We asked seven team members at Destination Toronto what Inspire Inclusion means to them, and how the industry can prioritize inclusion.

Celebrated annually on March 8, International Women’s Day (IWD) is an annual reflection of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women and the gaps that still exist. 

This year’s IWD theme is: Inspire Inclusion. 

“To truly include women means to openly embrace their diversity of race, age, ability, faith, body image, and how they identify. Worldwide, women must be included in all fields of endeavour.”  - International Women’s Day (IWD)

IWD Annie EwingAnnie Ewing, Community Engagement Manager

What are some challenges the industry faces when trying to achieve inclusion?

We tend to surround ourselves with similar people, which builds homogeneous networks, and leads to referrals, hiring, promotions, sales, and partnerships that follow those same patterns. It takes time and effort to expand beyond our typical networks. Senior leaders have to want to take the less comfortable path. To be successful, inclusion must be embraced as a whole-hearted organizational shift.


What is your favourite woman-owned Toronto business? 

I like Zezafoun. It is a mother and daughter owned restaurant that Serves Syrian cuisine. Every dish has a story to tell. 

IWD FarnazFarnaz Mirza, Sales Manager

How does Toronto as a city Inspire Inclusion? 

Toronto is a city where there are various initiatives, policies, and community efforts aimed at addressing gender equality. One of the major ones also being, improved access to childcare services. There are various education and training programs through local non for profit organizations (for example YWCA Toronto) offering programs for women to start up businesses in STEM where women are traditionally underrepresented.


What is your favourite woman-owned Toronto business? 

I absolutely love Sage and Thistle's natural products! Her business is committed to giving back to the community through donating products to Toronto organizations that provide essential services to our city's more vulnerable populations. 

IWD IvieIvie Ndep, Marketing Manager

What does the future of inclusivity look like to you?

As a black woman, I see the future of inclusivity as a world where every individual is recognized and valued for who they are, irrespective of their background, identity, or abilities. Inclusivity here is not merely a buzzword but a commitment to real change. It calls for us to do the hard work required to challenge the status quo and dismantle the barriers that divide us, ensuring no one is left out. The goal is a kinder, fairer world where everyone has equal opportunities to thrive.


What is your favourite Toronto women-owned business? 

Omi Woods, a jewelry brand founded by Ashley Alexis McFarlane. She beautifully incorporates her Jamaican-Ashanti-Maroon background into the designs, paying homage to African heritage.

IWD ShrouqShrouq El Masri, Accounting Coordinator

How can others Inspire Inclusion in their communities or workplaces? 

It is important to maintain an ongoing process where people have a safe space to discuss their ideas. Placing individuals with open minds in leadership roles within workplaces is essential. Getting behind workplace or community diversity efforts isn't just about saying you're inclusive—it's showing it. Taking action against discrimination by speaking up, supporting women, and addressing systemic barriers is essential, as is promoting inclusive policies and practices.


What is your favourite Toronto women-owned business? 

Savour Toronto is renowned for its authentic culinary experiences. Led by founder Mary Luz Mejia, their guides provide insight on the history and significance of the dishes and neighborhoods.

IWD TanyaTanya Wadgymar, Office Coordinator

What does Inspire Inclusion mean to you?

To me, this year's theme is about provoking thoughts, sparking discussions, and driving meaningful actions to create more space for women. It's about asking ourselves tough questions and not being afraid of having uncomfortable conversations. It’s being able to see women of all walks of life and diverse backgrounds. Ultimately, what can we learn from the women that came before us, how can we uplift the women around us, and what can we do to inspire those after us? 


What is your favourite woman-owned Toronto business? 

I'm a huge fan of the local streetwear brand, aaniin. Chelsee's stuff is really cool, I love to rep Tkaronto! She showcases Indigenous languages as a way to Indigenize colonized spaces. 

IWD VanessaVanessa Somarriba, Senior Media Relations Manager

What does Inspire Inclusion mean to you? 

Inspire Inclusion for me means I am always making sure that women from all walks of life are at the table or part of the conversation whether it’s in my personal or professional life. I want to always be learning and value the differences, perspectives and knowledge that women of different backgrounds bring to a conversation and situation.  


What is your favourite woman owned Toronto business? 

Any of Chef Nuit Regular's restaurants, but right now my favourite is Kiin. Her passion for Thai cuisine and with Kiin, the focus on Royal Thai Cuisine, is so inspiring and delicious. 

IWD VinitaVinita Das, Sales Director

What does inclusion in tourism look like?

Inclusion in tourism means broader economic equity, more reflective marketing, deeper cultural awareness, greater social development, faster adoption of global travel trends, greater understanding of accessible tourism opportunities, and more sustainable tourism practices. More specifically, by actively promoting and implementing inclusive practices, Toronto can enhance its reputation as an open and progressive destination, ensuring a more enriching experience for tourists and benefiting the local community. 


What is your favourite woman-owned Toronto business? 

Adrienne Giroux has always led with an entrepreneurial spirit. Adrienne followed her passion and opened Chef in the House mid-pandemic. I am proud of Adrienne and all of her accomplishments both as a woman business owner as well as my dear friend.

Everyone can inspire inclusion no matter who you are or where you live. You can learn more about IWD and how to #InspireInclusion here. Destination Toronto is committed to supporting equity, diversity and inclusion in our work, with our team, and with our community.