Virtually every woman has more than one role in her life, whether they are divided between professional and personal realms. However, the women in this list have excelled beyond expectations in more than one way, making their accomplishments shine even more brightly. Not only do they make you stop and admire them, but they show a generation of young people that anything is possible if you dream then act to make it happen.
More than anything, Erica wants to empower Indigenous people to tell their own stories with kindness and a full heart. She helps them as executive producer and founder of Kejic Productions in Winnipeg. Erica found her voice via a multimedia program for at-risk youths and discovered a love for film and television production. In 2017, the Cree and Ojibwa entrepreneur started Kejic Productions on the Peguis First Nation. In 2019, she won the inaugural film prize at the Indigenous Music Awards. Her business creates, develops and produces films, community and corporate videos; provides graphic design, photography and marketing services, all based on building relationships and respected partnerships.
One of the neighbourhoods with the toughest reputation is Vancouver’s Downtown East Side. Yet Christina not only believes in the people there but pushes to support them. She led the project to establish Street Store Vancouver in 2014, offering clothing at reasonable prices at pop-up shops. It has helped to clothe more than 2,000 people, thanks to its partnerships, volunteers and donations. At the start of 2018, Wong became the Executive Director and Co-founder of Employ to Empower, a charity that provides mentorship and micro-loans to help residents begin their own businesses. They also advocate for changes to improve the lives of people living in cyclical poverty.
This ground-breaking athlete impressed us by leading Canada to four gold medals at the Olympics (and one silver!) then earned a medical degree in Calgary. Now, she works as Assistant Director of Player Development for the Toronto Maple Leafs. In both roles, she has been a passionate, out-spoken champion for doing the right thing. She also played on Canada’s national softball team at the Summer Olympics in 2000 and was the first woman to net a goal as a hockey professional. She supports the work of JumpStart, Right to Play, KidSport and Project North to empower the next round of athletes to break fans’ expectations, just like she did.
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Dr. Lucy Gilbert
This pioneer has refined the pap tests that help discover gynecological cancers sooner to start treatments before tumors grow and threaten more Canadians’ lives. Working with a team at McGill University in the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology and the Department of Oncology in Montreal, Lucy developed the DOvEEgene (Diagnosing Ovarian and Endometrial Cancers Early). It detects more than 70 percent of deadly ovarian and endometrial cancers before symptoms show up. She was inspired after seeing the rates for these types of cancers stagnate while cures and treatments flourished in other areas. In 2020, Dr. Gilbert was awarded $6.24 million in funding from The Genomics Applications Partnership Program to finalize the DOvEEgene to ensure a high level of accuracy. Fun fact: Lucy is one of six sisters who are all doctors.
This innovator looks at a common machine in a completely new way and created one that pollute less in terms of fumes and noise. As owner and president of Growing Greener Innovations, Connie is best known for creating the Grengine UltraLite generator that is silent, portable, scalable and sustainable. Even better, it can be charged with a solar panel or a stationary bike if you cannot plug it into an outlet. The U.S. Department of Defense recognized her work with first prize at its innovation contest in 2020. From there, she and her team have branched out into energy storage and better batteries, dominating the industry in Canada. Connie is a frequent speaker at clean technology, energy and women in tech events.
This superstar has been named Canada Soccer’s Women’s Player of the Year 11 straight times from 2004 to 2014 then again in 2016 and 2018. Since the Burnaby, BC teenager debuted with Team Canada, she has netted 182 career international goals, ranking her second of all-time in the world and first among active players. Sinclair has competed at three Olympic Games, bronzes in London 2012 and Rio 2016. At the 2012 Games, she scored more goals than any other player, with six of Canada’s 12 goals, including a hat trick in the semi-final game. As a result, she was the first soccer player to win the Lou Marsh Award as Canadian Athlete of the Year. Sinclair scored another three goals at Rio 2016, including the game-winner to secure the bronze medal. We have lost track of how many times she was recognized as FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year. She just that good. She is also an advocate for funding for Multiple Sclerosis, a disease that affects her mother.
As manager of business development at Newfoundland Power, Krista has a big goal in her headlights: converting one third of the province’s vehicles to electric sources of energy by 2034. She is more than up to the challenge. Since her days at Memorial University, followed by Sustainability Studies at Humber College, she has turned the tide on electric vehicle use. Newfoundland and Labrador once had the lowest number of EVs and charging stations, but Krista is working to reverse that statistic. She is a dynamo with a laser focus on encouraging the adoption of electric vehicles and smart technologies. She works with businesses and policy-makers to bridge funding gaps while educating car buyers and trying to lower EVs’ costs. This is her fourth portfolio as she rises through the utility to achieve even greater goals.
