The Top 25 Women of Influence is designed to celebrate the most influential women in business, health, non-government organizations, professional services, and the public sector over the course of the year. These women have not only made a significant difference in their chosen fields, but they are important role models for future women leaders across Canada.
Chief Human Resources Officer
RBC Financial Group
By Carolyn Patricia Grisold
Zabeen Hirji is passionate about making efficient use of our human resources. Born in Tanzania, Hirji immigrated to Canada at the age of 14. Under the strong female influence of her widowed East Indian mother, Hirji grew up with a take-charge approach to breaking down barriers.
After joining RBC in 1977, Hirji pursued her MBA at Simon Fraser University, and held progressively senior roles in Retail Banking, Operations and Credit Cards. Prior to joining Human Resources in 1997, Hirji was regional manager, Credit Card Operations for Central Canada.
Appointed senior vice president, Human Resources, in 2001, her responsibilities expanded to support RBC’s growth and business strategies.
Hirji reached her current role as chief human resources officer in 2007. In this position she is responsible for human resources as well as brand, communications and corporate citizenship on a global scale.
As a member of RBC Group Executive, she manages over 10 direct reports, contributes to organizational growth, and is one of nine executives responsible for setting the overall strategic direction of RBC. A believer in acknowledging and mentoring strong candidates early in their career, Hirji seeks to fill corporate roles with the best person for the job, no matter their sex, ethnicity or any other perceived “barrier.”
Canada is widely regarded as a country whose people reflect the world’s cultures. Our human resource pool is talented, highly educated, multilingual and connected. Our communities are respected for encouraging a mosaic rather than a melting pot of identities.
While other Western countries cut back on immigration during the recession, the Canadian government kept legal immigration levels high, and in 2010 Canada attracted the highest number of immigrants in 50 years. However, failing to recognize the qualifications and experience of our immigrant population costs the Canadian economy between $3.42 to $4.97 billion per year. There is both a social and economic motivation for inclusion.
Diversity and inclusivity are central to RBC’s success, and in the last few years since Hirji became chief human resources officer, RBC has had a Diversity Leadership Council, chaired by the CEO with membership from senior leaders all across their North American businesses. Within RBC in Canada, almost 40% of the executives are women, over half of all management positions are held by women, and 27% percent of management positions are held by visible minorities.
RBC was honoured with the 2010 Catalyst Award for Diversity because of its innovative organizational approach to increasing the representation of women and visible minorities and other diverse groups at the management level. Both Hirji and her employer know that having a diverse workforce and leadership enriches the organization and the community as a whole. Hirji is constantly interviewed as an expert on diversity – such as by Matt Galloway on Metro Morning this past February – because of the actions RBC is taking but also because of Hirji’s work, outside of the office.
Chief human resources officer Zabeen Hirji’s community leadership and advocacy for inclusion extends beyond her role at RBC – although clearly she and her employer have similar values in this regard – and she currently serves on three boards, as co-chair of the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC), director of the Mosaic Institute and member of the DiverseCity Steering Committee, an initiative of the Greater Toronto CivicAction Alliance.
Accrediting her mother and grandmother for her sense of confidence and focus on achieving her dreams, Hirji has said these influential women taught her by example to include a spirit of compassion as she strives for success.
As vice-chair of The Campaign for Women’s College Hospital, Hirji is able to contribute to another cause that is near and dear to her: women’s advancement. At the inaugural Women for Women’s Annual Luncheon in October 2011 in Toronto, the Campaign raised funds for the Women’s College Hospital’s new, state-of-the-art health care facility Inspired by the hospital’s rich history, Hirji is part of a group of strong and passionate leaders in business and our community that are shaping the future of women’s health.
In 2005 Hirji was named a Fellow of Centennial College in recognition of her international leadership in diversity, highlighting her leadership in building cultural competency and championing the advancement of women, visible minorities and new immigrants.
Hirji was also named Corporate Executive of the Year by the Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce in 2010.
Zabeen Hirji stands behind the business case for inclusion – that women and newcomers to Canada are a large and under-utilized source of human resources, and one that plays an integral role in Canada’s future economic growth.
According to RBC Financial Group’s “The Diversity Advantage: a Case for Canada’s 21st Century Economy,” there could be 400,000 more people employed in Canada if immigrants had the same likelihood of employment at the same average income as people born here. If we achieved identical labour market outcomes for men and women regardless of their birthplace, that figure would rise to 1.3 million. And personal income would rise for Canadians as a whole by 21 percent.
Clearly, being able to fully and effectively incorporate inclusion into human resource strategies, as Hirji does, is a pressing issue in today’s economy.
So much so that the Ontario Liberal Party used this clout in their recent provincial election campaign. Controversial to some, a small step to bridge the existing gap to others, McGuinty promised a one-time 10% wage subsidy to entice businesses to hire and train skilled immigrants. Connecting the dots between newcomers and the economy may seem obvious for large, top-level corporations like RBC, but inclusivity has its rewards in small business as well. Local employment councils like TRIEC, which Hirji co-chairs, aid in the integration of immigrant populations into the workforce.
Being able to empathize with the multicultural citizens she seeks to empower has enabled Hirji to live and breathe her role as a proponent of diversity in the workplace.
Promoted within the last year, Zabeen Hirji demonstrates the success that can be achieved by a determined woman, or a man, who comes to Canada for a better life. Remembering the wisdom imparted by her own mother and grandmother, Hirji pays her success forward by contributing to the growth of those who follow in her footsteps. Like her daughter Aliya, who has been volunteering since the age of 9.
Hirji is no doubt as great an influence in her daughter’s life as her foremothers have been in hers.
Group Head, Direct Channels, Corporate and People Strategies
TD Bank Group
By Carolyn Patricia Grisold
This past May, at the 2011 ALLIES Mentoring Conference in Calgary, Teri Currie addressed attendees on how TD Bank Group made mentoring work for them. An advocate of positive leadership in general, Teri spoke of mentoring skilled immigrants and the benefit it can produce not only in an organization but also in the community.
A long-time mentor with TRIEC (Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council), Currie views mentorship as a reverse learning approach as much as it is a rewarding experience for the mentee. Watching her father apply mentorship principles to his work in academia, Currie was inspired by his approach, and when she entered the workforce she saw how mentorship could equally benefit the financial sector.
Over the last 25 years of her career, Currie has focused on the banking industry, primarily in the human resources and corporate reputation areas. Prior to joining TD in 2004 as senior vice president, Human Resources, Currie held executive HR positions with CIBC World Markets and Wealth Management and various senior line management and human resources positions with Canada Trust.
Currie was appointed executive vice president, Human Resources, at TD in 2005. In 2009 she took on executive leadership of Corporate and Public Affairs, and in 2010 Marketing and Government and Regulatory Affairs, including Corporate Compliance and TD Economics, were added to her portfolio. In 2011 she took on leadership of the Legal Team and Direct Channels (online, phone and ATMs). As a member of TD’s Senior Executive Team, Teri Currie plays a role in determining TD Bank Group’s strategic direction.
She is currently responsible for the bank’s direct channels, legal, talent management and people strategies, compliance and anti-money laundering. Currie is a member of Appleby College’s Board of Directors and its Corporate Governance Committee and is Chair of the TD Pension Fund Society. Previously, Currie served on the Board of Directors of TD Insurance’s regulated insurance entities and chaired its Human Resources and Ethics Committee. She was also a member of the Compensation Committee for the Canadian Bankers’ Association, and served on the National Cabinet of the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation’s Ride to Cure Diabetes. She also served on the Board of Goodwill Industries of Toronto and Career Edge, an organization that connects skilled graduates and internationally qualified professionals with Canadian internship opportunities.
Currie recently accepted the Eterne Award on behalf of TD Bank Group, presented by Tree Canada. A national award, the Eterne is given to an outstanding sponsor of Tree Canada to recognize their environmental stewardship and commitment to improving the lives of Canadians through greening and reforestation projects. She earned an MBA from the Richard Ivey School of Business, University of Western Ontario, and graduated from the University of Calgary with a B.Sc. in Mathematics.
Being able to apply her vast experience in Human Resources towards positively influencing past and present mentees has allowed Currie to continue her reverse learning approach. Teri Currie believes leadership comes from the head and the heart – that doing “what’s right” for your organization, your customers and your community is an integral part of finding success.
Vice-President, Corporate Affairs
by Carolyn Patricia Grisold
Willa Black is changing the world for good, one small act at a time. As vice-president of Corporate Affairs with Cisco Canada, she is responsible for all corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy and programming, Cisco brand extension, strategic partnerships, and external communications including executive speaking platforms.
In short, it’s her job to promote the company’s Human Network. And her influence stretches so much further than her office walls.
It’s not enough today for an organization to simply make donations to charities and consider its responsibility to the community taken care of. Although generosity is always appreciated, that somewhat passive form of contribution is no longer the norm. Companies like Cisco are taking a holistic approach to corporate social responsibility, and engaging with causes in a way that weaves CSR into all areas of business, especially brand awareness.
A company, like an individual, can be defined as charitable, socially responsible, influential – all terms associated with a strong brand and also a great person. And Willa Black lives her Cisco messaging.
Black demonstrates the high standards of an influential woman through simple acts – being aware of the small steps she can take in her daily life to make her world a better place, incorporating these changes into her professional assignments and taking them beyond their original intention to create an international sensation.
A 30-year veteran of the public relations and marketing industry, Black began her career at Ogilvy & Mather Advertising in Toronto. This was followed by 14 years at Royal Trust/Royal Bank where she was director, Public Affairs for the Wealth Management division of RBC.
