2022: Deepening my journey inward through 57 books

I’ve always read a lot. I’ve know people who have read 52 books a year, or one book a week, which seemed unachievable – until I embraced audiobooks. Last year, I decided I was finally going to take the 52-book challenge and ended the year surpassing that, having read 57 (41 audiobooks and 16 print; 9 fiction and 48 non-fiction).

Reading has been a way for me to deepen my thinking on topics of interest, and intellectually explore. Sometimes I go deep on a theme, and sometimes I read widely looking for connections between seemingly disparate themes.

In 2022, I read on a couple of themes. Not all of the themes were ones I intentionally choose to explore – some of the themes emerged from curiosities arising from one book. I’ve included my reflections on the themes I’ve noticed to date – while I expect that much of my thinking will deepen on these themes this year, I welcome discussions on any of the books I’ve chosen to comment on below.

Spirituality – my focus in 2021 was spirituality and I continued this exploration into this year

  • Everything by Yung Pueblo – Inward, Clarity and Connection, Lighter
    • If you like Rumi, you’ll like Yung Pueblo. He has a way of presenting the deep and complex in a simple, profound way. I now follow him on social media and subscribe to his newsletter and I continue to derive great value from his writing, even when I’m re-reading the same poem or excerpt weekly. He is my TOP recommendation of 2022.
  • When the Body Says No & The Myth of Normal by Gabor Maté (and Daniel Maté on the second one)
    • These books are a physician’s exploration of the mind-body-spirit connection, and the link between repressed emotions and disease. I’ve become really curious about linking eastern and western philosophies and I think Dr. Maté accomplishes this. Through exploring his own life story, along with what he learned as a physician, he has some incredible considerations for all of us as we work to learn about how we express ourselves and the impact that can have on our bodies.
  • The Way of Integrity – Martha Beck
    • For Beck, integrity means living in line with your own deepest truths, and getting in sync with your interconnection to everything. The end of the book has some remarkable stories about her own journey to integrity and what shifted in her life as a result.
  • Becoming Supernatural – Dr. Joe Dispenza
    • This book walks through research showing how you can change your epigenetics (the way your genes are expressed based on your environments and emotions) using meditation. I found a lot of the main takeaways to be related to what I read from Beck and Maté – we are not just our minds or our bodies. The more coherence we can develop in mind-body-spirit, the more we can live in integrity – with ourselves and others. If you’ve only explored Western philosophies, this is a great entry into other ways of being as its grounded in Western medicine.
  • Loving What Is – Byron Katie & Stephen Mitchell
    • I’d heard of Byron Katie years ago and was familiar with her technique, the ‘turnaround’, though I hadn’t really read any of her work. Like the others mentioned in this category, there was a softness to her words and approach that I find rare – a softness perhaps attributed to her journey to integrity of mind-body-spirit and the recognition that we are all connected. The book is an exploration of her technique to help us love what is and not want to change it. At dinner recently, a friend told me of a takeaway from another friend’s 108-year grandma – he had asked her what her biggest lesson was from her long life. She said, “accept and appreciate”. Byron Katie teaches us how to do that.

Stories from people who identify with groups that have been underrepresented in our current narratives

