Top 25 Women of Influence 2018: Chanèle McFarlane

 

 

 

Chanèle McFarlane

Founder, Do Well Dress Well

As the founder of Do Well Dress Well, Chanèle McFarlane believes in bridging the gap between competence and confidence for millennial women. Through content, community and opportunities focused on personal branding, networking, style and professional development, her goal is for every woman to live confidently and remarkably. In March 2018, McFarlane launched Confidence Through Conferences, an initiative to help get more women into conferences and networking events by minimizing the financial barrier. By partnering with event organizers, she provides complimentary and discounted tickets, with priority given to women of colour. By bringing to light the issue of affordability and access to professional conferences, McFarlane has inspired other female business owners in the city to become mindful of privilege, and as a result many have stepped up to donate complimentary tickets or simply spread the word about the initiative.

 


 

Who else are we honouring? See the full Women of Influence Top 25 list for 2018.

 

 

Top 25 Women of Influence 2018: Kristin Agnello

 

 

Kristin Agnello

Chair of the Commonwealth Women in Planning Network

This year, Kristin Agnello was appointed Chair of the Commonwealth Women in Planning Network, a subsidiary committee of the The Commonwealth Association of Planners, which seeks to focus and develop the skills of urban and regional planners across the Commonwealth to meet the challenges of urbanisation and the sustainable development of human settlements. An industry many of us take for granted, Kristin hopes to elevate the role women play in designing our cities and communities. But for Kristin, the best is yet to come for her career: in October 2018, she will present a manifesto for gender equality in planning to be ratified by planning professionals from across the Commonwealth. She is also organizing a global mentoring program for female planners and developing partnerships with UN Women, Women in Cities International, Women Transforming Cities, and other international organizations.

 


 

Who else are we honouring? See the full Women of Influence Top 25 list for 2018.

 

 

Top 25 Women of Influence 2018: Jennifer Bernard

 

 

Jennifer Bernard

President & CEO, Women’s College Hospital Foundation

This summer, Women’s College Hospital Foundation announced its new President & CEO, Jennifer Bernard. With over 20 years of experience as a fundraising executive, as well as the role of Vice President of Development for McMaster Children’s Hospital Foundation and stints at Ontario Science Centre, Royal Conservatory of Music and Trillium Health Centre Foundation (now Trillium Health Partners Foundation) under her belt, the Foundation is excited to see Bernard continue advancing health for women and revolutionizing healthcare for everyone’s benefit, as well as maintain a two-year track of record-breaking results.

 


 

Who else are we honouring? See the full Women of Influence Top 25 list for 2018.

 

 

Top 25 Women of Influence 2018: Carly Fleischmann

 

 

Carly Fleischmann

YouTube Personality

In January 2018, Carly Fleischmann swapped spots with Stephen Colbert, becoming the first nonverbal person with autism to guest-host The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Fleischmann, who has used a computer to communicate since she was ten years old, isn’t new to the interviewer seat: she hosts her own YouTube series, “Speechless with Carly Fleischmann,” in which she has interviewed celebrities including Channing Tatum and James Van Der Beek, all with the assistance of her computer, which voices the text she inputs. At 22-years-old, Fleischmann has achieved more than many of us could only dream — yet her aspirations don’t stop here. One day, she’d like to host her own talk show, with guests like Lady Gaga, Ellen DeGeneres and Brad Pitt at the top of her list.

 


 

Who else are we honouring? See the full Women of Influence Top 25 list for 2018.

 

 

Top 25 Women of Influence 2018: Jana Girdauskas

 

 

Jana Girdauskas

Entrepreneur

A teacher by day, Jana Girdauskas started The Period Purse with one idea: one purse filled with menstrual supplies and other hygiene items to give to someone experiencing homelessness. In the spring of 2018, Girdauskas and a teenage volunteer created Menstruation Nation, a high school program to help highlight menstrual equity, helping schools to have period product drives, and starting the conversation around periods. In May 2018, Girdauskas, along with another period advocate, worked with Toronto city councilor Kristyn Wong-Tam to get Toronto to proclaim May 28th Menstrual Hygiene Day. This was a bold step for the city to recognize and start opening up more of the conversation around period poverty and the challenges that people experiencing homelessness and people living in marginalized communities face when dealing with their period. Over the past year, Girdauskas has led her volunteer team in Toronto and the community to donate period supplies for menstruators to have over 9,000 healthy periods. The Period Purse has now spread to 9 other Ontario cities.

