No matter the size of the economy or the success of the country, women-identified people everywhere have shouldered a greater burden through the pandemic. Along with losing income, the unpaid care and domestic workload has exploded.
What advice do women-led organizations have on how they have adapted through the pandemic? How are female entrepreneurs finding opportunity through these challenges? And what does the increased burden of unpaid labour and inefficient childcare support mean for our recovery? Our exceptional group of women leaders unpacked this and more during their panel discussion along with a live Q & A.
Sophia Dhrolia: (silence).
Hi, everyone. Thank you all for joining today. My name is Sophia Dhrolia, and I'm the board's director of Diversity and Inclusion and Employee Engagement. I would like to begin today's session by acknowledging that Toronto is home to many diverse indigenous peoples. Though, you could be watching from anywhere the board's offices are located on the traditional territory of many nations, including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishinaabe, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee, and the [Windab 00:02:28] peoples.
As we talk today about building a more inclusive, resilient economy, it's important that reconciliation be a part of that equation. Today's event is also the second in a series of Spotlighting Women Webcast presented by the board in partnership with RBC Royal Bank.
In the first session, which took place a few weeks ago, we talked to women entrepreneurs about the challenges of starting or growing a business during the global recession. You can watch a recording of that conversation at supportbusiness.bot.com. But it's fair to say that women across the employment spectrum have faced new pressures.
Research done by RBC has revealed that nearly half a million Canadian women lost their job during the pandemic, and have not been able to find a new one. More than 200,000 of them have slid into long-term unemployment, making it even harder to find work. And if they do meaning that they'll earn less.
If we dig further into these figures, more disparities become clear. For instance, Gen Z women make up less than 3% of the country's labor force, what account for more than 17% of job losses during the pandemic. And jobless rates among women of color have been particularly high, especially with black and indigenous women bearing the brunt of the first wave of employment losses.
Of course, I could definitely go on. There's no shortage of evidence being uncovered by RBC and others to illustrate the precarious state of women in the pandemic workforce. However, the theme for this year's International Women's Day was Choose to Challenge. So rather than becoming dejected by these troubling trends, we can use them to challenge the status quo and drive real change for women.
In fact, because of these obstacles created by the pandemic, there are renewed calls for universal publicly-funded childcare and investing more in the care economy, overall. This comes on top of training and skills building plans that prioritize women's access to decent work in reliable sectors. Today we'll talk about those economic enablers and what other advice or support we can provide women who are attempting to stay in or return to the workforce.
Some final comments before I introduce our moderator. All the board's webcasts are supported by our principal sponsors, the Global Mail, Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University and Scotiabank. If you have technical issues, please select click here to switch stream, If your video is lagging, or request help for any other technical issues.
And finally to ask our panelist questions at any point, do so through our Q&A future to the right on your screen. With that, I'm really excited to welcome today's moderator RBC's regional vice president for Toronto, Christina Dory Gray. Christina leads a team at RBC that creates customized solutions for individuals and families with complex financial needs.
She also serves on the board of YWCA Toronto, and is deeply involved in supporting the next generation of talent with specific focus on creating a more diverse and an inclusive workplace. Over to you, Christina.
Christina Dorey...: Thank you so much, Sophia. And such a privilege to be here with you today. The Spotlighting Women Series is presented to you by RBC and Toronto Board of Trade. And I'm thrilled to be your moderator today.
It's becoming increasingly important for businesses to lead the type of conversations that will create unity across our social fabric. Personally, I'm so proud to work for an organization that believes that matters and walks the talk each and every day. This is because we truly champion a culture that's rooted in inclusivity and encourage the professional advancement of women.
Today we know women are more financially independent than ever before. But we also know that this didn't come without the courage and determination of extraordinary girls, women, and allies making an impact in the world.
That said, as Sophia shared, the pandemic has presented many challenges for women. The figures are absolutely staggering, as Sophia led at the top, with half a million Canadian women who've lost their during the pandemic and haven't returned as of January. And more than 200,000 of those have slipped into the ranks of long-term unemployment.
These numbers were gathered by RBC economists and published in one of our articles earlier this month. This is happening because women made up more than half of those employed in sectors like hospitality and retail. And those have been most affected by the virus. So more than ever, Canadian policy makers, business leaders, and all of us need to find new ways of working along the rapidly-changing industries and help each other gain new skills and build strong networks.