  • What Strange Paradise – Omar El Akkad
    • El Akkad was coming to my town as part of a literary festival, so I picked this up – it’s a very difficult topic and an extremely powerful story. It follows a journey of people who leave their country for a better life, to a world where they will continue to struggle because the new country doesn’t want them. While this book is a work of fiction, it’s wholly based on real stories and the ending will give you a lot to consider.
  • Ru – Kim Thuy
    • A fictionalized account of her own immigration journey. Like El Akkad’s narrative, Thuy explores some of the difficulties of immigration, and finding belonging. The book explores going from wealth to being a refugee, to struggling as a new Canadian. She explores memories of her culture of birth and the culture she finds a new home in, motherhood, career and how to fully embrace her own story. It’s a beautiful read, translated from its original text in French.
  • Ten Steps to Nanette – Hannah Gadsby
    • I audiobooked this while driving and there was one point where I considered pulling the car over because I was laughing so hard. It also explores some very difficult topics through the story of her life, arriving up to the point of recording her Netflix special – getting an autism diagnosis as a woman, growing up in a rural place as someone who didn’t fit in, coming out, sexual assault. All of these are difficult topics on their own, and she manages to weave it together in a beautiful narrative that will probably have you both laughing and crying.
  • I Choose Myself – Deepti Vempati
    • The only reality TV I truly love is “Love is Blind”. It’s okay, you can judge me – there is something I find fascinating about it. Deepti appeared on season 2, and throughout it, I found her to likeable and authentic. She didn’t find love, but she did meet herself. This is her story up to that point in life, and includes her own immigration story and growing in the USA where she both felt at home and an outsider.
  • The Inconvenient Indian – Thomas King
    • Last year, I read on reconciliation. This was the only book I explicitly read on the topic and I loved it – King is both poignant and funny at the same time. I wish this as a must read for everyone in North America.

Great biographies – a few that I mentioned above are (auto)biographies, and a few here are biographies from people in underrepresented groups – these were books I sought out because they were (auto)biographies

  • Can’t Hurt Me – David Goggins
    • I don’t think you could finish this book and not want to work out. This is a man who has conquered his mind and as a result is able to push his body to things we might consider inconceivable, including running 100 miles without training (yes, he was a Navy Seal at the time, but hadn’t trained in running that distance!). As someone who got back into running last year, I find this feat alone to be utterly remarkable. He is also a black man – the book is not about racism at all, though I’ve noticed that when I read the works of people who are black, they comment on their lived experiences of racism. I’ve been exploring my role as an ally to those experiencing racism and reading about these lived experiences really helps one crystallize how important it is to shift our current systems of race, and institutionalized racism.
  • Born a Crime – Trevor Noah
    • As you could expect from Noah, the book is funny, insightful, and clever. It primarily explores his childhood growing up mixed race in apartheid South African with his single mom. It’s a beautiful journey and as others before me have said, a love story to his mom.
  • Will – Will Smith & Mark Manson
    • Like Noah’s book, Smith’s book is also funny, insightful and clever – it follows him from his early life to his wild successes. A few years ago, I read Matthew McConnaughey’s book and something I noticed common among their stories is how they built deep relationships throughout their careers. I also loved the latter part of this book as he talks about embarking on his own spiritual journey, and what he has learned from it.
  • Run Towards the Danger – Sarah Polley
    • Sarah Polley, one of Canada’s great creative forces – she recalls her time as a child actor, her family of origin, her relationship with her father, her relationship with Jian Ghomeshi and why she didn’t come forward during his trial. She moves into building her own family, while later dealing with concussion. The takeaway – run towards the danger. Read it, and you’ll know why.
  • How to fail at almost everything and still win big – Scott Adams
    • This had a surprisingly spiritual theme for me. And he had some great tips for eating vegetarian to maximize energy!

A few evidence-based books that I truly enjoyed

  • The power of regret – Dan Pink
    • Don’t regret regret. It has something to teach us.
  • The power of us – Jan Van Bavel, PhD & Dominic Packer, PhD
    • The subtitle is Harnessing Our Shared Identities to Improve Performance, Increase Cooperation, and Promote Social Harmony. I think it’s a great summary of a great book.
  • Anthrovision – Gillian Tett
    • There’s not just one way to see the world. Tett reminds us how culture influences our lenses.
  • Think Again – Adam Grant, PhD
    • Another great one by Grant, reminding us how we can innovate and find common ground.
  • Atlas of the Heart – Brene Brown, PhD
    • If you’ve read her other work, this is a deepening of all of it.
  • Platonic – Marisa Franco, PhD
    • A celebration of love other than romantic love.
  • Beyond Order – Jordan Peterson, PhD
    • More rules for life from this polarizing character – all of his rules really give you lots to think about. My favourite: ‘do not hide unwanted things in the fog’.
  • Principles for Dealing with the Changing World Order – Ray Dalio
    • A comprehensive analysis of macro-economic cycles over the last 500 years and where we might be today based on a set of parameters he and his research team track. Worth a read.

