This year for International Women's Day (IWD), we reached out to other women-owned businesses for their wisdom and advice for youth, women and woman-identifying individuals entering or currently in the working world. Not only are these women amazing at what they do, but they also have each made a commitment to the environment and have incorporated sustainability into their businesses. Botanical PaperWorks is a proud WBE-certified (Women Business Enterprise) and sustainable business, and we feel a strong connection to this annual event. We were lucky enough to speak with five fantastic role models including Tara Morellato from Tiny Teethers, Denise Atkinson from Tea Horse, Tara Milburn from Ethical Swag, Margaux Murray from B Factory, and our own CEO, Heidi Reimer-Epp. Each was asked four questions and we're sharing their responses in celebration of the 112th annual International Women's Day. Tara Morellato (Owner - Tiny Teethers) Have you faced any barriers in your career due to being woman? "As a woman in a predominantly female industry and with products stocked at independent retailers owned mostly by women, I have been fortunate not to experience any barriers in my career because of my gender. When pitching my products to larger retailers, I have found that men often prefer to hear from me because they recognize that women have valuable insights when it comes to babies. While it's important to acknowledge that many women do face barriers in their careers due to their gender, it's also important to recognize that in some industries and contexts, being a woman can actually be an advantage." What advice would you give women struggling in a male-dominated industry?"If you're a woman facing barriers in your industry, my advice would be to first and foremost believe in yourself and your abilities. Remember that you have unique perspectives and strengths that can bring value to any workplace. Seek out supportive networks, whether that's mentorship, professional organizations, or just a group of like-minded colleagues. Don't be afraid to speak up and advocate for yourself, you know your industry best and the world needs to hear from you. And finally, keep pushing forward and never give up on your goals!" What do you think helped you get so far in your career? "Surrounding myself with like-minded and inspirational women has been a key factor in my career success. Being part of a community of women who share my values and passions has given me a sense of belonging and support that is invaluable. My husband's unwavering belief in me and his motivation to keep pushing me forward has been an incredible source of strength. Interestingly, two men have also played a significant role in my journey - a cousin, who also does our sales and has helped me to secure important partnerships, and our distributor who is committed to helping my brand grow. " This year's IWD theme is #EmbraceEquity. What do you think the business industry can do better to embrace gender equality? "That's a great theme! I think there are several things that the business industry can do to embrace gender equality. Firstly, companies need to work to identify and address any gender biases or inequities that may exist in their workplaces. Companies can make a conscious effort to diversify their leadership positions, and prioritize hiring and promoting women into these roles. Finally, it's important for businesses to foster a culture of inclusivity and respect, where all employees feel valued and supported regardless of their gender." Denise Atkinson (Founder - Tea Horse) Have you faced any barriers in your career due to being woman?"Yes, as an Indigenous woman, I routinely face and overcome barriers that are specific to Indigenous women. Indigenous Peoples in Canada are categorized almost exclusively as “an amalgam” in the three main categories of First Nation, Metis and Inuit. These categories automatically place a focus on the notion that Indigenous Peoples are merely “a collective” when in fact, we are made up of Individual People, with our own strengths, gifts and abilities. This categorization is clearly reflected in the way in which business supports, i.e. financial and program resources are distributed. Overwhelmingly, government funding is earmarked for First Nation-specific projects and programs that exclude the individual off-reserve woman entrepreneur/business owner. Further, private business and industry appear to share the same view, as they consult and do business with “the First Nation”, and fail to recognize that there are individual business owners that have sector-specific expertise and traditional cultural knowledge that are ready to do business." What advice would you give women struggling in a male-dominated industry?"A woman has to work twice as hard and have skin twice as thick in a male-dominated industry. It is so important to be active with businesswomen’s peer circles and mastermind networks to connect, support and learn from other like-minded, ambitious, and supportive women to help grow our businesses." What do you think helped you get so far in your career?"Fortunately, I was raised in a traditional land-based Anishinaabeg home having spent my formative years alongside my maternal grandmother, mother and aunts who were all strong matriarchs within our community. Having had these amazing women as role models in my life and as true examples of pride, strength, resilience, and entrepreneurship have helped and guided me." This year's IWD theme is #EmbraceEquity. What do you think the business industry can do better to embrace gender equality?"Increasing women’s representation in leadership. With more women in C-suite roles, there is a greater opportunity to bring a gender lens to the decisions and policies that impact our future across industries and sectors." Tara Milburn (CEO - Ethical Swag) Have you faced any barriers in your