This is yet another reason why I'm so pleased to be here, surrounded by people who are willing to learn and celebrate each other's successes. So without further ado, here to have a candid conversation about their journeys of courage and determination, Mandy Rennehan and Lissa Mattam.
Mandy is the CEO and founder of freshco.ca, not the grocery store, women-led maintenance and construction company. Mandy has become a multimillionaire entrepreneur, philanthropist, and self-acclaimed blue collar CEO. And Lissa is the CEO and founder of Sahaja. Sahajan. Sorry about that, Lissa. A natural skincare line based on Southern India descent Iveta. Lissa's company has been featured in Vogue Women to Watch and Shopping Network among others.
So without further do let's get started. I wanted to open up our discussion today with a few questions designed to get to know the both of you a little bit better. So first, maybe we'll start with Lissa. What inspired you to create your organization, Lissa? And then same question over to Mandy.
Lissa Mattam: Oh, thank you. And thank you so much to the board of trade. And I'm so excited to be here to have this conversation, even though it started on a bit of a low note when I heard those numbers about women and the pandemic. So I think it's an important conversation that we're having today.
My inspiration to start Sahajan actually began so many years ago. The word Sahajan actually comes from the word Sahaja, which in Hindi means intuitive. And so this was a lot about me following my intuition. I had, this is probably a relatable story for maybe some of the moms out there, but I had come home. I was working in the pharmaceutical industry. And I had come home. I was pregnant. My daughter at the time who was almost three had gotten into my skin care and she had it all over her face, like super, super thick, the way that kids play with things. It was on her arms and her face and everywhere.
And I remember looking at her and all of these things went through my mind, like she's so incredibly cute. Oh my God, that's probably like a million dollars on your face. There was so many things. But I also remember instantaneously being sort of moved by this feeling of worry. And I thought, oh my gosh, what are the chemicals for my skincare going to do to your young, beautiful skin?
And it was in that moment that I said to her, oh my gosh, we have to take this off your skin. I kind of took it off. Ran up the stairs and I took her to a room and I said, if you want to play with things, these are the things you play with. And there were these little bottles of ingredients that my parents had given me to use on her. And they were bottles that they had brought from India that contained ingredients that I was raised in, my parents would've used on me, their parents would've used on them.
And it was really in that moment that I thought, oh my gosh, if my skin care isn't good enough for her, then it certainly isn't good enough for me. And as I started to look through it, I was like, well, and if I really believe in trust in these ingredients, why had I walked away from them? It's probably a larger psychological reason to that. But let's just say many, many years ago. Yeah. Many, many, many years ago. It wasn't cool to smell like coconut oil as it is now.
But the real thing that I realized was that I started to think a lot about why it had taken me so long to get here to go clean with my skincare routine. If you think of the number of that any woman applies, whether it's from shampoo to anything through the day. And I realize that when we buy things, we buy it for results. We buy it for, I want to look less tired, I want to look, whatever, less acne, less wrinkle, whatever our motivation is. I just want to glow.
And we start with results first and think about the other second. And so I thought I could actually help to bring clean beauty to people by giving them the results that they want by taking this old world science, which is [Iveta 00:11:23]. The traditions in which I was raised, many people are dipping their toes into it every day. If you're putting turmeric into your lattes, you're using an Iveta recipe. And so it also has these beautiful recipes for the skin and the hair.
So I thought I could take these recipe. I could modernize them. And I could use the pharmaceutical rigor in which I was raised from my career and apply that to create this really high-performance brand. So our top products have clinical studies on them, like a conventional product would, but they're clean and they're natural and they're based on these beautiful high performing ingredients.
So for me, it was really passion-driven. It was, I know I could make our lifestyles more cleaner. I know I could support people along their journey to wellness. And I know I could still deliver what they wanted.
Christina Dorey...: I love that. And your passion is certainly shining through. Mandy, we would love to hear what inspired you to create your organization.
Mandy Rennehan: Money at the time.
Lissa Mattam: I love it.
Mandy Rennehan: I think that if anybody's read my story, they'll see I was the only Freshco when I was 19. I was the fresh face, the fresh person, and female in this industry in Halifax, Nova Scotia. So what drove me, for some reason I had this innate passion for wood and for construction, never knew why. And I am self-taught in everything. I moved to Halifax when I was 17, working on firms and everything else. Didn't even go to my high school graduation. Wanted to get out there and make money for my parents.