Women’s sexuality

  • Three Women – Lisa Taddeo
  • The fifty shades series – E.L. James
    • My takeaway from these and a few others I’ve read over the years on this topic is that women’s sexuality has been hidden and shamed for way too long. I’m glad that it’s getting its time – it’s far overdue. These books all present difficult topics that need to be explored and discussed.
    • I read the Fifty Shades out of curiosity, started on a lazy getaway at the cottage. At first, I thought it was sending some negative messages to young women, and as I went along, I completely changed my mind. Hey, the writing not be the best, but still worth checking out 🙂


I’ve tracked my reading a GSheet since 2015, and it’s been a great record for me to look through for trends. Someone recommended GoodReads recently so I’m going to give that a go in 2023. I hope you’ll join me – 2023 is off to a great start in my reading journey with A Promised Land from Barack Obama. Check me out on GoodReads for what I have to say about it, I hope we can chat books.

A Promised Land by Barack Obama | My rating: 5 of 5 stars | View all my reviews

2022: Inward

I ran into a professional contact at an event mid-year, and he said to me, “Vanessa, where have you been?!” It was a joke since most people hadn’t seen each other in person in a couple of years as a result of the pandemic, though also a serious question. I’d chosen to live a bit more privately over the last couple of years and he was sincerely curious as to what I’d been up to.

My personal pandemic shift was taking time to slow down and go inward. “Inward” is a nod to Yung Pueblo, a remarkable poet and my greatest find of 2022. While I’ve been somewhat active on social media, I’ve not really known what to share about my inward journey.

A thread I’ve continued to explore from my journey in 2021 is spirituality – I’d define spirituality in its simplest form as the state of interconnectedness. I’ve come to understand that there is a mind-body-spirit connection and that we are all of them together. We exist in all 3 at the same time, and when we lose that, we become disconnected both from ourselves as well as others.

Until 2021, I had really only explored mind and body. In 2021, I explored spirit. In 2022, I explored them together in a few main ways: being in nature and exploring my connection to all things (spirit), pushing my body with lots of periods of rest (body), and through reading to distill hat I’ve been learning (mind).

“If you want to make small changes, do things differently. If you want to make big changes, see things differently” – proverb


Nature helps quiet the mind and teaches you about how interconnected everything truly is. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always liked being outside. This year, I took that to the next level. One of my biggest achievements was hiking 60-km in one day on the Dobson trail from Fundy to Riverview, NB. As with most achievements, I didn’t do this alone. My friend, Sarah, and I hiked the trail together. We prepared together, and each brought a different skill set to the day. I witnessed her incredible mental resilience on the trail. We had lots of help too – Sarah’s husband drove my friends Mischka and Saniya to pick up my car, the 3 of them who met us along the way for supply refills, and Amanda who met us with 10-km to go and lead us through the darkest part of the journey.

I spent a lot of time on the Dobson trail this year. It feels like a home to me. Throughout my time there, I’ve met many of the regulars and had many chats. It made me feel safe, and also connected. What I learned from spending time there is the difference between ownership and stewardship. Obviously the Dobson trail is not a home to me in a traditional sense as I have no ownership to the trail. I do consider myself one of its stewards though.

I’ve come to think of ownership and stewardship as concepts that help us interact with the world – ownership is a legal concept, one where I can use buying power to acquire things like a house and land. On the other hand, even if I legally own a house and land, being its steward is different. Being a steward of a house or land changes the way I choose to interact with it. I’m responsible for its upkeep and maintenance similar to ownership, though I’m also responsible for living in harmony with it.

In 2022, I reflected a lot on the concept of stewardship – it’s something I feel I haven’t learned enough about. In business and management books, we often receive the message that people have to be owners to take things seriously and treat things with the respect they deserve. How would that change if our culture taught people to be stewards – of their relationships, their businesses, their land, their homes? I think this tiny shift in frames has the potential to create waves of change in the world.