 


 

Who else are we honouring? See the full Women of Influence Top 25 list for 2018.

 

 

Top 25 Women of Influence 2018: Kehkashan Basu

 

 

Kehkashan Basu

Environmental & Children’s Rights Activist

Empowering young people like herself is Kehkashan Basu’s passion. In 2012, at just 12 years old, she started Green Hope Foundation, a youth organisation working on Education for Sustainable Development, children’s rights and environmental protection, with the goal of empowering young people to utilize their power to make a difference. The organization seeks to provide a networking platform to children and youth, especially girls, to carry forward the Rio legacy through several environmental workshops and ground level projects on promoting gender equality, climate justice, stopping land degradation, biodiversity conservation, waste segregation and reversing land degradation. While the organization now has over 1000 members across the Middle East, India, Brazil, USA, Canada, Europe and Southeast Asia, in January 2018 Basu led a team of Green Hope members to Syrian refugee camps on the border of Lebanon and conducted environmental workshops for over 600 refugee children, turning into reality the UN mandate of “leave no one behind.”

 


 

Who else are we honouring? See the full Women of Influence Top 25 list for 2018.

 

 

Top 25 Women of Influence 2018: Mandy Rennehan

 

 

Mandy Rennehan

Founder & CEO, Freshco

Hailing from the tiny fishing town of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, Mandy Rennehan’s career journey took off when, at 18, she packed her hockey bag and moved to Halifax. Since then, she has self-built her boutique retail construction firm, Freshco, from the ground up, earning millions of dollars in revenue and an impressive client roster. But it’s not Mandy’s business savvy or rags-to-riches story that compels us — it’s her commitment to bridging the divide between white and blue-collars, elevating the value that society places on the skilled trades, and encouraging more women to pursue what are often highly lucrative, yet overwhelmingly male-dominated, industries. In the last year, Mandy partnered with Barbie’s You Can Be Anything Mentorship Program to give Canadian girls with big hopes real-life, hands-on career experience, as well as the Conestoga College Women in Skilled Trades (WIST) program to encourage women in the trade program by providing both financial support and mentorship opportunities.

 


 

Who else are we honouring? See the full Women of Influence Top 25 list for 2018.

 

 

Top 25 Women of Influence 2018: Anna Mackenzie & Ella Gorevalov

 

 

Anna Mackenzie & Ella Gorevalov

Co-authors of The Expecting Playbook

When they realized that the majority of tech start-ups were not only vague and noncommittal about their parental leave policies, but actually didn’t have policies in place at all, Anna Mackenzie and Ella Gorevalov decided to help usher in a change. So, they wrote The Expecting Playbook, a guide and pledge focused on supporting new parents in the tech industry by sharing the parental leave policies of some of Toronto’s tech heavyweights, encouraging a spirit of open source information. The goal is trifold: 1) To affect positive change for new families by allowing them to spend time with their children while providing financial support for their newly arrived family member(s); 2) To increase the tech industry’s transparency surrounding parental leave policies; 3) Encourage companies to be forthcoming about their parental leave policies, thereby reducing the risk of unconscious bias against potential job candidates who ask about such benefits. The initiative is already backed by the likes of Wealthsimple, hackerYou, Nulogy, and Opencare.

 


 

Who else are we honouring? See the full Women of Influence Top 25 list for 2018.

 

 

Top 25 Women of Influence 2018: Chrystia Freeland

 

 

Chrystia Freeland

Minister of Foreign Affairs

Included on this list for the second year in a row, for the last year Chrystia Freeland has been one of the hardest working Ministers in the Canadian government. With a once harmonious relationship with the United States facing a more tenuous future, her role as the key ambassador representing Canada’s best interest with foreign governments has never been more crucial. From tough talks on NAFTA with an unpredictable and ever-more hostile President Donald Trump, to dealing with conflict with Saudi Arabia over human rights injustice, Freeland’s job is cut out for someone with thick skin, bravery, and an ironclad resolve. We think she’s just the person for the job.

 


 

Who else are we honouring? See the full Women of Influence Top 25 list for 2018.

