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United around the globe to foster international trade and the advancement of women in business.


OWIT-Toronto wants to provide you with current and valuable news and resources on a regular bases. We do this through our site as well as through our monthly newsletter. Sign up today to receive these in your inbox.

  • Wednesday, March 18, 2020 4:45 PM | Anonymous

    The Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has resulted in a global health crisis posing grave threats to human life, and is having far-reaching consequences of major economic disruptions. In today’s world of globalization and interconnectedness, the spread of the virus has gravely impacted international trade, especially with the regional and global value chain linkages. Efforts to control and quarantine the disease have also resulted in restrictions on travel and public gatherings.

    During these unprecedented times, the first priority is clearly to keep people as healthy and safe as possible. In light of this, OWIT-Toronto will be postponing all planned events for the time being. We thank you for your patience and understanding, and encourage you to visit our website and social media platforms (LinkedIn and Twitter) for any updates, news and trade information.

    The spread of the coronavirus has left businesses around the world counting costs. To mitigate and manage the economic fallout caused by the global pandemic, the Government of Canada has launched a new webpage – offering Canadian businesses a one-stop-shop to navigate the effects on their businesses and operations. This includes information on employee support, financial implications, business travel and events, and doing business in international markets. More information and resources for Canadian businesses is available at the Trade Commissioner Service website.

    Additionally, Export Development Canada has increased their internal capabilities to respond to the concerns of Canadian exporters. More information is available in their FAQs on what Canadian exporters need to know about the coronavirus (COVID-19) and latest press release.

    Toronto Mayor John Tory has also announced an economic task force to ‘help protect Toronto’s economic success in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    As we navigate these difficult times, we are wishing everyone good health and well-being.

    The OWIT-Toronto Board of Directors

  • Tuesday, March 03, 2020 4:42 PM | Anonymous

    Women’s trade group launches innovative social media campaign
    Toronto, 3 March 2020

    In commemoration of 2020 International Women’s Day (IWD), the Organization of Women in International Trade – Toronto (OWIT–Toronto) is launching a social media campaign – Women Inspire – to help change perceptions that entrepreneurial success is typically male dominated and “one size fits all”. The campaign will capture the vibrant work and successes of a variety of women entrepreneurs and professionals and will serve to disrupt the status quo, change the narrative and amplify the voices from diverse women entrepreneurs and professionals.

    Leading the unique social media campaign is past OWIT–Toronto President and CEO, Best Bargains, Anita Agrawal, who is also featured in the inspirational book, “Fearless. Girls with Dreams, Women with Vision”, being launched as part of IWD.

    “As a professor at the School of Business at Centennial College, I often ask my students whom they admire the most and what success means to them,” says Anita. “Many of the students mention wealthy entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Elon Musk. With this social media campaign, I want to change that. I want my students and other young people to know that success can mean many different things and that women entrepreneurs are leading that change. You can have success as an entrepreneur or in various professions. The scale can vary, and that’s okay.”

    As part of a premier global trade association across the world, OWIT–Toronto is a 20-year-old non-profit professional organization designed to promote women doing business in international trade. Through networking, educational and professional growth opportunities, the organization helps to build members’ expertise in the international trade arena. Members include women entrepreneurs, service providers, trade practitioners, business women involved in international trade as well as students passionate about international trade.

    OWIT–Toronto Co-Founder and Vice President International, Susan Baka, reflects on OWIT’s foundation, noting the need to strengthen women entrepreneurship and engagement in international trade, and to create sustainable businesses.

    Likewise, there was a need to step up and tell women inspiring stories of entrepreneurial and leadership successes. Changing the narrative around what entrepreneurial success looks like with an engendered lens meant having a wider mix of diverse voices.

    “From its inception, OWIT–Toronto has worked to increase the visibility and recognition of women trailblazers in international trade through our prestigious Annual Gala awards,” she says.  “We celebrate the amazing accomplishments of women entrepreneurs and leaders across a variety of industry sectors to inspire and empower other women entrepreneurs, leaders, aspiring leaders and youth.”

