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Feminist Practices

At Home With Your Values

A fourth pig? Photo by Jeff Wasserman

Amid the cookie-cutter suburbs and glassy condos in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), a handful of buildings proudly stand out for Melinda Zytaruk and the passion her company poured into creating them.

There’s the second-storey addition on a downtown family home insulated with straw bales sourced from a southern Ontario farmer and made from the stalks of wheat, which stores more carbon than is required to grow it. In the east end, a basement and kitchen renovation built with concrete containing 60 percent less CO2 emissions than conventional concrete. On the outskirts of the GTA, in Caledon, Ont., an old horse barn turned into a brewery using various recycled materials.

These are all projects completed by Zytaruk and her team at the Ontario-based sustainable construction company, Fourth Pig. “You’ve heard the story of the three little pigs? We’re telling the story of the fourth pig,” says Zytaruk, the company’s general manager who is also a certified builder, registered designer, and environmental expert. The famed children’s tale, she explains, doesn’t actually end with the pigs who built their houses out of straw, sticks, and bricks. There was another pig who proposed they work together, combine all their materials and concepts, and create a healthier more environmentally sustainable house. That’s what the Fourth Pig is all about: building new possibilities.

Melida Zytaruk, Co-Owner and General Manager, Fourth Pig

Zytaruk and Glen Byrom (who are married) along with Matthew Adams and Sally Miller (also spouses) formed Fourth Pig back in 2007 after realizing how few green construction companies there were in Canada even though, according to recent data, residential, commercial, and industrial buildings accounted for 17 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. Adams, who is now the director of operations and education, referred to conventional buildings as a “climate change catastrophe” and that Canada needed significant change in the construction industry to meet reduction targets.

Fourth Pig set out to be part of that change, promoting sustainable construction practices by hosting talks on green building and hands-on skill-building workshops, and by creating greener, cleaner, and healthier buildings in communities in the GTA, the Golden Horseshoe, and Muskoka areas of Ontario.

Says Adams: “Sustainable building means a cleaner environment, more efficient energy generation and use, more effective use of building materials, and healthier living spaces.” For instance, traditional building materials release high levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that have been linked to headaches and skin irritations. Fourth Pig uses eco-friendly adhesives with zero VOCs. Constructing an eco-friendly building doesn’t necessarily cost more than conventional structures, but going “green” typically lowers operational costs, such as energy usage. “The result is buildings that are good for the planet and good for your health,” says Adams.

But Fourth Pig’s goal wasn’t just to use healthier materials and reduce a project’s carbon footprint. Committing to building sustainably required rethinking how people work within the business, explains Zytaruk. “Can you protect the environment and still exploit people? Is that even compatible?” Short answer: No. That’s why the founders set up their business as a non-profit worker co-operative, to ensure all worker-owners participate equally in the decision-making and direction of the company.

At the time, the business structure was not well understood by financial institutions, so rather than loans, the founders sought private investment to start their business. Says Adams, “Any startup is going to face strong scrutiny from a lending agent so at that time being a non-profit worker co-op (very rare) was one more challenge.” He adds that they have since received support from government and not-for-profit grants and wage subsidy youth placement programs.

Employees can become worker-owners after completing two years and 2,500 hours with the company. Applicants must also comply with the International Co-operative Alliance’s values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity, and solidarity. Once approved, all worker-owners have an equal role in governing Fourth Pig. Currently, all six current worker-owners sit on the board, which meets monthly. Whether a lead carpenter or an operations manager, each has an equal vote, says Zytaruk.

She admits that involving so many people in decision-making can mean there is “more process” than in a conventional business. However, she feels that approaching challenges as a team is why co-ops are so resilient in times of crisis—such as the current COVID-19 pandemic.

In accordance with public health guidelines, Fourth Pig ceased on-site work on April 9 until at least May 4. As with most businesses, that has meant lost income. But in the true spirit of a co-op, Zytaruk says, “The whole company is involved in discussions about how we get through this, whether they’re a carpenter or manager.”