 

 

Top 25 Women of Influence 2018: Dr. Alaa Murabit

 

 

Dr. Alaa Murabit

Physician & International Peace Advocate

Born and raised in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Dr. Alaa Murabit has eclipsed her wildest dreams and achieved worldwide recognition for her roles as a physician and leading international advocate for inclusive peace processes. At 28 years old, she is a UN High-Level Commissioner on Health Employment and Economic Growth and one of only 17 Sustainable Development Goal Global Advocates appointed by the UN Secretary-General. Continuing her career of high achievements and countless accolades, this year, Dr. Murabit was honoured by the Nelson Mandela Foundation with the “Nelson Mandela Changemaker Award” an honour previously presented to the likes of Masai Ujiri, activist and president of the Toronto Raptors, and Julie Lewis, founder of the 30/30 Project.

 


 

Who else are we honouring? See the full Women of Influence Top 25 list for 2018.

 

 

Top 25 Women of Influence 2018: Eileen Jurczak

 

 

Eileen Jurczak

Founder & Chair, Bay Street Deconstructed

Eileen Jurczak is the Founder and Chair of Bay Street Deconstructed, a non-profit organization that is defining the future by opening the exclusive doors to financial services for girls from different cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. The program structure, boasting a curriculum informed by a team of professionals with a broad base of skills and experience in both education and industry, is designed to address gaps in current high school courses and existing industry initiatives with respect to financial services career education. With a background in Sales & Trading, Asset Management, Wealth Management, and Equity Research, as well as her current position as Director on the Trading Floor with BMO Capital Markets, few can match Jurczak’s klout: by December 2017, Eileen had used her influence to secure close to $200,000 of initial funding from nine prestigious financial firms, including BMO, CIBC, and Scotiabank. While formally established in 2015, November 2017 marked the start of Bay Street Deconstructed’s first year of workshops and, as a result of Jurczak’s tireless efforts and ability to inspire others, over the past 10 months the program has achieved remarkable success: to date, roughly 4,000 Grade 10 students across the GTA have now received necessary financial services awareness education through the program, and another 9,000 Grade 10 students across Canada are lined up to attend workshops starting in September 2018 as part of the organization’s national launch.

 


 

Who else are we honouring? See the full Women of Influence Top 25 list for 2018.

 

 

Top 25 Women of Influence 2018: Brenda Lucki

 

 

Brenda Lucki

Commissioner, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

When Brenda Lucki’s career in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police began over three decades ago, there were no women in leadership positions. Today, as the first female permanent leader of the RCMP, Lucki is finally at the top. Selected by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for her potential to affect real change, Lucki is tasked with healing many of the wounds within the RCMP, as well as those that are outward facing: improving morale, bringing in increased civilian oversight, overhauling the investigation of harassment complaints, and fostering a new approach to policing in aboriginal communities. With her at the helm, the country can look forward to an RCMP force that is attuned to the needs of the people they serve, rather than status quo.

 


 

Who else are we honouring? See the full Women of Influence Top 25 list for 2018.

 

 

Top 25 Women of Influence 2018: Jessica Yamoah & Sarah Juma

 

 

Jessica Yamoah & Sarah Juma

Co-founders, Innovate Inclusion

Jessica Yamoah and Sarah Juma are the founders of Innovate Inclusion, a non-profit that advocates for the entrepreneurial success of underrepresented communities. Their mission is easily summed up in three words: Engage, Advocate, Educate. They foster awareness around the importance of inclusive community engagement; advocate for the economic development and success of underrepresented communities; and educate corporations, communities and individuals by providing access to programs and services that support personal and professional growth. In May 2018, the organization released the Ontario Incubator Diversity Report, for which they conducted a scan of four leading Ontario government funded Incubators. By analyzing the ethnic diversity of advisory boards, executive teams, start-up teams and mentors, as well as noting any diversity focused programming available at each location, its objective was to make recommendations designed to support the challenges that underrepresented entrepreneurs face while launching and growing their business with a focus on technology.

 


 

Who else are we honouring? See the full Women of Influence Top 25 list for 2018.

 

 

Top 25 Women of Influence 2018: Sage Paul

 

 

Sage Paul

Fashion Designer

Based in Toronto, Sage Paul is a woman of Dene descent, and a member of English River First Nation; she is also an artist, designer and innovative leader for Indigenous fashion, craft and textiles. Inspired by her own inability to find a place to showcase her work, in 2018 Paul co-founded Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto. The inaugural event, which ran from May 31 to June 3 at Harbourfront Centre, featured at least 60% Indigenous representation, including four fashion showcases (fusing fashion, theatre and dance), a marketplace with 54 vendors and panels about the state of Indigenous fashion. With a desire to keep traditional garment-making methods alive, the event also featured several workshops on Ravenstail weaving, black walnut dyeing and Navajo rug weaving.