    The social media campaign also serves to break up the stereotype tales of labelling women in specific sectors such as retail and personal services industries where profit margins are usually much lower. As part of IWD celebrations, the campaign will promote awareness raising, shining a spotlight on the pivotal role that business and markets can play in advancing gender equality.

    Today, women are leaders in technology and innovation and in the specific sectors such as STEM that were originally perceived as male dominated,” says Helen Hemmingsen, OWIT–Toronto President. “Through OWIT’s global network, you are exposed to a wide range of global business contacts, resources for learning and information from our global community. Through sharing these resources, contacts and promoting sector specific trade missions like in STEM, we are encouraging women and inspiring girls to take advantage of technological transformations and innovations changing our world today.” 

    With the ‘Women Inspire’ social media campaign, OWIT – Toronto joins people around the world who are galvanizing for a future that is gender equal.

    Join the online conversation on twitter using the hashtags #IWD2020 #WomenInspire and following @OWITTORONTO. The social media campaign will also be launched at the Women in Business and Leadership Forum held on 5 March 2020 at the Toronto Region Board of Trade, and will be run throughout the year.

    To participate in this social media campaign, contact OWIT – Toronto on twitter @OWITTORONTO, or email: info@owit-toronto.ca or on LinkedIn - https://www.linkedin.com/company/owit-to.

  • Thursday, February 06, 2020 9:50 AM | Anonymous


    The Organization of Women in International Trade (OWIT) is pleased to announce the recipients of its annual awards. The awards recognize outstanding contributions to the organization and showcase how the winners leverage their passion and dedication to advance women in international trade and business. Awards will be presented at the Gala Dinner (6pm – 10pm) on Thursday May 28th at the OWIT x GroYourBiz “EXCELerate” Conference in Vancouver, Canada. Registration for conference is open now. 

    2019 Woman of the Year

    The Honourable Chrystia Freeland

    Canada’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, The Honourable Chrystia Freeland, was first elected as a Member of Parliament in 2013 and was re‐elected in 2015 and 2019. 

    When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau came into power, he appointed her as Canada’s Minister of International Trade, the first woman to ever hold this senior Cabinet position. In this role, she successfully negotiated the signing of the trade agreement with Europe, CETA, in 2017, despite many obstacles, and remains a strong and vocal proponent of free trade. The agreement is touted as a model for contemporary trade agreements. From 2017 to 2019, she served as Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs.

    A superstar of Trudeau’s Cabinet, Ms. Freeland was promoted to Deputy Prime Minister in last fall’s election, with responsibility for continuing to oversee the NAFTA renegotiation and Canada’s long‐time and critically important relationship with the US – a strong endorsement of her skills, her deep network and the respect she has garnered. She was Canada’s signatory for the new deal signed with the US and Mexico in December 2019. An esteemed journalist and author, Minister Freeland was born in Peace River, Alberta. She was educated at Harvard University before continuing her studies on a Rhodes Scholarship at the University of Oxford. After beginning her career in journalism as a Ukraine‐based freelance reporter for the Financial Times, The Washington Post, and The Economist, she went on to various roles at the Financial Times. She then served as deputy editor of The Globe and Mail between 1999 and 2001, before returning to the Financial Times as deputy editor and then as the United States managing editor. 

    In 2010, she joined Canadian‐owned Thomson Reuters. She was a managing director of the company and editor of consumer news when she decided to return home and enter politics in 2013. Minister Freeland has written two books: Sale of the Century: The Inside Story of the Second Russian Revolution (2000); and Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super‐Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else (2012). Plutocrats is an international best‐seller and won the Lionel Gelber Prize and National Business Book Award. 

