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Our Voices

Emphasizing Empathy Pays Off

Image of two women working on a computer with a colourful art background/collage style image.
Ruth Wylie (left) and Melanie Grad (right), cofounders, Perspective Squared.

When she was head of production at Variprix, Grad says she tried to lead with flexibility, because caregiving extends to many people.

“There was a man who lived in Newmarket (ON) who would drive downtown to Liberty Village everyday,” she says. “He had basketball with his boys twice a week and I said, ‘You better get your ass up there. Those are the important things.’

“Men and women – we all have other priorities. That opportunity really taught me that’s not something to compromise on when we’re running our business.”


Although they are at different places in their life, Grad says she’s learning a lot from Wylie, who, at 52, brings a “menopausal lens” to their partnership and business.


“For so long, for so many decades, no one spoke about it,” says Wylie. “Yes, you see women in later stages of their lives change their careers and do different things and that’s amazing. But how many of those women made those changes because they couldn’t navigate their current career path feeling the way they were feeling?”

“(Menopause) ebbs and flows – particularly (for me in) the last three months, I’m ebbing in the most challenging of ways. I adapt, sometimes daily, to my energy and focus levels, taking breaks and shifting tasks/priorities when possible,” she says. “ It most definitely makes me more aware of other people’s energy and trying to make a space for people to share feelings, ask for help, or to just be if that is what they need.”

Like the flexibility that Grad has sought out as a single parent, Wylie says she now finds herself adjusting her work schedule to prioritize her well-being as she goes through menopause.

“I grew up with the notion that to succeed you need to work harder and longer and keep your emotions in check. Success was intrinsically linked to performance, how much I did and how well it was received. I am working on reframing that notion, and today my success is more about being self-satisfied with the work I produce, how it is done and in the environment I help create for others to work within.”

The lack of these important conversations about their lived experiences have encouraged Grad and Wylie to open up space for more human conversations with their partners and colleagues. One area they strive to invest their time and energy in is through mentorship. As Wylie puts it, they, “want to make the time to be able to give back to the next generation of super producers and female entrepreneurs.”

“For example, we just wrapped up six days on set with a really lovely crew,” says Grad. “The conversation at the end was: we really loved working with you, but let’s have a coffee to talk about what you like to do so that we’re putting you in the right position next time. Just because you came on as an associate producer or camera assistant, we realize you have other skills and other interests. We can definitely put you in the same role the next time, but if we know what you like to do and we have opportunities to provide that, then let’s make that happen. Those conversations are important to us.”

“I feel very strongly about our efforts to create a business where we work collaboratively with others, creating a space that supports our team learning and growing and contributing to our shared success,” adds Wylie. “Growing the business and being profitable is unquestionably a goal, but the first priority is always the people and community we develop and grow the business with.”

Grad and Wylie emphasize the empathy and generosity that they aspire to bring to all aspects of their work. As Grad says, “It’s important for us to take what works and share it with other people. If you like our process, take it. If you like the way we structured our call sheets, take it. If you like the way we build, take it. Our success is not the ultimate goal. We want to see everybody’s success.

“Let’s all rise together. If we figured it out the hard way, take the easy way.”

Publishers Note: Perspective Squared participated in the Fifth Wave  Initiative, a year-round program offered by CFC Media Lab and its partners to support the growth and development of women entrepreneurs in the digital media and commerce sector in southern Ontario. All enterprise founders in the Fifth Wave community are selected for both their potential and commitment toward weaving intersectional feminist ideals of equity and fairness into sustainable and scalable business growth strategies. Fifth Wave Initiative is committed to a minimum of 50% participation per cohort by members of underrepresented groups. The Fifth Wave is a LiisBeth ally sponsor at the Lighthouse level

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Feminist Practices Our Voices

Leading with Care and Transparency

A woman, Cass Rudolph, with long brown hair wearing a blue stripped dress, standing in an indoor garden. White brick walls behind her.
Cass Rudolph, founder, Lucky Ones | Photo by Ashley Senja and Cass Rudolph

Getting to the heart of a story is integral for every production company, but in a world that prioritizes growth and efficiency, what is often lost are the people creating that story. Lucky Ones aims to change all of that by being a media production company focused on prioritizing the wellbeing of their staff while also telling stories with heart and stories that give back. They always try to include an element of community building and aim to highlight women and marginalized people.

I sat with Cass Rudolph (she/her) founder of the company, who shared the ethos and vision behind Lucky Ones.


What’s at the heart of your story?

 Part of building Lucky Ones was to circumvent the traditional career path. It was a conscious decision to grow slow and avoid the politics and dangers of male-dominated spaces. The initial vision was to stay small, maybe grow to a team of five. But after working as a production coordinator for a much bigger show, it’s made me realize that I actually want to grow to scale because there is such a need for people-first productions.

The truth is that I was sexually harassed out of a job. I started in the music industry where I was working in-house creating for a record label. It was an incredibly toxic work environment. I was then given an opportunity to work at an advertising agency with one other person. I was treated even worse than at the record label, and there was no one to talk to about what happened. There was no HR department to report what had happened to me. That was the last straw.