 


 

Who else are we honouring? See the full Women of Influence Top 25 list for 2018.

 

 

Top 25 Women of Influence 2018: Jodi Kovitz

 

 

Jodi Kovitz

Chief Executive Officer & Founder, #MoveTheDial

For Jodi Kovitz, fostering a more inclusive and diverse STEM ecosystem is less about talking about the problems, and more about action. That’s why her organization, #MoveTheDial, embodies one simple principle: making a measurable impact on women’s participation — and success — in STEM. Built on the belief that women deserve the high-paying, high-growth jobs STEM offers, #MoveTheDial creates change by making strategic partnerships with big change makers and providing space for women to network, learn, and be inspired by the stories of women who have risen through the ranks in science, technology, engineering, and math to become leaders. On November 7, 2018, #MoveTheDial will host its first annual Global Summit in Toronto, and since its inception in January 2017, the organization has made significant strides in reducing the tech gender gap.

 


 

Who else are we honouring? See the full Women of Influence Top 25 list for 2018.

 

 

Top 25 Women of Influence 2018: rupi kaur

 

 

rupi kaur

Author

In an era when becoming an Instagram influencer is now a viable career option, rupi kaur leverages the power of the social media platform to disseminate her message, one that runs deeper than dreamy vacation and vibrant food photography: kaur, a Brampton, Ontario native, has become an international sensation for her poetry. Sparse and incredibly relatable, kaur’s words have resonated with women around the world, leading to the release of her first book in 2014, Milk and Honey, a collection of poetry that sold over two million copies and lived on the New York Times Best Sellers list for over 73 weeks. Nearly four years later, in October 2017, kaur released her second poetry collection, titled The Sun and Her Flowers. A week after the book was released, it ranked second on Amazon’s best-seller list, and within the first two weeks of publication, it was featured in the top ten of the New York Times Best Sellers list. To date, the book has sold over one million copies, and solidifies kaur’s status as the voice of the new generation.

 


 

Who else are we honouring? See the full Women of Influence Top 25 list for 2018.

 

 

Top 25 Women of Influence 2018: Jana Girdauskas

 

 

Jana Girdauskas

Entrepreneur

A teacher by day, Jana Girdauskas started The Period Purse with one idea: one purse filled with menstrual supplies and other hygiene items to give to someone experiencing homelessness. In the spring of 2018, Girdauskas and a teenage volunteer created Menstruation Nation, a high school program to help highlight menstrual equity, helping schools to have period product drives, and starting the conversation around periods. In May 2018, Girdauskas, along with another period advocate, worked with Toronto city councilor Kristyn Wong-Tam to get Toronto to proclaim May 28th Menstrual Hygiene Day. This was a bold step for the city to recognize and start opening up more of the conversation around period poverty and the challenges that people experiencing homelessness and people living in marginalized communities face when dealing with their period. Over the past year, Girdauskas has lead her volunteer team in Toronto and the community to donate period supplies for menstruators to have over 9,000 healthy periods. The Period Purse has now spread to 9 other Ontario cities.

 


 

Who else are we honouring? See the full Women of Influence Top 25 list for 2018.

 

 

Top 25 Women of Influence 2018: Kate McInturff

 

 

Kate McInturff

Policy Analyst

Early this year, The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives mourned the loss of feminist researcher and scholar Kate McInturff after a three-year battle with cancer. Known by staff, board and partners as a feminist trailblazer in public policy and gender-based research, McInturff’s annual report, “The Best and Worst Places to be a Woman in Canada,” has received broad media coverage in national and local news for four years running, with hundreds of media stories covering the report’s ranking of gender equality across Canada’s largest cities. Beyond this report, McInturff maintained a popular blog called Behind the Numbers, for which she delivered progressive commentary on issues that affect Canadians, including inequality, the economy, climate change, and public services. To honour McInturff’s legacy and carry on the important work of fighting gender-based inequalities, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives established a fellowship in her name as part of their Making Women Count initiative. The Centre is committed to promoting the solutions that will ultimately realize social and economic justice.

 


 

Who else are we honouring? See the full Women of Influence Top 25 list for 2018.

