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Photo by Drop the Label Movement on Unsplash


It’s April 2019. How difficult is it to launch and grow an innovative an independent journalistic media enterprise? Especially since the industry appears to be collapsing around us. What unique barriers do women-led media entrepreneurs face?

Three years ago, with the support of a few advisors and friends, I launched LiisBeth. We became increasingly concerned about the significant and persistent gender, diversity, and inclusion issues in the growing entrepreneurship and innovation economy. We saw that no one was dedicated to interrogating these issues from a feminist point of view. We ignored the fact that media enterprises were folding all around us. In the Canadian news media space alone, over 260 outlets have closed in the last 10 years.

The fact that there are fewer journalists today than ever before didn’t give us pause. Since 2011, for every job lost in journalism there have been 17 jobs added in public relations and advertising (-1,230 vs. +21,320). We tenaciously believe the fourth estate—versus spin doctoring—remains important to any functioning democracy, and that storytelling can transform lives, society, and the course of history. We persist despite the odds. We pivot and iterate. That’s what entrepreneurs do. 

So, what’s it like to grow a media enterprise? Two quick answers come to mind.

It’s beyond hard. Investors love media tech platforms. But are wary about investing in journalistic content. Even fewer want to spend money investing in feminist-informed editorial programs that might upset the status quo. Or unnerve friends in positions of power who helped them get to where they are. Fear of reprisals for truths told are a real concern for many. Society also doesn’t like to hear from women who think. Feminist writer Rebecca Solnit says: “Who is heard and who is not defines the status quo. Those who embody it [the status quo], often at the cost of extraordinary silences with themselves, move to the centre; those who embody what is not heard, or what violates those who rise on silence, are cast out.” What she is telling women media entrepreneurs is this: Starting a fashion blog or parenting media property would be far less risky. And likely more successful in attracting readers and growth bucks.

Barriers? Plenty. Starting with having an opinion, and a vagina—especially a mature one. Women publishers in search of truth, with iron stomachs and interrogative skills, scare people. Women over 50, like myself, are ineligible for the vast majority of publicly funded entrepreneur support programs which generally favour youth. As if that demographic, lovely and challenged as it is (I have an 18-year-old), is the only one capable of innovating and in need of income. We end up bootstrapping and growing our ventures one subscription at a time, feeling very much alone.

We need more women-led news media entrepreneurs than ever before. If what we want is a more inclusive society—and democracy—we need women of colour, Indigenous women, feminists, and LGBTQ media enterprise founders in this space.

How will we get there?

(Read more)




Would you pay more for a special piece of clothing if you knew where it came from? If you knew the women who made it? If you knew where the fabric was sourced?

Msichana gives you those answers. We spoke to Lorna Mutegyeki, the fashion designer and entrepreneur who runs Msichana out of Edmonton, Alberta.

Read what she has to say about funding a business, wanting to quit, and why she keeps going here.


Human Rights Commission (HRC) advocates tracked at least 26 deaths in 2018 of transgender people in the United States due to fatal violence. The report goes on to say: “While the details of these cases differ, it is clear that fatal violence disproportionately affects transgender women of color, and that the intersections of racism, sexism, homophobia, biphobia and transphobia conspire to deprive them of employment, housing, healthcare and other necessities, barriers that make them vulnerable.”

HRC founded International Trans Day of Visibility in March 2009, and it’s been gaining momentum ever since.

This year, LiisBeth participanted in a related with two amazing entrepreneurs, Jack Jackson and Deb Klein who launched their new global photography project, “Don’t You Want Me” which showcases the beauty and resilience of LGBTQ people with their rescue dogs.

Find out more about the project, power of love, and the experience here.




Be one of the first fifteen people to leave a comment on the Msichana story at  (scroll to the bottom of the piece) and receive a discount code for free shipping, or if you already qualify for free shipping, a special gift with purchase. Check out #accentsbymsichana which includes belts, scarves, jewelry, and know you are supporting ethical fashion. 

The Alinker – a vehicle for social change


What kind of person—and entrepreneur—will flourish in a future that has not yet been invented? And what if the language for who you are and what you do doesn’t exist yet?