The worker co-op structure and the company’s commitment to sustainability and equality attracted M-C MacPhee to join the company last year. She remembers reading through the company’s policies and procedures and being impressed by its carefully considered zero-tolerance policy for workplace violence and harassment such as bullying or jokes that are degrading or offensive. MacPhee has worked in the industry “on and off” for a decade, usually for larger companies where women comprised a miniscule minority of the labour force. Though she can hold her own, the 39-year-old said she actively sought to work apart from the rest of the crew at job sites, to avoid their sexist banter. That type of behaviour is not tolerated at Fourth Pig.

“There’s just a commitment at the Pig to always do better, to talk things out, to make sure communication is really clear, everyone’s really comfortable, everything is going well, and people are having a really good work experience day to day,” says MacPhee.

That commitment extends to Fourth Pig’s “fairly flat” pay structure. According to Zytaruk, entry-level positions earn a living wage, rather than minimum wage, and managerial positions, while still competitive, are not as high-paying as in other companies. “Nobody earns more than two and a half times what the lowest wage person would be.”

Beyond creating a more equitable structure internally, Fourth Pig also prioritizes education—another reason the company appealed to MacPhee, who teaches construction at Georgian College. Fourth Pig provides training opportunities for employees and hosts hands-on presentations for the public on worker co-ops and sustainable construction as well as raising awareness with public policy-makers on the importance of sustainable building.

MacPhee, who joined as a carpenter, is now a site supervisor. She says there’s a strong team commitment to the company’s mission to build greener and also to “help each other learn in whatever capacity we can.”

That goes for the founding owners, according to Zytaruk, who says the company is constantly striving to improve, utilizing new tools and approaches to creating healthier buildings, communities, and work teams. “We’re always trying to learn and do better every day,” says Zytaruk.

Since all companies are mandated to have policies on workplace violence and harassment, MacPhee wanted to emphasize that what stood out to her was that this one seemed to be thoughtfully written compared to others that seem cookie-cutter and just there to fulfill requirements

This was a specific company so don’t want to generalize

Transformative Ideas

Co-ops are the past and the next best thing. So why don’t we join the movement?

Photo: Sergey Galyonkin. Creative Commons BY-SA (cropped)

Imagine this: an eco-just world that enables all genders to flourish, with their basic needs met for healthy food, water, shelter, safety, agency, belonging, human touch, respect, and personal growth.

I know many others, not just activists, think such a world is possible. Increasingly, tech gurus, CEOs, startup founders, mainstream politicians, and investors have joined the choir. I am a person whose hope requires continuous feeding so I eagerly read and highlight their thought leadership articles and better-future “unity now” books. I was floored yesterday to read this article, “Unless It Changes, Capitalism Will Starve Humanity By 2050,” in Forbes Magazine, the voice of big business in the United States.

Could it be that the tide is turning this time for real, with more people on the side of tackling the dysfunctions of patriarchy and capitalism? One thing I have noticed as a measure of hard evidence is that social entrepreneurs (who operate at the intersection of philanthropy and business) are getting a warmer welcome in business incubator and accelerator programs. In the past, they were often given a pat on the head (myself included) for cuteness and a one-way ticket to the back of the local community centre, and a desk beside the toy box.

I have spent time by the toy box (and in the toy box) as a social entrepreneur for more than 15 years now, so I am encouraged by this discourse shift, which is crucial to right a world marred by climate change and war-driven human migration, mass extinctions, gross income inequalities, an unhelpful global political shift to the right—need I go on?

But the stark reality is, despite all the studies, the rise of B Corp certifications, warm welcomes, and government-sponsored social finance funds, a quick look at the facts and figures tells us that we still really have no idea how to help social entrepreneurs grow impactful, solutionary enterprises while also sustaining themselves, their families, employees, and the communities they live in. As a result, social enterprises (in Canada at least) often remain small (fewer than three people) and rely heavily on life support dribbling in from donations, odd-ball grants, and micro-finance scale investments. It’s not unusual to see celebrated social entrepreneurs holding down a traditional day job while trying to grow their company just to pay fair salaries, and themselves, for years.