Since joining Cisco in 1999, she has developed and led groundbreaking, award-winning programming including the One Million Acts of Green (OMAoG) campaign in partnership with the CBC. Thousands of Canadians participated in this national challenge to drive personal commitment towards environmental sustainability, resulting in over 2 million “green acts.” With CBC’s The Hour and its host George Stroumboulopoulos, along with other supporters like David Suzuki, OMAoG went global.
In 2009, the Canadian Marketing Association recognized the campaign and Black, who was Director of Corporate Marketing at the time, with a silver award in the Business Products & Services category.
At around the same time in her career, Black helped launch The Globe and Mail’s Business Incubator. A website created to allow small and medium businesses to access leading-edge tools and information, the Business Incubator helps drive them forward through a dynamic 2.0 environment demonstrating the full potential of the human network.
One of the Canadian ICT industry’s best-known brand champions, Black’s non-linear path into ICT and her insights on how the power of a superbly executed great idea can contribute to career success, has made her a strong mentor and influential woman.
Black has sat on numerous boards, steering committees and councils, including the board of directors for Dignitas International, an organization founded by Dr. James Orbinski and James Fraser, both formerly of Médecins Sans Frontières. Dignitas International’s mandate is that everyone has the right to health and dignity. They provide frontline medical care and training, conduct high-impact research, develop innovative models of care, and advocate for changes in health policy to improve the lives of millions in the developing world.
She has won over 10 awards, been promoted in the last year and has led or closed 10 deals and strategic partnerships this year alone. We can only imagine what small step Willa Black will take next.
Executive Vice President, English Services
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
by Carolyn Patricia Grisold
It’s been called one of the most scrutinized high-profile jobs in Canadian television. And not only did she exceed expectations in it, after five years of constant delivery, she was promoted above it.
In 2006, current executive vice president of English Services Kirstine Stewart became general manager of CBC English Television and was recognized as one of Canada’s Top 40 Under 40, achieving incredible success for both herself and the CBC.
Marketing Magazine named her CBC Media Player of the Year in 2009. Canadian Women in Communications named her 2010 Woman of the Year. She raised revenues and ratings, and oversaw the launch of critically acclaimed Canadian-made programs such as Dragons’ Den, Being Erica, Battle of the Blades and The Hour with George Stroumboulopoulos.
In January 2011, Stewart took over the helm from Richard Stursberg, who had been the executive vice president of English Services since 2004. She is the first woman to ever hold this role.
Overseeing approximately 5,000 employees and a budget of $785 million covering multiple media platforms across the country, Stewart is also responsible for commissioning, producing and promoting CBC programming. Calling upon her 20-year career in broadcasting and television, she has re-established the CBC as a leader in Canadian-made television programming and has commissioned the greatest number of Canadian content hours the national broadcaster has ever had in prime time.
Before joining the CBC, Stewart was senior vice-president, Programming, at Alliance Atlantis. There she was responsible for the programming and management of eight channels, including BBC Canada, National Geographic Canada, and Home and Garden Television.
She has also held the roles of senior vice-president, Programming, at Hallmark Entertainment, where she managed a budget of US$300 million and a staff of 750 in New York, Los Angeles, Denver, Hong Kong, London and Australia.
Her career in the industry began at Paragon International, where well-known Canadian television executive and media consultant Isme Bennie hired Stewart as her receptionist, fresh out of university. Stewart left the company as President, Distribution.
Clearly an influential media player, Stewart lends her expertise to several boards on which she currently sits – including the Banff Television and Film Festival, White Knights and Amfar. She is a member of the Forum of Young Global Leaders, selected to advise the World Economic Forum, as well as a founding board member of Culture Days.
The eldest daughter of British immigrants to Canada, Kirstine Stewart believes that Canadians have always expected their public broadcaster to reflect, engage and inspire them, and she is committed to recognizing and respecting Canada’s unique attributes.
Kirstine Stewart was a runner-up in our social media poll to select the woman to grace the cover of this special Top 25 Women of InfluenceTM issue! Congratulations!
Founder & CEO
Indigo Books and Music
By Carolyn Patricia Grisold
Heather Reisman founded Indigo Books & Music Inc. in 1996 to fill a consumer need. She wanted to create a book-lover’s cultural department store.
With big box stores booming, Indigo became the go-to place for literary goods, eventually acquiring rival Chapters in 2001 to form the largest book retailer in Canada.
And now, 10 years later, Reisman is facing another challenge – the digital era.
Adapting her bookstores to the current consumer need has Reisman reinstalling those inviting armchairs, working on an expanded role for Starbucks, enhancing Indigo’s housewares offerings and embracing this new demand for digital books.
The wave of change that washed through music and video retailing has hit book sellers, forcing them to redefine their business model. In response, Indigo is working together with Kobo, in which it has a majority stake, to provide consumers with a growing selection of e-reader tomes. As well as excelling in her role as CEO and chair of Indigo Books & Music Inc., Reisman is chair of the Board at Kobo Inc.
Prior to founding Indigo, Heather Reisman’s career focused on strategic change at Paradigm Consulting, and growth and development at Cott Corporation. She is also a former governor of McGill University and the Toronto Stock Exchange.
Over the span of her career she has served on numerous boards, including currently for Mount Sinai Hospital, Bilderberg, Onex Corporation and Right to Play, and has sat on many other North American boards, including J. Crew, Magna International, Williams-Sonoma, and Rogers Communications Inc. She has also been recently named editor-at-large of Huffington Post Canada.
Reisman not only rigorously keeps up with the times in business. She is also passionate about giving back.
In 2006 she founded the Indigo Love of Reading Foundation, of which she is chair, with a mission to enrich libraries in under-resourced public schools.
Reisman was named 2011 Distinguished Retailer of the Year by the Retail Council of Canada, among being honoured with over a dozen awards for her successes. These accolades have included Toronto Life’s Women Who Make a Difference Award in 1993, Chatelaine’s Women of Influence in 1996 and 2001, the co-recipient of the Canadian Youth Business Foundation Lifetime Entrepreneurial Achievement Award in 2005, and the Retail Council of Canada’s Distinguished Retailer of the Year this past June. Reisman has also been granted three honourary doctorate degrees from Mount Allison, Wilfried Laurier and Ryerson universities.
With awards like these – and the way she has shaped Indigo from a bookstore into an empire – Reisman is quite rightly a woman of influence, and has been one for some time.
In the midst of all her innovations and transformations, Heather Reisman is returning to her initial intention of offering consumers what they want to able to keep up with their changing preferences. Not just as a bookseller, but as a retailer in general. And her influence over what’s coming next stretches far off the page.
Dr. Eve Tsai
Neurosurgeon, Division of Neurosurgery
University of Ottawa
by Erica Scime
Each day that Dr. Eve Tsai goes to work, whether as a neurosurgeon or a researcher at The Ottawa Hospital or as a mentor to students at the University of Ottawa, she is one step closer to finding a cure for spinal cord injuries.
Dr. Tsai was born in Saskatoon but spent the majority of her school years in Edmonton. It was here, when Dr. Tsai was in high school, that she first became interested in nerve, brain and spinal cord injury. Being a bright and motivated student, Dr. Tsai had won a scholarship to work in an organic chemistry lab during the summer. Here she learned a great deal about nerve, brain and spinal cord injury and even met the mentor that inspired her to pursue the work she does today. Then, in 1991, when Dr. Tsai was just 19 years old, she was accepted into the medical school at the University of Toronto – without even having a degree.
Four years later Dr. Tsai began her residency at the University of Toronto and received her PhD from the Institute of Medical Science in 2004. She then moved to Ohio for one year to complete a fellowship in spine surgery at the Cleveland Clinic. In 2006, Dr. Tsai moved back to Canada to join The Ottawa Hospital, leading their research of spinal cord injury. In the five years that Dr. Tsai has worked at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, she and her team have made leaps and bounds in the field of spinal cord injury.
One such advancement was an MRI imaging technique that Dr. Tsai and her team developed. The technique allows surgeons to use an MRI scan to view a patient’s spinal cord nerve fibre tracts so that they can tell which ones are healthy and which ones are unhealthy. This has not only allowed surgeons to study and learn about the spinal cord injuries that they deal with but may also provide a sort of “road map” to developing new therapies.
Thanks to Dr. Tsai, The Ottawa Hospital is the first in the world to use this MRI imaging technique clinically and many patients from outside Canada are now referred to The Ottawa Hospital to receive this treatment.
Taking her research one step further, Dr. Tsai has also begun a research group at The Ottawa Hospital that focuses on stem cells and tissue engineering in hopes of finding a way to repair the spinal cord after injury. Already, the group has developed different types of tubes that can help to stabilize the damaged areas of the spinal cord and can help it to regenerate. So far, the lab results have been promising and Dr. Tsai hopes to soon be able to use the tubes on patients. Dr. Tsai says that part of what inspires her in her work is how close she and her team have come to finding a cure for spinal cord injury. Not to mention the fact that what they have learned about spinal cord repair can also be applied to brain injuries and strokes, widening the impact of her research for many patients.
Along with her research, Dr. Tsai is also a neurosurgeon at The Ottawa Hospital where she removes spinal tumours and treats spinal cord injuries. Working as a surgeon, Dr. Tsai says, is a constant reminder of why she does the work that she does. Many of the patients that Dr. Tsai treats are young people who were in car accidents or were injured playing sports. Many of these patients are paralyzed. Being able to repair a patient’s spinal cord, she says, would be like giving a patient his or her life back. It is the prospect of one day being able to do this that drives Dr. Tsai in her work.