I decided to do it alone and do it better. I carved my own path and now I’m working on bigger projects that are much more rooted in who I am and what I believe in.

Lucky Ones Project: Open Studio x StreetARToronto

How do you do things differently?

With Lucky Ones, we prioritize people over schedules, over getting the best shot, over everything. For me, it’s about making sure that everyone working on a project with us is treated with equity and respect. I want to make sure that everyone can sit comfortably in their own values.

My company is small – it’s mostly just me until we’re ready to go to camera and ready to get on set. Staying small allows me the flexibility to make sure that people who are joining the team know what they’re in for. Letting people fully consent to what they are signing up for is so important to me.

I try to be as transparent as possible by sharing the scenes we’re going to shoot, the interview questions, the schedule for the project, the breakdown of where the money is going. We can all take care of each other if we know where things are going if we know schedules well in advance.

This transparency is integral to our culture at Lucky Ones. I want people to be able to come to me with any questions or comments. I want them to know I’m not running the show, I’m just guiding. What we’re doing is a team sport and I’m just shaping the pathway. From there, I encourage everyone’s input.

What are the challenges you’ve experienced in this industry?

 It’s still very male-centric. There is a huge barrier to entry to secure bigger commercial clients. If you want to work on a big commercial or TV show, you’re going to run up against clients who want a guarantee of who’s going to be on set. Pitching the fact that we are a people-first production company can hurt us in a lot of ways because these clients want a super tight turnaround, they’re reluctant to take a chance on a crew they haven’t worked with before, especially when the people you work with aren’t the people you typically see on set.

That’s the issue right now. We’ll put the representation on screen but when you go behind the scenes, it’s still very much status quo.

I read your equity and inclusion statement, and appreciated the recognition of representation both in front and behind the camera. Can you speak a little bit more to the importance of that?

I personally identify as being on the margins and so I know what it’s like to exist in environments where you’re not considered. For example, if you’re shooting a documentary and filming outside, most production companies would say that you need to hire people who are physically fit, or a Director of Photography who can lift 50 lbs. For me, you want to make concessions for people who are really good at their job. You want to give people opportunities to be good at their job.

If a good camera person can’t carry heavy equipment because they have a disability or are immune-compromised – especially now that we have COVID, many people have lower lung capacity – let’s just hire someone who can carry that stuff.

It’s important to me to hire neurodivergent people, to hire people who have disabilities – people who have great skills but are otherwise overlooked. Lucky Ones never wants to put the schedule ahead of people. We want to hire people who might not otherwise have this opportunity to flourish.

You identify as ‘being on the margins,’ can you share your social location and how that has informed your commitment to equity and inclusion?

I’m neurodivergent. I have Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD). I also exist in a fat body.

I started my career in the music industry, I also do photography. These are industries that are super adverse to fat people enjoying anything. This is where I’m coming from. I’m used to being the person who is not necessarily considered for a lot of opportunities, like being a camera person or taking part in projects where there is a lot of travel involved. I want people to know that regardless of what other barriers they may have faced in other companies, that won’t be an issue with Lucky Ones. We can make it work.

What does the future look like for Lucky Ones?

We want to move into additional language markets like French and Korean. I’ve always had an interest in language learning. I grew up in French immersion and in high school, I learned Spanish and still carry that. For the last five years, I’ve been learning Korean and for me, it just adds to the richness of the stories I can tell.

To be able to communicate directly, even if just a little bit, can put people at ease. It also allows me to hire people from different countries and integrate them into the production of the project without having them feel othered. I would love to be able to travel and tell as many stories in as many languages as possible.

At a time when we are inundated with headlines about ‘The Great Resignation,’ ‘Quiet Quitting’, burnout, and the push for unionization, it’s rare and refreshing to meet business leaders who are prioritizing the needs and well-being of their staff. Leading with care and transparency is a much needed and radical rebuilding of the systems that no longer serve us.

Cass Rudolph’s model at Lucky Ones is one I hope we see much more of in the years to come.

Publishers Note: Lucky Ones participated in the Fifth Wave  Initiative, a year-round program offered by CFC Media Lab and its partners to support the growth and development of women entrepreneurs in the digital media and commerce sector in southern Ontario. All enterprise founders in the Fifth Wave community are selected for both their potential and commitment toward weaving intersectional feminist ideals of equity and fairness into sustainable and scalable business growth strategies. Fifth Wave Initiative is committed to a minimum of 50% participation per cohort by members of underrepresented groups. The Fifth Wave is a LiisBeth ally sponsor at the Lighthouse level

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Activism & Action

Measured Hope, Calculated Optimism

Graffiti in Toronto, Ont. Photo by PK Mutch.


As American hip hop artist and spoken word champion Guante so eloquently says: “White supremacy is not a shark, it’s the water.” And, oh, are we drowning in it.

The last four years of the Trump presidency had me—and many BIPOC in Canada—urgently gasping for air.

There is plenty for Canadians to celebrate in the Biden-Harris victory, but there’s also much need to temper that optimism.