This is the question inventor and gender-queer entrepreneur BE (barbara) Alinker asked the audience during a talk delivered during Interntional Women’s Day weekend 2019 at SheEO’s RadGen event.

The answer? Don’t let the fact that there is no language for what you are and do undermine your confidence. Learn how to be what BE calls a multi-specialist.

In a world that prizes entrepreneurial norms, the multi-specialist entrepreneur, a hyper-adaptable person who learns new skills extremely fast often feels like a “queerdo”. They are misunderstood. And worse, marginalized by investors who have a template in their minds regarding what a “safe bet” entrepreneur or entrepreneurial process looks like. Today, that typically means male and following 1990’s Silicon Valley dogma.

Alinker, who has been a coffin builder in Kenya, a bassoon player for a rebel dyke band, a production manager for a $17M glass art project for an airport in Doha, Quatar, a wordwork restoration architechted in Saudi Arabia, and now the inventor of a mobility device tells the audience that multi-specialists are seriously upsetting to most people, especially status-quo bound institutions and investors.

Her message? Don’t worry.  

In an era marked by tectonic plate level social transformations driven by crumbling capitalism, climate change and weaponized AI,  Alinker is convinced that the multi-specialist dreamer who quickly masters a range of  skills, often self-taught, acts authentically according to their visions and values, and trusts in the power of on the ground communities, will ultimately be best equipt to truly innovate, thrive–and succeed.

Alinker, says “I can’t tell you the number of times that people told me: “You are all over the place”, “You have no focus”, “You are scared of committment”, “Why do you run away?”, “You never finish anything”, “You are a scatterbrain”, “Messed up”, “Chaotic”, “Crazy.”

But in Alinker’s view, that is exactly what a person capable of flourishing in these times looks like.


Thank you for your comments on our recent story When Aunt Flo Becomes CEO, a profile of the author of Heavy Flow.

Abigail Slater and Kasey Dunn will be receiving signed copies of Amanda Laird’s new book. Congratulations!

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[VIDEO] A glimpse of the premiere of the interactive installation HANDSHACK at the Remai Modern, Saskatoon, SK, January 2019.


In a world of instant communication, our first contact with people is often through the Internet, phone, text, e-mail. All day we touch screens and punch plastic and metal buttons. Our over-usage of electronics minimizes human contact in our day-to-day lives.

Enter, HANDSHACK. An interactive installation part of The Hands On Project created by feminist artist-preneur Marites Carino.

The installation invites strangers to get to know each other through a tactile conversation. Unable to hear one another, participants wear headphones and are guided in this silent interaction. Their interaction, projected through a live feed, takes an accepted form of first contact, the handshake, and twists it into an unexpected choreography.

“By entering this realm where visual perceptions are no longer at the forefront, perspectives shift,” says Carino, based out of Montreal, Quebec. “We see beyond the ways we differentiate ourselves and end up connecting through our commonalities.”

In the era of #MeToo, and Build the Wall, HANDSHACK offers a safe playground for consensual touch and human connection. After the curtain call, participants think they have encountered another, but in fact, they have confronted themselves.

This sensorial experience has been awarded an artistic residency and production grant and will be remounted in Montreal on May 11th, 2019 at the Oboro gallery during the Accès Asie Festival.

Dr. Wendy Cukier / Photo credit: theEYEOPENER


In December 2018, Ryerson University’s Diveresity Institute received $8.62M+ to create a Women’s Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub (WEKH). Spearheaded by Ryerson Univiersity’s Diversity Institute and its founder, Dr. Wendy Cukier, the WEKH will include eight hubs across the country, with Ryerson and OCAD sharing the Toronto region. The WEKH will serve as a network of researchers, universities, business organizations, incubators, and community groups who will address the needs of women entrepreneurs. Over 37 organizations are officially part of the Hub’s partnership network.

LiisBeth talked to Cukier when the announcement was made in December 2018 during the Entrepreneurial Feminist Forum.

We caught up with Cukier again last month at a #IWD2019 Business, Government, Services and You event in Toronto where she shared her views on how best to unleash the potential of women entrepreneurs across the country. 