Social enterprises that provide services or education versus a product have an even tougher time. It’s easier (though slightly) to find financing when you involve the purchase of hard assets like a building (Centre for Social Innovation) or pre-sell a physical product (Lucky Iron Fish). In many mainstream, mixed incubator and accelerator environments, social entrepreneurs are still not taken seriously, and routinely feel like outliers that need to go elsewhere for relevant support.

We need social entrepreneurs to succeed more than ever. So where are we going wrong?

Time to Embrace the Old—And Make It New Again

Systemic blind spots are part of the problem. Social enterprises don’t fit neatly into the for-profit or non-profit box. As a result, the majority of today’s accelerators and incubator leaders and progamming folk do not have the skills or experience required to help social entrepreneurs consider their full range of options when it comes to structuring, designing and growing their new enterprise.

One of the most glaring omissions? Our startup ecosystem’s ability to support the creation and development of co-operatives, which is one of the most successful, evidence-based ways to create a large, profitable social enterprise that serves people and the planet. Typically, programs promote just two binary options: set up as a non-profit or for-profit. Sometimes, advisors actually recommend both so you can raise money and qualify for foundation grants. For a new entrepreneur, figuring out one legal form and paying for tax filings is already daunting enough, let alone administrating two legal forms, paying for two tax filings, plus recruiting and serving two boards to boot.

Few point out that there are other ways to structure and finance a social enterprise, like, for example, creating a for-profit co-operative.

Co-operatives have been around since 1862 (corporations have been around since the 1780s). Part of the problem is that our thinking about co-operatives, the world’s original and oldest social enterprise legal form, lags far behind the times. When we hear the term we imagine small quaint farms and food co-ops, newcomer credit unions, or city housing. Yet, co-operatives all around the world—and in Canada—are thriving, growing, and solving social and environmental issues, all while not exploiting people or the planet to do so.

Today, there are more than 9,000 co-operatives in Canada and 750,000 worldwide. According to the International Co-operative Alliance, the top 300 co-operatives globally report US$2.1 trillion in revenues. In Canada, co-operatives generate $54 billion in GDP (compared to the $9.1 billion created by the Canadian tech sector) and paid $12 billion in taxes and created jobs at nearly five times the rate of the overall economy. Research shows that co-operatives are twice as likely to survive than traditional businesses, often because the governance structure provides a strong pipeline for enterprise succession. Research also shows that 76 percent of consumers are more likely to buy from co-operatives.

Interestingly, there’s a strong feminist principle embedded in the very structure of co-operatives, which requires a wide variety of stakeholders be represented at the board table.

Modern, new co-operatives are springing up in an array of surprising sectors: green energy, breweries, co-working spacesretailnetworks, wine, arts facilities, and media. Stocksy, a platform-based co-operative, and a favourite of ours (we buy a lot of photos from them) puts the power back in the hands of its 1,000-plus shareholder artists, ensuring a fair distribution of profits, encouraging collaboration, and ethical business practices.

Oh, and sex! Come As You Are claims to be the world’s only worker-owned sex shop. The online co-operative offers “sex-positive” products, advice, and workshops as well as education and outreach to the community.

The principle related to sharing the wealth may well be what inspires people working in co-operatives to do well, for co-ops can and do make large profits, such as Ocean Spray, a global enterprise that generates $2 billion a year to support its 700 farmer members, processing facilities, and 2,000 employees. Arizmendi Bakery has spawned some five sister co-ops in California.

Why Ignore Successful Models?

If co-operatives are so great at growing, creating jobs, long-term financial stability, plus wealth creation and fair wealth distribution, why don’t innovation policymakers, startup incubators, and accelerator programs encourage their creation and development?

Well, it’s simple. Co-operatives do not serve traditional investor interests, and traditional investor interests overwhelmingly dominate and drive entrepreneurship incubator and accelerator programming.

Why don’t traditional investors like co-operatives?