As if surgery and research were not enough, she also works with high school students and university students at the University of Ottawa. Dr. Tsai recalls how much of an impact her mentor had on her as a high school student and so she dedicates her time to being a mentor for young students who wish to take further the work that she performs today. Given her position as a surgeon, a researcher and a role model, Dr. Tsai has already received over 50 humanitarian, research and teaching awards including Canada’s Top 40 Under 40 and the Young Clinician Investigator Award from the American Association of Neurological Surgeons.
It is no surprise that Dr. Tsai says she often feels that she is doing two or three things at once – she has sat on 33 boards, and is currently the president elect of Women in Neurosurgery (WINS). She has also supervised and mentored over 51 students and employees in academic, health care and research careers. Her strong work ethic makes for long, busy days. But for Dr. Tsai, the hours that she puts in are more than worth it when she sees the end results. Dr. Tsai’s dedication to her work in spinal cord injury not only has the potential to touch the lives of many patients, but it is also an inspiration to her mentees who will advance her work.
Dr. Tsai’s influence clearly extends beyond the hospital and into the social media sphere to secure her place on the cover of Women of Influence Magazine’s inaugural Top 25 Women of Influence™ issue. Readers were asked to vote for which of the Top 25 women they wanted to see on the cover, and Dr. Tsai won by a landslide. She also pays credit to the Cleveland Clinic and Women in Neurosurgery, as well as the University of Ottawa, The Ottawa Hospital and the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute for this feat. And with a track record like hers – and a future shining brightly ahead – we are sure this will not be the last time Dr. Eve Tsai graces the newsstands.
Mary Jo Haddad
President & Chief Executive Officer
The Hospital for Sick Children
by Erica Scime
From the time she began to study nursing as a young woman, Mary Jo Haddad has had a thirst to learn and grow. Today, as president and CEO of The Hospital for Sick Children, one of the world’s foremost paediatric health care institutions, Haddad is as open to learning and growing as ever.
Haddad went to the University of Windsor, to study nursing and then earned her master’s in Health Science Administration at the University of Toronto. She went on to work as a nurse at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan for eight years. Haddad then came to SickKids in 1984 where she held many leadership roles over the years. But her most noted role came in 2004 when Haddad was made president and CEO of the hospital.
Haddad has taken the SickKids vision to heart and dedicated herself to making this vision a reality. Among the key ways to do this, Haddad says, is to collaborate, integrate and share with other health centres in the province, the country and even around the world. She created SickKids International to focus the impact of that collaboration and in 2008, SickKids began to advise on the development and operation of a new, state-of-the-art children’s hospital in Qatar. SickKids staff provide expert counsel in such areas as paediatric clinical services, inter-professional practice and education, family-centred care and research. Working collaboratively with others opens you to many new ideas, Haddad says. She believes an open mind is invaluable for a leader to have.
The type of innovation represented by the Qatar collaboration (and award-winning business model), is formalized in SickKids five-year strategic plan developed under Haddad’s leadership.
SickKids is committed to promoting the adoption of innovative practices across the organization and globally. With Haddad’s example, SickKids leaders are active in creating and reinforcing an environment where innovation is encouraged.
Haddad also lectures at the University of Toronto and is a mentor to aspiring leaders. When Haddad began to work as a nurse she had a mentor who inspired her to be more of a leader. By lecturing and mentoring, Haddad hopes to inspire others to be leaders in their own work.
Although Haddad says that working for the lives of children is a reward in and of itself, she has received over 10 awards, including being made a Member of the Order of Canada in 2010, holds an honorary doctor of laws degree from the University of Windsor and won the Premier’s Award for Outstanding Achievement.
Haddad has sat on seven boards, as chair of the MaRS Innovation Board, chair of the Council of Academic Hospitals of Ontario, and chair of the Provincial Council for Maternal and Child Health.
Mary Jo Haddad’s desire to learn and grow is what makes her a true leader in health care.
President & Chief Executive Officer
Trillium Health Centre
by Erica Scime
Janet Davidson says the reason that she got into nursing was to help people. In 2007 Davidson was named president and CEO of Trillium Health Centre, one of Canada’s largest hospitals. Trillium is a two-site health centre with one site in Mississauga and the other in West Toronto.
It has over 800 beds, 5000 staff, physicians and volunteers and is home to one of the largest ambulatory surgical centres in North America. Also an active Canadian Red Cross/Red Crescent volunteer, Davidson has gone on to help more people than she ever could have imagined.
After studying nursing at the Toronto East General Hospital, Davidson earned her bachelor of science degree in nursing at the University of Windsor before going on to achieve a master’s in Health Services Administration at the University of Alberta.
Before joining Trillium, she was chief operating officer, Vancouver Acute, with the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority. Prior to that, Janet served as president and chief executive officer of Toronto East General Hospital. She has also served as Assistant Deputy Minister of Health for Alberta, chief operating officer of Capital Health Authority in Edmonton and vice president of the University of Alberta Hospital.
In addition to her responsibilities at Trillium, she acted as interim president and CEO of the Kingston General Hospital from July to December 2008, while that hospital was under government supervision.
At Trillium, Davidson works tirelessly to not only improve the quality of care within her facilities, but also to improve access to care for patients in and out of the region. In fact, just earlier this year, it was announced that Trillium would be merging with the nearby Credit Valley Hospital. Their intent behind the merger is to improve patient care and access and reduce administrative overlap and duplication. No front-line staff reductions will occur, but there will only be one board of directors and CEO, instead of two. An expert on regional health care, Davidson says that the merger will allow health care providers to take better care of patients. It is what she, and everyone else at Trillium and Credit Valley, got into health care to do, Davidson says.
But Davidson’s care for others does not stop at Trillium. She is also very involved with the International Red Cross / Red Crescent, and is currently honorary vice president of the Canadian Red Cross. Davidson started out caring for HIV/AIDS and malaria patients in Africa, working with victims of conflict in war-torn countries. She worked her way up to become president of the Canadian Red Cross, vice president of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and finally vice chairman of the Standing Commission of the Red Cross and Red Crescent. After 30 years of service to the Red Cross and Red Crescent, Davidson was given the Order of the Red Cross. To Davidson, working with the Red Cross is as fulfilling as nursing or even as leading the Trillium Health Centre because they both allow her to give back in a profound way.
Davidson is a member of the Canadian College of Health Leaders, and serves on many boards including the Health Insurance Reciprocal of Canada, the Canadian Institute for Health Information, the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, and ECHO: Improving Women’s Health in Ontario. She was recently elected as chair of the board of the Ontario Hospital Association.
Among the many awards she has received, Davidson is an Officer of the Order of Canada for her international work with the Red Cross/Red Crescent and more locally for her efforts during SARS. She received an honorary doctorate of laws degree from the University of Windsor and is a recipient of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal.
It goes without saying that Davidson has likely helped more people than she ever intended. Her caring heart and untiring mind have made Janet Davidson a force for change in the lives of patients both at home and abroad.
Chief Executive Officer
Pharmasave Drugs (National) Ltd.
by Erica Scime
In 2007 Sue Paish shocked many when she went from top lawyer at one of the country’s most reputable law firms, to CEO of Vancouver based Pharmasave Drugs retail pharmacy chain.
Paish was born and raised in British Columbia until the age of 10 when her parents sent her to a school in England for three years. Paish then left home again at 16 to study commerce and law at the University of British Columbia, heeding her parents’ advice to always go after what she wanted.
In 1983 Paish was hired at Russell & DuMoulin (now Fasken Martineau), a leading Canadian law firm, where she spent many years working her way up the ranks. In 2000, Paish was appointed Managing Partner of the firm. By the end of her six-year term as Managing Partner, Paish had led the firm through a major merger and global expansion to eight offices on three continents. While doing this, Paish made a strong name for herself as one of Canada’s Top 25 Women Lawyers by Lexpert – but she was ready for her next challenge.
When Paish decided to move on from law, there was no shortage of job offers – including one for CEO of Pharmasave. Paish had no experience in pharmacy or retail, but the challenge of taking a job so outside of her field was appealing. She embraced the challenge and with the support of her Board, took on the lead role during one of the most tumultuous and ‘interesting’ times in retail pharmacy in decades. Paish’s strategic vision and work ethic has earned her the respect of her coworkers and the industry and resulted in notable increases in the profile and success of Pharmasave. Recently Paish was one of the leads in the creation of PharmAlliance, a strategic alliance between Pharmasave, and Halifax based PharmaChoice, creating one of the largest pharmacy retail organizations in the country.
Paish also keeps busy with an intense commitment to the community. She chaired the Vancouver Board of Trade, and founded the Womens’ Leadership Circle. She also currently sits as a director of the Rick Hansen Foundation and chairs the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research. No matter how busy she is at Pharmasave, Paish always finds time for the community – a dedication that is a hallmark of her leadership.
Paish has been recognized as one of Vancouver’s Most Influential Women in Business, is the recipient of the UBC Faculty of Law Alumni Award of Distinction, one of Vancouver’s ‘Power 50’ and recipient of a Queen’s Counsel designation.
Her list of roles, titles and awards may be long, but Paish continues to be driven by her desire to push herself, to take chances and to learn new things. It is because of this zest for life that Sue Paish is a role model for women who may be looking to take a risk or make a change in their work, just like she did.
Dr. Jennifer Blake
Chief of Obstetrics and Gynaecology
Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
by Erica Scime
As an expert in women’s health and a leader in health care, Dr. Jennifer Blake knows first hand what it means to stand up for what is right and to work hard for the well-being of others.
Dr. Blake studied Biology at the University of Waterloo before going to McMaster University for medical school where she developed an interest in gynaecology and menopause – both of which she pursued after she graduated.
