEO in March of 2021, Beth has been implementing her vision to heighten awareness of the critical importance of tourism across Canada and to build on the organization’s advocacy objectives to recover the sector from the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and to position it for continued growth into the future.

Internationally, she is an active member of both the World Travel and Tourism Council and the United Nations World Tourism Organization.

As a testament to her leadership in the industry, Beth was recently named one of the Top 50 Women in Travel by the Global Business Travel Association and also received the Canadian Live Music Industry’s 2022 “Unsung Hero" Award for her work as Co-Chair of the Coalition of Hardest Hit Businesses.

Beth continuously works with a variety of committees and volunteers from across the tourism industry; including serving on the boards of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, Future Borders Coalition Board of Directors, Centennial College Board of Governors, , and Tourism HR Canada.

Support our Speakers: You can follow Beth at https://www.instagram.com/bethlpotter/ and follow TIAC https://www.instagram.com/tiac_aitc/

Claudia Dessanti: Author of The She-Covery Project explains the pandemic impact on women

Claudia Dessanti is the Director of Policy at the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC), where she manages the Policy Team, chairs the Energy Policy Council, and leads the chamber’s work on a range of policy files, including climate, energy, economic development, data, DEI, and more. Claudia also sits on the Board of the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario, the Executive Committee of Partners in Project Green (Toronto Region Conservation Authority), and the Advisory Board of Innovate Cities.

Before joining the OCC in 2018, Claudia researched mortgage markets for National Bank Financial and measured social impact for Charity Intelligence. She has a Master’s degree from the University of Oxford and a BA from the University of Toronto.

You can follow Claudia on X @claudiadessanti and the OCC @OntarioCofC

Tracy Macgregor: Gravenhurst girl at the top of Restaurants Canada

Tracy Macgregor’s come a long way from her first job at Kentucky Fried Chicken in Gravenhurst but she has fond memories of working there, at the Sands (now Taboo), and of fun with Skokie at the Gravenhurst Winter Carnival and Christmas Lit at Gravenhurst High School. Tracy is Chief Operating Officer at Restaurants Canada, after previously serving as the Vice-President, Ontario for that organization. She is a seasoned professional with a strong background in driving growth and value across various sectors.

Leveraging her strategic skills to advance Canada’s foodservice industry, her multifaceted background includes over a decade in the Ontario Chamber network, where she held positions such as Vice President of Member Services at the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and President & CEO of the Newmarket Chamber of Commerce. During her tenure, Tracy excelled in cultivating collaboration, forging strategic partnerships, and advocating for members' interests at all levels of government.

As well as her Chamber experience, Tracy boasts over ten years of hands-on involvement in hospitality and tourism product development. Her tenure over a decade with a leading business consulting firm was focused on supporting large-scale enterprises, helping them identify and act upon key value drivers to achieve sustained growth.

Tracy's career is underpinned by a passion for fostering the prosperity of businesses and communities as well as building strong engaged teams. Her diverse skill set, and dedication make her an invaluable asset to both Restaurants Canada and the foodservice community she is committed to serving.

You can follow Restaurants Canada on Instagram @restaurantscanada

Amanda McLennan: Renovating Muskoka and coaching women to be stronger than ever

Growing up on the other side of the ocean, Amanda spent her early days surrounded by the Scottish countryside. Inspired from an early age with great architectural masterpieces she was bound to art and design. Moving to Canada to start a new adventure she attended Seneca College, graduating in Graphic Art Design, then later applying to the Art Foundation & Design program at George Brown College. After graduating in 2003 she relocated to Muskoka and began working alongside one of the top interior design companies in the area. Fast forward 15 years, 3 kids, 1 dog later, Amanda and her family live in Muskoka full time now, enjoying the beauty year-round. This visionary force behind Red Bean Interior Design, Amanda has successfully renovated and built many new homes for her family around Muskoka. Many of her projects can be found in the portfolio galleries and on our Instagram page. Follow her @rb_furnitureshopanddesign.

In 2022 Amanda launched her first Podcast, where she talks about all things design, entrepreneurship, mom life, CrossFit, and how to manage life as a single boss babe - tune in here: The Creative Influencer Podcast

Norah Fountain: creative business communicator and absolute Muskokan

Our dockside chat is moderated by the Chamber’s Executive Director Norah Fountain. Before her career in business marketing, Norah was a journalist who interviewed people from all walks of life, from rock stars to entrepreneurial stars such as Frank Stronach, Ed Mirvish, and even the now notorious Peter Nygaard. She learned from the best as the senior researcher for Pierre Berton’s TV series, The Secret of My Success. A winner of three marketing awards and investigative journalism honours, Norah holds a B.A. in Cultural Studies from Nipissing University an Advanced Diploma in Journalism from Humber College. Norah lives in the house she was born in in Torrance and what drives her is her desire to make Muskoka a place where youth can stay and thrive instead of having to leave for better paying prospects. She has led the Muskoka Lakes Chamber since 2016. In 2021, her Chamber was awarded a province-wide Power of the Pivot award for their support of businesses at the height of the pandemic. You can follow Norah on X @muskokahn and the Chamber on X/Insta @muskokalakescc

For more information, contact Norah Fountain at 705.762.5663 or 705.706.2122 or email norah@muskokalakeschamber.ca