Cukier noted women’s chronic under representation in publicaly supported incubators, accelerator and government entrepreneurship programs as an important barrier. She also questioned the veracity of creating a “separate lane” for women entrepreneurs, suggesting this may create more harm than good.

Alternatively Cukier sees a world where entrepreneurs of all genders and backgrounds can “on ramp” onto a different, more inclusive kind of twelve-lane versus two-lane innovation highway. A highway to economic heaven that will be more drivable for a much wider variety of entrepreneurs and approaches to venture building—versus just those in noisy muscle cars or Teslas. Cukier argued in her talk that part of the reason for the current bottleneck is the fact that we define entrepreneurship too narrowly. “If you broaden the definition of entrepreneurship to include social change and activism, suddenly the women appear.” She adds: “Women are doing what the guys are doing—just in different sectors.”

To hear the full one hour talk, plus see the accompanying slides, click here.  [NOTE: The link is valid for one year. You will see a note pop up saying there is no content to view. Click play and it will start. Unfortunately, all presentations are included in the one recording. Wendy’s presentation begins at time stamp 1 hr 40 mins 30 secs]


Sarah Kaplan, Director of the Institute for Gender and the Economy (GATE) on using research to CHANGE THE CONVERSATION on gender equality

Photo : Paulina O’Kieffe-Antony, Arts educator, artist and consultant, TORONTO


Paulina O’Kieffe-Anthony is an award winning Toronto writer, performer, producer, arts educator, community advocate and member of the League of Canadian Poets.

O’Kieffe-Antony delivered a wicked, inspired spoken word poem performance during How She Hustle’s International Women’s Day Event in March 2019. How She Hustles is a Toronto-based network diverse women’s entrepreneurship network.

We are delighted to share it with you here. O’Kieffe-Antony is also a contributor to a Canadian chapbook called “Feminism: Revolutionize—Revisit, Revise, Revolutionize: A Two_Part History which can be found here.


Toronto’s Gladstone Hotel operates within a feminist, anti-oppressive framework where everyone feels welcome and at home. And its owner and staff can tell you creating a framework like this is not easy. It takes effort and commitment to implement policies on a consistent basis.

If we are going to change the world, we need all start ups and growing small enterprises—not just large progressive corporations—to think about incorporating anti-oppression policies into their own employee and partner conduct guides and handbooks.

Not sure what an anti-oppression company framework might look like?

Good news. The Gladstone has generously agreed to make available their vision statement here and anti-oppressive policy framework here. Check it out. And tell us what you think by reading our original article and adding your comments below the piece.



Last month we asked readers which story we should publish next. We received only a handful of responses. But hey, our view is it takes time for readers to get to know how this works—and that voting does work.

The winning pitch from last month is: A story on the legacy left behind following the Wakefield, UK miners’ strike which was famously supported by gay and lesbian organizations—and serves as an example of an intersectional movement long before the word was coined. Readers are wondering what is Wakefield is like now? Did activism have a lasting impact? We will be contacting the journalist shortly!

Portrait of former Swedish Feminist Initiative Party Leader, Gudrun Schyman, will be published in May. Stay tuned. You vote. We listen.


In their new, long-awaited collection of essays, Lambda Literary Award-winning writer and longtime disability justice activist and performance artist Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha explores the politics and realities of disability justice, a movement that centres the lives and leadership of sick and disabled queer, trans, Black, and brown people, with knowledge and gifts for all.

Bringing their survival skills and knowledge from years of cultural and activist work, Piepzna-Samarasinha explores everything from the economics of queer femme emotional labour, to suicide in queer and trans communities, to the nitty-gritty of touring as a sick and disabled queer artist of colour.

Care Work is a mapping of access as radical love, a celebration of the work that sick and disabled queer/people of colour are doing to find each other and to build power and community, and a toolkit for everyone who wants to build radically resilient, sustainable communities of liberation where no one is left behind. Powerful and passionate, Care Work is a crucial and necessary call to arms. – Arsenal Pulp Press

Jasmine and Chelsea are best friends on a mission–they’re sick of the way women are treated even at their progressive NYC high school, so they decide to start a Women’s Rights Club. They post their work online–poems, essays, videos of Chelsea performing her poetry, and Jasmine’s response to the racial microaggressions she experiences–and soon they go viral. But with such positive support, the club is also targeted by trolls. When things escalate in real life, the principal shuts the club down. Not willing to be silenced, Jasmine and Chelsea will risk everything for their voices–and those of other young women–to be heard.