She is a former chief of Paediatric Gynaecology at the Hospital for Sick Children, and was the undergraduate dean of McMaster University Medical School from 1991 to 1997. Today, Dr. Blake is chief of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto where she holds seminars, along with her regular clinical work. She is also vice chair of the Genesis Research Foundation, chair of the Canadian Foundation for Women’s Health, as well as professor and associate chair of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Toronto. It goes without saying that Blake is not only an expert on women’s health, but that she has become an advocate for it.
Perhaps one of Blake’s most important contributions to women’s health came in 2009, when she and a panel of other doctors authored and published what is known as “The Update” in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada. The Update was a response to a study published in 2002 that claimed that hormone therapy was unsafe for women as it could cause breast cancer, heart disease and cognitive decline. As a result, many women and their doctors were hesitant to use hormone therapy to treat menopause. The results of The Update revealed that the claims made in the 2002 study were overstated and that, in fact, hormone therapy often does not increase the risk of these health concerns.
As Blake says, there is no “one size fits all approach” to menopause and that a woman and her doctor should always look at things like timing and age when they are deciding how to treat menopause. The Update not only gives peace of mind to women who use hormone therapy now but also provides new options to women who may be approaching it later.
With more and more Canadian women reaching the age of menopause each year, Blake’s work in menopause, and in other areas of gynaecology and women’s health, will be of tremendous use. It is not just for the weight of her research that she is considered an influential woman, but also the strength and resolve it took to pursue it.
President and Chief Executive Officer
by Alison Palkhivala
Rosemary McCarney’s professional life began on Wall Street as a corporate lawyer. Even then, her call to contribute to the developing world was strong.
In 1985, while the world was focused on the plight of Ethiopia thanks to the efforts of Bob Geldof and his seminal Live Aid concert, McCarney was quietly volunteering her time at a clinic in West Africa. She was on the frontline of a new battle – against HIV and AIDS, and she saw firsthand how it could destroy lives and families.
Through her volunteer involvement, McCarney was inspired to eventually bid Wall Street farewell to become a leader in global humanitarian efforts. More than six years ago, while running the NGO Street Kids International, she was recruited by Plan International Canada Inc. when they were looking for a new CEO. Today, she is president and CEO of the organization commonly known as Plan Canada.
Founded in 1937 as Foster Parents Plan, Plan International is one of the oldest and largest international development agencies in the world. Plan’s vision is to foster a world in which children have the opportunity to reach their full potential in societies that respect people’s rights and dignity. They pursue this vision by working directly with communities in more than almost 70 countries in the developing world to improve education, build important infrastructure such as schools, provide vocational training, innovate to improve crop yields, provide loans for small businesses, and much more. Todate, Plan has worked with more than 119.3 million people worldwide.
McCarney brings a world of experience to her role at Plan. In her extensive work in law, business, and the not-for-profit sector, she has had the opportunity to work in more than 100 countries. She is a recognized expert in the area of public policy, particularly as it pertains to children, and frequently speaks on the topic for both radio and television. Rosemary McCarney was the keynote speaker at the Deloitte Women of Influence Luncheon in Ottawa on November 3, 2011, sharing her wisdom on the topic of achieving global impact.
McCarney also puts her experience as a world traveler to good use at Plan. Meeting new people and cultures means that she is able to quickly develop a positive rapport with governments and groups all over the world. Then, she comes home to share their experience with Canadian donors or generate partnerships with NGOs to promote investment in those parts of the world that are most in need.
In order to convince Canadians to get on board with complex projects simultaneously in multiple countries, McCarney has learned to act as a kind of cultural translator.
To help promote her message about bringing aid to those in need, McCarney is a regular blogger for The Huffington Post. In that capacity, she has written about myriad topics relating to the developing world and the work of Plan Canada. These include the need to secure girls with access to technology, the spread of cholera in Cameroon, ongoing famine in Africa, and the positive impact that investing in girls can also have for boys.
During her tenure at Plan, McCarney’s many accomplishments include sector-leading growth in revenues, expanding the organization into Darfur, and acting as a driving force behind their “Because I am a Girl” initiative, which advocates for girls’ rights and opportunities as part of lifting them and their families out of poverty.
Responding directly to criticism that the “Because I am a Girl” campaign neglects boys, Plan Canada has been quick to point out the ripple effect that helping girls in the developing world can have for boys. Lifting women and girls out of poverty improves the economy of entire villages. Also, Plan recognizes that improving the lives of girls and women involves teaching boys and men that traditional practices such as those condoning the abuse of female members of the family or forcing them to give up all autonomy can have a negative impact on entire communities. Their latest report has revealed that children are happier seeing their parents share both chores and decision-making responsibilities.
Looking forward, McCarney’s publicly stated goals include seeing the G20 Summit result in firm commitments and accountability for both maternal and child health. She points out that such a goal should not be interpreted as charity but rather a means of developing good, solid economic and social policy. She has also reported for The Globe and Mail about the need to continue to support Haiti. While apparent lack of progress and disasters elsewhere in the world have taken the international focus off this earthquake-ravished island, McCarney reports that the magnitude of the disaster means rebuilding must be expected to take a good 10 to 15 years. Her own visit to Haiti reassured her that the locals are beginning to regain their hope and that conditions have improved.
Having received her law degree from the University of Western Ontario and her MBA from Case Western Reserve University, McCarney has taught both international and constitutional law. She has also worked on international economic development issues with organizations that include the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation, USAID, and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).
Having been a member of 15 boards for the private sector, not-for-profit, and community organizations, McCarney shares her expertise widely. She is currently a board member of The Humanitarian Coalition, and the Advisory Board of the Canada US Law Institute. McCarney has won nine awards, including being named Chatelaine’s 2011 Woman of the Year.
Despite all her success, Rosemary McCarney never forgets that caring for children begins at home, and even with her busy schedule and many responsibilities, she prides herself on maintaining a close relationship with her own three children.
Founder and Past President
The Body Shop Canada
by Alison Palkhivala
Philanthropist, activist and entrepreneur Margot Franssen is best known for being founder of The Body Shop Canada, where she is also its past-president. During her time with the company, she helped develop its national public awareness and fundraising campaign, “Stop the Violence Against Women.”
Together with the Canadian Women’s Foundation, this campaign helped raise more than $1 million for violence prevention and recovery programs. The Body Shop also raised money so that Outward Bound could provide wilderness training to abused women in order to help them get in touch with their own innate courage and promote their emotional and physical recovery.
Since selling The Body Shop in 2004, Franssen has become involved with Women Moving Millions, where she is currently co-chair. Women Moving Millions is a worldwide philanthropic effort to inspire gifts of a million dollars or more to organizations and initiatives that advance and empower women and girls. She is also dedicating her time to her former collaborator, the Canadian Women’s Foundation, Canada’s only national foundation aimed at helping women and girls reach their full economic and social potential.
The Foundation raises money to research, fund, and share the best approaches for ending violence against women, lifting women out of poverty, and building strong, resilient girls. Since 1993 Franssen has served on the board of the Canadian Women’s Foundation and is co-chair of their Endowment Campaign.
Before trekking off alone to England to convince Anita Roddick, original founder of The Body Shop, that she was the person to make the company a success in Canada, Franssen had long been involved in women’s and human rights issues. In 1995, she attended the United Nation’s Fourth World Conference on Women. There, she presented the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights with a petition containing more than a million signatures that called for all nations to recognize that “Women’s Rights are Human Rights.” Franssen’s passion for women’s rights began when she learnt that 51% of women in Canada have experienced violence.
Franssen has always been determined to succeed despite the disadvantages afforded her gender, and that success has been recognized. In 1991 she was appointed to the York University Secretariat Board of Governors and was made an Honorary Governor in 2003. Franssen has also served on the Advisory Committee for the Dalai Lama’s Visit to Canada as well as held additional board positions with the World Wildlife Fund, the Salvation Army Advisory Board, Toronto Family Service Association, Outward Bound, the York University Foundation, the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, the York University Foundation, Women’s College Hospital and the Women’s Funding Network. She has served on the Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, and on the International Human Rights Jury.
Franssen has received over 50 awards for her achievements. For her involvement with the “Stop The Violence Against Women” campaign, she was awarded a United Nations Grand Award. In 2002, she was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada, where she received the Queen Jubilee Award. She also received the Outstanding Achievement in the Advancement of Women Award from UNIFEM in 2004.
Franssen obtained an undergraduate degree from York University in 1970 and is a fellow of Ryerson Polytechnic University. She has also received honorary degrees from the University of Windsor and Mount Saint Vincent University.
President and Co-Founder
Beyond Borders/ECPAT Canada
by Alison Palkhivala
Rosalind Prober was horrified to learn how easily sexual offenders against children can avoid criminal punishment in many parts of the world. In 1993, armed with the support of her criminal lawyer husband, she started working to close a legal loophole in the Canadian Criminal Code, which failed to protect Canadian children abroad or foreign children from Canadian predators.
Her efforts led to the implementation in 1996 of the “Prober Amendment” to Canada’s child sex tourism legislation. With this new legislation, any Canadian who engages in crimes related to child sexual abuse or child pornography in a foreign country can be held accountable under Canadian law. The change makes “sex holidays” to child prostitution hotspots in the developing world less attractive to Canadians.
That same year, Prober took a trip to Sweden to attend a global conference on child sex tourism. The trip was a seminal event in her life, as she met fellow Canadian Mark Eric Hecht, a children’s rights lawyer. Both shared concern about the plight of sexually abused and exploited children worldwide. In an effort to make a positive change, they founded Beyond Borders.
