Honoured to be a Woman of Distinction

Ebonnie Rowe of HoneyJam discusses YWCA Toronto Women of Distinction Awards

Ebonnie Rowe (fourth from the right) is the founder of PhemPhat Entertainment Group, a dynamic, all-female non-profit company that provides promotional and educational opportunities for up-and-coming female artists. She is founder and executive director of Honey Jam, an annual Toronto-based showcase of female music acts, which has been going strong for the last 20 years. She is a 2008 Woman of Distinction in the Arts & Entertainment category. We sat down with Ebonnie for a Q&A:

Tell us a bit about receiving your Woman of Distinction nomination and Award.

I was extremely honoured to have my mentee Emily Mills nominate me. I met Emily through my Each One, Teach One mentoring programme when she was 14 years old.  She later volunteered with me at Honey Jam and also performed on the Honey Jam stage. It was really meaningful to know that the girls I work with not only look up to me, but think that I deserved to be recognised by YWCA Toronto as a Woman of Distinction!

It was exciting and a little overwhelming to be chosen to receive the Award and be featured alongside the other remarkable women from different sectors. For all of us Women of Distinction, it feels great to be recognized for decades of hard work.  I was elated to be a part of the Women of Distinction legacy and join a sisterhood of women from across Toronto doing great work in so many areas.

Despite all the excitement, I wasn’t able to immerse myself in the wonder of it all.  It was a difficult time for me. My father was ill with pancreatic cancer and I had just had a major operation.  Shortly before the Awards ceremony, he passed away, which was incredibly painful.  YWCA Toronto went out of their way to be understanding, accommodating, and of course, extremely supportive. They lifted me up on the night of the Awards so that I was able to enjoy the experience.  I am grateful that my father had the opportunity to know about the Award before he passed. He was very proud. And my mom was over the moon beaming!

Mentoring is important for everyone in every industry and area of life. It is important to have someone who has been where you want to go and can help guide, support, encourage, and create opportunities for you.

Why do you think it is important for women to mentor and create opportunities for other women and girls, specifically in the music industry?

Mentoring is important for everyone in every industry and area of life. It is important to have someone who has been where you want to go and can help guide, support, encourage, and create opportunities for you. Women helping women is critical because there are situations, challenges, and experiences that are unique to women.  In the music industry, so many of those top executives and decision-makers are men – venue owners, label heads, producers, media house owners, musical directors, promoters, studio owners, and managers – so it helps to know other women in the industry who have your back and are there to provide much needed guidance.

You have played a big role in creating opportunities for young women in male-dominated music genres. How do you think the Toronto music scene has changed since the launch of Honey Jam in 1995?

So much has changed over the past two decades since we began.  Technology has had a huge impact on the music scene. There is so much more that you can do yourself – from launching a website, to photography, to experimenting with production.  It is liberating for artists who now have so much more power to be self-promoters.  There is also a much bigger industry in Toronto. Now that some big names have gone global, more top executives are watching and looking for talent in Toronto. There are more women who have risen in the ranks, and more networking groups like Women in Music that are great sources for networking and support.

“YWCA Toronto is a respected organization that has been doing extraordinary work with women and girls for over 100 years. They support women and girls in so many life-changing ways.”

Why is it important for you to support YWCA Toronto?

On a personal level, as a woman, it is important for me to support YWCA Toronto. I feel connected to its mission because I run a programme that is exclusively for young women.  YWCA Toronto is a respected organization that has been doing extraordinary work with women and girls for over 100 years. They support women and girls in so many life-changing ways. I believe in social responsibility, supporting positive initiatives, and the idea that each of us can make a difference. I encourage anyone who knows a remarkable woman in Toronto who is creating change for women and girls to nominate them!

Nominations for the 2017 Women of Distinction Awards close November 4, 2016! Do you know a remarkable woman who is making a difference and improving the lives of women and girls? Nominate her! Learn more here. <http://bit.ly/2coPkbi>