One of the themes I’ve been reading on over the last 2 years is is reconciliation with Indigenous North Americans. One of the lines that has stuck with me for over a year now was from Tanya Talaga’s Massey lecture, All our relations, where she said for Indigenous peoples “separation from the land is equivalent to a spiritual separation”. In a sentence, she captured what I had been trying to wrap my mind around and perhaps something that I knew on an intuitive level. We cannot live separately from anything or anyone else, including land. We have to be stewards of each other, and live with the land rather than on it. I continue to explore what that means for me in shifting my behaviours, through shifting my mindset.


I learned another important lesson from my time outside – how far I can push my body. Someone said to me in passing this past year that the body can exist only in the present. It was one of those “a ha” moments for me where I realized that part of the goal of meditation is to simply bring the mind into coherence with the body – in the present. I’ve come to believe spiritual practices are meant to bring the body and mind into coherence with the spirit. I wanted to do the full Dobson hike as a spiritual journey, and it was indeed that. I realized the body is capable of so much more than I realized.

After that, I ran 2 x 5-km races, 1 x 10-km trail race, 1 x 17-km trail race, attempted to summit Mt. Katahdin (didn’t end up conquering the fear of heights, but planning a re-visit!), played a few ultimate frisbee tournaments, got into downhill skiiing and have generally enjoyed being active. There is a happiness I find in being active that I find rare in anything else I do. I attribute much of that joy to the presence required in being active.


Throughout my life, one of my main habits in deepening and expanding my thinking has been reading. In 2022, I ramped up my reading through fully embracing audiobooks and managed to somehow read 57 books in a year. My next post explores my takeaways from a year of exploring a few themes. As I reflected overall on the main takeaway from this broad exploration in 2022, my main takeaway was that the mind-body-spirit connection is indeed real and that people are exploring in many different ways – from pushing their bodies to extremes, to researching how groups interact, to opening oneself up to alternate ways of being in the world aside from the ones you may have been trained in. My post on my the books of 2022 is long (coming soon), though I wrote it to figure it out my own takeaways and I hope in the process contribute something of value to others. If you ever want to talk about any of the books I discuss, please reach out to me!

2023: Outward

It’s taken me a few weeks to solidify my thinking about what I grew into in 2022, and what that means for me moving into this new year. After a couple of years going inward, I’m now ready to journey outward again – now that I have become aware of my previous separation of mind-body-spirit and brought those into integrity. While my practices are in no way perfect, I’ve fully embraced that perfect is no longer the goal. I now understand what is meant when people say the journey matters more than the destination. For the first time, I’ve also truly experienced what it means to have faith – faith that there is so much than I can ever understand, and faith to simply accept interconnectedness – both within myself (mind-body-spirit) and outside of myself.

One of my first explorations of 2023 has been diving into the practices of “The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity” by Julia Cameron. Most of what I’ve read about creativity lately has a deep spiritual element to it with the main messages being that we are channels for creativity, and that creativity is available to everyone. Her practices have components to help bring the mind, body and spirit more fully into coherence. I’ll be creating this year through a few different formats and I hope you’ll join me for the journey, as I hope to follow your journey as well.

With much love.

you can change your location,

meet new people, 

and still have the same old problems.

to truly change your life, 

you need to look inward,

get to know and love yourself, 

and heal the trauma and dense conditioning

in your mind.

this is how you get to the root.

internal changes

have a significant external impact.

yung pueblo

The future is trust

I had the chance to attend Startupfest in Montreal last week and I have to say that it was truly a world-class event.  They turned Parc Jean Drapeau into a business festival, complete with tents chock-full of incredible and diverse speakers, booths representing companies and places from across the world and a food truck alley.

My biggest take-away was the number of times I heard people talk about trust.  Often, when we hear about business in the media, we hear about mistrust – about people being taken advantage of, or, profits at all costs.