As its president, Prober shaped Beyond Borders into a national bilingual volunteer organization dedicated to advancing the rights of children around the world to be free from sexual abuse and exploitation. While based in Canada, the organization has a worldwide influence. It functions as Canada’s representative to ECPAT International (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes), a worldwide NGO headquartered in Bangkok, Thailand, that has more than 80 groups in 75 countries.
The primary mandates of Beyond Borders are to raise awareness about the problem of child sexual abuse and exploitation, advocate for improvements in legislation, monitor court cases for human rights violations, promote and support effective prevention and intervention initiatives, intervene in court cases to provide a voice for victims, and provide training and education.
While Beyond Borders remains at its heart a grassroots organization, recent support from The Body Shop has permitted them to launch the Stop Sex Trafficking of Children and Young People campaign in Canada and 50 other countries. Support from The Body Shop has also allowed for the implementation of their “Man-to-Man” campaign, for which Beyond Borders has enlisted high-profile men to speak out against child sexual abuse.
Prober’s other efforts at helping to protect our most vulnerable citizens include founding Cybertip.ca, Canada’s national tipline for reporting online sexual victimization. She speaks regularly about child sex tourism, internet luring, child pornography, sexual abuse in polygamy, commercial child sexual exploitation, and trafficking.
President and Executive Director
by Alison Palkhivala
Dianne Lister has long been a leader in the Canadian philanthropic and not-for-profit scene.
In May 2011, she was appointed president and executive director of the Royal Ontario Museum Board of Governors (ROM Governors). In this capacity, she oversees the Board’s efforts to maintain the long-term financial health of the ROM, one of Canada’s largest museums, with such activities as fundraising and fostering sustainable relationships that are valuable to both the institution and its donors.
She will also help implement the ROM Governors’ current mandate, which includes improving visitor accessibility, developing digital content, promoting education, and developing new programming and exhibits.
Prior to joining the ROM Governors, Lister was vice president of External Relations & Advancement at Trent University, the same university where she obtained her undergraduate degree in 1971. In this position, she helped develop a refreshed philanthropic vision for the university. Her accomplishments there include establishing a ground-breaking campaign with a goal to raise $50 million in new investment to celebrate Trent’s 50th anniversary. Lister also developed Trent’s innovative Centres of Knowledge philanthropic model.
Before Trent, Lister was president and CEO of SickKids Foundation, the largest hospital foundation in North America, which raises funds for The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. During her 10-year tenure there, annual revenues increased from $6 million to $50 million, endowments from $125 million to $500 million, and SickKids’ annual donor base from 70,000 to 110,000. It was also under Lister’s leadership that SickKids Foundation launched its first endowment campaign, “Help Make SickKids Better.”
Lister has headed her own consulting service, the Dianne Lister Group, which provided customized services to the non-profit and philanthropic sector. Her services included designing and conducting organizational and fundraising audits, developing strategic business plans and customized training associated with major gifts and campaigns, and providing ethics consultations.
Lister has also lent her philanthropic expertise to the Metro Toronto District of the Canadian Cancer Society and to the Catholic Children’s Aid Society.
Currently sitting on three boards, she has served on the Board of Directors of Cedara Software Corporation and as a trustee of the Ivy Funds. She is a member of the International Association of Fundraisers (AFP), where she served as the inaugural chair of the Board of the AFP, Canadian Council, as well as chair of its International Ethics Committee. She is the first Canadian ever to hold this position.
For her philanthropic efforts, Lister has received many awards, including the AMS/John Hodgson Award for outstanding leadership in 2004 from the Ontario Bar Association, as well as the International Outstanding Fundraising Executive of the Year Award in 2002, given by the AFP – another Canadian first. Lister has been a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE) since 1995.
After obtaining her undergraduate degree from Trent, Dianne Lister went on to obtain a law degree from Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto. She is a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada and the Canadian and Ontario Bar Associations. Lister also holds a certificate in Magazine Journalism from Ryerson University, and has taken the Harvard-MIT Program in Negotiation.
The Belinda Stronach Foundation
by Alison Palkhivala
Farah Mohamed has long had her feet firmly planted in the political arena. She started her political career in 1995 with the Honourable Paddy Torsney. From there she moved on to act as director of Communications for the Honourable Anne McLellan in her role as Minister of Justice, Minister of Health, and Deputy Prime Minister of Canada.
As president of The Belinda Stronach Foundation (TBSF), Mohamed uses her political and media savvy to highlight the needs of youth in Canada and abroad. TBSF provides opportunities for girls and young women, as well as aboriginal youth in Canada and youth in developing countries. Their mission is to advance human potential and achievement through individual empowerment and social change. They follow that mission by working in partnership with individuals, other foundations, NGOs, governments, and businesses both large and small to create opportunities for disadvantaged youth and women to better their lives through enhancement of basic health and education, improvements in economic and political independence, and promotion of civic involvement.
Mohamed’s achievements while president of the TBSF include the creation and launch of their flagship programs, The G(irls)20 Summit and One Laptop Per Child Canada. She also oversaw the Foundation’s work in Liberia with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and a humanitarian relief effort in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake.
Mohamed’s message of empowering women and youth can be heard around the globe. She is the anchor member co-leading the 2011 Action Network: Investing in Girls and Women at Home and Abroad for the Clinton Global Initiative (New York). She has been featured on the front page of The Globe and Mail about her views on the rights of women in Afghanistan. She currently writes a weekly column for the newspaper about giving back and socially conscious living. Her speaking engagements have included International Women’s Day in Canada, The Impact of Empowering Girls & Women in an Emerging Democracy in Sudan, Creating Safe Spaces for Girls in France, and the Empowerment of Girls in Scotland.
Prior to taking on her position at the TBSF, Mohamed was vice president of Public Affairs for the Victorian Order of Nurses (VON), Canada’s largest national, not-for-profit, charitable home and community care organization. VON offers more than 75 different home care, personal support, and community services.
Mohamed does more than talk the talk. She also walks the walk – right up to the 19,340-foot summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, raising $21,000 for the Canadian Liver Foundation and the VON Canada Foundation.
Mohamed has served on 10 boards, including as a past board member of the Ontario Trillium Foundation and a member of the Executive Committee for the Brazilian Ball 2010 and Maharaja Ball 2010. She has also served as a member of the Board of the Fred Victor Centre and as a mentor to new Canadians. Currently she’s a committee member for the Canadian Club of Toronto, as well as Hope Live.
Mohamed has led or closed 37 deals this year and contributes directly to TBSF growth.
She received her bachelor of arts degree at Queens University and master of arts degree from the University of Western Ontario, both in the field of Political Science.
Farah Mohamed was a runner-up in our social media poll to select the woman to grace the cover of this special Top 25 Women of InfluenceTM issue! Congratulations!
Managing Partner and Chief Executive
Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP
by Himani Ediriweera
When one of Canada’s largest mining houses, Inco ltd., tried to acquire Falconbridge, proposed combining it with Phelps Dodge, and was then acquired by Brazil’s Companhia Vale do Rio Doce, Dale Ponder was in the center of it all.
That deal, worth almost $19 billion and one of the most compelling and complex, secured (CVRD) Inco as the fifth largest nickel, copper, iron ore producer in the world.
Ponder is the managing partner and chief executive of Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP, and a senior member of its Mergers and Acquisitions practice. She was also a keynote speaker of the Deloitte Women of Influence Luncheon Series in 2007.
One of the world’s top deal makers, Ponder is recognized as a leading corporate mergers and acquisitions lawyer by several legal ranking services. She has been recognized by the Best Lawyers in Canada guide, the Lexpert/American Lawyer Guide to the Leading 500 Lawyers in Canada, and captured a dozen additional recognition prizes in recent years.
As a wife and mother of two, the business-savvy lawyer found the perfect balance between her professional and personal success. Ponder lends her hand to the 2011 United Way Toronto Major Individual Giving Cabinet and is a member of St. Michael’s Hospital Board. She has also served as past chair of the Firm’s Corporate Finance Practice Group, a member of the Securities Advisory Committee to the Ontario Securities Commission and a special lecturer at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law.
Ponder maintains a busy schedule and continues to practice under her role as managing partner with her Toronto firm. She is a member of the firm’s Executive Committee and heads the firm’s Operations Committee, comprised of practice heads and local office managing partners.
With almost 500 lawyers across Canada and an office in New York, Osler is a leading firm practising national and international business law with a broad range of global clients. Despite Osler’s geographic spread, they use strong local managing partnerships in each local office to create a cohesive unit, developing one-firm model.
Ponder represents Canadian market leaders in various industry sectors with cross-border and international business interests, including financial services, mining, consumer and pension plan sectors. She has extensive transaction experience leading domestic and multiple jurisdiction transactions relating to public and private mergers and acquisition matters and public offerings.
Representative transactions include the acquisition of Oxford Properties Group by OMERS by take-over bid, Inco’s acquisition of Class VBN “tracking stock” in a going private transaction and UPM-Kymmene’s acquisition of Repap Enterprises in a combined recapitalization and amalgamation.
Ponder has always been interested in business and how businesses are run, and has participated in numerous panels relating to M&A, corporate finance and securities law topics.
Having taken on the role of managing partner, Dale Ponder is one of the rare women in the top ranks of law firm management in Canada, but not the first at Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP, which has progressive firm female leadership in its past and present. A number of women have held senior leadership roles, leading some of Osler’s largest departments, so women in leadership continues to be a rewarding attribute with the firm.
Ponder was interviewed in the March 2011 cover story of Lexpert Magazine, “Women at the Top” by Julius Melnitzer. Lexpert surveyed women managing partners across Canada for their views on how gender affects leadership styles, decision-making, and management techniques. One of six female managing partners interviewed, Ponder agreed that individual management styles transcend gender differences. She believes that management is about the “tone from the top” and the merit-based opportunities that individual law firms provide.