In Watch Us Rise, these two dynamic, creative young women stand up and speak out in a novel that features their compelling art and poetry along with powerful personal journeys that will inspire readers and budding poets, feminists, and activists.

“This intersectional, layered novel…it covers a wide breadth of topics-institutionalized racism, how we undermine young women, feminism in the modern age-with a clear message: Girls are going to come out on top.” –  Marie Claire


  • From the Vaults episode “Turning Points” (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) features Sarah Mclachlan, host of the 2019 Juno Awards and creator of Lilith Fair, an all female music festival that began in 1997, and shifted the perception of what it meant for women in the music industry. Fun fact: Lilith, in Hebrew mythology, represents Adam’s first wife who refused to lie beneath him so he threw her out. [Geoblocked in Canada]
  • An expert discussion on “What could a feminist city look like?” took place at the Rotman School of Management on March 27th. The talk was moderated by moderated by Sarah Kaplan, Director and Professor – Institute for Gender and the Economy at Rotman. Check out global feminist city guides from Lagos to San Diego, here.
  • An estimated 40.3 million people are currently living as slaves–more than at any other time in history.Why Slavery? is a series of ground-breaking documentary films investigating why slavery remains so endemic in the 21st Century. The Passionate Eye will broadcast two films in the series, Maid in Hell and North Korea’s Secret Slaves. [Geoblocked in Canada]

That’s newsletter #51!

If you found value in what you read here or in the original articles on our website, we hope you will consider donating one time or becoming a monthly subscriber for as little as $3/month.

Feminist media matters. We believe storytelling and journalism can change the world.

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Next newsletter will come out early May! We will publish the exact date closer to May on Twitter so you don’t miss it! 

Peace out,

Activism & Action Feminist Practices Transformative Ideas

Inn With Agency


Christina Zeidler, Founder and Chief Alchemist, Gladstone Hotel, Toronto


Christina Zeidler, an artist and filmmaker, stumbled into entrepreneurship when her family’s real estate company bought Toronto’s neglected Gladstone Hotel in 2000. The iconic landmark, built in 1889, had only three previous owners but a long history of providing a stylish stay for artists and performers. Zeidler, now 50, took the reins of restoring the building with a clear vision to honour that tradition by creating a boutique art hotel and community space for artists, queers and diverse types to stay, play and work. She enticed long-time staff to stay on (some had worked there for 40 years) and boldly kept the doors open throughout the renovation, inviting the community to experience and lend their ideas to the transformation. Local artists not only exhibited their work during the reno but designed the hotel rooms, making each of the 37 rooms unique creations. Also unique was Zeidler’s drive to use feminism as an operating principle, embracing an anti-oppressive feminist framework, always challenging the status quo, asking questions, and figuring out ways to do things differently.

When Zeidler took a leave in 2012 to work on a feature film, an LGBT romantic comedy, she wrote a manual to guide the management company hired to run the business in her absence. The management company didn’t understand the unconventional brand Zeidler had created and largely ignored what she had written about opposing oppression and celebrating diversity, inclusion, and feminism. They tried to run the Gladstone like a regular hotel, which it clearly was not. When Zeidler returned in 2015, she did so fired up with a mission to shout out the values guiding her business, loud and clear. She had tried once and failed. How could she and her team communicate the hotel’s distinctiveness from every other hotel in the world?

Do Not Disturb: Dissidents At Work and Play

The team revamped the website with bold infographics packed with action words touting the hotel’s social impact, green policies, and revised vision statement: “The Gladstone operates in a feminist, anti-oppressive framework where everyone feels welcome and at home.”