They were poor. We were poor in westernized terms. I will make that very clear. But back then it seemed that was what we were dealing with. And so for me, it was money to help my parents. And then on top of it, I figured out I was gay. What resume? So then there was all these things happening. And so literally I would call everybody, I could find at night that was in plumbing, electrical, you name it. And I was like, listen, I would like to work for you for free. And back then they'd hang up the phone on me.
And I would call them back. And I would say, listen, you're really going to like me. And I really, really learn quickly. And I'll be an asset. Well, what were they going to say? No. And so when you look at all of these... And they were all men. They own these trade companies. They took me under their wing, the little girl from Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, and taught me what they could.
And I just did my first job there. Nailed it. My bowel, I think, is still in my foot from that first job saying I could do it when I didn't have any idea what I was doing. And you know what? My name spread through Atlanta, Canada. And then the rest goes on and on and on. And really, to be quite honest, I didn't pick entrepreneurship. It kind of picked me? And so it happened to me from a very young age.
And so now through having, love was really what took me to that place, for my parents. And then after that, well, forget about it. Here I am, all of me, ready to go. Likely so, I can say that for everybody out there listening, to hear those stats are frightening, more so than anything. And it's something that when you see what I'm doing out in the blue collar industry, a lot of those jobs fall in that industry of hospitality and service. It's time that we balance those numbers and balance them now, and stop making excuses that this is just because of a pandemic. This is it in general, that we need to support women more. Hands down.
Christina Dorey...: Yeah. There's no question about it. I suspect, Mandy, you encountered some challenge is along the way. I would love to hear from your experience, what was the biggest challenge that you experienced in getting to where you are now?
Mandy Rennehan: I think that... I'll go back to anybody that's seen me speak or knows of my story. A lot of people think it's because I was female and I was gay in a very male dominated industry. And I led very much with the personality in the intent of my heart. Being in East Coast, we don't know any other way to be. And of course you have to throw in a good story and a joke for good measure.
So I didn't know any other way to be, but what I found more so than anything, Lissa, one of my biggest challenges was that I was a young, young performer. I was very wise beyond my years. And so trying to get the respect of my peers was probably one of my biggest hurdles. It was like that kid. It was like them trying to take me seriously. And it really did hinder what I believe when I look back my growth, because spent all my time trying to be part of that call or be part of the solution when I knew that the only reason they were getting the stake was because they had 10 years or 20 years on me.
So that was probably so... So it took me a long time to figure out how I partnered with them and made them look good, first. And then I could kind of get my way in there. So yeah, I would say that trying to be young and being that performer. And today where we have a lot of young people that are like, hey, I want to be all this tomorrow. I want to own that house. I want to have those two cars. I want to have traveled the world. We're in that now obsessed world.
And so what I say to a lot of the young people today is just slow down. Enjoy all the scars that you're going to get along the way. Because really, at the end of the day, it's those scars that have allowed me to really come out of this pandemic on the other end. So that's my tip out of all the, Lissa. Pick somebody with scars. Get your own.
Christina Dorey...: Well, scars are well earned.
Mandy Rennehan: Exactly.
Christina Dorey...: And I would imagine Lissa's had some scars along the way, as well. As you've built out your company, we would love to hear what was the biggest challenge for you, Lissa?
Lissa Mattam: It's funny because I saw this question in advance and I thought, oh my God, there's been so many, how do I pick one? But if I was being... I thought about this for a long time. And I love that you talk about scars, Mandy. Because it's true. It's like I wear them like battle scars. Like this is what I oversee.
Mandy Rennehan: They're sexy. They're sexy and it's funny-
Lissa Mattam: Yeah, they're very sexy. But what's funny is I'm in the beauty industry, right? So occasionally I meet people who are like, it must be so much fun or it must be like all cover girl or... But the reality is I'm making a product. And so I think that the biggest challenge for me... So I'm based in Toronto. How we developed the brand, I worked with two Iveta doctors in India. I hired a pharmaceutical chemist. We did everything at sort of a lab bench.
And then I needed to find a manufacturing partner. And that continued to be something that haunted me for many years, even when we launched. Because here's... In the greater Toronto area, there's actually a lot of cosmetic manufacturing. So some of the biggest brands, Mac, Cover FX. All these beautiful brands that some people have tried in their lives are actually made around here.
But I would go in and I would say, I have this great idea. And no one wanted to work with a startup. They would say, do you know how many people like went on vacation and found some mud while they were there? And thought they could turn that into the next skin care product. And then the reality was, and I think in some ways it coincides with what Mandy said, was I didn't come from the industry. Right? I didn't have an established credibility. I was coming in with an idea.