Dr. Courtney Howard
If you doubt the link between climate and health, sit down for a chat with Dr. Courtney Howard. Between her volunteer work with starving children in Djibouti and what she sees daily as an emergency department doctor in Yellowknife, she was inspired to lead the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment. Half of her life is dedicated to the cause, lobbying for policy changes and researching issues like respiratory disease after devastating wildfires. She aims to phase out coal and fracking while ushering in plant-based diets, environment-based health assessments and carbon pricing. In addition to advocating for social change, she is pushing to educate new doctors to assess and track the impact of climate on their patients’ health.
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If you are looking to make the world sparkle a little more, just add jewelry. That is what Rachel does. The CEO and founder of Hillberg and Berk has built a jewelry empire in Saskatchewan and Alberta. However, her baubles have gone further afield, showing up at the Oscars, on Canadian Olympians and even some custom designs for Queen Elizabeth. Based in Regina, she began stringing beads at her kitchen table and now reports millions of dollars in sales. Her merchandise is now made in a world-class facility. She is a Dragons Den success story who hopes to make others find the spark that makes them happy.
When you lose your job, you have a variety of choices ahead of you. For Bobbie Racette, it was the perfect time to create opportunities for others via Virtual Gurus, a matchmaking service for employers and those seeking week. She decided to create a talent marketplace that aligns North American companies with freelancers and virtual assistants. This type of work suited single parents, those looking to work from home or anyone isolated due to mobility issues or by living in a remote community. In the end, she created connections for people who don’t always fit into a corporate box: Indigenous people and members of the LGBTQ+ community. As founder and CEO of Virtual Gurus and askBetty, a Slack app for virtual assistants, she has found a place where she helps marginalized people find value in their work, while being flexible. She is now expanding into the U.S. and launching a training platform. She seems unstoppable.
Claire Elizabeth Williams
Giving money to people living in poverty, rather than agencies, empowers them to change their lives for the better. While it seems obvious, biases against the poor have long led to practices that cost society more in a variety of ways, including health and justice system costs. Claire reinforced this lesson after co-founding Foundations for Social Change with Frans Tjallingii. They began the New Leaf Project in 2018 by directly funding people who were homeless. Two years later, they reported that the $7,500 given to 50 people led to them eating better, finding housing, stabilizing their lives and suffering less violence. At its heart, the project focuses on dignity and autonomy. Claire carries on this work as the group’s CEO.
Young women with disabilities are often overlooked, but Nelly is trying to change that. She is an intersectional feminist, sexual rights, and anti-racism activist and media maker. Over the past 15 years, she has channelled her energy as an outsider, based on an Egyptian growing up in Montreal, to help young women and immigrants. She is the Director of Youth Initiatives and International Relations at DAWN Canada (Disabled Women’s Network Canada). Last year, she and researcher Sonia Alimi created Girls Without Barriers, a report about the gaps in research on what girls with disabilities need to participate more actively in society. Next up, they aim to boost confidence and leadership opportunities within this forgotten demographic.
Anila Lee Yuen
Newcomers to Calgary will find a welcoming warmth from Anila. She is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Centre for Newcomers, a not-for-profit charitable organization that supports Calgary immigrants and economically disadvantaged individuals as they settle in Canada. This includes food hampers with ethnic comfort foods delivered to 6,500 people during COVID-19 lockdowns, plus mental health services, job training and income supports – all offered in 24 different languages. With 25 years in social justice work, Anila was also put in charge of Calgary’s East Zone Newcomer RAPID RESPONSE for COVID-19. She is also the co-chair of the Calgary Local Immigration Partnership and is the vice-chair of the Alberta Association of Immigrant Serving Agencies.
To prevent more people from going hungry during COVID-19 lockdowns, Lori Nikkel, the CEO of Second Harvest, ramped up efforts by Canada’s largest food-rescue organization. Her teams redistributed surplus food in every province and territory across the map. At its worst, more than 1.6 million Canadians are facing hunger or food insecurity for the first time. Under Lori’s leadership, Second Harvest scooped up food from restaurants, food service businesses, and food distribution centres to ensure it wouldn’t go to waste. Instead, that food supplied close to 62,000 meals per day. Second Harvest’s food donation app launched in April to create a funding hub that provided more than $20 million in grocery gift cards and food vouchers.
As the youngest woman to serve as Regional Chief of the National Assembly of First Nations. “Aagé” is a citizen of the Kluane First Nation, from the Dakl’aweidi (Killerwhale) Clan. She works with communities and in her role, she continues to advocate for women and youth who are often not heard in patriarchal societies.
She declared 2020 the “Year of the Youth,’ dedicated to visioning, creating, and prioritizing initiatives to empower youths and women, particularly when it came to climate change. That February, “Shared Heart” was the title of a regional meeting with a focus on intergenerational conversations between youth and elders. In March, the Yukon Region held the AFN National First Nations Climate Gathering, with more than 400 First Nations people, discussed the effects of climate change on First Nations’ communities in the present and the future. The Chief is drawing on First Nations’ matriarchal wisdom to transition towards a sustainable and equitable future.