They put action to words by writing an employee operating manual based on Zeidler’s original documentation. Zeidler wants her employees to know their rights. The Employee Standards Act (ESA) covers some, such as the 40-hour workweek and parental leave. The challenge for the Gladstone was beefing up the writing to reflect their feminist and anti-oppressive principles. That means, says Zeidler, “trying to pay attention to best practice” and that’s “a moving target” which means, “you’re always changing.” She describes the employee manual as “living documents” that change “if best practices change.”

While the staff is primarily women and/or queer identified, the Gladstone does not expect anyone to self-identify with labels or check boxes. They are committed to the principles of equal employment opportunity and work to remove barriers for all qualified persons, hiring, for instance, without regard to race, national or ethnic origin, color, citizenship, religion, age, sex, marital status, mental or physical handicap, even criminal conviction if it is unrelated to employment. Staff express themselves creatively through fashion sense and hairstyle. No one wears a uniform other than barbacks and porters (so guests can identify them). Zeidler herself looks less Hotel President than Chief Alchemist, sporting a punk art aesthetic, hair long on one side, cropped short underneath on the other.

Creating a safe and creative workspace is good for employee retention. David McNeil, 51, a server-barista-bartender, has worked at the Gladstone since 2006. He trusts the management to make sure the staff has the knowledge they need to live up to best practices. “We have had sensitivity training and workshops to get us more up to speed with new codes.” Also a visual artist, he shows his work at the staff show every year and says he loves coming to work. “An arty crazy entity attracts arty crazy people.” He thrives on the diversity. “I’d never before in my life worked with trans people and I’ve worked with five or six and it’s fantastic, they’re just doing jobs, and it’s not an issue here.”

Photo credit: Alejandro Santiago

Chris Mitchell, 54, who worked at the Gladstone in the early days, tried to leave but missed working with Zeidler so much she returned, and is now manager of Creative Partnerships and Special Projects. Mitchell helps manage the exhibition programming that occurs 365 days of the year, with 100 events per month, and 70 percent of which are cultural events, versus private or corporate. Some 13% of the hotel’s gross revenue goes into the pockets of artists directly. The Gladstone prides itself on being about the “local dollar.” From music bingo to their famous karaoke nights, Mitchell champions the motely crew of neighbhourhood regulars who entertain international travelers passing through the hotel. A lot of local artists see the place as home because they got a chance to show their work there over a decade ago. For an ecosystem to work in a sustainable way, within a feminist framework, things cannot exist in silos. “I love the mix of business and art especially,” she says. “I also appreciate that I get to connect with so many amazing organizations and individuals through our collaborations, partnerships and projects.”

The vibe as staff buzzes about doing their tasks is friendly, artsy, unpretentious. Says Zeidler: “If you want status-quo, the Gladstone isn’t the place to find it. If you want this weird collection of magic ponies, come here and you are going to have a really good time.” Her eyes brighten as she smiles at me, like I should know what a magic pony is. Mitchell lends a hand, explaining that the magic ponies are about celebrating individuality among the staff. “It’s the differences that make people magical. We celebrate the quirks.”

Room Service with a Side of Social Impact

The Gladstone’s mission statement shapes the guest experience as well—namely, guests checking in don’t have to leave their values at home. Take its Green Policy initiative, Check-in, Don’t Checkout, meant to inspire a new normal for environmental hotel practices. Zeidler believes it’s important to have activists challenging the norm, fighting to make large institutional change. When the hotel banned plastic bottles in 2007, people were shocked. But serving tap water saved 270,000 water bottles and now the practice is not only accepted, it’s expected. “People shouldn’t have to leave their values at home when they’re on vacation,” says Zeidler. Other sustainability initiatives include two green roofs, hotel-wide composting and recycling, and 100% locally sourced dry bar and in-room amenities.

Room 403 | The Surreal Gourmet | Design by Bob Blumer

Guests are also treated to a feast of local art. Every one of the 37 hotel rooms is an immersive artistic experience, designed by a different local artist. Such design extravagance is expensive and logistically challenging—and goes against any best practices of running a hotel. But it’s also what put the Gladstone on the map as a one-of-a-kind international destination. “I won’t stay anywhere else,” says Greig Lawson, 41, in a lilting Scottish accent. He has been coming the Gladstone for six years with a group of colleagues from Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh. “The staff are amazing, the rooms are just so quirky. No two nights are alike. Back home in Scotland everyone wants to know what the Gladstone is like.”