 

 

Top 25 Women of Influence 2018: Jessica Platt

 

 

Jessica Platt

Professional hockey player

Since she was a child, Jessica Platt has known that she was meant to be a woman. Yet it wasn’t until January of this year that the professional hockey player decided it was time to be fully open with the world, despite fears of judgement, criticism, and harassment. On January 10, 2018, Platt announced via her Instagram account (@jplatt32) that she is a transgender woman. With the full support of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, the CWHL Players Association, and the team she plays for, the Toronto Furies, she is the first openly transgender woman in history to play in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, and one of only a few anywhere within elite female sports.

 


 

Who else are we honouring? See the full Women of Influence Top 25 list for 2018.

 

 

Top 25 Women of Influence 2018 – Lifetime Achiever: Roberta Jamieson

 

 

Roberta Jamieson

President & CEO, Indspire

“Groundbreaking” is the most apt description of Roberta Jamieson’s long career. A Mohawk woman from the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory, in 1976 she became the first Indigenous woman ever to earn a law degree in Canada. She was the first non-Parliamentarian to be appointed an ex officio member of a House of Commons committee, and she spent a decade serving as the first woman Ontario Ombudsman. She was also the first woman to be elected chief of the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory, where she still resides with her family. With numerous awards and honours to her name, her current role as president and CEO of Indspire has brought her journey full circle: the Indigenous-led charity invests in the education of Indigenous people for the long term benefit of these individuals, their families and communities, and Canada.

 

A woman with an incredible decades-long legacy of making an impact on her community and the country, we recognize Roberta as a Top 25 Woman of Influence Lifetime Achiever. 

 


 

Who else are we honouring? See the full Women of Influence Top 25 list for 2018.

 

 

Top 25 Women of Influence 2018 – Up and Comer: Mylene Tu

 

 

Mylene Tu

Founder, FEM in STEM

This 18year-old engineering student from the University of Waterloo is helping to bridge the gender gap within STEM (science, technology, engineering, math). In April of 2018, Mylene Tu founded FEM in STEM, a social enterprise that acts as a hub of resources for young girls to engage in the STEM community. Her mission is to encourage high school girls to “Find. Explore. Motivate.” Her three core fundamentals include helping young girls: 1) FIND out about networking events, high school outreach programs, STEM clubs, and scholarships across Ontario; 2) EXPLORE the facts about gender statistics, and leverage them to evoke inspiration for change and awareness; 3) MOTIVATE one another through establishing a foundation for networking early on and connecting with girls in the same situations. In less than six months since its inception, FEM in STEM has over 70 community members across Ontario, has gained support from close to a dozen organizations across the province, and has signed a statement of support following the UN Global Compact principles. Mylene is currently working with Women on the Move to expand her initiative, with big goals to visit high schools across Ontario in Fall of 2018.

 

As a Top 25 Women of Influence Up and Comer, we recognize Mylene for the work she has done so far, and the potential her future holds.

 


 

Who else are we honouring? See the full Women of Influence Top 25 list for 2018.

 

 

Top 25 Women of Influence 2018: Janice Fukakusa

 

 

Janice Fukakusa

Chancellor, Ryerson University

This year, Ryerson University appointed Janice Fukakusa as its Chancellor, making her the first woman to ever hold the position. A financial services expert, innovation champion and diversity leader, Fukakusa will be the ceremonial head of the university, act as an ambassador for Ryerson on local, national and international levels, preside at all convocations and confer university degrees. Fukakusa served previously as RBC’s Chief Administrative Officer and Chief Financial Officer, and was a member of RBC’s Group Executive responsible for setting the overall strategic direction of RBC. She retired from this role in January 2017 following a distinguished 31-year career, and will begin her official appointment with Ryerson on October 10, 2018, for a three-year term.

 


 

Who else are we honouring? See the full Women of Influence Top 25 list for 2018.

 

 

Top 25 Women of Influence 2018: Tessa Virtue

 

 

Tessa Virtue

Figure Skater & Olympic Gold Medalist

Tessa Virtue is a household name not only in Canada, but around the world. Having won not one, but two Olympic Gold Medals for ice dancing in 2010 and 2018 (plus a third as part of the 2018 Canadian figure skating team), and setting a record-breaking score in the short ice dance category, Virtue’s earned her spot as the most heavily decorated Olympic figure skater in history (an honour she shares with her partner, Scott). Following the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, Virtue was named one of the most famous female athletes in the world by ESPN, and in July she was announced as an inductee of Canada’s Walk of Fame, in the Sports and Athletics category.

