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Wanted: young women in leadership roles

Limited gender expectations need to be reversed says Girls Action Foundation

For Immediate Release

Montreal - September 18, 2012: Men are still outnumbering women in government, business and decision-making roles. “While gains have been made in the past decades, there is a lot of work yet to be done,” says Saman Ahsan, Executive Director of Girls Action Foundation. “We believe in starting young to cultivate girls’ leadership especially in marginalized communities,” she adds. It’s a message Ahsan will take to Light a Spark, a Toronto event being held on October 4th to encourage advancing young womens’ leadership, and to celebrate the first UN-declared International Day of the Girl Child (to be marked on October 11 each year).

Today, only 4% of CEOs in Canada’s Top 500 companies are women. The latest Statistics Canada figures indicate $30,100 as the average total income for women compared to $47,000 for men.  And, there is only one woman for every four men elected representatives in Canada.

“The reasons behind these numbers are complex but it’s clear that the inordinate amount of violence girls and young women face, not to mention stereotyping and mixed media messages, play a huge role in limiting gender expectations,” says Ahsan, who joined Canada’s leading girls’ empowerment organization, Girls Action Foundation, last December.

Hailing from Pakistan, Ahsan argues that “while Canadian girls’ situation is much better than that of their Pakistani sisters on the whole, girls here still have a long way to go to achieve equal opportunities.” 

“The International Day of the Girl will help bring attention to the work that still needs to be done in Canada, and in my home country. In the longer term, it will hopefully boost the presence of young women in government, business and other arenas where,” says Ahsan, “they are urgently needed”.

Ahsan is thrilled that prominent women like Pamela Jeffery will be at the event in Toronto. Jeffery, keynote speaker at Light a Spark, is the founder of the Women’s Executive Network and one of the most accomplished advocates for women’s leadership in the corporate sector. 

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Light a Spark Evening – Toronto

Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012, 5:30-7:30pm

Metro Hall Rotunda, 55 John St., Toronto

With keynote speaker Pamela Jeffery and Master of Ceremonies Cher Jones

Register to attend.

For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact:

Elvira Truglia: 514.948.1112, elvira@girlsactionfoundation.ca


About the UN International Day of the Girl Child

  • In December 2011, with active support from the government of Canada, the UN General Assembly declared that there would be an International Day of the Girl Child celebrated each autumn worldwide.
  • October 11, 2012 is the first International Day of the Girl Child.

Some facts about Girls in Canada

  • In 2008, the average total income of Canadian women was $30,100 compared to $47,000 for men.  This difference is partly because women are less often in leadership positions with higher salaries.
  • Four times more girls than boys are sexually abused and 75% of the time it is by a family member or friend. 
  • Harassment with sexual overtones is a daily reality for girls in Canada.
  • Racism, both overt and subtle is one of the most pervasive forms of violence experienced by girls. 
  • Despite a decrease in teenage pregnancy, sexually transmitted infection (STI) rates including HIV are going up for female youth because they are not using contraceptives. This kind of risky behavior is linked to girls who experience discrimination, violence and low self-esteem.
  • Today’s girls face conflicting messages from media images; they are supposed to be both liberated and traditional at the same time. This translates into the hypersexualization of girls in the media, stereotyping women of colour, the overemphasis on weight and idealized body images.

For more facts and references, read Girls Action’s report Girls in Canada Today 

About Girls Action Foundation

Girls Action Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting girls and young women to overcome barriers to reach their true potential. Founded in 1995, Girls Action delivers girls’ empowerment programs, training for educators, and bursaries for young women change-makers. Girls Action operates on a national scale with a local impact reaching 60,000 girls and young women annually. The 300 member-organizations of the Girls Action Network are found in all provinces and territories. 90% of girls and women participating in Girls Action programs come from underprivileged and marginalized communities. 


Saman Ahsan joined Girls Action Foundation as Executive Director in December 2011. She has worked with and on behalf of girls and young women for her entire career. As the National Coordinator of the Girl Child Project at the Family Planning Association of Pakistan, one of the oldest and largest NGOs in the country, Saman was responsible for community mobilization at the grassroots level to empower adolescent girls belonging to marginalized communities. Through Saman’s leadership, the Girl Child Project grew exponentially from 130 locations to an additional 600 locations reaching 30,000 additional girls over a five year period. Saman has also held leadership roles at the World Economic Forum, and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria. As a graduate of the Sauvé Scholars Program in Montréal (2003-2004) and of McGill University’s Anthropology department (1995-1998), she is well acquainted with life in Canada. 

Pamela Jeffery is the founder of Women’s Executive Network and the Canadian Board Diversity Council. Drawing on her experience in business, government and politics, she designed WXN for women in the private, public and not-for-profit sectors. Since its founding in 1997, WXN has grown to 16,000 select women across Canada.  In 2003, she founded Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Awards, now Canada’s most prestigious Awards for female leaders.  In 2012, Pamela was named as a charter member of Fast Company’s League of Extraordinary Women in the leadership category which recognizes 60 women from around the world for their dedication to changing the lives of women and girls. In 2009, mandated by the federal government and private sector diversity leaders, she founded the Canadian Board Diversity Council. She currently serves as a Director of The Canadian Opera Company, the Ivey School of Business Entrepreneurship Council, and is a Governor of Trent University. Pamela holds an MBA and an HBA from the Ivey School of Business. 

Cher Jones is an accomplished communications professional with 15 years of experience, Cher has worked in both the private and public sectors with several leading Canadian companies. As a social media trainer, Cher has the love of technology hard wired into her personality. She’s always connecting on Twitter Facebook and Linked In, testing new mobile apps, or reading the latest tech news sites and blogs.  Also a TV personality, Cher is a regular on CBC’s flagship daytime talk show; Steven and Chris, and hosts a technology show that airs on Rogers TV and online.