And I think that became a hurdle because it took me a long time to find a really good partner. And in between, I had some bad partners along the way. I had people who were willing to work with me but didn't want the product to be clean. And if I wasn't looking at everything, they would be inserting ingredients that I didn't agree with. I always had to have an eye. I had suppliers who were really unethical. And I quickly had to rid myself with them. But it's hard.
I didn't come from... I'm the child of immigrants. And as you say, I'm very privileged in that I have parents who were incredibly supportive of me growing up. But it wasn't like I had a huge Fortune 500 company financing all of this. And so every time somebody makes your process longer or you have to stop them, you have to... That became increasingly challenging.
And it's interesting because I have two amazing partners now. One happens to be female-lead outside of Montreal and then one here just north of Toronto. And that process, once you settle on the right partner, it's amazing how much smoother, how much easier things can go. And so I guess the learning for me is, it's very hard to break into an industry in which you aren't present. And I think for me, it was starting to navigate that, was about finding an appropriate network, was about really finding, not the big names that you could find if you were Googling, but some of these small cosmetic hazards that I hadn't heard of.
But really doing the work to immerse myself in it so that I could not only, from a front place, have a beautiful product, but I could have the back-end operations that were needed to be successful.
Christina Dorey...: Well, that's a fair bit to overcome. And I know that you're speaking to a number of folks who are maybe living some of these challenges today. The challenges of COVID-19 have been, I think really very difficult for so many to overcome. The stats of course speak for themselves. Would really be interested in hearing from both of you around the challenges that COVID-19 presented for you and your business. And did it make you rethink things for the long-term?
Mandy Rennehan: Can I just go first? And I'll tell you why.
Lissa Mattam: Yeah. Go for it.
Mandy Rennehan: Lissa actually hit on something. I think if we're going to have a candid conversation. Let's do it Mandy's style. So I was just going to say, Lissa, you brought something up with financing. And seeing where, Christina, you're from the bank, I think that one of the other things that we should be very clear on is that financing, when you're a startup, financing, that was the other thing to kind of add on to that question of yours, is that you can imagine a 19-year-old going into a bank and saying, they're like, hey, do you have any collateral? I'm like, what's collateral, right?
I think that when we look at, even the bank's role in helping startups, but also understanding what is 19, even a 30-year-old these days having collateral? And what are those hurdles? So then, fast forward it to your next question, Christina, here we are in the middle of a pandemic. I know me being in the retail sector mostly, we just shut down. Here, we had brought on millions of dollars of rolling out a 20% to 25% trajectory that year. And then boom. We were like, what just happened?
So all of a sudden, all of our clients across North America are shutting down. Apple was first. And then everybody else. And we're like, okay, so if apple is shutting down, everybody's shutting down. And we knew that it wasn't going to be for 15 or 30 days. So then all of a sudden you've rolled everything up, you've financed it yourself. And then what happens is then you have all these people, because we all know, and Lissa will speak back up to me, I know she will, when you bring somebody under your wing and your brand and your culture, which I have spent my lifetime building. I was diverse before it was even talked about. I was inclusive before it was even a thing that was just who I was.
So when you're bringing people on and they're sitting there looking at you at as a leader saying, hey, what's going on here? There were a lot of people that didn't understand what was happening. They didn't know why they were being laid off. They didn't know what was... And so I think that what the pandemic taught me very quickly was is that what is our resilience in our workforce? How about I tell you. Not very much. Because nobody knew how to deal with this. This was like a tornado that blew in that even people like me in my lifetime, even my mom have never been through a pandemic like this.
So I think that it was really... It brought me back to where I started in this conversation. And it was looking like, wow, anybody can sail on a calm day, right? It's a real captain that when a storm comes in, when you're not expecting it out in the middle of the Atlantic, that's when you find a real leader. And that was one of the things that I think I was able to see in myself, was just how far I had come, and how I was able to save as many people as I could on that life draft right off the bat.
And also, I want to give you a really great stat, everybody. Before this happened, my company was probably ran by 60% women. Today, it's run by 82% women. Now, it's not because I got anything against my boys, because I don't. You know what? Love them all the pieces. It just happened to be one of those things that in the industry that I'm in that very much is completely run by men. We need more women. And it's systemic the issue we have.
