Ask Women Anything – September 2014 With Dr. Sheema Khan

Sheema Khan at Media Action's Ask Women Anything Event. Photo by DaveDeansPlace.
Sheema Khan at Media Action’s Ask Women Anything Event.
Photo by DaveDeansPlace.

On Wednesday September 24th, Media Action Média hosted the popular Ask Women Anything event at the Wild Oat Bakery in Ottawa. The Ask Women Anything is a cross between a Science Café and an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit. Most importantly, women experts are able to stand in front of an audience, up close and personal, and not only describe who they are and what they do but respond to any question around this from the audience, without the media constructing them in any way.  It’s just another way that Media Action Média is promoting the positive representation of women.

The speaker of the evening was the extremely talented Dr. Sheema Khan, a patent agent at Shapiro Cohen and formerly an academician in Chemical Physics, Harvard University. She is the author of the acclaimed book “Of Hockey and Hijab: Reflections of a Canadian Muslim Woman”. Apart from being a patent holder in drug delivery technology, Dr. Khan also juggles being a mom of three and a monthly columnist for the Globe and Mail.  The manager and staff at Wild Oat Bakery were kind enough to host the event and the guests who attended kept the conversation flowing effortlessly. Needless to say, the event was a roaring success.

At the event, Dr. Khan and the guests discussed her views or and motivation behind her achievements, as well as her take on religion and feminism. In response to audience questions, she gave us her insights on being a modern and yet liberal practising Muslim in Canada. She touched on several diverse points, including her views on wearing the hijab, on how Muslim women see themselves in an international arena, the importance of being professional without compromising beliefs and practises, her views on religion being akin to science and how she reconciles being a Muslim woman with also being a feminist.

Dr. Khan’s down-to-earth honesty and modesty while answering our questions was incredible. It was amazing to listen to her speak calmly and openly throughout the evening.  One would assume that almost everyone went home that evening with Dr. Khan’s most resounding statement: Muslim women have the same agenda as much as other groups of women in the world; to be recognized and appreciated for our talents and not to be judged by our personal choices.

Media Action Média would like to thank the manager of the Wild Oat Bakery, Amanda Watkins, and her staff for making this AWA event truly amazing. A special thanks also goes out to Zainab Muse and Leon, from Dave Dean’s Place, who promoted the event. Their article can be found here.

For more information, please contact Amanda Parriag at


Ask Women Anything, featuring Sheema Khan

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Sheema Khan is a patent agent, mom of three, and a monthly columnist for the Globe and Mail. She holds a Ph.D. in Chemical Physics from Harvard University, and is an inventor on a number of patents in drug delivery technology. She is also the author of “Of Hockey and Hijab: Reflections of a Canadian Muslim Woman”. She is a co-founder of the Family Honour Project, dedicated towards the elimination of family-honour-based violence. Her current topics of interest include feminism and aboriginal rights.

Without sexism, tabloid magazines don’t have much left

by Jennifer de la Chevotiere


At one time or another, your eyes have drifted over to the bright array of tabloid magazines at the checkout of the grocery store. Inevitably, these magazines have been speckled with unflattering pictures of female celebrities, topped with biting captions about their appearance.

If you’re anything like me, you probably find these caustic covers obnoxious and unfair. So what if these women didn’t feel the need to spend two hours in the make-up chair to shop at the grocery store, or sport a perfectly flowing up-do at the gym? What’s worse is that even when tabloid magazines are treating women nicely, the focus is all about their ability to maintain beautiful bodies. Luckily, a new trend has been taking the bite out of vamped up celebrity gossip and giving it a serious reality check.

I first came across this trend on under the title: This is My Favourite Thing at the Moment. After checking out the post, several redditors were quick to share their opinions, support, and similar experiences. One contributor wrote: “I used to write for a celeb gossip blog and it eventually wore on me to where I couldn’t do it anymore…I realized that most people who dog on celebrities are just insecure, ignorant, ugly souls who lash out at people that they’ll never meet because it makes them feel good, temporarily. At that point I had to quit – I felt like I was not only NOT contributing to society but helping tear it down”.

This redditor sums up the reason behind the titles. It is meant for cheap titillation and to bring idealized women back down to earth. The issue is that these women did nothing to warrant being publicly shamed for their everyday behaviours. I do disagree with them on one point, the people who lash out at celebrities aren’t ugly souls, it’s all of us. Everyone has taken out their insecurities on public figures, even if only in their heads, because they are visible targets. Becoming aware of this tenancy and our role in it is the first step to making a conscious decision to keep it from becoming an acceptable norm.