It seems to me like the new era business is focused on trust.  A few nuggets of wisdom I managed to capture:

  • ‘Trust is critical in influence’.  – Amber Mac (technology influencer)
  • ‘You’re always selling trust’. – Laura Behrens Wu (CEO, Shippo)

The businesses of the future – the ones who succeed – know that trust is their greatest asset.  If people don’t trust you, they won’t come back for repeat business.  If you’re not worried about repeat business, then it might be referrals.  Either way, trust is critical to your bottom line.  The Coveys have known this for a long time: Speed of Trust.

More than 20 years later

On Monday, I had the chance to talk to the Galifax Summer Camp about Amplify, feminism and power posing (sharing Amy Cuddy’s science).

We opened with a great discussion on their impression of feminism.  I asked them what feminism meant to them, leading into the messages they’ve received – whether directly or indirectly – about being a girl.

I was so impressed by how articulate they all were, and what they had to say on the topic.  They all had a pretty deep understanding about the messages girls receive because it’s such a lived experience – the messages have been received since before being born.  I was struck by the fact that the messages they told me about were the same ones I had received when I was their age – more than 20 YEARS AGO.

Things like: girls don’t excel at sports (Serena Williams, anyone?!), that they shouldn’t play video games (here’s a great article on the video game industry waking up to the lack of women – gave me shivers, actually), that their priorities should be taking care of children, and that they should identify with pink and not blue (so arbitrary).

20 years later, and those messages are still being sent out.  This is why we need feminism and why we NEED to talk about gender representation (and more importantly, about intersectionality).  It’s also why we need to talk about it with boys and men too – so that we can all move towards a future where we’re free to be ourselves.

I hope I can reflect on this in 2038 and look back on all of the progress we’ve made. One step at a time.


Amplified Galifax.jpg Me, power posing at Galifax.  They practiced afterwards and rocked it.

What happens on a bus

I spent 15 hours on a bus yesterday to get from Moncton to Montreal. That is a LONG ride.

It wasn’t your usual bus though – there were 36 of us from across the maritimes interested in innovation and business all on our way to Startupfest. People are investing in us to come here – both a privilege and a responsibility.

We’re all at different stages of our journeys and at different stages of our lives, though there’s a certain magic when you find yourself in a group of like-minded people.

Curating a group of like-minded people is magic. It’s also surprising how, with the right ingredients, people can connect so quickly. I’ve had the opportunity to experience this a few times in my life so far: with 21inc – a leadership accelerator in Atlantic Canada where we spent a WEEK on a bus together, which was amazing – on this bus to Startupfest, and in an online fellowship program I’m currently participating in (no bus required).

There’s magic of finding your tribe, and a magic in realizing that each of us has more than 1 tribe to find or build.

The bus isn’t the magic part of the equation here. The tribe is.

If it’s not a supply problem… is it a demand problem?

Amplify‘s tagline so far has been ‘because remarkable women aren’t a supply problem’. So does this mean it’s a demand problem?

Hidden in our mindsets which shape our language are the ways that we’ve constructed manhood and womanhood. That women aren’t ‘demanded’ (asked, encouraged, told from a young age, etc) to run for the highest political offices around the world is a threat to all of us.

It’s a threat because, with the rise of the #MeToo reckoning, we’ve also seen the rise of the anti-#MeToo movement – the one that’s always been there, persistently telling women to just ‘stop being so hysterical, just calm down’.  With the President of the United States openly mocking the #MeToo movement, it can feel at times that equity is a long ways away.

There are places in this world where women aren’t even considered people – where they are told from birth that they don’t have thoughts unless a man tells them what to think. This is argued as biology, when we’ve shown that in fact, it’s not a biological fact at all.  It’s a story.  It seems like the battle for the last bit of this decade will be the battle of facts and truths vs. fake news and propaganda.  And it’s important to note that facts, truths, fake news and propaganda all come to us via stories.  It’s just a matter of determining which stories we want to buy into.

Look at Malala and what she’s been able to accomplish – from a Nobel peace prize, to significant influence around the world – and who has always stood behind her, telling her that she was just as capable as any man? Her father. Because he knows stories HAVE to change – he started by changing his daughters story about what was possible, even when the world around her told her that she didn’t matter. Our stories, institutions, and organizations – and the people in them and running them – matter a great deal.