And so we took all this time in this pandemic or lack thereof to really be able to bring in talent of women in those stats that looked and said, hey, I was the first to go. And I was like, hey, here's your life preserver with Mandy Rennehan freshco.ca, not the grocery store on it, bringing them in. And so for that, I'm grateful. Does that answer question, Christina?
Christina Dorey...: It does. I think of so many of the dialogues that we've had this past year, they're really reflective of what you're sharing. When I think of that thought of you can't be what you can't see, you're really representing what women can be in the construction industry. And it's not something that many individuals who aspire to that have role models to look.
Mandy Rennehan: Does it get any cooler than this.
Christina Dorey...: I think it's really powerful. It's very cool. It doesn't get cooler. You're right. Lissa, how about you? Rethinking through COVID-19, what does that mean for you?
Lissa Mattam: So much rethinking. And I'm actually going to rewind back and I want to tack onto something that Mandy said at the beginning. Because maybe because we do have your ear as the bank. So I was in a different place. I wasn't 19 when I tried this. I won't tell you how old I was, but wasn't the 19. But one thing that was interesting was... So I did have a collateral. I lived in a house. I had all this stuff. So I was able to take advantage of some government-based debt funding, which is great.
But what's interesting is, whether it's a bank or through government through BDC, is that sometimes the funding is available, but the ability to navigate yourself through the business isn't. So it's like, here you go. Here's some working capital. We're going to support you because we believe in Canadian business. But what would've been really amazing. And I'm going to go back to my supplier example was, low and behold, it turns out that one of the suppliers that I'm working with also happens to be funded through that same institution. It wouldn't have been great to have been able to navigate some of those things.
So I think where we could do better is by offering small businesses, whether they're female-founded or not, but to accelerate their ability to be successful. But wouldn't that just be the second piece. So now you're able to get some funding. But now you know how to do some of the things because we all have gaps, right? Whether we're strong marketers or we're strong at what we do or we're strong finance people, wouldn't it be great to do those things?
But with respect to COVID, I was looking at the business. At the time, 80% of our business ran through retail. I had a big retail launch plan that was going to be sort of a really important marker for the brand. And then quickly it disappeared. We had, a couple weeks before the shutdown, launched with a smaller retailer, but a really important retailer in terms of our trajectory as a beauty brand. And it's based in the U.S. And I remember going from like, I was in New York two weeks before the shutdown doing our launch event. And two weeks later, nobody was returning my emails or paying their bills.
And so it was extremely challenging for us. And I think it was challenging for everybody to navigate because it was, is this going to be two or three weeks? Is this going to be two or three months? I don't think we had a really keen understanding. Even I remember sitting in my bedroom. I had my kids downstairs. My husband was on a call. And I was like, today, I'm going to find out if we're essential. And luckily it turns hygiene is essential. So that was good news for me. And so we could keep selling and we could keep moving forward.
So I did have to rethink a lot. I had been investing in our digital presence, in our digital platform, in our online store, but everything really shifted in that direction. So it's interesting for me having looked at March and I'm telling you like 80% of our business was through retail, and now shifting and telling you that 70% of it is driven through our own online sales. It was an incredible... I'm really proud that we were able to do it, but it wasn't easy. It wasn't easy.
And in some ways, COVID has been very, very difficult for so many businesses, and ours too, but there was some wins in it. People were at home. They had time to do self care. They weren't putting on makeup. So they were looking at their faces more. Just all these smaller things started contributing. But it was an interesting shift. And I think it really relied on me to be more authentic. If I could, I wouldn't be on social media. And I say that just because it's more my personality, but I was on Instagram more. I was out there more because people needed to see that we were a part of things.
I think that we're made in Canada becomes incredibly important because our boxes are made here locally. It's not only ourselves, we're keeping Canadian business open. And so we have to be part of that ecosystem. And I think people want to support that.
So there was a lot of things along the way that needed to be thought through, that needed to be critically, I think, looked at and changed. And unfortunately there were a number of months where I really had to lean out. I worked with... The other challenge for startups, and I don't know maybe if you're in the same situation, is I work with a lot of freelancers. Because I had people like someone in New York who visited stores and someone in Houston who visited. There were no stores to visit anymore.
Christina Dorey...: Yep.
Lissa Mattam: And interestingly, some of the funding that became available, the prerequisite was how many employees did you have? What did your payroll look like? Well, my payroll looked like one thing, but I have a third-party logistics company in Mississauga who does all of our pick pack. And they're incredible. But they're not on my payroll. So it's really learning how... Because there's the element of you that's like, how do I run an efficient, lean, productive business? And now we're in a pandemic and I need to shift that.