    In 2018, Minister Freeland was recognized as Foreign Policy's Diplomat of the Year and was awarded the Eric M. Warburg Award by Atlantik‐Brücke for her achievements in strengthening transatlantic ties. Minister Freeland speaks Russian, Ukrainian, Italian, French, and English, and lives in Toronto with her husband and three children. 

    Members of the Year: Deanna Clark‐Esposito & Christyna Doege

    Deanna is the founder of the Clark‐Esposito Law Firm, P.C. with over 15 years of legal experience in the areas of international trade (imports/exports), transportation, maritime and administrative law in the areas of fashion, vape/tobacco, hemp and others. Prior to starting her own law firm, Deanna headed up the global trade compliance regulatory division of a New York City based 3PL, and worked at a well respected international trade law firm. 

    Christyna is the Client Engagement Manager for Port Tampa Bay, the Tampa Port Authority, which calls for communicating clearly with current port tenants and users as well as coordinating and hosting successful port events. With a comprehensive knowledge of port operations; the ability to speak to a wide variety of audiences, mastery of the application and billing of port charges and fees; the interpretation of contracts, tariffs, and leases; and the analysis of port statistics.

    Chapter of the Year: Tampa Bay

    Host of the 19th Annual OWIT International Conference: Year of the Woman, featuring a Tampa Business Day Tour, conference and Awards Dinner. Notable Speakers included Cristina Puig, Dr. Patti Fletcher and Ilya de Marotta. TBOWIT stands on three pillars: networking, education and scholarship. They are ‘enriching Tampa Bay through International Trade’.

    You may see more news and subscribe to OWIT International mailing list here.

  • Wednesday, January 22, 2020 12:33 PM | Anonymous


    OWIT-Toronto partnered in the first women’s cohort of the Trade Accelerator Program (TAP) put on by the World Trade Centre in Toronto.

    Packed agenda… full of great speakers and contacts to help women build their export plans and diversify their markets. We were glad to share expertise, along with other partners like Global Affairs Canada, EDC and OWIT-Ottawa.

  • Tuesday, January 07, 2020 10:17 AM | Anonymous

    2019 was a phenomenal year, OWIT-Toronto marked 20 years of promoting women doing

    business internationally.

    In 2019, we expanded the depth of our initiatives, starting off with a business women’s trade mission to Monterrey, Mexico, in February 2019, in the advanced manufacturing sector. Mission participants have since been reporting business wins. In the spring, we partnered with the Asia Pacific Foundation on Doing Business in Japan and participated in Export Development Canada (EDC)’s Stakeholder Forum in Ottawa for national business and industry associations.

    In the Fall, we hosted our 20 th Anniversary Gala and Export Awards which attracted a record number of nominations. We didn’t envy the judges in their tough task of selecting winners. We also engaged in an innovative one-day “Professional Membership Showcase” at the University of Guelph Humber encouraging young women in international trade to join OWIT-Toronto. We continued to participate in forums advocating for gender inclusion in Free Trade Agreements, including the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) event in Ottawa. We also joined our colleagues across in Tampa, to celebrate the “Year of the Woman”, an OWIT International event.

    We ended our extraordinary year marking a 20-year operational period with our 20th Annual General Meeting and a Holiday Reception hosted by Bennett Jones, where three outstanding women entrepreneurs gave us tips on export success including insights on successfully building their businesses, accessing and expanding into global markets. 

    Our engagement and involvement in the different initiatives was made possible with many thanks to our partners and sponsors including the Government of Ontario and OWIT Monterrey, Bennett Jones, Jewels4Ever, EDC, Global Affairs Canada and the Diversity Institute/Ryerson University.

    In 2020, a five-year milestone will be reached towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. 2020 is therefore a pivotal year to continue to shine a light on women entrepreneurship, women economic empowerment and an inclusive role of women in trade agreements to advance women doing business globally.

    We look forward to working with our partners and sponsors on events and initiatives that bring these themes to fruition. Thank you to everyone for a fantastic year!