Hollywood has been working to change the conversation on this, and while I like the occasional celebrity gossip, I’ve never followed Hollywood so closely until this past fall.

At Cannes this year, 82 women staged a protest representing each of the 82 female directors who’ve been in competition in Cannes’s 71-year history—compared to the 1,688 men (that’s less than 5%). I’m not quite sure how we can say equity NOT a demand problem.  Are there really no women directors out there?  Hard to believe.  So, it seems as though in many arenas, supply has not been the issue.  And if it’s not a supply problem, then perhaps demand might be the source of the issue.

Equity is a demand problem in the sense that women’s accomplishments can be invisible – because of where the balance of power sits. (And I don’t think this is only true re gender – we’re seeing the same type of thing playing out right now in the US in regard to race)

The Harvey Weinsteins / Bill Cosbys / Jian Ghomeshis of the world were able to get away with what they did for years ‘because that’s the way it’s always been’. This is shocking and yet, not shocking all at the same time.  Shocking because it’s now visible after years and year and years of abuse.  Not shocking because we all let it happen because it part of the stories we told ourselves about how the world works.

It’s only been 100 years in Canada that women have been able to vote – aka, be considered people under the law. And relatedly – own property, control their finances, and most importantly, control their bodies (still not fully resolved). Our institutions, organizations and the people who run them matter a great deal. Changing our stories is MONUMENTAL and, I think, the hardest part.

Feel the fear…

And do it anyway.

Someone told me this a number of years ago.  Simple advice, and yet at times, hard to implement.

Fear is such a powerful force – it gives us some great information at times.  And at other times, it can hold us back.

I’ve been working on implementing this advice for a long time… feel the fear, and do it anyway.  Or perhaps more accurately: feel the fear, ask myself why I’m having this fear – what it’s roots are, and whether its valid or not – and then determining a way through it.

One of the things that sometimes still surprises me is the fact that – even after facing some of my big fears and realizing I came out on the other side, not only unscathed, but stronger – there are always a few more fears waiting in the wings.  To ask me whether I was going to allow them to see the light of day too, or whether they’d stay lurking there for a little bit longer.

This year has been a year of facing a lot of the fears still lurking in the wings.

One of those fears is public speaking.  Like so many others on this planet, it was something that just caused me to freeze – ignited my ‘flight’ response embedded deep in my amygdala.

I also realized that because of this fear, I was always rehearsing my failure instead of visualizing my success.

I was recently selected for the AMAZING opportunity to give a TEDx talk at TEDxMoncton. To speak about Amplify and bias… about how we can work around our bias to find the best people.

The preparation for this talk was cathartic.  I got my draft ready, sent it to friends, practiced with colleagues and mentors and got some truly amazing feedback and support.  They not only helped me visualize my success, they also gave me some public speaking tips that I didn’t know about – repeat your message, repeat, repeat, repeat, use your hands, and your body to convey your message.

And then came the day of the talk.  I woke up nervous, and so headed out to practice my talk doing one of my favourite things – being outside with the dog.  Thankfully I didn’t see too many people as I rehearsed it multiple times while walking the trails….!  Doing this, along with the support I received from the various people I reached out to, really helped me to visualize my success.

The people I got to stand beside at TEDxMoncton were one of the best parts of this experience – from the people who organized it, to the other speakers.

Each of the talks was so inspiring and for different reasons.  My favourite quote from the night was Ken MacLeod, of Sistema NB, saying that “talent is universally distributed, opportunity is not”.  Isn’t that the truth.  And he has some compelling return-on-investment statistics on why investing in music-excellence education for young people who happen to come from disadvantaged backgrounds pays huge DIVIDENDS – a way to work around our bias.

What was common about all of the talks was the clear passion people felt for their topics. I felt the same way – it was a story I felt compelled to tell.  It was the same story that led to creating Amplify East.

And because of that story bigger than myself, I did it.  I stood on a stage, in the beautiful Capitol Theatre, and delivered a talk among people I admire.  My voice didn’t shake for the first time ever.  I visualized my success.