And for many startups and for many small businesses, and I've heard this from many of my colleagues, is some of those opportunities weren't available because we didn't fit the criteria. And so I think what's going to be important to us moving forward, for all of us, I think is how do we continue to build a foundation that doesn't, hopefully there is not hopefully we don't have to face this again, but that builds a foundation and that we can be agile and that the supports that are in place can also allow for that agility.
Christina Dorey...: Agreed. It's really powerful. And we're certainly hearing individuals as they're speaking to their shopping habits are imagining that things will be very different going forward. So it sounds like you're really nicely positioned for the future.
I'm curious. I'll add one more question to that. So you mentioned you're a mom at the top of our broadcast today. So how have you juggled being a good partner, business owner, mom, balance through this really precarious time?
Lissa Mattam: It's a great question. I used to blow jar my hair and now I don't have time and it's curly every day. But the reality is, it's been... I think with everything, and I've felt this way as an entrepreneur the whole journey, is that throughout my journey as an entrepreneur, prior to this, I've been constantly reassessing and re-shifting whether it's like my daily practices and rituals and how I make it through, because I do have the consideration of my family. I have aging parents who... Through the pandemic, I think many people also would've been taking consideration their who couldn't leave their homes or doing all of those things.
So even if you're not a mom, there's so many pulls in different directions. It was interesting for me because at the beginning of the pandemic, and I think a lot of parents who had kids at home, what was happening in the school board situation, it was incredibly different depending on your school and depending on the board and all of those things. So we were in a situation where the teachers would send a bit of work on a Monday and the kids had to do that through the weekend. It wasn't a lot. Like my son, for example, was getting maybe a half an hour of work a day. And my husband would be on calls like what felt like nine hours a day.
And so at the beginning, we were always recreating schedules. Like it became, okay, Lissa, you're on from 9:00 till 12:00. And I didn't look at my email. And then I would go back upstairs. And he would come down. But I read some interesting data that said mothers are up to four times more likely to get interrupted during their work than fathers during the pandemic. And maybe you can peel that back. Maybe that's a construct that I created in my house. But I have a husband who's heavily engaged. So it's not that they aren't used to having a dad who cooks, but it just they were constantly in there.
And I remember one day I thought I was going to pull my hair out. And so again, we had to shift the process. And so in a very tactical way, it became, I was on from 9:00 till 12:00. I made sure that homework got done. I did sort of the things that I also needed to do so that I could go away. And if nobody did any more work from 12 o'clock onwards, I could feel okay about that. And then at 12 o'clock I would leave. I mean, I'm in our office right now. There's nobody here. And I had an office. And so 12 o'clock, I would sometimes swing through takeout, don't tell my family, and sit here and watch Netflix for a half an hour. And I would get to work. But I needed that.
I think some people, and I think I don't mean to draw stereotypes, but I think something that I've realized, at least looking at my husband, is he is better able to compartmentalize. I think one of the reasons I've always had an office is because I've always needed to be able to be away to work. And so I needed to leverage that. And so I started working from like 12:00 to 12:00, 12:00 to 9:00.
And I think the challenge for any parent, but certainly for moms moving forward, is going to be to continue to adjust and readjust, and to figure out what it is that you need so that you can sleep at night and feel good about it.
Christina Dorey...: Well, that's great. I'll maybe tuck in one last question for Mandy as we wrap. Mandy, as you think about the impact that COVID-19 has had on our economy, on women, how do you think it will impact career choices in the future for women? One other aspect I'll ask you to consider is what knowledge gaps do you think that we have more broadly? And I think both of you have called at that a little bit, around some of the support mechanisms that we have in place currently to support women. So over you you.
Mandy Rennehan: Take it away?
Christina Dorey...: Take it away. I think it's a very heavy-hitting question, but I'm going to try to narrow in on it as quickly as I can. I think that what we've all recognized is how ill prepared we were on many different levels of the economy for something like this happening. Also, all the testing and data and analytics that we have out there, we really, really truly left women out of it again, on, what happens if a pandemic happened and this happened? What would happen if world war three broke out? What would happen?
And I think that what this has allowed us to do is realize that, with resources, as we've seen, the medical community was able to really rise up more quickly than anybody ever thought they could. You hear many people saying, I'm not taking a vaccine that got done in 10 months. And I try to add a little bit of my intellectual nature in there and say, now, listen, don't forget, there was more money that was sent towards this pandemic than ever has been seen in medical history.