Osler has been a leader among law firms when it comes to increasing the ranks of women in senior management positions. Jean Fraser became the firm’s first female managing partner in 1993, until Ponder took the helm, later becoming partner of the firm, along with other women in notable positions.
Osler continues to help in the professional development of women in the legal profession with its longstanding participation in the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management and The Judy Project, which helps senior women leaders.
The firm also supports a number of other initiatives, including Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) that helps women lawyers with their annual “Person’s Day Breakfast,” commemorating the 1929 case that permit women to the Senate and included them as “persons” under the law.
The National Survey on the Retention and Promotion of Women in Law Firms (U.S., the Canadian branch was closed in 2006) annually tracks the progress of women lawyers at all levels of practice. Its latest study (2010) shows women continue to be markedly underrepresented in the leadership ranks of firms. Only about 15% of equity partners are women, a number little changed over the last five years.
The study also showed 46% are associates, 36% are counsel, 27% are non-equity partner. And, 85% of these women partners earned less of what their male counterparts.
A growing number of firms feature tiered partnerships, and women disproportionately show as 73% of fixed income equity partners with no share in profits, and as only 6% of all equity partners. Women fared better in one-tier partnerships, with 18% of equity positions compared to 14% at two-tier partnerships. About 10% of the nation’s largest firms had no women in their governing committees, and 40% has just one. More than 80% of firms have two women or fewer.
Throughout her career, Ponder has sat on a number of boards. In her current role, she is the chief executive of her Firm and manages 15 direct reports.
Clearly, Dale Ponder is setting the bar high for female law practitioners. She recommends law as a great career choice for women who are intellectually curious, but she cautions that finding life-work balance differs between women. She recommends women strategically plan for both their personal and professional lives, and actively seek out mentors to help forge the intersection between the two.
Partner, Audit & Advisory Services, Public Sector Group
Deloitte & Touche LLP
by Himani Ediriweera
Few people receive the distinction of having a spirit award named after them. In 2009, Deloitte established the “The Lynda Bowles Spirit Award,” an internal award designed after a tireless supporter in the advancement of professional women in Canada.
Through her mentorship to career women and her representation, senior partner Lynda Bowles fuelled a significant increase for women in her industry.
The award, in her namesake, is now given annually to a Deloitte woman who best demonstrates a leadership role in helping others recognize and achieve their leadership potential.
A role model and beacon for professional women, Bowles is committed to transforming a competitive business environment toward the development, promotion and retention of talented women in her profession.
Having worked at Deloitte since 1979, Bowles recognized the firm was gender and diversity challenged. With no female partners in 1984, leadership at Deloitte needed to evolve and represent the large numbers of growing women and visible minorities.
Along with a group of women, Bowles founded the Deloitte Women’s Business Development Group (WBDG) in Toronto. Despite being limited with a lack of social networks and almost no female role models at the time, the group had a profound impact on businesswomen.
An action-oriented group that organized networking events for women in professional services, the WBDG was a pioneer for Deloitte.
Since then the company has been recognized as one of the 50 Best Employers in Canada, a Best Employer for New Canadians for 2009 and a Progressive Employer by Canadian Mothers. It also supports a number of women-based initiatives to help develop the growth of women in business, like Canadian Women’s Initiative Network (CanWin), which is part of the Global Retention of Women (GROW). GROW’s programs include Women’s Mentoring Program, Career Moms, Women of Influence, Community Ties and Step Up.
And while Deloitte is still working toward gender parity, it reported in December 2010 that 22% of partners and associate partners were women and 33% of new partners admitted were of a visible minority.
Lynda Bowles was elected a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants, Ontario Division (FCA) in 1997, and in 1998 she was recognized with the YWCA Women of Distinction Award for Business. Bowles has also been awarded The International Alliance for Women’s “World of Difference Award” that recognizes up to 100 extraordinary women from around the world who have contributed to the economic empowerment of women.
She co-authored Deloitte publications “The Effective Not for Profit Board” and “Terms of Reference for a Not for Profit Audit Committee.” And, in addition to her work at Deloitte, Bowles has served on 13 boards and committees including Toronto Zoological Society, Weston Golf & Country Club, Bloorview Children’s Hospital, Branksome Hall and Women’s College Ambulatory Care Centre, and currently sits on the board of West Park Health Care Centre, as well as the finance and audit committee of the United Way of Toronto.
Bowles also sits on the faculty of Ontario Hospital Association’s Governance Centre of Excellence, where she teaches courses towards their Certificate in Leading Board Committees. The governance certificate courses are designed to meet the needs of directors as their life cycle evolves on a hospital board.
Bowles provides new and experienced directors with the theoretical and practical tools needed to strengthen their leadership and governance skills. She has been involved with numerous deals within the last year, directly contributing to Deloitte’s growth. Lynda Bowles has also spirited as the lead on the Manager Relationship Program at Deloitte & Touche, mentoring 10 top female audit managers at the firm.
Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan
by Himani Ediriweera
With a blended family of nine children and 20 grandchildren, and as chair of Canada’s largest single-profession pension plan with 295,000 active and retired teachers in Ontario and $107.5 billion in net assets, Eileen Mercier is a true matriarch.
Mercier assumed her position with the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (OTPP) Board in 2007. But her scope of influence extends well beyond her family and work life. Her path is paralleled by few.
As a member of the Board of Trustees at University Health Network, Mercier and the ING Foundation jointly donated over $356,000 toward a tissue-engineering project focused on repairing heart damage in children. This generous initiative followed her meeting with Dr. Ren-Ke Li, the Canada Research Chair in Cardiac Regeneration, a senior scientist at the McEwen Centre. Through that support, research papers were published, and data is being used in clinical trials.
Prior to her role as chair of OTPP, she earlier served as chair of their Investment Committee, a member of their Audit and Actuarial Committee, and a member of their Governance Committee.
She is also president of Finvoy Management Inc., a consulting firm that she founded in 1995, specializing in financial strategy, restructuring and corporate governance issues. Prior to that, she was senior vice president and chief financial officer of Abitibi-Price Inc.
Mercier is a professional director and her career encompasses more than 40 years of general management experience in financial services, communications, integrated oil and forest products sectors.
Besides OTPP, Mercier is a board member of CGI Group, Intact Financial Corp., ING Bank of Canada and Teekay Shipping Corporation.
In addition, Mercier is chair of the Audit Committee for University Health Network (UHN), which comprises the Toronto General, Toronto Western and Princess Margaret Hospitals and their affiliated research institutes. As a trustee, she plays a fundamental role in the financial health of the UHN.
Mercier has been honoured over the years for providing her insight and leadership to many causes, including Schulich School of Business at York University, and as chair of the Board of Governors at Wilfrid Laurier, serving on the President’s Council of Advisors. She funds a number of scholarships at the school, including the Eileen Mercier Arts, the Eileen Mercier Science, the Hamish Mercier and the Alumni Choir Scholarships.
She was profiled in The Globe and Mail this past May, in an entertaining and informative article on multitasking where she referred to the influence of her parents on her strong work ethic, and how it was hard for her at times not to take her work as chief financial officer of paper products giant Abitibi-Price Inc. to heart when faced with unavoidable cuts – to divisions and jobs. Being able to work through situations she finds challenging has enabled Mercier to continue her path of success.
Holding an MBA from York University and a masters degree in English from the University of Alberta, in 2010 Eileen Mercier received an honourary LLD from York University. She is also a Fellow of the Institute of Canadian Bankers and a Fellow of the Institute of Corporate Directors of Canada.
Evelyn Jacks is the founder and president of The Knowledge Bureau, Canada’s leading national educational institute in the tax and financial services industry. This private post-secondary institute is influential in its focus on the highest standards in professional development for advisors who manage their clients’ wealth, training of their staff, as well as excellence in financial education for those clients. Close to 900 elite students are participating in The Knowledge Bureau’s designation programs and thousands more have started certificate and diploma programs.
Publishing more than a dozen books with Canada’s top financial writers through its publishing division, Knowledge Bureau Newsbooks, it has distinguished itself as Canada’s leading book publisher in financial education, championing Canadian financial authors with a passion for educating consumers of all ages.
Jacks is one of Canada’s most prolific national authors and publishers. She has now written over 48 books on the subject of personal taxation, co-authored an international title on business leadership and a ground-breaking book on the financial recovery. She has also been the curriculum director of over 100 certificate post-secondary courses on the subject of tax preparation and planning and business practices in providing wealth advisory services for the professional development of tax accountants and financial planners.
In addition, Jacks is a highly respected and influential news commentator and analyst on radio and television programs across the nation. She has written thousands of articles and analysis for numerous papers, most recently in The Toronto Star and for the Toronto Stock Exchange, which receives 1.5 Million unique visitors each month. She is a contributor to numerous national magazines, including Homemakers and Reader’s Digest, and appears regularly on CBC Newsworld, BNN, CJOB and other television and radio stations across Canada.
In 2010 Jacks was invited to open the Toronto Stock Exchange to celebrate her column on the TMX Money Site.
Recognized in 1986 as the YM-YWCA “Business Woman of the Year” for her significant contributions to the community in establishing a national profile for tax preparation and tax planning services, Jacks has won numerous other awards. In 1997 she won Manitoba’s Entrepreneur of the Year award and the Rotman School of Business National Canadian Entrepreneur Award. In 1998 she was recognized with a Business Leadership Award by the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C. Jacks has also been celebrated as an Inspiring Woman by the Winnipeg Free Press in 2005.