While I still have lots that I want to work on for future speaking, I’m so happy that I was able to take this fear out of the wings and give it sunlight.

It’s true that sunlight is the best disinfectant.



But we just want the best people

We hear this a lot in response to calls for equality, whether in business, government or public life.

‘I don’t care if they’re a man, woman or a toad (okay, maybe not a toad) – just get me the best person for the job’.

So how come we still see such blatant discrimination in so many places?

  • UN Women reports that as of 2017, there were only 2 countries in the entire WORLD that had 50% or more representation by women (and I’m going to bet you don’t guess the right countries, I know didn’t)
  • This Glass Ceiling Index reports that just over 20% of company board seats in Canada are held by women.
  • And in my home province of New Brunswick, we only have 16% of elected provincial seats held by women.

So how do we reconcile this (what I believe is a mostly genuine) desire to have the best people at the table, with the fact that there are still so many underrepresented groups in power?  [Gender being only one of those groups – if you want to get deeper into this, check out intersectionality, there’s tons of amazing writing out there on it].

Shouldn’t the best people just bubble up to the surface?

The answer is a resounding no.

In the 1970s and 1980s – in responses to calls for equality – orchestras began using blind auditions.  If biases or barriers didn’t exist, we’d expect there to be the same number of men and women (or perhaps more importantly – people who looked all kinds of different ways) in orchestras, though this wasn’t the case.

“As late as 1970, the top five orchestras in the U.S. had fewer than 5% women. It wasn’t until 1980 that any of these top orchestras had 10% female musicians. But by 1997 they were up to 25% and today some of them are well into the 30s. What is the source of this change? Have they added jobs? Have they focused on work that appeals to women?”

Nope, they just started using blind auditions.

I was listening to Adam Grant’s new podcast yesterday, “Work Life” (go check it out, AMAZING) where he was talking with the staff at The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.  One of the things that struck me was that they use blind auditions for hiring writers – because they want to eliminate their biases and just get the best people in the room.  Bam.

They’re willing to do the work of getting past their own biases and as a result, they report better results (funnier material) in their prep sessions because there’s so much diversity of thought in the room.

In a fairly recent academic study, researchers looked at whether someone’s name would influence their chance of getting hired for a lab manager role.  The resumes used were exactly the same – the only thing that changed was whether the applicant’s name was John or Jennifer.

Jennifer was recommended on average to be paid a lower salary (13% less than John, with the EXACT SAME resume) and she was rated as less competent.  To be fair, this was from both women and men.

I really don’t want my chances of being hired to a position I’m qualified for – or my salary – to be dependent on whether my name is Vanessa or Victor.  Seems pretty arbitrary.

It’s International Women’s Day and this year’s theme is #PressForProgress.  It feels to me like the movement towards gender parity is really heating up – everything from marches, to #MeToo, to #TimesUp, to Frances McDormand’s Oscar call for inclusion riders.

Do we really need inclusion riders?

Yes.  We need them to show ourselves that we do indeed have biases, and that there are ways to get around them.

Let’s not be lazy or naive.

As we press for progress, I hope that we all work to recognizes our own biases.  And find ways around them.

I was talking with someone the other day who said that they just wanted the best people as political candidates – didn’t matter whether they were women or men.  I agree.  So how do we get rid of biases when part of the process of running in an election is such a public thing?  I’m not sure.  Maybe it’s inclusion riders in creative industries and inclusion policies on boards, hiring committees, and political nominations processes.

PLEASE – don’t be the complainer.  Be the person who’s willing to admit you have biases and work with others to find creative solutions around them.

Our futures depend on it.

Let’s keep pressing.  Things are only beginning to heat up.

Inspiring women in Atlantic Canada: Not a supply problem

I recently launched a project – Amplify East.  It’s only on Facebook right now, but the rest will be coming soon.

Why Amplify East?

Well, that’s an excellent question.

Most simply, I believe we can change culture by giving people tools to talk about it – to be intentional about what values are being amplified through our words and behaviours.