So there's things that we ramped up, that we saw that were ramped down. And this also, let's not forget George Floyd. In the middle of this, we went through one of the biggest uproars and rises that we've ever seen in North America's history. And good for it. When I look at the things that happened in the pandemic that allowed us to realize that, you know what? Enough already. Enough with the ignorance. Enough with it.
And so in the middle of this pandemic, we were all able to rise and support something that we've all wanted to see happen. And so what I believe is a business owner, banks, you name it, economist, bay street, manufacturing, even the trade industry. What we've realized is how unequipped we were for this. And through it all, even though we're all as tired as hell, and you know it, Lissa, all takes some of your makeup, please.
People tell me I have good skin, but by the love of God do I feel tired. Anyway, but I would say that really, Christina, in a nutshell, what I'm saying is that as human beings, we know that we can be better. We know we can. And this pandemic has made us be better. It's made us go back to what I call the buck pack, which is the backup battery pack to say, these are things that we kind of looked over and said, okay, as businesses we're going to get to that. No more. We were faced... We had to make that decision to make it now.
So for that, there's a lot of things that the pandemic did to allow people the confidence to know that, going forward, we're never going to be here again to this degree. And so for that, I want the women out there to know that it's coming. And that everybody recognizes. And all the women out there are going to make sure that everybody knows. This isn't going to happen again. And that we're all going to stick together to make sure that they're all going to be fine.
Well, that's great. I do have a quick question from the audience. We do have another few minutes here. When you're thinking about... So we've heard a lot about supporting women, identifying businesses, BIPOC-led organizations and entrepreneurs. What would you want those who are listening to us today to consider as they think about supporting women, supporting BIPOC individuals and lead organizations, entrepreneurs? What would you ask?
Mandy Rennehan: Lissa, do you want to take here or do you want me to?
Lissa Mattam: Go for it. I can add onto you.
Mandy Rennehan: What I would say is that a lot of... Probably the person asking this question is probably someone, like most people, they're starting to hear their voice. And we've given them the permission to say, hey, there's all these organizations out there right now that are heavily being supported. And in my opinion, should be supported even more. And you are one of those people.
The reality is, is that a lot of organizing go nowhere. They lack the support that we think that they have. And every person that is able to look at these organizations and realize, it's their time, it's their time to have all our support. And a lot of times we're hearing there's so much going on right now. That can be read a different way. But I'm just going to say it my own East Coast way. It's not about when there's a women's parade to March for advocacy. It's not about the women marching in it. It's about the men marching in it to support the women. Right?
And the idea is it's our job as leaders in the world to explain where everyone in the world can really get involved to support it, not only because they believe in it, not only because they might be one of the ones that have been overlooked in a more marginalized community, but it's our duty to show the expectation of, it's time for you to rise and for you to become part of it. Not just support it, be part of it.
And I think that's where, as you can see, I'm getting a little bit passionate. Because what I see more so than anything that come at me, even in my industry is, Mandy, you know what? I'm 54 years old. My kids are grown. I really want to be a plumber. And I'm like, well, then do it. And that's why I was saying that the thing that this pandemic has done, and what International Women's Day, and all of these other different types of arenas have allowed is I've always said that door was beat down by every courageous woman in the world before us.
And it's our job to go in there now and, whoop, put up the windows because it's stale in there. It's time for us to let the stale out and really get that freshness flowing. So that's where I would say, to the individual that answer this question, you know where you want to be, you know what you want to do. And reach out and just support all these organizations, but be part of it. That's one of the key words, is don't just support it, be part of it.
Christina Dorey...: I love that. Anything that you'd like to add there, Lissa.
Lissa Mattam: I think it's interesting. And Mandy, I really appreciate you bringing out. Not only the pandemic, but post George Floyd. Because I think what... I'm a big believer that we wouldn't... I honestly believe we wouldn't have paid attention if we weren't all at home. If we weren't all at home watching our TVs. That wasn't the first time that we've seen, not only police brutality, but also that we've really been faced with racism, that we've been faced with these awful biases.
And it created a ripple effect. I saw it in my industry across retail. People often think... I'll give you an interesting stat. But in the beauty industry, my number might not be exact, but something like more than 85% of the business is in Sephora. So that's our biggest beauty retail and in Canada.
Mandy Rennehan: Hey, that's where my big clients too.