Another redditor quipped: “and then society makes fun of women for feeling insecure about their bodies”. Unfortunately, media attention for women seems to focus on the quality of their bodies rather than their accomplishments. This is why the first picture of Amy Adams has become my absolute favourite headline swap. A ridiculous comment about her lack of glamour while completing menial tasks is replaced with a solid, impressive accomplishment.

Since the post on reddit, this fad has popped up on several websites including and has been discussed on countless blogs, but it can be traced back to the hilarious people at Vagenda Magazine. Vagenda is an online magazine dedicated to taking a sardonic look at what passes for women’s press. Something about their humorous, light-hearted approach to feminism has clearly resonated with the men and women of cyberspace. It’s a great example of the power of humour. It is disarming, accessible, and a great way to get people talking about subjects and perspectives they may not have considered.

We may be far from winning the war on how women are portrayed in the media, but this type of thing might be exactly what we need at the end of a long battle. It is easy to become frustrated and begin to feel ashamed and hurt by all of the negative attention. So for now, let’s sit back, relax, and have a good hearty chuckle about how ridiculous it is.

Ask Women Anything, featuring the Fat Girl Food Squad

On Wednesday May 28th 2014, Media Action Média hosted a hugely successful Ask Women Anything event featuring Fat Girl Food Squad bloggers, Marie-Claude Bennett and Kelly Bennett.

The Ministry of Coffee kindly donated space for the event, which drew in a diverse audience from across Ottawa.  Kelly Bennett launched into the evening’s discussions, stating that “being fat and enjoying food is a political statement.” As the conversation continued, issues of public perception of appearance, self-appreciation and the BMI myth were touched on as the group shared their experiences of living in a society obsessed with limited beauty standards and policing women’s bodies.

Fat Girl Food Squad’s vision says it all: “We are fundamentally about people of all shapes and sizes eating good food and feeling good in their bodies, in every way possible.”

In an hour, Fat Girl Food Squad debunked common myths about health and fat, challenged audience members to think differently about the ways they discuss their own and other people’s bodies, and sparked countless other discussions about fat, food and feminism. These girls are good!

Media Action Média would like to thank:

  • Fat Girl Food Squad speakers Marie-Claude Bennet and Kelly Bennet. for sharing their time, experiences and advice with us and our audience
  • Our wonderful audience for listening, asking questions and taking part in our awesome raffle draw
    • All the volunteers who made this event possible
  • Ministry of Coffee for holding the event in their incredible space and for allowing our event to go way past closing!


For more information, please contact Amanda Parriag at

Event – A Quota for Quoting: Addressing the Absence of Women Sources in the Media

Shari Graydon of Informed Opinions will be debating about the absence of women sources in media on May 14 at the University of Toronto. Register now to reserve your spot!

Date: Wednesday May 14, 2014 | 05:00 PM – 07:00 PM

  • Shari Graydon, Founder and Catalyst of Informed Opinions
  • Margaret Wente, Writer at The Globe and Mail and one of Canada’s leading columnists
  • Elena Cherney, Canada Bureau Chief and Global Resources Editor at the Wall Street Journal
  • Tracie Crook, Chief Operating Officer and President of MT Services at McCarthy TétraultMODERATOR: Lisa Kimmel, General Manager, Edelman Toronto

Topic: A Quota for Quoting: Addressing the Absence of Women Sources in the Media
Desautels Hall (2nd floor, South Building) | map
Rotman School of Management, U of Toronto,
105 St George Street
Location: Toronto
Cost: $24.95 plus HST per person (includes panel discussion and networking reception)

To say women are quoted less often than men in Canadian media would be an understatement.

The Facts

  • Women make up only 20% of guest commentaries in Canada’s largest daily newspapers and 30% of experts on national talk shows;
  • A study of Canada’s two largest English-language newspapers found a 5 to 1 ratio of male to female opinion; and,
  • Men were authors of 90% of the hard-news commentary in these papers.

Source: Steve Paikin, Inside Agenda Blog

The Journalist’s Perspective

Journalists state it is difficult to find qualified women to speak on many topics and women often decline to be interviewed, but that a women’s perspective would enhance the quality of their reporting.

The Issue

Ownership of your professional brand should be a priority for every senior executive. When women decline offering their perspective in the media, they are delegating away authority of their own expertise and relinquishing control of their personal brand. On a larger social scale, without gender diversity, media coverage is lacking in its variety of perspectives and ideas. Additionally, without female spokespeople and industry experts, there is a scarcity of visible women role models for the next generation.

The Question

If women are not seen as experts in the media, will Canada ever see a business landscape that is both prosperous and equitable? Will a quota force the fix?

Ask Women Anything – Kathie Donovan

Ask Women Anything – Kathie DonovaThe Ask Women Anything event hosted by Media Action Média on the evening of April 24th, 2014, was a beautifully wholesome experience with guest speaker, Kathie Donovan.