The Continued Reign of White Supremacy

Biden won the presidential election both by the popular and electoral vote, but what is impossible to ignore is that 73.6 million people voted for Trump. That’s over 10 million more than 2016, after four years of leadership marked by racism, misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia—with his deadly handling of this year’s COVID-19 as a cherry on top.

While we may think we are fundamentally different here in Canada, the truth is that the rise of Trump has emboldened many Canadians who hold similarly racist beliefs. Just a year after Trump’s 2016 win, Statistics Canada reported a dramatic uptick of 47 per cent in race-based hate crimes across the country.

That vitriol has continued with increased reports of anti-Asian sentiment since the onset of the pandemic. Trump’s aggressive anti-China “kung-flu” rhetoric has encouraged disgusting attacks in plain sight and with little remorse. I know because I’ve been on the receiving end of such attacks myself. I’ve been threatened  to be reported to the police while I was reading in a park, yelled at to go back home to China, and told that “all Chinese people should go to jail.”

Trump’s influence has also seeped into our political system. Consider the election of conservative premiers in seven provinces, Quebec’s Bill 21 banning religious symbols, and Maxime Bernier founding the People’s Party of Canada, a federal alt-right anti-immigrant party.

Trump’s legacy—white supremacy unclothed and unabashed—and Trump himself will continue to take up space in our popular discourse. We see it already with his refusal to concede and his continued dissemination of misinformation of electoral fraud. He will continue to energize those on the right, perhaps with even more zeal.

And Yet, Possibilities of A More Inclusive Future Shine

Surely that a woman—Black and South Asian, no less—was the first ever elected to the second highest office must signal a positive shift?

More than the Biden win, I was buoyed by the triumph of Kamala Harris as vice president. Seeing her take the stage in that all-white pantsuit—an homage to the suffragette movement—choked me up in ways I did not expect.

As an immigrant woman, how could I not get emotional hearing Harris pay tribute to her immigrant mother and the generations of women—very specifically Black, Indigenous, and women of colour—who paved the way and sacrificed so much for our shared equality? I was overcome by the immense power of that moment and the possibility of a more hopeful future.

Justine Abigail Yu, writer and publisher of Living Hyphen (Photo by Stefinda Levin).

While I am wary of Harris’ problematic criminal justice record as Attorney General of California, I see a positive way forward in the language both Harris and Biden used in their victory speeches with explicit inclusion of transgender and disability rights—more firsts!

There were other significant victories worth celebrating too—the re-election of the Squad, the wins of many diverse progressives, the flipping of Georgia, and many progressive ballot measure decisions.

In Canada, only one woman (white) has ever occupied the highest political office, when Kim Campbell was elected leader of the Progressive Conservatives to replace resigning Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, then was soundly trounced in a general election four months later. Jagmeet Singh has the distinction of being the first racialized leader of a federal party—yet also to be thrown out of the House of Commons for calling out racism.

So, it’s critical not to gloss over significant victories in the 2020 U.S. presidential election. The impact that political representation has on the psyches of Black, Indigenous, and communities of colour cannot be understated. It signals the possibility of an inclusive future and inspires those of us from underrepresented communities to take up as much space and power as the people who work so hard to shut us out.

But We Need to Continue Working for Change

Donald Trump mobilized racists, but he also provoked people on both sides of the border to wake up, speak up, and call out racism. But will they fall back to sleep, reassured by the more hopeful and inclusive language of the Biden administration? I worry.

Canada already suffers from thinking we are better than America, of absolving ourselves of the sins of systemic racism and other related oppressions, of failing to respond to the genocide of our Indigenous nations with robust reconciliation measures. We ignore the wave of hard-right conservatism sweeping the country, the rise of Islamophobia in Quebec, the police brutality that disproportionately kills our racialized communities, and the outrageous immigration detention centres in our country.

Too eagerly, we pat ourselves on the back and applaud how much more polite and tolerant we are than Americans.

Will those outraged by Trump default to complacency now that the palpable hostility of his administration no longer dominates the headlines?

We have an opportunity in Canada to take stock, see parallels, realize that violence is always imminent here too—and that too many of our communities already suffer from the violence of systemic racism and oppression.

We have an opportunity to push hard on reconciliation by implementing the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG). To channel the momentum of this summer’s Black Lives Matter protests to continue to defund the police and find more effective ways of keeping our communities safe. To push for a universal basic income—as we have seen is possible during this time of pandemic—that fundamentally gives more agency to so many marginalized people.

Post Trump, we have an opportunity to keep building on the momentum of change, and to reimagine and create the kind of world we want to live in.

As the great Angela Davis said, “You have to act as if it were possible to radically transform the world. And you have to do it all the time.”

I know that people will continue to mobilize—from Black, Indigenous, and communities of colour, across and beyond the gender binary, and with various abilities. We do so everywhere and every day, election or not, to protect ourselves and fight for our shared liberation. We will continue to lead as community organizers, artists, educators, activists, and culture creators dismantling systems of oppression.

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