career due to being woman?"Absolutely! I couldn't even begin to mention all of the times. One example would be early in my career there were three of us with the same position (myself and two men) doing exactly the same work. I was being paid 40% less. I put my head down, worked hard and had proven success. Only then did I go and ask for equal pay so they couldn't say it was my experience level. When they declined, I resigned. They quickly offered me the raise after I resigned but then it was my turn to decline." What advice would you give women struggling in a male-dominated industry?"Don't be a victim. Stand true to your beliefs, be vocal but not whiny, and demonstrate you deserve to be there." What do you think helped you get so far in your career?"I am a team player. I don't believe that all barriers we face are even seen by men. I work to show where these barriers exist and then create environments that are more inclusive. If the people I am working with are not interested in seeing the issues, I move on." This year's IWD theme is #EmbraceEquity. What do you think the business industry can do better to embrace gender equality?"It is hard to be what you can't see. We need to make conscious decisions to bring diversity of thought and action to the table. It will not happen organically. Make changes in what you do individually and be an advocate for those who don't have a voice. Mostly, be open, ask questions and try to learn how to be better. I am learning every day!" Margaux Murray (Owner - B Factory) Have you faced any barriers in your career due to being woman?"In my current career, I don’t believe so. In my previous career in television and film production, there were many. Women were sexualized, underpaid, and not given the same opportunities as men." What advice would you give women struggling in a male-dominated industry?"Be yourself and be proud. Don’t accept the label or box they’re trying to put you in. They are still acting from an education and mindset that puts women in certain roles. Show them that you can play the role YOU want to play, and you are not defined by history." What do you think helped you get so far in your career?"I’ve taken risks, and I haven’t listened to those around me who said I wouldn’t succeed. Tenacity." This year's IWD theme is #EmbraceEquity. What do you think the business industry can do better to embrace gender equality?"There needs to be a better understanding and related compensation for the role a woman plays in all aspects of her life as well as her responsibilities. A woman is still expected to fulfill the caregiving role (children, parents, household, etc.), even while holding a full-time job. As for women entrepreneurs, the challenge is even greater. Do they work full-time while launching a business? Do they get a loan? How do they find the extra hours needed to get their business rolling at the outset? A few solutions could be easier access to micro-loans as women launch their businesses, affordable childcare services in community workspaces, more grant opportunities and free online business-related courses. I am happy to see the new direction that’s being taken to ensure minority groups are being represented in the supply chain, but this is just the beginning." Heidi Reimer-Epp (CEO - Botanical PaperWorks) Have you faced any barriers in your career due to being woman?"I started my career in the manufacturing sector where women were mostly in the support roles like HR, accounting support and admin support. There were few women in leadership roles or on the shop floor. I didn't face any overt barriers but I vividly recall being asked to make coffee, take minutes, answer the door, and join the decorating committee because I was "good with colours". None of these duties were in my job as Marketing Associate. I pushed back as much as I could, but I remember being torn because I wanted to be a team player. It was around this time that my Mom Mary Reimer and I saw an opportunity to start a business, and I realized that entrepreneurship was a way to step out of the corporate system and into work where my efforts determined my future, unrestricted by leaders above me and their willingness to promote me. We launched Botanical PaperWorks in May of 1997 and never looked back!" What advice would you give women struggling in a male-dominated industry?"Read the book The Confidence Code by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman and then go forward with the assumption that you have a right to be there. Follow their advice which includes: Act, do. Don't hold back. When in doubt, act. Learn and move on. Practice and have a willingness to learn. The people who succeed aren't always naturals - they're doers. Banish upspeak. Say it like you mean it." What do you think helped you get so far in your career?"The idea that when in doubt, act and always having a willingness to learn has helped me co-found Botanical PaperWorks and grow it into the exporting company that it is today. I read books, take courses and join professional groups to always be learning, particularly to be learning from others' experiences. I apply that knowledge to growing and evolving Botanical PaperWorks. We take a lot of action at Botanical PaperWorks, because when we try things, we learn and that helps us grow and evolve." This year's IWD theme is #EmbraceEquity. What do you think the business industry can do better to embrace gender equality?"Hire a gender equality specialist to start your organization on its gender equality journey because you don't know what you don't know, and a specialist will help you see and do better. Recruiting and retaining a gender-balanced workforce depends on having hiring and advancement processes that don't favour cis men along with a workplace that is inclusive and doesn't exclude women with work assignments, social engagements and the general daily vibe."