    Helen Hemmingsen



  • Tuesday, January 07, 2020 9:45 AM | Anonymous

    In February 2019, I was privileged to have the opportunity to participate in a Canadian trade mission to Monterrey, Mexico with the Organization of Women in International Trade Toronto chapter. The mission was facilitated by the Canadian Trade Commissioners’ Service in cooperation with the Ministry of Economy and Labour of the State of Nuevo LeónEGADE Business School Technológico de Monterrey, and numerous other organizations. This mission was the first initiative out of an MOU signed by the OWIT-Toronto and OWIT-Monterrey chapters in March, 2017 in the presence of the Canadian Minister of International Trade and the Consul General of Canada in Monterrey.

    The purpose of the mission was to encourage female business owners, professionals, executives and service providers to export and expand globally, and to showcase the contribution of women in international trade and in historically male-dominated industry sectors, in both Mexico and Canada. The 10 delegates participated in conferences and meetings with local industry clusters, government and educational organizations, tours of various research and development facilities, and a visit to the ExpoManufactura trade show. We also had individual business-to-business meetings with potential customers, suppliers and business partners in the Monterrey area of interest to our respective

    organizations. Here are some of my key takeaways from the mission:

    • Women are a historically untapped resource in manufacturing and industrial sectors.

    According to data from the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME), women currently represent only between 4.4%-15.7% of jobs in industrial, electrical and construction trades, maintenance, equipment operations, transportation and heavy equipment, and machine operation. Technology and automation have lowered physical barriers to participation, making these industrial roles more accessible for women. Our expanding involvement is key to growth in these areas, in light of growing labour shortages in high skill positions. The challenge is encouraging increased participation by women, through skills training and mentorship as well as promoting these roles and STEM subjects to be seen as desirable career paths for young girls. CME's We Can Do It! Campaign is a step along this road.

    • Mexico, and Monterrey and the State of Nuevo León in particular, is a high value market for Canadian manufacturing businesses to consider expanding into.

    Nuevo León is Mexico’s manufacturing hub, its top destination for foreign direct investment and has the highest GDP per capita. Situated in the north of the country and connected with major North American rail and highway networks, the region has developed dramatically since the advent of the original NAFTA. Its business culture is similar from that of Canada and the United States and the population is highly educated and technically skilled relative to other regions. There are also surprisingly widespread

    levels of English spoken by the workforce, and there are many organizations, both private and public, set up to help foreign investors establish operations in the region. More information about the region is available on the Nuevo León Ministry of the Economy's website.

    • Trade diversification is more important than ever.

    The current uncertain trade climate has sent a clear message that diversification is essential, particularly for businesses with international supply chains or customer base. Mexico has free trade agreements with Canada two times over: under the NAFTA (and its soon-to-be successor USMCA / CUSMA / T-MEC) and, as of December 30, 2018, the CPTPP. The CPTPP in particular opens up opportunities for cross-integration of Canada-Mexico supply chains with partners in Asia. But free trade agreements are only valuable for economies to the extent that businesses use them. The skilled advisors at Bennett Jones can help Canadian importers and exporters explore and leverage the opportunities under these agreements, and to set up the necessary commercial and tax structures to make expanding internationally a smooth and profitable experience.

    Jessica B. Horwitz is an Associate at Bennett Jones.

  • Monday, December 30, 2019 10:41 AM | Anonymous
    OWIT-Toronto celebrated the end of 2019 in December with a festive networking and holiday reception hosted by Bennett Jones. This inspiring event provided the platform for OWIT-Toronto members, key stakeholders and decision makers in international trade to network and celebrate all things trade. Three successful women exporters had podium time to shine a light on their journey in building their businesses, accessing and expanding into global markets. The session was moderated by OWIT-Toronto Board Member, Aylin Lusi.