Recently appointed by the Federal Finance Minister to the Task Force on Financial Literacy, which made its recommendations for a national strategy on Financial Literacy in early 2011, Jacks was previously appointed by the Premier of Manitoba as a commissioner for the Lower Tax Commission, under which she and her colleagues recommended changes to the provincial tax regime. She has also contributed on numerous public, private and charity boards.
Throughout her varied career, Evelyn Jacks has established a nationwide reputation as an award-winning entrepreneur, a consistently best-selling author, speaker, educator, and publisher in the tax & wealth management services. This year she was again celebrated with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Business Owners of Manitoba, Winnipeg Chapter.
Evelyn Jacks was a runner-up in our social media poll to select the woman to grace the cover of this special Top 25 Women of InfluenceTM issue! Congratulations!
Symes & Street
by Himani Ediriweera
A strong advocate of women’s rights and strengthening the role of women in the legal profession and a partner in the law firm of Symes & Street, Beth Symes is wielding her influence in many ways.
Symes launched a constitutional challenge, arguing her right to claim the use of her nanny as a business expense. She was successful at the trial level, yet in a controversial decision at the Supreme Court of Canada that split on gender lines, the cost of childcare was found to be a personal expense and not deductible from business income.
In 2010, Symes was named a member of the Order of Canada for her contributions as a champion of women’s rights in the legal profession.
A bencher of the Law Society of Upper Canada, she is vice chair of the Proceedings Authorization Committee, a member of the Equity Committee and co-chair of the Return to Practice Task Force. Symes is also president of the Canadian Institute for the Administration of Justice and a recipient of six awards, including the Law Society Medal.
As counsel, Symes’ cases mirror her strong beliefs and expertise in equality rights. She represented Canadian Abortion Rights Action League (CARAL) before the Supreme Court of Canada in Winnipeg Child and Family Services v. “G,” which involved the medical incarceration of a pregnant aboriginal woman who was sniffing solvents, and also in Dobson v. Dobson where a child was suing his mother for injuries suffered inside the womb.
Symes also acted as co-counsel with the Minority Advocacy and Rights Council (MARC) in R. v. Conway, which involved an inmate who objected to female correctional officers.
As well, Beth Symes represented the Medical Staff Association in the government’s attempt to shut down Women’s College Hospital and was one of the counsel representing a number of persons who challenged the Harris government’s 21.6% cuts to social assistance. She was also counsel for the Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA) in its challenge to landlords using rent to income ratios to qualify tenants.
In 1988, Symes was appointed as the first chair of the Pay Equity Hearings Tribunal. Throughout her career, having sat on 15 boards, she was also a member of the Board of Directors of the Canadian Council of Administrative Tribunals (CCAT), a founder of the Conference of Ontario Boards and Agencies (COBA) and is a founding member of the Society of Ontario Adjudicators and Regulators (SOAR). She is also one of the founding members of the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) and served on its National Legal Committee. She co-authored “Women and Legal Action” in 1984, a review of public interest litigation in Canada up to the entrenchment of the Charter which established the blueprint for LEAF.
She also co-authored “Juggling: Women, Work and Parenting,” plus has written articles on administrative law and equality issues. She instructed at Osgoode Hall Faculty of Law in Trial Practice, as a team leader in the Intensive Trial Advocacy Program, taught Economic Regulation in the LLM program at Osgoode and taught Constitutional Litigation for the Faculty of Law at the University of Western Ontario.
Dr. Olga Kovalchuk
Professor and Board of Governors’ Research Chair, CIHR Chair in Gender and Health
University of Lethbridge
by Kate Robertson
During Dr. Olga Kovalchuk’s remarkable career journey, she has turned an experience with disaster at a young age into positive, groundbreaking scientific research.
Originally from the Ukraine, Dr. Kovalchuk was just 16 years old and attending high school when there was a fire and an explosion at Chernobyl. It was the worst nuclear disaster in history. The 1986 tragedy caused 57 fatalities directly related to the explosion and radiation sickness, and the harmful radioactive contamination that was released into the environment had devastating consequences to the life and ecology in the area. In the long-term, thousands of people became more susceptible to developing cancer because they had been exposed to radiation.
Now, 25 years later, Dr. Kovalchuk is a professor and biological sciences and epigenetics researcher at the University of Lethbridge, and has devoted her work to finding out what effect long-term exposure to radiation has on the body. By studying the changes in cellular and molecular structures in people and animals after they have been exposed to radiation, Dr. Kovalchuk and her team are looking beyond inherited genetics and DNA to figure out how the external environment triggers illness or DNA damage.
Dr. Kovalchuk’s laboratory work has proven that chronic exposure to radiation is more dangerous than scientists had believed in the past. Before, it was thought that low doses of radiation prolonged over a period of time were less harmful than high doses over a brief period of time. But Dr. Kovalchuk’s lab has shown the opposite. In fact, significant DNA and cellular damage can be caused by low but prolonged doses of radiation. Because of the research led by Dr. Kovalchuk, we now know that the total sum of radiation that a person is exposed to is not necessarily more relevant than the way it is delivered.
With a special emphasis on breast cancer and hematological malignancies like leukemia and lymphomas, not only is Dr. Kovalchuk’s laboratory team working to find out how genes and radiation cause illness, but her lab was also one of the first to reveal the existence of the Radiation-Induced Bystander Effect. The bystander effect occurs when cells that aren’t being targeted in cancer radiation therapy act as if they have been irradiated, which can also trigger DNA damage or cell mutation that leads to cancer.
Dr. Kovalchuk’s lab at the University of Lethbridge has also created a model for how the effects of radiation can move from generation to generation, to the children of those who have been exposed. Studies show that the progeny of parents who have been exposed to radiation have a much higher risk of developing cancers such as leukemia than those whose parents have not been exposed. Dr. Kovalchuk’s lab is hoping to find ways to protect the children of parents who have been exposed from developing cancer.
Dr. Kovalchuk’s lab has also discovered that men and women respond differently to ionizing radiation – that which has enough energy to remove an electron from an atom or molecule, and which is particularly chemically reactive. The laboratory’s discoveries could mean that, eventually, scientists will develop a separate radiation treatment and diagnostic program dependent on a patient’s sex. The research could also change the way patients are protected from radiation in the future.
Because of the extraordinary discoveries she has made in gender-specific consequences to radiation exposure at the University of Lethbridge, Dr. Kovalchuk was one of six individuals to earn a research chair position in New Perspectives in Gender, Sex and Health from the Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR) and its Institute of Gender and Health (IGH).
The CIHR chair positions were created by the IGH to recognize and expand upon the highest standard in gender and sex health research in Canada. Dr. Kovalchuk’s position is a prestigious one that includes funding in the amount of $750,000 over a five-year period for her research.
In addition, thanks in part to Dr. Kovalchuk’s work, in 2009 the University of Lethbridge received more than $3.2 million from the Canada Foundation for Innovation to create a multi-disciplinary research team to study epigenetics.
In March of 2007, Dr. Kovalchuk was appointed a research chair by the Board of Governors at the University of Lethbridge. The recipients of the distinguished honour – including Dr. Kovalchuk’s husband, Dr. Igor Kovalchuk, also a faculty member of the biological sciences department at the University – are judged by their teaching and research activities, and are selected by their peers.
Dr. Kovalchuk has sat on a total of 24 review boards and committees, and has also received support from the Alberta Cancer Foundation, Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, US Department of Energy Low Dose Radiation Program and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council. Last June, Dr. Kovalchuk was selected among 1,200 nominees as one of Canada’s Top 40 Under 40 for her work in the field. She has won nine notable awards, including the YWCA Women of Influence Award as a Community Leader this year.
Kovalchuk completed her undergraduate studies at Ivano-Frankivsk National Medical University – located 600 km away from the site of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Since 1995, she worked detailing how the event affected the genetics of the people, plants and animals in the area before completing her PhD in 1998 at the Ukrainian National Scientific Centre of Medical Genetics and Hygiene.
Dr. Kovalchuk went on to do postdoctoral work in Basel, Switzerland, at the Friedrich Miescher Institiute for Biomedical Research and at Novartis (now Syngenta AG) in health assessment and cell biology, also in Basel.
The recognition Dr. Olga Kovalchuk has received by her own institution and beyond in the 10 years since she arrived from the Ukraine at Alberta’s University of Lethbridge speaks to the significant contributions she has made in her field. That recognition will allow Dr. Kovalchuk and her team at the laboratory to continue and expand upon the important work she is doing.
Dr. Sandra Smeltzer
Associate Professor, Faculty of Information & Media Studies
University of Western Ontario
by Kate Robertson
On top of being a teacher that is well-liked by both students and faculty and a widely published academic, Sandra Smeltzer, PhD, also sets out to improve the lives of others far beyond the walls of the North Campus building at London’s University of Western Ontario.
An associate professor in the Faculty of Information & Media Studies and co-coordinator of the Media and the Public Interest Program, Dr. Smeltzer puts her background in anthropology, international development and the political economy of media to good use in her research on communication in developing nations and those in transition, and how IT and communications technology is used for social justice objectives.
Having already received over 10 awards for her work, this year Dr. Smeltzer was honoured with the University’s Humanitarian Award. The award goes to faculty, staff and students at the school who are dedicated to making life better for people or communities internationally.
The award is well deserved. Currently, Dr. Smeltzer is completing a project funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. She is examining how internet technologies, such as Twitter, are used for political purposes in Southeast Asia, specifically Malaysia. She has also published research on the topics of surveillance, non-governmental organization work in East Africa, and information and communications technology for development, the ethics of activist research, alternative media, surveillance and knowledge workers.