Culture’s one of those things that’s hard to put your finger on, though people can feel its impacts – at its simplest, it’s how people interact with one another, reflecting the values of that particular group.

One of the most frustrating experiences of my life has been being a woman in the professional world – and hearing other women’s experiences in the working world. Some of it is absolutely shocking.

I’m tired of going to conferences where the experts happen to be majority men. Of running a conference and needing to ask a man to leave for sexually harassing women. Of being bullied at work for not being nice enough or for being too nice. Of hearing about women being looked over, dismissed and harassed. Of seeing women pitted against each other to reinforce a scarcity mindset of success. Of my closest friend, who teaches at a prestigious university, needing to listen to a male colleague say that women aren’t good at math – despite another female friend running a hedge fund company… where I’m pretty sure you have to EXCEL at math. Of having every woman I’ve spoken with identify with the #MeToo movement in some uniquely personal way.

In reflecting on my core values over the last little while, I realized my deepest core value is justice. When I look back on all of my decisions, I see that they’ve all been filtered through that lens and I’m working to fully embrace it now that I see it. That realization, along with my experience, has led me to creating this project.

Sometimes other people can more succinctly capture what you’re trying to say. My friend Louise – a brilliant person whose work I deeply admire – captured what I wanted to achieve with Amplify in the tagline:

‘Inspiring women in Atlantic Canada: Not a supply problem’.

Yep. Not a supply problem.

The goal of this project is to amplify the voices of the, what feels like COUNTLESS, inspiring women in Atlantic Canada – to showcase to women and men how many there are and what they’re up to. It’s not a supply problem – it’s a mindset problem. We start to shift our mindsets by first being aware of them – and the values underlying them – and then talking and acting differently.

I’ve written down the names of 100 women who inspire me in Atlantic Canada – some of whom I know quite well and some who I don’t know at all. 100 women is barely the tip of the iceberg. While being a woman in the professional world has been frustrating, it’s also been the most rewarding experience of my life – to find female role models, peers and mentors to build each other up and make a lot change together.

My hope is that’s there’s no excuse at any regional conference in 2018 or beyond for not having diversity of perspectives on a panel (and not just gender diversity). That we move faster towards 50% of elected seats at all level of government being held by women. That we have 50% of board positions being held by women. One project like this isn’t enough to change all of that. But we all have a role to play, and I hope that this project will be one contributing factor in what feels like a cultural sea change that really got its legs last year.

To be clear, I have nothing against men. A lot of my mentors and influential role models have been men and I’m incredibly grateful for them. Part of this cultural change has to come from men – from unpacking notions of gender identify, to recognizing privilege, and to dismantling the ‘old boys club’. I’m not sure how much of that we’ll be able to take on with Amplify. There’s loads of room to affect positive change and part of my hope is that men also engage with this project – by telling us about the inspiring women they know and sharing their stories with others in their networks. Maybe we’ll even profile some men and hear about what they think of all of this. I don’t quite know how it will all play out, but I’m excited to get started.

Thanks to those who sent me your feedback directly or through the survey, and THANK YOU for telling me about all of the inspiring women you know. Please keep the names coming.

Please share any thoughts via Facebook or amplify.east (at) gmail.com.

A few more things learned while traveling

Kobo = life changing. I’ve had it for so many years and almost never used it. My new favourite thing. You can pack so many books in such a small package! I’ll be keeping it in my purse at all times moving forward – wayyyy lighter than the books I used to carry around.

Make space.

In price negotiations, you have to be willing to walk away to get the best price.

Some people want to charge you a ‘rich country’ tax in negotiations at market stalls. It begins with ‘where are you from?’ before giving you a price. I can’t really say I blame them, but I still don’t want to pay more than the real market value.

When something has no listed price, the starting price has a lot of room for negotiation.

Always work to get out of my comfort zone.

Dry shampoo is overpriced corn starch. Refills are going to be cheap.

Planning too far in advance can be costly.

Not planning anything is also costly.

Find the sweet spot.

Online travelling groups are super useful and can help you save a lot of money.

Learn from others, always.

Watching a monkey steal someone’s breakfast never gets old.