Co-operatives are bound to reinvest or distribute profits to workers and/or member-owners versus prioritizing a small preferred share-class group of outside, privileged investors. Co-operatives are also nearly impossible to sell or flip for a quick investor return—or take over management if investors are suddenly dissatisfied with the social purpose’s impact on the rate of growth. Co-operatives are virtually mission-drift-proof, meaning the social mission today won’t fly out the window tomorrow because the mission is legislatively backed. In addition, members—each with one vote, regardless of the size of the stake in the co-operative—control that mission.

Essentially, co-operatives combine the best of the for-profit and non-profit world. And they might just be what we need more of today. They are built to reverse wealth inequality—not exacerbate it. Their seven principles require members to support the health of the planet and the well-being of their communities and all people.

There is now one accelerator in the US that’s focused on helping founders start co-operatives, the Boston-based Start.Coop, a partner in the Fledge Accelerator network that includes Tech Stars, Bainbridge Institute, and Seattle’s Impact Hub. But sadly, there is no such equivalent in Canada. We know. Because we looked. And we had good reason to do so.

The Journey to Becoming Canada’s First Womxn-Led Feminist Media Co-op

At our last advisory board meeting, the LiisBeth Media team and I decided to structure LiisBeth as a multi-stakeholder co-operative to support our mission. We believe this structure will enable us to create impact, achieve financial sustainability, and enable the enterprise to flourish for a very long time—or at least as long as it takes to achieve gender equality globally. With no local government-funded incubator or accelerator program around, we are left with having to navigate the journey on our own.

To learn more about co-operatives, we joined The Canadian Community Economic Development Network (CCEDNet). It offers a wealth of information on co-operatives and referred us to several experts.

For implementation expertise, we went online to find a law firm that had experience in the co-operatives space to help us do this right. Luckily, we came across Iler Campbell LLP, a “law firm for those who want to make the world better” (it also offers affordable rates).

To help us with important details, we have enlisted several co-op experts who have experience with discerning and understanding implications of membership categories, plus how to market co-op shares, lead and govern in a transparent, inclusive way.  Leading a cooperative requires sophisticated feminist forward leadership and management skills.

These are complex challenges that won’t be easy to solve but we’re excited to tackle them. In the coming months, we’ll share stories about what we learned and let you know who to go to if you, too, are interested in exploring a co-operative legal form for your social enterprise.

These resources and knowledge exist, most likely, outside of your local startup ecosystem. It’s there. You just have to find it.

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Photo by: ANDREW LISHAKOV on Stocksy
“woman screaming loud behind transparent foil”


The Canadian (one of over 200 general elections in the world this year) federal election is on and therefore the mudslinging has begun. Hauling out frightening homophobic and misogynist speeches from one leader’s past, deeply hurtful racist blackface photos from another’s, with more to come, for sure. I hadn’t planned on digging into the election in this newsletter, but with the trajectory of Canada’s future at stake, how can I not?

To me, elections are like spring cleaning. They are a time when we pull things out into the light and re-examine our priorities: What do we want to keep and what we can live without. We conjure Marie Kondo and think about which candidate or party (left-brain analysis aside) sparks joy. We move aside the heavy furniture and take the parliamentary rug out for a good shake— even a beating—in the open air. Not surprisingly, a lot of crud can accumulate in four years.

If we think about elections in this way, my over-riding question in Canada’s upcoming federal election is this: Do we need a new rug or are we better off cleaning up and repairing the one we already have? Can that rug still be useful, can it even give us joy?

In my own efforts to stay informed, I found lots of election analysis and tools which name their idea of key issues and where each party stands: CBC’s Canada Votes, the Globe and MailVice Magazine’s “Everything You Need to Know About…..” series, and the Maclean’s magazine election issue.

But not one of these mainstream sites name women’s equality or gender equity as a key election issue. Incredible, considering women and women-identified people represent 53% of the population. You will see Indigenous issues, crime, students, immigration, manufacturing, and climate change. But gender? Nada. Childcare crops up on one or two, but surely that is an issue for all genders and not the sole concern of women.

As the YWCA “Up For Debate” initiative points out, there has not been a leaders debate on women’s issues in more than 35 years. What were we concerned about then? Reproductive rights, domestic and sexual violence, economic equality, equal political representation? Those issues remain deeply relevant even though, yes, it’s 2019.