Kathie shared with us her story of how she came to be the Kathie Donovan we all know and love today. She began her career on a children’s radio show in St. John, New Brunswick, at the age of eight. The once-timid little girl found her confidence behind the anonymity of presenting on the radio, which propelled her down the path of a life in the media.

While at school, she was faced with the dilemma that most people face at the start of their career: how does one get a job without having the required experience? Kathie solved this by starting out as a volunteer for a radio network and working her through the ranks, with her determination and passion leading the way.

Her journey through the world of radio, TV, public speaking and most recently, writing, has given her a recipe for happiness using the principles of the Law of Attraction. She discovered that one’s thoughts and intentions are a predictor of what is to come in the future.  Kathie believes that promoting the power of an authentic connection between people is both her mission and her vision. She sees herself and others alike, as being able to spread the light of happiness by either being a source of it or by being the mirror that reflects it.

Kathie’s thought-provoking talk left the audience feeling truly engaged and inspired. This month’s Ask Women Anything event was a treat for the many the guests who attended!

Media Action Média would like to thank:

  • Kathie Donovan for sharing her time with us and our audience
  • Our wonderful audience for listening, asking questions and taking part in our raffle draw
  • Hintonburg Public House for holding the event in their cozy setting
  • All the volunteers who made this event possible

For more information, please contact Amanda Parriag at

Steve Paikin’s Right: Women Avoid the Media Spotlight

by Shari Graydon, Informed Opinions

Don’t blame the messenger, folks: When Steve Paikin, host of The Agenda blogged and tweeted recently about the show’s difficulties in recruiting female guests, he elicited a firestorm of protest. But what he says rings true to me. Our experience is that women decline interviews much more often than their male counterparts.

Many journalists have told us this, and hundreds of expert women we’ve surveyed over the past four years have acknowledged their reluctance.

This is why Informed Opinions exists in the first place. In 1994, as the president of MediaWatch, I personally called dozens of expert women across the country to invite them to be listed in an experts resource guide for journalists. In response, dozens of them said to me, “Oh, Shari; I’m so flattered to be asked. But I’m really not the best person.” Regrettably, 20 years later, this remains a common response.

The data in the chart below was drawn from surveys of university professors, business and NGO leaders from all over Canada. We asked them to identify why they turned down media interview requests. Their answers fall into three main categories.

Read the rest of Shari’s article at HuffingtonPost

Media Action Média presents the Ask Women Anything Series Featuring Angela Schliehauf from the Three Little Birds

On February 26, 2014, Media Action Média hosted our inaugural Ask Women Anything event at the Hintonburg Public House. This series is being launched to allow women to speak about their experiences with media in an unfiltered setting.Angela Schleihauf, of the Ottawa folk band Three Little Birds, was our featured speaker.

Angela spoke for about 10 minutes about her experiences as a member of an all women band that has played in the Ottawa Jazz, Blues and Folk festivals, has toured the East Coast of Canada and has handled a number of media appearances as part of this work. After her introduction, the floor was opened to questions from the incredibly engaged audience.

Angela Schleihauf answered questions about feminism, how technology impacts of views of women, how women’s work is devalued and where she finds mentors for her music. Angela Schleihauf spoke at length about Miley Cyrus, and musicians like her. She argued that much of the criticism of Miley is rooted in misogyny and “slut-shaming”. She also encouraged audience members to consider Miley’s goals in her self-presentation, a lens that was new to many audience members.

The event was free, but money was raised through a raffle. Prizes were donated by Roo Hoo Pots, Primal Intelligence, the Brass Monkey, Sobey’s, and Kathy Smart from Live The Smart Way.

Media Action Média is thrilled with the launch of this new series and looks forward to hosting the next Ask Women Anything event!

Click here for more details on the Three Little Birds’ next event in Ottawa

Join us for Ask Women Anything: Angela Schleihauf of Three Little Birds


Our free Ask Women Anything event is scheduled for this coming Wednesday, February 26 at 5:30 p.m. at The Hintonburg Public House (1020 Wellington Street West, Ottawa)! Click here for the Facebook event page.

We have Angela Schleihauf from Ottawa folk-pop band Three Little Birds doing this AWA – she’s awesome, she’s smart, she’s musical and she’s media-savvy! We’ll pass a hat while you listen, chat, and have great food and drinks. And we have fabulous raffle prizes that you can buy tickets for before and during this AWA. $2 for one ticket, $5 for three tickets.

Come, hear some great stories from Angela, ask her anything you want, have a drink, and support us!


Thanks to all who donated raffle prizes:

  • The Brass Monkey
  • RooHoo Pots
  • Sobey’s
  • Live The Smart Way