    Myra Sable, President of Sable and Rosenfield and recipient of OWIT-Toronto’s Woman Exporter of the Year award (2019), kicked off the discussion, explaining how her 50-year food business was founded in her kitchen while she worked as a part-time restaurant reviewer in Toronto. She highlighted her incredible journey from St. Lawrence Market to getting a business plan, and to her first scoping mission to Europe, in Paris and Brussels, where she collected various samples of beautifully packaged and designed gourmet products for inspiration. Initially, starting with a home recipe for Russian Mustard, which sold out in six weeks, she meticulously grew the product line into what it is today, specializing in gourmet appetizers and condiments, sauces and cocktail garnishes.

    Kathy Smith, VP Operations of Sable and Rosenfield, complemented Myra’s story and elaborated on the niche markets that they had targeted which required making different unique gourmet product lines, for instance, no alcohol ingredients for the Dubai market. She also highlighted some of the challenges faced along their entrepreneurial journey including supplier delays, buyer challenges and logistical issues. On addressing challenges like language barriers, Myra recalled how she turned this into an opportunity to learn a new language - French - to be able to fully expand her business in France and Brussels. Giving examples of their San Francisco and New York food show experiences, she also noted the importance of trade shows which helped to identify what retailers were seeking. If the packaging was appealing to the buyers, they would buy the products on site and order more. She also said that the ‘Made in Canada’ label was a key marketing tool as it stood for authenticity.

    Barb Wilmer, Director of Sales for Racer Machinery International, shared glimpses of her experiences in Cuba as a young girl, through to moving to Canada as an immigrant at an early age, studying and working to finally achieving top salesperson award in the steel industry in Canada. Her snippets of wisdom in becoming a successful steel industry entrepreneur included staying up to date with the latest technology, keeping in communication loops, networking and having strong perseverance. She noted the turbulent times that have rocked the steel industry with the initiation of the US steel and aluminum tariffs that caused an increase in the cost of raw materials and big reservations on spending, greatly impacting the industry. She welcomed the news of the conclusion of the re-negotiated NAFTA.

    Barb also recommended participating in trade missions. She joined OWIT-Toronto’s trade mission in February 2019 to Monterrey, Mexico which provided her with a variety of networking opportunities and connections to different businesses. She subsequently took an independent follow-up business trip to Monterrey in September 2019 to continue the business engagements. Her ability to communicate fluently in Spanish is key in facilitating doing business in Mexico.

    The evening included brief presentations by OWIT-Toronto partners including EntrepreneursPoint’s Olutoyin Oyelade who announced that their women entrepreneurship incubator development program is available to OWIT-Toronto members at a 10% discount. World Trade Center Trade Accelerator Program’s Frances Guo invited members who meet the criteria to a Women-specific cohort in January 2020. Toronto Business Development Centre (TBDC)’s Neha Bahl announced plans to provide a customized free one-day advisory event for OWIT-Toronto members looking to build and scale new businesses and network with TBDC’s international clients that are part of the Start-up Visa program, TBDC’s mentors, national and international trade partners.

    To crown off the evening, OWIT-Toronto President Helen Hemmingsen recognized Susan Baka, one of OWIT-Toronto’s founders. As a Board Member, a true OWIT-Toronto and OWIT-International champion, Susan has been instrumental in pioneering women in international trade both in Canada and abroad for over 20 years.

    It was an evening of festive celebrations, celebrating the trailblazing women in international trade, their great achievements, and the unique platform that brings all these women at the table to support each other and share many lessons learned along the way. To spice it up further, Sable and Rosenfeld provided a token memento for everyone to taste and remember the occasion. A wide selection of beautiful jars of gourmet products from cocktail garnishes, appetizers, condiments and sauces, many of which were all-natural, Non-GMO certified, gluten free and Kosher, were provided to the participants to take home to appreciate a truly made in Canada experience.

    The evening event was preceded by OWIT-Toronto 20th Annual General Meeting (AGM) marking the end of the year and a 20-year operational period. The 2020 OWIT-Toronto Board was reconstituted, with Board directors reelected and new directors coming on board forming a quorum.