So how do we find out where the major federal parties stand on reproductive rights, pay transparency, gender-based violence, closing tax loopholes that benefit only men, the chronic state of funding instability undermining women’s organizations and social movements, or how innovation and economic development dollars continue to favour male-led industries? What about their commitment to new pay-equity legislation, using gender-based assessment tools in policy making, or support for the new Equality Fund and the Women’s Entrepreneurship Fund?

We tried. We found almost nothing. We at LiisBeth, together with our readers, obviously need to work on changing that. In the meantime, we gathered what few articles and sites that might help you rate the federal parties on issues of particular concern to women and, really, should concern everyone:

If you are ready to take action, we recommend you send a letter to election candidates to tell them you care about gender equality. The Canadian Women’s Foundation has made this action simple. Click here to send a letter now.

So, in sum, does the current rug still spark joy, despite all the crud? 

As for me, I watched Ontario, the province I live in, vote out a deeply unpopular female Liberal premier (who made mistakes, but by many accounts delivered on good policy) and replace her with a male Conservative, carny-style premier and team who campaigned on a buck-a-beer promise. Frankly, it’s been dark time here ever since.

All I can say is there are a lot of people who wanted a new rug, got one, and are now wishing they could get roll it up and toss it out, or at least get rid of the beer stains.




Clockwise from the top: Cynthia Erivo at TIFF 2019, Melody Kuku, Annabel Kalmar, Sarah Kaplan, Cherry-Rose Tan


Margaret DeRosia curates a list of five must-see films for feminist entrepreneurs that screened at The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) earlier this month. 4 min read

Feminist entrepreneur Melody Kuku’s personal story of resilience redefines the meaning of strength, and is an example of how writing poetry can be an outlet to overcome crisis. 3 min read

Is direct trade the new fair trade? Daphne Gordon discovers why tea producers around the world are partnering with the Canadian-based tea distributor Tea Rebellion. 3 min read

And find out how corporate social responsibility is being reshaped by changing demographics in a Q&A with Sarah Kaplan about her new book, The 360° Corporation: From Stakeholder Trade-offs to Transformation. Feminist Freebie alert! Be the first to comment on this article on LiisBeth and recieve a free copy of Kaplan’s new book! 4 min read

Where can tech entrepreneurs get mental health support? Cherry-Rose Tan shares her story with Mai Nguyen that has inspired others to do the same. 3 min read

Leslie Kern / Photo by Mitchel Raphael


City planning isn’t a new idea. Neither is thinking about how cities, neighbourhoods, communities could be set up in ways that support other sorts of social ideals, including feminist ones. Yet urban planners continue to exclude women’s needs and point of view which leads to isolation, employment barriers, and unsafe streets. When will this change? What impact does this planning have on not only women…but everyone?

Leslie Kern’s second book, The Feminist City: A Field Guide is a collection of essays that invites readers to question the design of urban spaces and ways cities can be more inclusive and safe for everyone.

Here is a 2.5 minute audio clip  of Kern reading from the book. For the 6 minute version, click here.

LiisBeth spoke with Kern on the phone last week from her home in New Brunswick.

Check out the full Q&A here. 4 min read.


Join LiisBeth and Jane’s Walk TO on September 29 in Toronto, for the city’s FIRST-EVER feminist city Walk & Talk. Walk tickets are free. Panel $15/pp. RSVP here. Feminist Freebie!  We are raffling off three complimentary copies of Kern’s new book at the panel talk! But you have to be there to win!

Photo by Daniel Lepôt


Vanessa Trenton of Toronto WON the 2 x Venus Fest tix.

AND Paulina Cameron, CEO for Forum for Women Entrepreneurs (FWE) is receiving a A FREE copy of CV Harquail’s book, Feminism: A Key Idea to Business and Society

HUZZAH to you both!


