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Help GEMgirls blossom

Happy International Women’s Day to all the AMAZING girls and women out there!
We love you, we believe in you, and we encourage you to #BeBoldForChange today and every day.

Here at GEM, we work boldly to change and improve the lives of high school girls through mentorship. To celebrate this day, the talented team behind Leaves of Trees is supporting GEM with a one-week promotion that starts TODAY!

Until March 15, $5 from every sale of an Orange Blossom Argan Oil ($60), and $2 from every sale of an Orange Blossom Argan Hand and Body Lotion ($15) will be donated to GEM to help GEMgirls blossom.

Purchases can be made online at leavesoftrees.com (shipping available internationally) or in-store at 177 Queen Street East in Toronto.
“GEM’s purpose, approach, and the positive outcomes for young women in Toronto as a result of their mentorship programs resonates with me and aligns well with our brand, “ noted Dr. Roohi Qureshi, Founder, Leaves of Trees.

“Helping women blossom is integral to our ethos, and to our business principle of committing to kindness.  In both of our orange blossom products that are part of this International Women’s Day initiative, the argan oil used has been hand-pressed by women at a cooperative we support in Morocco.”

About Leaves of Trees
Leaves of Trees is a Canadian brand known for its support of women including the employment of women at a women’s cooperative in Morocco where its argan oil is hand-pressed.

Based out of Toronto, Leaves of Trees takes an artisanal, small-batch approach to making its line of all-natural skincare products, using as many high-quality organic and fair-trade sources as possible. As a member of PETA’s Beauty Without Bunnies Program, Leaves of Trees never tests products on animals and is committed to remaining 100% cruelty- free.

#BeBoldForChange #InternationalWomensDay2017 #IWD2017 #GEMxLOT #HelpGEMgirlsBlossom #CommitToKindness #ConnectEmpowerInspire

Career Spotlight: Finance with Burgundy Asset Management

During the last coffee chat on February 19, myself and twenty-two GEM girls got to spend their time at Burgundy Asset Management. Burgundy is a global investment company that provides discrete investment management for private clients. GEM mentor Anne Maggissano organized an afternoon where GEMgirls were shown the red carpet. Roz McLean, a private client associate, gave us an amazing presentation with group discussions. Not to mention the fantastic food and free taxis for everyone there and home!

Roz started out the by telling us about her journey, and how she was hired to start working for the company. Roz didn’t have a business degree, she wasn’t even finished taking her exams in University when she got the job. Roz told us how important and effective networking is. It proved to be very effective for Roz; as she expanded her circle, her resume soon got passed on to her boss at Burgundy Asset Management, and she got hired before she even finished university.

Roz gave the GEM girls honest advice that a lot of us could relate to. Many members of Roz’s family had careers in the business field, which led to her having an interest in business too. In high school Roz was still interested in economics, but believed she would get a job at the Central Bank of Canada. Roz didn’t let her gender pose an obstacle for her, although she did admit it was difficult for her at times. In an Economics class Roz was the only girl, and felt intimidated to ask questions. It’s important to be engaged in the class, and not hold back for any reason.

We also had an interactive session, where we got into groups of 5 to talk about how to differentiate a good investment, from a fad. Certain items that can be considered fads are; Beanie Boos, Crocs, or Silly bands. Those are items that have their fifteen minutes of fame, before they disappear and are only spotted on those few odd occasions. A good investment would be a company with a wide age range of loyal customers, a product/service that provides something the customers will want or need for a long time, an affordable product that still brings in profits, and a company who can always one-up their competitors. Our GEMgirls had great insights and questions which really impressed Roz. Roz had many compliments and comments that were really valuable to the girls in the audience.

We all left with a better understanding of what a job in asset management is like, and the confidence that a woman can have a great career in finance too. Roz left us with some advice: that overall it is important to be curious and open-minded in all situations, and to never be hesitant because you’re a girl.

Tabassum Lakhi is a Creative Writing Intern at GEM and also a GEMgirl.

How to grow your network, when you’re only in high school!

“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”

I was always (and still am) a shy person. Hearing these words was often discouraging for me. Networking was something I wasn’t exactly sure how to approach. Having immigrated to Canada as a teenager, my family knew nobody. There was tremendous stress to learn, adapt and compete. I saw first-hand the struggles my parents went through in securing employment with a lack of Canadian connections or networks. These barriers shed light on the importance of developing relationships to achieve goals. For better or for worse, it’s not always what you know or are capable of doing; it’s who you know and what they know about you. Your network can open doors for you that otherwise could not be opened.

So how can you start mastering and growing your network? Networking is a skill that you can learn even if you’re not a natural conversationalist. Building a sense of confidence is key to developing networking competence. If you have the right focus and determination, cultivating confidence is readily achievable.

  1. Be open to new people and experiences – I never liked moving beyond my comfort zone, but I have come to realize that’s really where the magic happen. Growing, learning and developing in a way that expands our horizons beyond what we thought was possible builds character and leadership. Start getting to know others outside your peer group. Join school clubs that broaden your exposure to other areas. In high school, I organized our first Career Day that allowed me to meet people from different spheres and build leadership skills.
  2. Practice makes perfect – I attended countless Career Fairs and Information Sessions as a student to get in front of others. No matter how much it forces you to step out of your comfort zone, take the first step and approach someone at an event and introduce yourself. The more you do this, the easier networking will become later on.
  3. Have an elevator speech – Perfect your hand shake and know your elevator speech (click here for tips & examples). These set first impressions, so make sure it’s strong and confident.
  4. Go the extra mile – Set yourself apart with sending follow-up thank you notes and questions related to your conversations. Even if you “don’t need to network”, you do. You never know when you’ll need someone to help connect you.