Lissa Mattam: Yeah. They're actually run by men.
Mandy Rennehan: Yeah.
Lissa Mattam: So the majority of beauty businesses are run by men. And so if you... I'm not saying that as a criticism, but that says something, right?
Mandy Rennehan: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Lissa Mattam: And if you look at the independent beauty business, over 90% of those businesses are led by women. And so what's interesting is, is there's a disconnect. And I use that as an example. And we see that if we use the word BIPOC, and that's something that I saw play at, particularly south of the border, but there became a call to retailers. Even in Canada, the calls to the bay, calls to indigo, calls to our retailers to say, who are you stocking on yourselves?
Because sometimes the reason that somebody is on your shelf isn't because they have the best product, is because they had access, is because they knew who to talk to. And those are the [crosstalk 00:43:40].
Mandy Rennehan: Challenges.
Lissa Mattam: It was easier, right?
Mandy Rennehan: Yeah.
Lissa Mattam: And sometimes it's just easy to pick your buddy, or it's easy to pick somebody who or a friend of a friend. And what started as this one particular incident really helped us uncover these issues around women, around race, around sexual orientation, around all these different areas that we hadn't properly been paying attention to.
And I'm a big believer that, for different businesses, and I'm going to say for female-led businesses for a second, I think it's a responsibility of us as founders to reach forward and to be part of that process that's breaking down doors or breaking ceilings and all of those things, but we each have a responsibility to reach back and to make sure that we are helping bring those businesses forward. And I think as Canadians, we need to do that with Canadian businesses. I think we need to... Because every time we spend a dollar, we're making a decision, we're casting a vote.
And so to start thinking through how you're doing that. We've seen beautiful movements in the pandemic around shopping local. And I've gone out of my way to do that. Like a silly thing. I'm a big fan of oat milk. And now that I buy, happens to be Canadian. And I do that thoughtfully. And I do that pragmatically because I want to support local. And it's not to say... I mean, there's times when I go to big box and there's times it's... But we need to be conscientious of who's been left behind in the pandemic, but who's been consistently left behind.
Mandy Rennehan: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Lissa Mattam: And I think the pandemic has showed us the cracks that we weren't either able to or had time to see in the past.
Mandy Rennehan: And this is where I think the pandemic has actually been very helpful for us. Because it's showed us those cracks. It showed us those gaps, but it's also showed us the possibility. So what I would encourage people who are saying to themselves, how do I support or how do I vote? It doesn't just have to be with Sahajan. It could be with whoever or whatever it is that you do. How can you, whether it's with your spending or your time or your energy, or who you follow, how can you bring those people forward? Because that's, I think, what's being critically asked of all of us now.
Christina Dorey...: Well, I can't think of a better way to wrap the session. And I know we could go on for hours. But I will have to close us off and turn us back to Sophia. Thank you so much to both of you. I've really enjoyed my time with you today. And I feel incredibly empowered and uplifted through the gift that you've given us today. So thank you so much. Sophia, back to you.
Mandy Rennehan: Thank you.
Sophia Dhrolia: Thank you, Christina. And thank you, Mandy and Lissa, for bringing your insights and taking questions today from the audience. I have to say the energy, I know I started off with low energy, but the conversation today was incredible. I love the passion that you both brought to the, I want to say the table, the virtual table, if you will. And that your businesses both really started with passion. And I could see it come through in everything you were talking about today.
Some of the key pieces of advice that I learned today and that I'm going to take away are, you can't be what you can't see, and we need to be part of the ecosystem. We need to focus on how we continue to build a foundation that is agile and that there are supports in place to really allow for the agility. And we need to continue to adjust, readjust, and be part of the change. And ensure that, I really like this, that we reach back and bring other women forward, bring other Canadian businesses forward. I think that is really the key message. And Mandy said this, that the pandemic highlighted this, that we know we can do better. And so we should just do better.
And so before I sign off, I want to quickly remind you what I said at the top that this event is part of a series of Women in the Workforce Webcast. This was number two. We have one more on Tuesday, April 6th. And since it's been difficult to socialize and foster connections during the pandemic, our focus on that one is purely on networking. We will be sorting participants into smaller virtual rooms, with mentors in each room.
Our hope is that FaceTime with mentors can help make your experience as working women better or spark new collaboration to do the same for others. You can register for that or any board event by visiting bot.com/events. Thank you again, everyone, for watching. And have a wonderful day.