Dr.  Ellie. Cosgrave | The Feminist City | TEDxUCLWomen
[Trigger Warning: mentions of sexual assault]


In ‘The Feminist City’, Dr Ellie Cosgrave uses urban planning to disrupt our thinking about how designing decisions impact different groups based on categories of identity. By weaving in personal experiences and supplementing them with the industrial realities of civil engineering, Ellie shows us how we can recreate the city to enable diverse peoples and bodies to get the very most of the places we live. Through centralising feminist and social justice ideas, Ellie explores how we can fundamentally transform our cities to ensure that no one is excluded from public spaces, or from the resources and opportunities cities have to offer. (Source:

Better Way Alliance on Twitter @BetterWayCAN


It sounds like common sense that employees who are treated fairly would be good for business. But not all employers are created equal. And sometimes common sense…ain’t so common.

But the Better Way Alliance brings together Canadian business owners who value decent work, for everyone’s bottom line and the health of Canada’s economy.

Gilleen Pearce at Better Way Alliance told us the site is starting off as a small murmur but she hopes to build it up with businesses across Canada signing on. “The goal is to prove that support for decent work is building within the business community,” said Pearce, founder of Walk My Dog Toronto, a dog walking service with committed, trained staff who use compassionate positive reinforcement walk methods for your fur babies.

If you believe in a $15 minimum wage, add your name to the growing list of like-minded Canadian businesses at

You can also join the Better Way Alliance conversation and share your story, your mindset, and your ideas about paid sick days, safe workplaces, fair scheduling laws and others ways to build and support Canada’s economy in a fair and just way.

Sign up to be profiled for free here. LiisBeth did!

WMRCC Executive Director Esther Enyolu (Far left to right), Iffat Zehra, and worker cooperative founders including  Sandra Davis and Janet Bennet Cox.


The theme at this year’s Econous 2019 conference (a conference organized by Canadian CED Network in partnership with Community Futures Ontario) was Communities Leading Innovation. Keynote speaker Ted Howard, co-author of a new book, The Making of a Democratic Economy: How to Build Prosperity for the Many, Not the Few, set the tone by asking the 500 attendees why it was easier for most people to imagine the end of earth than the end of 20th century capitalism.

Damn good question.

Luckily, the conference featured two days of workshops and panels that made envisioning a different kind of economy easier.

Of the many ideas and experiments that were shared, one that stood out was an idea by the Women’s Multicultural Resource & Councelling Centre, based in Durham, Ontario; Help entrepreneurs create worker cooperatives.

This two-year project, launched in March 2019 is led by Iffat Zehra, an expert in the field. So far, over six women-led, worker owned cooperatives have been established under her guidance and grown as a result of her ongoing mentorship. Startup co-operative range in size from 5 to 20 women who are all trained in seven principles and as co-owners, the ten-steps of developing a co-operative. The co-ops range in types of industry but include personal support services for seniors, interpretation, cleaning, art, and sewing.

Given increasing inequality and precarious work places, it is not surprising to hear that worker co-ops are growing in number across North America.

Sadly, innovation and startup incubator ecosystems do not offer specialized training for entrepreneurs in how to create co-ops of any kind let alone worker, platform or consumer co-ops. Standard startup curriculum and innovation ecosystems at this point, still remain focused on neoliberal informed wealth creation for owners, versus wealth creation for the local community, co-creators and workers.

If more of us ask for training in co-operative startup formation, perhaps this will change.

Free downloadable! To see if your enterprise idea is right for a worker co-operative model, download a free self-assessment here.

Selene Vakharia, SMRT Women


On a recent trip to Whitehorse, Yukon, LiisBeth had a chance to catch up with Selene Vakharia, co-founder of SMRT Women, a growing women’s entrepreneur network who recently received $28,000 from the federal government’s Women’s Entreneurship Fund to help them build an online academy that aims to support women entrepreneurs in the far North by offering online bootcamps and courses. Vakharia is also a partner and co-producer of “She/Ze Leads the World” the first women’s leadership conference in the North being held November 19 to 21 in Whitehorse, Yukon. Keynote speakers include Vicki Saunders, founder of SheEO, and Paulette Senior, CEO and President of the Canadian Women’s Foundation.

