Confident and sophisticated with a no-nonsense attitude; Tiffany Ford is a woman I admire. When she was elected Toronto District School Board (TDSB) Trustee for Ward 4-Jane-Finch community, we celebrated with her in awe and proud of what she was able to accomplish. I love her mindset, her courage and her quiet and persistent determination. For those reasons I knew I had share her story on Island Muse. With a successful career that includes many accolades; Tiffany proves that with faith and determination anything is possible.
If you had to describe yourself in three words what would they be?
Honest, aggressive, determined.
Tell me about yourself and the journey that led to your current position as Toronto District School Board Trustee for Ward 4 Jane-Finch community.
Well as many people know my name is Tiffany Ford (laughs). I was raised in and still reside in the Jane & Finch community of Toronto. My mom is Grenadian and my dad is St. Lucian. My father’s family is what we call Indo-Caribbean. Unfortunately, I never had the best relationship with my father, so I’m not close to that side of my family. Something I rarely discuss is the fact that I suffer from chronic anxiety. Oddly enough, that chronic anxiety is what set me on the path to entrepreneurship as the interview process always made me extremely nervous. When I graduated from York University, I launched my public relations and marketing communications firm Ford Publicity. From there I went on to launch telecom company Pepeye Mobile an international calling card company. With those ventures under my belt, I realized I could accomplish anything I set my sights on, thus the idea and the confidence to get involved in politics was materialized. I’m now proud to announce that the Ford Global Group is in the midst of launching a product-based company focused on providing healthier options for children.
With a background in communications and public relations, how did those skills help you transition into the world of politics?
The skills I acquired along the way assisted me a great deal. I created and ran my own campaign; from the message, to knowing how to target my audience, to putting together press releases and most importantly knowing how to communicate effectively with the community. All those skills came in handy because I didn’t need to hire a third party firm to manage my campaign. My campaign was 100% independently run.
You have an impressive list of accolades (first black female owner of a telecom company in Canada, 2015 Top 100 Black Women in Canada) what keeps you motivated? What keeps you going?
My community of Jane and Finch keeps me going. The fact that I continue to reside in a community that’s considered “marginalized” keeps me hungry and always wanting to achieve more. To defy the odds. Growing up in Jane and Finch, a community that’s often ignored and forgotten taught me that I need to be self-sufficient; another reason I pursued the entrepreneurship route.
Why do you think more women of colour aren’t seeing a career in politics as an attractive option?
Well simply put we don’t see enough women who look like us in these arenas. When the idea first popped into my head that I could get involved in politics, I looked up to women like Jean Augustine; a fellow Grenadian and the first black woman to be elected to the Canadian House of Commons. Her existence alone, was a source of comfort and confidence. Another issue we deal with is the fact that we are heavily stereotyped. We are also overly represented in the fashion and entertainment spheres. So perhaps we don’t see ourselves being successful or excelling in the political arena. Now add to that, the fact that as black women, broader society (including our own) continues to over-sexualize us. So we are constantly operating under the consciousness of “Can I really do this?” “Will voters take me seriously? “Will voters identify with me?” “Finally, will they vote for me?” Unfortunately as black women and to a larger extent Caribbean women, we are always second guessing ourselves.
That leads perfectly to the next question. With all you’ve accomplished, how do you combat fear and doubt?
I strategize a lot before doing anything. What’s going to work? What is the strategy? I plan the what, when and how, then I execute. More importantly I have a strong belief in God and an unwavering faith that keeps me going and believing that I can accomplish anything.
In your opinion, what’s the biggest issue affecting Caribbean women in the diaspora in 2016?
Poverty continues to be a major issue for us. Additionally, many of us are raising our children alone. Lack of affordable housing and lack of support from our men all contribute to this continuous cycle of poverty.
What are your words of wisdom for Caribbean women?
We need to empower ourselves. We need to stop second guessing ourselves and focus on being progressive and living free from fear and doubt.
How has your cultural background impacted your outlook on life?
My heritage humbles me. It keeps me grounded. I’ve traveled to Grenada many times. My family is from the bush. So I know what it’s like to live in a dwelling with no piping or inadequate electricity. These experiences remind me that I have to be successful because of the sacrifices my family has made for me.
What’s one thing you’d like people to know about your community?
Well I have a few. I want people to know that a lot of what you see in the media is just hype. Sensationalism. At the end of the day Jane and Finch is just another intersection in the city of Toronto. I also want people to know that my community is a diverse and beautiful one filled with hardworking and talented people.
When your term is up as TDSB School Board Trustee Ward 4 what would you like your legacy to be?
Honestly speaking, my position as School Board Trustee of Ward 4 is by far my greatest accomplishment. I’m the first person to represent the community, that’s from the community and looks like the community. When it’s all said and done I want people to say that I made positive and tangible change and was a constant, unwavering voice for our residents.