For Mandy Rennehan, the respect for women as human beings is long overdue.
That is part of Rennehan’s message as the keynote speaker for this year’s International Women’s Day event at Pier 21 in Halifax.
Not surprisingly, the #Metoo movement and the power of social media as a platform for the movement are on Rennehan’s mind as she prepared for her talk.
“The fact that women are now being recognized as the powerhouses they are is so incredibly exciting for me,” said Rennehan, the founder and CEO of Freshco – a multi-million-dollar retail facilities maintenance, projects and reconstruction company.
Of note, Rennehan said the #MeToo movement has reset an etiquette back into the workplace that reminds people that they can’t treat people anyway they want to without consequences.
“Whether men, or even women for that matter, this is a movement for everybody about how we treat other human beings. And, that’s what I’m seeing. There’s an outlet now for people to say ‘I’m not ok with this anymore. It’s wrong.’”
“Whether men, or even women for that matter, this is a movement for everybody about how we treat other human beings.” – Mandy Rennehan
Rennehan, also known as the Blue Collar CEO, grew up in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. The self-taught trades person who built log cabins left home at 18. In 1995, she launched the company based in Oakville, Ont. The company now has 81 employees and 400 technicians in Canada and the U.S. Sixty per cent of the employees are women.
Tanya Priske, executive director of Centre for Women in Business at Mount Saint Vincent University which is hosting the event, said the centre’s programs or funding haven’t changed in light of the #MeToo movement, largely because the centre works with women entrepreneurs and business owners rather than female employees.
Even so, she noted the movement has been valuable for creating a culture that places gender equity in the workplace at the forefront. Also, the #MeToo movement has people thinking more about inclusion in the workplace.
“We recognize we need more women at the table. We want to encourage more women to start businesses. So, I think it has really allowed us to create that culture that it’s ok to talk about it,” she said.
Priske said a change that needs to happen with businesses is that more women need to be in leadership and decision-making roles. Giving women a stronger voice will help lead to better gender equity policies, not just for women but for men as well, she said.
“We do bring a different perspective. We do know that companies do better when they have more women on their board making decisions. So, I think that’s what we need to continue to do – to make sure that there is that equality, that women are not being passed over for promotions, that they’re getting the mentorship that they need (and) that sponsorship with the company to really help them better grow.”
READ THE FULL SERIES
- Pay equity, diversity critical to improving workplace climate: labour lawyer
- After #MeToo, men wary about mentoring women in workplace in post : survey
- Tackling sex harassment claims head-on, companies turning to HR consultants to clear the air
- Blazing their own trail: after corporate life, women are starting their own businesses
- WE ASKED: What words or behavior bother you in the work place?
An organization that has seen an unexpected increase in donations is P.E.I. Family Violence Prevention Services Inc., a non-governmental organization that runs Anderson House – one of two emergency shelters for women and children on the Island.
Dayna O’Malley, executive director, said the organization receives provincial funding but is also required to raise $160,000 annually through fundraising and donations. This year, she said that goal was reached much easier with a rise in new donors holding small fundraising events for Anderson House.
O’Malley doesn’t have proof, but she believes the rise in donations is due to the #MeToo movement.
“It must, at least in some respect, because there is an awful lot happening around that,” she said.
“The light is coming on for a lot of people. And, that translating into action is really key because that’s what social causes really struggle with – how do you move from awareness to action. So, everybody knowing about something doesn’t really create change. It’s the first step to change, but you need to move beyond that. So, raising money to foster frontline services (or) support organizations who rely on this support in order to stay open. It’s fantastic. We rely on these donations.”
In terms of International Women’s Day, she said it should be seen as a positive day to celebrate women.
With Family Violence Prevention Week and International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, there are a lot of days to remind people about the terrible things that still happen to women, O’Malley added.
“It feels nice to have a reason to celebrate as well,” she said.