A good bulk of Dr. Smeltzer’s doctoral research for her PhD in Communication at Carleton University was conducted in Malaysia, where she studied how electronic information and media has affected development in the country. She also completed a masters of arts degree in anthropology at Carleton, during which she travelled to the University in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania for six months to study the transition from public to privately-owned television in the country.
Back in London, Ontario, Dr. Smeltzer teaches courses in Information and Communication Technologies for Development, Alternative Media, Development Communication, and the Political Economy of Communication. In all of her classes, she encourages her students to see the world any way they can, whether it’s through volunteer work, education or paid opportunities. Dr. Smeltzer emphasizes the importance of the interconnectedness of international communities and being a global citizen. She has sat on 37 boards and committees including the Canadian Communication Association, Scholars at Risk, the Canadian Journal of Media Studies and Western Heads East, an HIV/AIDS research and development project in East Africa, focused on social justice issues.
One of the ways Dr. Smeltzer encourages this global participation is by organizing internships in Asia and East Africa for Western students. Some students have worked with the Centre for International Journalism in Malaysia to improve citizen communication, while others have worked with Western Heads East, a UWO organization that was formed in response to the HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa. In doing so, Dr. Smeltzer not only provides students with invaluable global experience, but also provides additional support to organizations doing important work abroad. Closer to home, Dr. Smeltzer has partnered students with the London Abused Women’s Centre, the Humane Society, the Unity Project for Relief and Homelessness and the Canadian Cancer Society.
She has been awarded the University Students’ Council Teaching Honour Roll Award of Excellence for every year she has taught at Western and is the recipient of her faculty’s Undergraduate Teaching Award.
Dr. Sandra Smeltzer was a runner-up in our social media poll to select the woman to grace the cover of this special Top 25 Women of InfluenceTM issue! Congratulations!
Dr. Fiona Costello
Clinical Associate Professor
University of Calgary
by Kate Robertson
The estimated 55,000 to 75,000 Canadians with multiple sclerosis (MS) and their friends and families continue to seek answers about the unpredictable disease. The causes are not certain, and while treatment has vastly improved over recent years, there still is no cure for the often-debilitating illness.
But because of the diligent work of individuals like the University of Calgary’s Dr. Fiona Costello, scientific researchers are inching closer to answers. Dr. Costello is a clinical associate professor and co-director of the NeuroProtection and Repair Evaluation Unit (NPREU) of the Multiple Sclerosis Program at the University of Calgary. She manages over 51 direct reports and has led or closed six deals in the last year.
Her research focuses on the anterior visual pathway and MS, and is working to trace the mechanical neurological dysfunctions that MS patients suffer. In doing so, she hopes to develop new types of therapy for those that live with the disease.
Many have read about the potential link between multiple sclerosis and Chronic Cerebrospinal Venous Insufficiency (CCSVI), a term created in 2008 by Italian scientist Dr. Paolo Zamboni. Dr. Costello and her team at the Hotchkiss Brain Institute are one of seven North American research teams funded by the MS Society of Canada and the National MS Society (USA) to put Dr. Zamboni’s findings to the test.
In addition to receiving funding from the MS Society of Canada, Dr. Costello and her team have also been funded by the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, Neuroscience Canada, the Networks of Centres of Excellence, and the Stem Cell Network. They have secured approximately $6 million toward their work.
Dr. Costello has been widely published in scholarly journals and has authored numerous chapters of books as well. She speaks all over the country and internationally on the topics of her field, and recently, she was honoured as one of Canada’s Top 40 Under 40 for her accomplishments.
She has earned 10 prestigious awards, such as the P.J. Leinfelder Award for Research at the University of Iowa (2002), the North American Neuro-Ophthalmology Society Young Investigator Award (2007), and the Surgery Innovation Award at the University of Calgary in 2011. She has sat on numerous boards throughout her career.
A native of Stephenville, Newfoundland, Dr. Fiona Costello studied Biochemistry at Memorial University before graduating from the institution’s medical school in 1995. From there, she entered the neurology residency program, again at Memorial, but went on to complete a Neuro- Ophthalmology clinical research fellowship at the University of Iowa. After a five-year stint at the University of Ottawa, in 2007 Dr. Costello moved on to Calgary because of the reputation of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute at the city’s university and the extensive work researchers were conducting in the area of multiple sclerosis.
Richard Ivey School of Business, University of Western Ontario
by Kate Robertson
Combining her business knowledge and experience with her drive to make a positive impact, Carol Stephenson is working to further improve the education of students at the University of Western Ontario’s business school.
Stephenson became Dean of the Richard Ivey School of Business in 2003, and brought 30 years of experience to her position. She initially embarked on a career in business at Bell Canada in 1973, where she worked her way up from a variety of management roles to executive positions by 1988.
She later served as the president and CEO of Stentor Resource Centre Inc., and specialized in marketing and technology development for a large consolidated group of nine telecommunications companies. After leaving Stentor in 1999, she became the president and CEO of Lucent Technologies Canada, a spin-off of AT&T. Under her leadership and despite a slump in the industry, the company tripled its market share.
Within two years as Dean at Ivey, Stephenson had blazed a trail for significant changes at the reputable institution. In September 2005, with Stephenson’s leadership, Ivey began to transform the face of business education, with a comprehensive redesign of its programs, research and organization.
Launching their Cross-Enterprise Leadership program allowed high-achieving students who want to gain a business perspective across a variety of levels, the opportunity to form big picture strategies and view the larger consequences of decision-making. As a CEO in telecommunications, an industry defined by the impact of globalization, competition and disruptive technology, Stephenson experienced firsthand the critical need for an organization to have managers with the capacity to think, act and lead across the organization.
She also recognizes the nuances of working in a globalized and often consolidated business environment, and led Ivey to launch their 12-month, intensive MBA program.
In 2009, Stephenson was given one of the highest honours a Canadian civilian can achieve and was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada for her contributions to the development of our national telecommunications industry and for her work at Ivey. In 2005 Stephenson was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the Canadian Information Productivity Awards, and in 2008 she was inducted into Canada’s Telecommunications Hall of Fame.
Stephenson has sat on 27 boards for a variety of companies and government committees. She was appointed a board member for General Motors Company in 2009. Stephenson, who had been a member of the GM Canada Advisory Board, was nominated by the Canadian and provincial governments to sit on the 13-member board. She is the only Canadian representative. Calling it “a very interesting and historic time to be involved in the auto sector,” Stephenson has said her main goal is to restore the company to profitability.
Stephenson is a director of Intact Financial Services Corporation and Manitoba Telecom Services Inc., as well as a chair of the Ontario Research Fund Advisory Board and of the Federal Government’s Advisory Committee on Senior Level Retention and Compensation. In November 2006, she was appointed to the Board of Directors of the Vancouver Olympic Games Organizing Committee (VANOC).
Stephenson is originally from Petrolia, Ontario, and graduated with a bachelor of arts from the University of Toronto. From there, she went on to the University of California at Berkeley where she completed the Executive Program at the Graduate School of Business Administration before she attended the Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School.
Dr. Ann Cavoukian
Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario
by Kate Robertson
In the last 20 years, Ann Cavoukian, PhD, has been an advocate for privacy protection in the private and public sector. And it doesn’t look as if she will be slowing down any time soon.
As Ontario’s Information and Privacy Commissioner, Dr. Cavoukian is the first to be appointed for a third term in the position, and will continue in the role until 2014. She is one of the world’s leading experts in privacy, and is particularly interested in how technology can help, rather than harm, data protection and privacy.
The Commissioner works independently of the governing party to promote a transparent and forthcoming government and to ensure that the private worlds of Ontarians are protected. In addition, Dr. Cavoukian advises businesses and organizations all over the world on how to do the same for their clients, staff, users or data.
In the 1990s, as technology became increasingly entrenched in the world’s personal, day-to-day, and business practices in the 1990s, Dr. Cavoukian recognized that privacy could be at risk. But rather than shying away from the complexity and challenges that technology posed toward privacy, she embraced it.
The result was the award-winning Privacy by Design, a philosophy that advocates for a proactive approach where privacy is embedded into the design of the technology itself. The move to connected online data networks and communication technologies can be viewed as a threat to privacy, or it can be used to protect it, according to Dr. Cavoukian. And rather than relying on legislation or regulation to protect the privacy of clients or users, Dr. Cavoukian’s ground-breaking work advises businesses and the public sector to instead protect clients or data by using privacy-enhancing technologies without sacrificing security or efficiency.
This past June, the International Federation for Information Processing awarded Dr. Cavoukian with the prestigious Kristian Beckman Award for Privacy by Design and its contribution to the development of information security on an international level. Shortly after, the University of Alberta’s Information Access and Protection of Privacy Program for her work in the field, and she was also given the SC Canada Privacy Professional of the Year Award. In total, Dr. Cavoukian has earned more than 10 notable awards throughout her career, including honours from the Ontario Bar Association, the IEEE and the Ontario Psychological Association. In 2008, she won the Privacy Hero Leadership Award from WiredSafety.
Dr. Cavoukian holds a PhD and an MA in Psychology from the University of Toronto and has co-authored two trailblazing books in the field of security and privacy. Both publications, “The Privacy Payoff: How Successful Businesses Build and Customer Trust” examine the risks businesses and individuals take when they do not protect privacy. She is chair of the University of Toronto’s Identity, Privacy and Security Institute, and has sat on 12 boards, including the International Biometric Advisory Council, the European Biometrics Forum and the IBM Privacy Management Council.
Dr. Cavoukian is also very well known for public speaking. In addition to being part of the Deloitte Women of Influence Luncheon Series in 2006, she was recognized as the IABC All-Star Speaker by the International Association of Business Communicators that same year.