Remember, it’s never too early to network. Networking is an essential part of a job or internship search, and it is best to start practicing and refining this skill while in high school. With time, it will become an indispensable skill that you use for years to come. Starting to practice and build confidence now will enable you to become an expert at networking by the time you enter the working world.

Blog by Sharon S.  Sharon is a GEM Mentor who is a logistics professional with one of Canada’s top retailers. 

2016, It’s a New Year!

Yes, it’s that time of the year again! The year is ending, it’s holiday season, winter break is here, exams are starting and 2016 is about to begin! The past year has gone by in the blink of an eye and I cannot emphasize its importance in my life. It has made me stronger, smarter and a much better person then I was in the beginning of the 2015, as I’m sure this is the case for a lot of the GEMgirls.

I’ve lost family members and friends but have many additions to the family and made even better friends then I had before. My mom always tells me “Patience is the key to success. Just give it time.” This year, specifically starting grade 12, has taught me just that. Time doesn’t stop for anyone; the most important thing however, is how you decide to spend it.

I’ve figured out my priorities and stopped over thinking all my decisions which, hands down, is my biggest accomplishment and the main reason I’m happier. The year had a rough start because of a death in the family and that affected my grades but second semester, I told myself I have to start working harder for what I want- which is getting into a good university. I realized that I don’t have a lot of time left with my friends and family because I’ll live on campus, so I spent the summer with them and I’ll remember every single moment for the rest of my life. Towards the middle of summer, I applied to GEM because of a friend. And look what it’s meant now! I’ve got so many new friends, an amazing mentor and a lot of women I can look up to. With grade 12 starting, I diverted all my attention to my marks and extra-curricular and now with the semester ending, I’m focusing on applying to good universities. The point I’m trying to make is, through all of this I was extremely stressed and didn’t think it would ever get better but in the end, it has all worked out. I’m positive that I’ll say the same thing at the end of 2016 too and laugh at stressing to get into a good program.

Being a senior, everyone expects me to have everything together- from my personal life to my marks and getting into coveted universities. Sometimes I don’t have it all together and I’ve learned to accept that. Sometimes I get confused too. So what do I do? I turn to my friends and my family. They’re my real treasure, my most prized possessions and even if I lose everything else, I’ll still have them. Not just in 2015 or 16, but for the rest of my life.

And to all the GEMgirls, we’re just in high school and there a lot of thing we haven’t figured out yet but all I’m going to say is that it doesn’t have to make sense right now. Our careers and even our lives have just started. Eventually the puzzle pieces will fit. Have an amazing year!

Shanzah Zulfiqar is a grade 12 studen at Marc Garneau C.I., a GEMgirl and Creative Writing Intern at GEM.

Day of the Girl

Generations of incredible women have created a change and a community in which the dehumanization of women is intolerable. It’s crazy to think that a hundred years ago in Canada, women weren’t even legally considered persons. Today that notion has long faded in Canada, but the same can’t be said for places around the world. International Girls Day is on October 11, of every year to recognize girls’ rights, and the challenges they face in society.

The UN believes that girls should have the right to a safe, educated, and healthy life, not just as youth but also as they flourish into young women. The UN emphasizes importance on this day to bring attention to the changing role of women in society and how they hold power to create a generation of change. Empowered girls of today have the potential to be tomorrow’s mothers, entrepreneurs, political leaders, and much more. Educated women, even in societies where it is not a norm, have already proven to do great things. Take Noble Peace Prize recipient Malala Yousafzai, as just one example, from the millions.

To create the society that you want to live in, it is important to exercise your right to vote; the same right that countries have gone to war to get. It is important to read into party promises, and see what the party has done for our society, and surrounding countries in the pass. It’s time we do away with politicians who silence women, and single out people of race and culture. We need leaders who not only listen to the needs of their people, but also follow through. It is important to make sure the politicians we elects have the best interest of their people. We need to elect leaders who recognize the needs of women in today’s society. Politicians who give women a choice when it comes to carrying children, equality in the workforce, and belief in the change they can make.

It is also important to stand by women in a society where they love to pit women against each other. Celebrate each woman’s success, and women who break the barriers of society’s norm and redefine the role of women in society and in mainstream media. Every time she’s the nurse and he’s the doctor, she’s the assistant and he’s the CEO, and every time she’s the damsel in distress and he’s the hero, their sending a message; women can’t. But the truth is we’re a generation full of Katniss Everdeens, and we’re already breaking barriers and paving our own path.
Happy Girls Day. To celebrate all girls, and their right to a safe, healthy, and educated life. To every girls individual journey, and every girls right.
Special Thanks to GEM, for creating a community where they empower girls to come together and reach their full potential.

Tabassum Lakhi currently attends Marc Garneau C.I. and is a Creative Writing Intern at GEM.