Plenary Panel Discussion

There were three panelists: a doctor, a makeup specialist and a journalist, who lead the discussion.

Anna Maria Tremonti told compelling stories, opening with the analogy that carpets are like our lives – they are stepped on, admired, functional, and each one is unique; a tapestry of woven fabric is like the experiences of our lives. In learning about carpets, she learned about families and politics while living in the Middle East.

There have always been women covering war; Martha Gellhorn smuggled herself on a D-Day ship as a nurse so she could uncover the story of civilians in hospitals.

We need to be role models to our youth, but also to ourselves. If you want a friend, get a puppy; if you want to think, listen to her program: The Current. Now is the time to ask tough questions of those who are of influence. Active participation in a wider society, and our responsibility globally because we live in a civil society. Asking uncomfortable questions and shining light into places of turmoil begins with individuals who are not afraid to share their ideas, and journalists must give a voice to those who would otherwise not be heard.

Lee Graff, president of Cover FX, told the story of their foundation product that was co-created with MAC out of Sunny Brook Health Sciences. Corrective makeup specialists help patients camaflague skin disorders and visible pigments to help themselves regain self-confidence. The product caters to sensitive skin and muli-ethnic skin tones.

Dr. Kirsty Duncan brought photos from her excursion to Norway to demonstrate her research project that exhumed 6 bodies of young men who died 80 years ago from the 1918 Spanish Flu. Preserved by burial in the perma-frost, she set forth with the principles of safety, ethical, with respect and dignity to extract tissue samples; they found the virus in lung, liver and brain. H1N1 was the next major epidemic but it was mild by comparison. She reflected on being asked, how do you want to be treated – as a young woman or a scientist? The questions are not mutually exclusive. She also discussed how scientific behaviour disintegrates when the stakes are high, and the risks of loss in safety and ethics when that occurs.

A drop of 2-4 degrees results in an ice age. An increase of 2-4 degrees will melt the glaciers: Rhone-Glacier in Switzerland has almost disappeared. Smog and heat are killing the elderly and the children. There will be more flooding, storms and tornados. 20% of the world population are already at risk of malaria; mosquito and water borne diseases will increase. Malnutrition and hunger will increase. Past generations had WW I and II, and then went to the moon. Now it’s climate change that is the world’s challenge.

She works with an organization to feed 110,000 children in Toronto; ¼ go to school hungry in Canada and it appalled her. Her passion lead her to Parliament to fight for child hunger and diseases of the brain, such as dementia, which is prevalent in an aging population. Now she is also fighting for MS. After 13 months of petitioning through official channels and being denied, on June 29th the first Clinical Trial for angioplasty as a treatment was approved in Canada.

The most generous people are often the ones who have nothing to give. Find your passions, whatever they are – let them grow and change over time. There is a way around or over the hurdles.

Wilma Rudolph learned to walk at 11 years old after being affected by Polio. She was born premature and had survived scarlet fever, whooping cough, chickenpox, and measles. At age 16, she won the olympic bronze medal in sprinting for the USA. Impossible is a dare and it’s temporary. 4 years later she won three gold medals, the first American woman to do so. All she wanted in celebration was a non-segregated party in her town; it was the first of its kind in her state.

SI commits to leave no woman or girl behind. We all have a gift to give. We are all worthy and all deserve respect and dignity. It is about making a small difference in our little piece of the planet.

Discussion Notes:

  1. Kirsty: what should we do about the small pox virus; should it be kept for scientific research? It is critical for researchers to be safe.
  2. Anne Marie: wiki-leaks provides a plethora of information that is not otherwise available to us. If gov’t were more transparent about their inner workings, sites like that wouldn’t have traction.
  3. Kirsty: MS treatment – is there any signs of it being a treatment of other neurological diseases? By March 31, 12500 liberation procedures have been done across 50 countries; 1/3 are significantly affected, 1/3 have mild improvement and 1/3 seem to not respond. Always talk to your health care provider about treatment options and side effects.
  4. Lee: were there gender differences from business people getting capital funding? Cover FX was self-funded to start but then they went to the bank. Had male bankers and applied for a gov’t grant and to the export bank of Canada. Eventually, the Royal Bank with a female account manager brought other females in to the meeting and the reception was unreal. One was already using the product and loved it – the product liberated her and she advocated for the project. There is a nurturing and encouragement that women have.
  5. Lee: For prepubescent girls who feel compelled to wear make up even though they have no acne or pigment issues, she recommends girls be well rounded in their interests/sports so their energy is not solely focussed on their appearance and have avenues to gain self-confidence.
  6. Anna Maria: Media focus on the bad or difficult, sad things and not enough focus on the celebrations or positive? Seems to be a global phenomena. Challenge for SI to get article coverage of the work we do. The trauma needs to be talked because there is an accountability threat; you need to be told so you can never say you don’t know or made an uninformed decision. Good news doesn’t have to be “light” news but can follow social trends and how they worked against a system to accomplish something. News these days is creating/following stories that don’t matter and that is a significant problem. Have to go in there and insist. Say no on a project and suggest the story you want to cover. They can slow you down, but they can’t stop you.
  7. Kirsty: How do you encourage girls to go into science? Go to primary schools to interact with children about science and environment. Assigned a project to save the world (but without marks) such as purchasing boreal forest or making hats/scarves for homeless shelters.
  8. Lee: Has a summer coop program exists for young women. It’s not about the makeup but counselling and business skills. Donate makeup to young girls or shelters. Try to teach about body image.

Questions to all:

Did you have a struggle to get established in your career?
• Lee’s parents immigrated from Eastern Europe; four daughters ran their family business. Her mother went to school to learn English and worked side-by-side with her husband. It made her an excellent role model – she didn’t give up. The experience of trying and realizing it’s not what you want to do builds the experience to get you on the path.
• Kirsty was influenced by her Grandmother, who was a working single mother, and her mother was the first in their family to ever go to university. Kirsty was teaching at University by 24 and sometimes treated as a secretary by people. She tells her upper year students that women need to learn to negotiate – want $5-8k more than what they offer when you get a job just to make it equitable.
• Anna Maria was taught to try and keep trying. Many more leaders are women at CBC, which is a dramatic change from when she started. Feminist is not a bad word, it has enabled women to do lots of things.

Zimbabwe has an energy shortage. Some of the UN protocols that the country signed for on climate change was to conserve trees, but they are the main source of fuel because they have no gas or electricity to cook with – only firewood. Women are arrested because it is a punishable offence. Can solar energy and wind turbines be made more affordable for 3rd world countries? Fog nets are used to condense the droplets and collect them. Simple solution as an example of changing from no water to 50L per family per day.

Posted in SI News.