 


 

Who else are we honouring? See the full Women of Influence Top 25 list for 2018.

 

 

Top 25 Women of Influence 2018: Melody Adhami

 

 

Melody Adhami

COO of Havas Canada

At just 27 years old, Melody Adhami made a move that so many of us only dream of: she left her comfortable corporate job for the entrepreneur-life, starting Plastic, a full-service mobile marketing agency. At the time, the app store didn’t even exist, making the idea of an agency dedicated to mobile marketing a big risk. But for Melody, the risk paid off. Eight years after the agency’s launch, Plastic was acquired by Havas, the world’s sixth largest communications agency. This year, Melody was named Chief Operating Officer of Havas Canada, proving that her ability to grow Plastic from a living room office of two people to a world-class mobile agency of over 100 employees wasn’t just a stroke of luck — it was her flawless leadership at work. To date, Plastic has built 250+ apps for countless Fortune 500 brands, and generated over $1 billion in revenue for their clients. In 2018 Melody also published her first e-book, Your Turn: Powerful Thoughts from Today’s Women to the Next, a curated collection of wisdom and advice from 150 of Canada’s most influential women.

 


 

Who else are we honouring? See the full Women of Influence Top 25 list for 2018.

 

 

Top 25 Women of Influence 2018: Domee Shi

 

 

Domee Shi

Director & Animator, Pixar

If you saw The Incredibles 2 in theatres this year, you likely caught Bao, the short film about a woman and the dumpling she raises as her son after it comes unexpectedly to life, which played before the main feature. The animated short was inspired by writer and director Domee Shi’s own life growing up as an only child in Toronto; sheltered by her Chinese mother, who Shi exclaims “treated me like a little precious dumpling,” the film explores the struggles that empty-nesters face in letting go. Since Pixar was first founded in the mid-1980s, there have been roughly 35 Pixar short films, and until now, none of them have been directed by a woman. Despite having only begun her career as a Pixar intern just seven years ago, with Bao, Shi is now the first female ever at the studio with a solo directing credit to her name.

 


 

Who else are we honouring? See the full Women of Influence Top 25 list for 2018.

 

 

Top 25 Women of Influence 2018: Hayley Wickenheiser

 

 

Hayley Wickenheiser

Assistant Director of Player Development,Toronto Maple Leafs

In the world of women’s hockey, Hayley Wickenheiser is a household name. A member of Canada women’s national ice hockey team for 23 years, from 1994 until announcing her retirement on January 13, 2017, the team’s career points leader, a five-time Olympian, capturing four gold and one silver medal, and two-time Olympic MVP, Wickenheiser is undoubtedly one of — if not the — greatest female hockey player of all time. Yet, despite her incredible athletic achievements over the last two decades, 2018 brought her career to new heights: on August 23, 2018, Wickenheiser was hired as the Assistant Director of Player Development for the Toronto Maple Leafs, the first woman to ever hold the position for the Leafs, a position that puts her on the track to a head coach’s job. And how does she stay busy when she’s not breaking glass (or ice) ceilings by helping lead Toronto’s beloved hockey team? She’s studying medicine at the University of Calgary.

 


 

Who else are we honouring? See the full Women of Influence Top 25 list for 2018.

 

 

Top 25 Women of Influence 2018: Alexandra Waldman

 

 

Alexandra Waldman

Founder, Universal Standard

Universal Standard began as a conversation between Alexandra Waldman and her co-founder, Polina. Alexandra was frustrated and disheartened by the lack of access to fashion being a size 20 meant — not only could she not shop at the same stores as her much smaller friends, she could barely shop anywhere — even though the Canadian native was living steps from New York’s 5th Avenue. Asking themselves the questions: “How can we participate in the change we wanted to see? How can we bring all women together in a way that no one ever has before?” the women quit their corporate gigs and Universal Standard was born. The company, whose mission is to ensure plus-sized women have access to style, not just clothing, grabbed headlines earlier this year when it partnered with J.Crew for a collection that goes up to 5X, or size 32. The deal, which will likely propel Universal Standard from the relative unknown, ensures Waldman’s expert knowledge of plus-size garment cut and fit is applied to a brand that has traditionally catered to a much narrower group of women. And Waldman and her business partner have vowed it’s only the beginning: “We’re not done — not even close — and we promise we won’t stop until we bring fashion for all women up to a Universal Standard.”

 


 

Who else are we honouring? See the full Women of Influence Top 25 list for 2018.