IWD // Letter from the Founder

To Every Woman,

You have been in my thoughts this past year. I’ve been rooting for you as you’ve been navigating this pandemic alongside of me - but I’ve also been applauding you, as I have witnessed some major transitions, handled with astonishing strength and courage these past twelve months. From becoming first-time mothers to going through divorce, managing without childcare, having school and other activities disrupted, downshifting careers, or walking away from work entirely - and somehow, you’ve made it.

Since women began to enter the workforce, the pull between our home lives and work lives has been a continuous balancing act. And while today most women work outside of the home, we are still often the primary caregiver to our children and are often still taking on a greater responsibility of managing our households than our male counterparts.

In some ways, this is a gift. To be so significant to our children, to contribute so much to the wellbeing of our families, and to be finding identity and vocation of our own, while generations before us were not so privileged. But on the other hand, it’s a lot. It’s always been a lot, and now it’s a pandemic.

I remember at the beginning of 2020, my son was about a year and half old, and I had finally figured out a routine that was working for my life. There was still a lot of juggling going on, but I was making it work, and things were starting to feel steady. And then the pandemic hit. At the start of quarantine, we paused our childcare to keep our bubble small. We also opted to keep our Woodlot team small in order to comply with distancing recommendations in our studio space. This meant my partner was now creating almost all of the products by himself, meaning he couldn’t be at home nearly as much as we’d like him to be. This also meant that I was having to fit in work wherever I could, while still trying to give my son my full attention when I was with him - before he would wake up in the morning, during his naps, and after he went to bed at night. I was riddled with guilt because I couldn’t stop thinking about my inbox when I was at home with him, but I was also feeling guilty for not being at the office more.

"It’s a lot. It’s always been a lot, and now it’s a pandemic."

Towards the end of the year, we resumed part-time childcare and we’ve since been able to follow a schedule that works for now. Still nothing is balanced or perfect, but I don’t know if it ever will be. We feel like a puzzle with a missing piece but we’re making it work. While we’ve been able to bring on a few helpers on the production side, working with flexible schedules and keeping the number of us in the studio at one time still pretty low, Fouad is still working late at night and occasionally on the weekends. I’m sometimes up late myself, catching up, but also trying to get enough rest so I can share my son’s excitement when we wake up each day. We often think how lucky we are to have this little human with us through the pandemic, who doesn’t mind if things are a little strange, or if the schedule changes, or if things don’t go exactly according to plan. He’s always up for whatever the day brings and can always make us laugh and feel a bit lighter.

I am also so fortunate that my partner and I have the freedom to make some changes to our schedule when needed. While it’s easier for me to work from home, Fouad’s day at home with our son is every Wednesday. Despite everything, we’ve been really committed to keeping that day theirs, and while it’s something they always look forward to, it’s also wonderful for me to not be the only one balancing home and work. I think it benefits both of us. And it doesn’t have to be perfect or completely even. It doesn’t have to be anything. It just has to be what works for your family. And when something stops working, you adjust, and that sets an amazing example for your kids. It’s wonderful to give our son that example at such an early age - that things change, stuff comes up, and you figure it out together.

"We feel like a puzzle with a missing piece but we’re making it work."

On top of everything pandemic related, there were also a lot of emotions to contend with last year, for myself, and for the women in my life who are also women of colour. It’s been good to see a shift in focus towards the many issues that affect women of colour, and also women in general, in 2020, and in the preceding years. Progress is slow, but at least we’re finally getting somewhere.

I think there needs to be a stronger emphasis on creating more decision making opportunities for women and women of colour if we really want to see change. Creating diversity in these high level roles is what will lead to more diversity in companies overall. The film and television industry is finally starting to get that stories about people of colour should actually be told by people of colour, and stories about women should actually be told by women - and I believe that the same is true for any company or organization. In order for a company to truly be diverse, the voice of that company needs to be diverse, and decisions need to be made by a diverse group of people - not just carried out by a diverse group of people.

"Progress is slow, but at least we’re finally getting somewhere."

There’s been a lot of talk in the last twelve months about a ‘new normal’. I’ll admit, the idea of everything I considered to be ‘my normal’ being challenged was not something I welcomed right off the bat. Change is scary, but it’s also necessary. And it can also make things so much better than they were before. Each day my son changes before my eyes, and while I sometimes find myself wishing he could stay this small forever, he only grows more wonderful with each day.

I’m ready for a new normal. I’m ready for women in leadership roles to be the norm. I’m ready for dads who take paternity days to be nothing out of the ordinary. For same sex marriage to be like any other marriage. For people of colour to just be people. And for success to be based on merit, and the work you put in, and nothing else.

"Change is scary, but it’s also necessary. And it can also make things so much better than they were before."

Today, I am thinking not about the change I’d like to see in the world, but the world I’d like to see in the change. I hope you’ll join me, today, and often in the future, in taking time off from the work, and allowing yourself to reconnect with where we’re headed. We need to help each other hold that vision. Today, I am spending time with that vision, holding it close, and feeling grateful to be moving towards it with each of you by my side. I see you now, and I can’t wait to
see you there.

Sonia Chhinji

The global theme for International Women’s Day 2021 is #ChooseToChallenge because a challenged world is an alert world. Sonia is choosing to challenge the norm in 2021, both at home, as well as with all of us here at Woodlot! What will you choose to challenge?

Happy International Women’s Day!

Woodlot xo