Vakharia says one significant barrier to growth for many women entrepreneurs is limited business experience and a mindset that limits their imagination about what’s possible for both them personally and their enterprises. “We also noticed that when women try something and fail, they tend to translate that into: I suck at everything. Women are really hard on themselves. So they really benefit from participating in networks and groups. They also tend to be reluctant to spend money or invest in their business or invest in themselves in terms of coaching or learning because of the fear they will never make the money back. Confidence and experience is a huge issue.”

Given all the new federal support for women entrepreneurs this year, are things getting better? 

Vakharia says: “Making more resources available to women is great, but it’s only a part of the answer.” For example, what good is access to startup money or empowerment programs when you are dealing with domestic violence (The Yukon one of the highest rate of domestic violence incidents per capita in Canada), mental health issues, or unaffordable child care options. When a new minin operation opens, research indicates a connection to an increase in alcoholism, sex trafficking, and sex worker abuse. Sometimes even being outspoken or having an opinion in a small community can be unsafe. We need a multi-pronged approach if we want to see women entrepreneurs thrive and generate new economic growth.

You can’t just throw money at women. You have to change the culture, and the system too.”

Vakaharia moved to the Yukon from Toronto without having ever set foot in the North.

No lack of confidence there.


Last month we announced our two new board members. This week we’re sharing GrowthWheel’s tips for entrepreneurs on how and why to form a board and the value of diverse opinions when starting or scaling up your business. Good advice in the PDF here.

What is the Feminist Enterprise Commons?  

A new NON-ZUCKERBERG, safe, secure, online community where feminist entrepreneurs and changemakers who are building enterprises or working on side hustle projects can find others doing the same, learn about leadership and enterprise design, operations and growth in a like-minded feminist context, share stories, tools, learnings, stress test new ideas, source goods and services from each other, and above all, feel supported as enterpreneurial activists.

What is the definition of an enterprise?

According to the dictionary:
1. A project or undertaking that is especially difficult, complicated, or risky
2. Unit of economic organization or activity especially: a business organization
3. A systematic purposeful activity, i.e. digital media production is the main economic enterprise for visual artists
4. Or readiness to engage in daring or difficult action; showing initiative; being enterprising

What is a feminist enterprise?

All of the above along with express operational focus or mission related to social and gender justice.


Photo by Daniel Lepôt of Team Canada in a 60-person formation skydive outside of Farnham, Quebec in August, 2019.
Lana Pesch is in the white helmet and teal rig on the bottom left of the formation. Read about the all-women skydiving record she was part of in 2018.
Feats like these takes TRUSTFOCUS and TEAMWORK.
All attributes we revere at LiisBeth.
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And we do this work for YOUour readers & our community.
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Lean Out offers a new and refreshingly candid perspective on what it’s really like for today’s corporate underdogs. Based on both in-depth research and personal experiences, Orr punctures a gaping hole in today’s feminist rhetoric and sews it back up with compelling new arguments for the reasons more women don’t make it to the top and how companies can better incentivize women by actually listening to what they have to say and by rewarding the traits that make them successful.

In Lean Out, Orr uncovers:
Why our pursuit to close the gender gap has come at the expense of female well-being.
The way most career advice books targeting professional women seek to change their behavioir rather than the system.
Why modern feminism has failed to make any progress on its goals for equality.
More than fifty years since the passage of the Equal Pay Act, the wage gap still hovers at 80 percent, and only 5 percent of CEOs in the Fortune 500 are women.

This book is a must-read for insights on the impact that reversing systemic gender biases can have on creating more diverse, healthier workplaces for both women and men.” –Joanne Harrell, Senior Director, USA Citizenship, Microsoft

An everyday working woman with a sardonic sense of humour, Orr is an endearing antihero who captures the voice for a new generation of women at work. Lean Out presents a revolutionary path forward, to change the life trajectories of women in the corporate world and beyond. —

The book helped LiisBeth contributor Daphne Gordon make sense of her own ambition. Read Gordon’s take on Lean Outhere.