  • Monday, December 30, 2019 10:20 AM | Anonymous

    During this fall’s Toronto Global Forum, OWIT sat down with Mairead Lavery, President and CEO of Export Development Canada (EDC). During a refreshing and lively exchange, she shared her perspectives on women in trade issues and what EDC is both doing and planning for women exporters in 2020, along with her perceptions of the role of an organization like OWIT. Here are some highlights from the interview:

    Q: What are some of the things EDC is doing to support women in exporting?

    A: We’ve launched quite a few initiatives. For example, we created the role of Corporate Lead, Women in Trade. Jennifer Cooke is the first to hold this position, and her team ensures that the whole organization is focused on what works for women entrepreneurs, how we can encourage women to think more about exporting and how we can support their journey more. We wanted to very clearly understand their needs, to guide us on how we engage with them - whether through our website, which we adjusted to make sure it is welcoming to women entrepreneurs, more focused on their needs, clearer in terms of the support that they could access, and whether it is aligning with the collection of metrics in our business. Up to that point, we never asked our customers if they are a woman-owned

    business, so understanding that also helps us do programming. Creating that baseline of data is how we got started and now we’re into the next phase – what I would call phase two of EDC’s program.

    Q: What are the new initiatives geared to women that EDC is planning for 2020?

    A: There are a number of things planned. An increased level of support internally tops the list so that Jennifer can do more. We will continue efforts that are working very well, including relationships with organizations like OWIT that give us the insights and access to women entrepreneurs. We’re also looking into other things that we could do differently, and contributing to more global initiatives as a leverage point to actually take women entrepreneurs international. We’ve had incredible success so far. In 2019, we announced our $50 million Women in Trade Investments Program. I sit on the committee overseeing

    that fund, and the pool of customers is incredibly strong. We’re probably looking at increasing the amount of the fund because it turns out $50 million isn’t enough. Similarly, following the 2018 federal budget, we announced a goal to facilitate $250 million in trade for women-owned and -led businesses and very quickly surpassed that goal. It’s good news, but it doesn’t mean we’ve stopped. Now we need to think about adjusting and setting a new dollar volume goal for supporting women entrepreneurs’ exports and international market growth.

    Q: What role is EDC playing in the government’s aggressive trade diversification strategy?

    A: The majority (75%) of Canadian exports are to the US and 70% of Canadian companies export first to the US. But there are many more markets – some covered by free trade agreements – where we can encourage companies to go as well. And e-commerce is growing so rapidly that traditional thinking is quickly evolving, and people today don’t really recognize themselves in the word “exporting.” They just see themselves as doing business with customers further away than normal and they’re leveraging a tool like a logistics platform that allows them to ship their goods in small quantities. If they see

    themselves as exporters, which they are, there’s a lot of room for them to grow their business and international presence. The world of exporting is changing, and all our programs are changing along with it, to try to help – whether to support diversification, progressive trade or inclusive trade.

    Q: Will EDC have an increased presence internationally?

    A: At the moment, we have 22 offices internationally with a plan to increase that. You’ll see an increased presence in the US because we want to encourage Canadian companies exporting there to get into supply chains that will take them further afield in the world. We continue to advance aggressively in Asia because we see the growth of the middle class and certain Canadian company strengths and capabilities that are an absolute match to the customer base in Asia. We will also go where our customers would like us to be – our London, England office is an example of that. The UK is a very important trading partner for Canada and it’s only in the last three years that we opened an office there since customers wanted us to be on the ground. In other cases, like Singapore, we establish offices in places where we believe there is good potential for Canadian companies, in order to encourage them to do business there and support them.

    Q: How much presence do you have in Europe?