Local real estate agent Danyelle Boily has been a customer since renovations in the early 2000s and now lives in a condo across the street. “Those changes happened slowly, it was respectful and inclusive to the people who were there at the time,” says Boily, who uses the Gladstone for business meetings and as a personal hangout. “Book launches for my friends, the drag shows are a riot, the art exhibits. I’ve even been to a memorial service here.” Perhaps most notably, she says it is safe space where a single woman can go at night and not be hassled.

Bathroom Conventions Get Flush of Fresh Air

Indeed, the Gladstone has worked hard to establish itself as a safe space through arts and queer community programming, partnerships and a business approach guided by its Anti-Oppressive Framework Policy. But it hasn’t been without hitches. An employee with an outside security company the Gladstone had contracted once followed a non-binary guest into the men’s washroom, making the guest feel unsafe. “It was a horrible thing to happen to someone and completely against our policy,” Zeidler says. The guest spoke out, and Zeidler listened. The guest engaged both the hotel and the security company to collaborate in developing a non-gendered washroom policy. The Gladstone then trained staff and developed anti-oppressive compliance requirements for partners and outside contractors.

More recently, a non-binary guest planning an event at the Gladstone questioned the hotel on how they could ensure safety in washrooms that remained gendered. Rather than maintain the status quo, Zeidler looked outside “to see where the best practice is happening,” which,she says, is often in universities or artist collectives. Gladstone partnered with George Brown College’s “Free to Pee” initiative to create and communicate inclusive safe spaces in all washrooms. The school provided signs for the bathroom that read: “Neither is me…but I still gotta pee.” and “I know who I am…assume I belong.”

The Gladstone turned what seemed a setback into a step forward. “That’s the part about feminism and anti-oppressive practice,” says Zeidler. “Figure out that sometimes you’re going to get it wrong, and then listen. Then try to adjust.”

No vacancy for partners without value-alignment

The Gladstone has not been content to sit on their values in house, either. Their constant re-evaluation of inclusiveness in business practices extends to hiring external suppliers. When the hotel looked to hire an outside contractor for tech and IT services, Zeidler discovered that three on her list had zero women on their tech teams. She challenged them to improve their staff gender ratio then hired the company who took her comments seriously. Shael Risman of PACE Technical says it was a “healthy eye opener” to hear from Zeidler. Risman says PACE didn’t intentionally set out to hire only men, yet were receiving getting primarily male applicants. Zeidler recommended the company use fitzii, hiring advisors that helped improve Gladstone’s hiring process. For PACE, fitzii changed the language of job postings and targeted different job sites. That not only attracted plenty of women but a higher caliber of applicants who were a better fit for their work culture. PACE has since committed to a five-year plan to achieve an equal number of male and female tech employees.

The Road to B-Corp Took Some Convincing

The challenge to keep improving came back at Zeidler when business colleagues began encouraging her to become B-Corp certified, including her sister, Margie Zeidler. Margie also charted a career in the family business, but took her own unusual path as a social-purpose real estate developer, restoring heritage-designated buildings with environmentally and socially sustainable practices.

Initially, Zeidler resisted, worried the B-Corp designation was too American, too corporate. But as her team began exploring the movement, they began to see how it would actually help the Gladstone articulate its nonconformist business model. In 2018, the Gladstone became Canada’s first B-corp hotel. Mitchell, who headed the project, says that going through the process strengthened their feminist mission. “We started to be much more outwardly facing as being a feminist run business.”

For the record, LiisBeth is also a B-Corp certified company, as is fitzii.

For Zeidler, joining the B-Corp movement has helped her see there are corporations like her own that are doing business differently. She says the next question is, “How can we build a community around those different kinds of corporate entities? And how can we shift capitalism? It doesn’t need to suck ass.” She laughs, but in way that suggests she is dead serious.


Christina Zeidler and Chris Mitchell are presenting a workshop: Put Your Feminist Values into Policy and Practice in Your Business, at the second annual Entrepreneurial Feminist Forum on Monday, December 2, from 10:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.

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