To go along with our theme of city building and the design put into public spaces…this book is Number One in addressing the politics of where we’re allowed to “go” in public. Adults don’t talk about the business of doing our business. We work on one assumption: the world of public bathrooms is problem- and politics-free. No Place To Go: How Public Toilets Fail our Private Needs reveals the opposite is true.

No Place To Go is a toilet tour from London to San Francisco to Toronto and beyond. From pay potties to deserted alleyways, No Place To Go is a marriage of urbanism, social narrative, and pop culture that shows the ways – momentous and mockable – public bathrooms just don’t work. Like, for the homeless, who, faced with no place to go sometimes literally take to the streets. (Ever heard of a municipal poop map?) For people with invisible disabilities, such as Crohn’s disease, who stay home rather than risk soiling themselves on public transit routes. For girls who quit sports teams because they don’t want to run to the edge of the pitch to pee. Celebrities like Lady Gaga and Bruce Springsteen have protested bathroom bills that will stomp on the rights of transpeople. And where was Hillary Clinton after she arrived back to the stage late after the first commercial break of the live-televised Democratic leadership debate in December 2015? Stuck in a queue for the women’s bathroom.

Peel back the layers on public bathrooms and it’s clear many more people want for good access than have it. Public bathroom access is about cities, society, design, movement, and equity. The real question is: Why are public toilets so crappy? — Coach House Books


  • Appropriation Alert! Did Al Ries and Steve Blank, two engineers who made millions by articulating and branding the Lean Startup methodology which is now taught as startup gospel everywhere steal their ideas from feminist thought leaders? Find out more here.
  • Celebrated journalist Sally Armstrong is the CBC’s 2019 Massey Lecturer and argues that improving the status of women is critical to our collective survival. The Canadian tour‘Power Shift: The Longest Revolution’, starts September 25 and The book version of the 2019 CBC Massey Lectures, Power Shift: The Longest Revolution, is published by House of Anansi Press. Available as of Sept. 17, 2019.
  • Greta Thunberg isn’t the only one making waves about our climate crisis. Here’s ELLE’s list of 26 other women leading the charge to protect our environment.
  • The Government of Canada has launched the Canada Business App to help business owners navigate services, get recommendations tailored to your business, find answers on how to scale up, access new markets, and more. LiisBeth met a government rep on site at this press conference last month in Toronto and said they welcome any feedback on the app. Give it a try and give them your feedback.
  • Whaat? Can it get any weirder? Today, it seems more men than women proudly call themselves feminists. Why? Likely because women still fear repercussions from both men and women, while men have realized it makes super promotable–or perhaps a the very least more dateable). Regardless, studies show that over 58% (men and women) of the world’s population identify as feminist.  Still,  Apple programmed Siri to avoid the word “feminism“; In a cowardly move, Apple brass have ceded cultural terrain on basic gender equality to far-right sophists. #shameonyou

That’s a wrap for Dispatch #55!

This is our BIGGEST newsletter and online magazine features release yet! When you combine this with the fact we have added three new amazing board members this year, a new editorial assistant to ensure queries are answered more quickly, will be launching a new online network (Feminst Enterprise Commons) and have created a feminist city walk in Toronto in partnership with Jane’s Walk that at present has 160 people signed up (Yikes!), all we can say is that we are clearly entering into a new phase of our community’s growth and development.

Thank you for being there, being with us, encouraging us, and calling us out when we do something stupid! 

If you do not currently support LiisBeth with a paid subscription or one-time donation, we hope you will consider doing so. There are less than four 500 reader+ feminist publications in Canada. We are the ONLY intersectional feminist publication in the world dedicated entirely to examining entrepreneurship and innovation via a feminist lens.  And one of a few media outlets that are women-led/owned.

We are a source of fair income for feminist writers, academics, and grassroots thought leaders. And we are feminist economy boosters open to partnering, collaborating and learning new things.

Also, remember, if you have a story tip, email us a We are currently accepting queries for January and February.

See you after the Canadian election (Oct 21st). International readers–wish us well.  The next release is scheduled for October 25th-ish!

Peace Out,