    A: We are in London, Dusseldorf and Istanbul. Particularly because of CETA, the region is ripe for expansion so we’re evaluating whether to boost our presence. We work proactively with the Trade Commissioner Service (TCS) which has such a wide presence in the world. Canada's Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade, Mary Ng and I have a new analogy. Minister Ng says there is no wrong door to government, and we came up with this analogy of a shopping mall. There is no wrong door into the mall because you’ll find the shop that you need and everybody is there to provide that service. That’s what the government and EDC would like to see in terms of the services that all of us in the Canadian trade ecosystem can provide to entrepreneurs. You can find us through TCS, perhaps in Paris, but you will still get to EDC in that mall because TCS will be able to reach out to us even if you don’t know about us. We’re very excited that TCS has that ability and that we can support that.

    Q: Entrepreneurs often say they would like a one-stop shop to access trade support and resources. Is that feasible?

    A: I think that technology is helping a great deal. However, I don’t think it’s a one-stop shop that people want or need; it’s a personalized experience because each business and its circumstances are different. I do hope that we can get them faster access through technology, but it has to be services based on their personal needs. There’s no point going into the one-stop shop if you don’t really know what you need. What we want to provide is a personalized service that recognizes your circumstance and addresses your needs because, at the end of the day, it’s about time and actually accelerating an entrepreneur’s

    journey, not necessarily making everybody experts on all the services we provide.

    Q: Where are the greatest opportunities for Canadian women to export?

    A: It depends on their sector, where they are based geographically in Canada, their capabilities and their product. I always say: what does the customer need? It applies to entrepreneurs…where is the need for your product, or where can you create the need for your product? That’s the market to target – the one that either understands your product, doesn’t have your product, or where you can offer a superior product. Then you have to factor in other criteria, like your own capability and the life cycle of your company. The US is more attractive as a launching pad compared to Asia, where you need to be on the ground and present to be successful, which is often harder for women. I always encourage people to meet with their sector associations and have these dialogues as well.

    Q: How do we increase trade for women when most of them are service providers?

    A: The Canadian economy is shifting more towards service and, I think you’ll see in general, more support for service-based companies from government. Associations like OWIT, with your variety of members, can connect internationally with other bodies that have different varieties of members and make introductions for your members. Having said that, I don’t believe there is ever one network that solves all your challenges. We have to encourage women to be part of various networks where they can learn and meet others who can help. When you’re in business, you look for every advantage you can. Tailored and specific networks like OWIT are part of that advantage. Another example is trying to get into the supply chains of large organizations that are looking to diversify their supplier base. We do have to be realistic about what trade commissioners can do. Some women may have niche products or services that every trade commissioner cannot possibly be an expert in, but still, I think what they can do extremely well is introduce women to different markets and their cultures. It makes a difference when you have the support of the Government of Canada behind you when you are in foreign markets. They are a safety net and can serve as a fundamental check and balance to help you by asking questions about your export plan and why you want to enter a particular market.

    Q: What role can organizations like OWIT play to combat growing protectionist sentiments in the world?

    A: Organizations like OWIT that provide trade education and serve as a trusted source of very unbiased information transcend what we might read in tweets. Bringing together business leaders and letting them share trade successes and experiences that go beyond the superficial media headlines is so important. Even if you do the right things for your business, over time you can always get a shock and a country can close its doors or impose tariffs for example, but, in general, trade continues on. I think OWIT can help educate and build the confidence and be that stable and familiar face through all these

    spikes. I also think that, as a grouping, you have a collective voice, and it’s getting that voice to policy makers or organizations like EDC that are thinking about what products or services to put on the market. You can actually help guide policy and product-building for your membership through your insights.

    Q: Do you think gender chapters in free trade agreements are an effective way to address trade policy to make trade more inclusive for women?  These chapters sound a bit aspirational now. What needs to happen next?

    A: I will speak as a practical business person on how to get things done, and generally things done by measurement. You measure what matters. If it truly matters, then measurements are put in place to determine if success is achieved. That’s what it takes in business and I don’t think this would be any different. You say that the dialogue between OWIT and government has been greater in the last few years than the previous 20. I see that as a positive step and would encourage you to continue to reach out with your recommendations to the policy people who are negotiating agreements.

  • Tuesday, November 26, 2019 10:31 AM | Anonymous

    OWIT-Toronto participated in a lively roundtable discussion organized by Global Affairs Canada with Ambassador Isabelle Hudon, the first female Canadian Ambassador to France. She outlined opportunities for Canadian exporters in the French market with a population of 67 million and noted that “love capital for Canadian businesses is huge in France”, emphasizing there is a growing appetite to learn more about Ontario.

    Other topics discussed included Canada’s free trade agreement with the EU, CETA, trade missions for women (one upcoming to Paris and Brussels) and CanExport funding, with attendees sharing their experiences and perspectives.

    Among the Ambassador’s tips for ensuring success: Invest time to get to know potential partners and understand the culture Access the Trade Commissioner Service for market knowledge and to help introduce you to partners Be very confident in your dealings but don’t focus on your gender.

    For more information on how TCS can help, connect with Viktoria Palfi at Viktoria.Palfi@international.gc.ca, the Business Women in International Trade contact point in Toronto.

  • Monday, November 25, 2019 10:02 AM | Anonymous

    OWIT-Toronto participated in an innovative one-day ‘Professional Membership Showcase’ event hosted by the University of Guelph Humber offering students access to networking and professional development opportunities through joining an association. The career building and placement services workshop held in November offered information and guidance to students on career plans and professional goals from over 10 specialized associations, including OWIT-Toronto alongside others like the Chartered Professional Accountants of Ontario and Canadian Society of Association Executives.

    During the interactions with the students, OWIT-Toronto members highlighted the Organization’s global brand recognition and mission to advance women in international trade and its membership benefits including education and training, business development, networking and mentorship. The students were also invited to take advantage of OWIT-Toronto’s free online resources on business planning, evaluation, managing risks, brand management and protection from fraud, all available on OWIT-Toronto’s website.

    Students in the business and media fields were particularly encouraged to apply for volunteer opportunities to build experience and learn from entrepreneurial experts through available networking opportunities, on-the-job skills and mentorship. Student membership fees are offered at an annual discounted rate of $50 to support the next generation of young female entrepreneurs.

    Melissa Patrizi, Career Services Coordinator, Business and Media Studies at the University of Guelph Humber, highlighted her plans to make the professional membership showcase an annual event to encourage and motivate students to aim higher for a variety of options in their career path. She noted, “Professional Development is an ongoing investment in yourself. Our hope for this event is to showcase to students that networking and learning can and should happen outside of the classroom. Professional Associations provide the resources for connecting to other like-minded individuals and industry professionals, and we hope students will see professional membership as a viable opportunity to learn more about their chosen field and advance their career prospects through networking”.

    Further highlighting the role of memberships in professional associations, and in particular OWIT, Helen Hemmingsen, President of OWIT-Toronto, compared the experience with passing on the baton, as student memberships in associations like OWIT-Toronto could bring on rewarding career opportunities. She noted: "A global association, OWIT’s mission is to foster international trade and the advancement of women in business. We have a supportive community network of women entrepreneurs, women leaders and service providers who are equipped and happy to mentor and guide female students along their professional and entrepreneurial path, and we offer them lifelong learning lessons through networking and experience sharing."

    Taking these discussions to the next level and further motivating future female entrepreneurs, the University of Guelph Humber and OWIT-Toronto have plans to collaborate further on upcoming key occasions like the 2020 International Women’s Day. This collaboration serves to ensure that there is a wider reach for female students to be engaged in entrepreneurship and leadership opportunities. The proposed outreach plans will be accompanied by a trade show exhibiting professional female associations and women-led enterprises.

    With an ever-increasing population of students who will require the necessary skillset and opportunities needed to reach their potential, OWIT-Toronto remains empowered to help female students through networking, professional development, training and mentorship in order to become the next entrepreneurial drivers supporting the Sustainable Development Goals.

organization of women in international trade-toronto

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