• 2019 YWCA Women of Distinction Awards

The 2019 YWCA Women of Distinction Awards Recipients

YWCA Metro Vancouver is pleased to announce the recipients of its 36th annual Women of Distinction Awards.

More than 1,300 guests and volunteers gathered on May 13, 2019 at the JW Marriott Parq Vancouver to honour inspiring nominees and their achievements. 

This year’s recipients are:

Arts, Culture & Design

Dana Claxton

Dana is Department Head of the Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory at UBC. A recognized academic, media producer, director and writer, Dana challenges stereotypes of Indigenous people within her image making. In 2018, the Vancouver Art Gallery profiled her career to date in Dana Claxton: Fringing the Cube, and she has a forthcoming book on her Lakota Sioux research with the Mackenzie Art Gallery. Claxton co-founded the Indigenous Media Arts Group in 1998, which organized the first Aboriginal Film Festival in Vancouver, and as Director of the artist-run centre, the Helen Pitt Gallery, in the early 1990s, Dana curated exhibitions that featured only Indigenous women artists. Dana was awarded a fellowship from the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, and was the Ruth Wynn Woodward Research Chair in Women’s Studies at SFU.

Business & the Professions

Connie Fair

Connie is President and CEO of the Land Title and Survey Authority of British Columbia (LTSA), one of BC’s largest statutory corporations. She is fulfilling her bold vision for BC’s property systems by transforming organizations using a customer-centric approach and leveraging technology. During Connie’s three years at the LTSA, the organization has achieved 97% satisfaction and 92% trust ratings with customers. She has overseen a technology build that will increase automation of property registrations from 50% to 70% of applications, one of the highest rates worldwide for a land registry. Connie also launched ParcelMap BC, an electronic map of over two million active titled parcels and surveyed Crown land parcels, and one of the world’s largest and most complex applications of survey-aware parcel fabric.

Community Champion

Colleen Yee

Colleen is Inspector of the Centralized Operations Services Section of the Vancouver Police Department, overseeing a staff of 140 and more than 1,000 community volunteers. In 2013, Colleen created the VPD's Women's Personal Safety Workshop, the first of its kind in North America. Colleen recruited a team of female police officer volunteers to deliver the life-saving workshop more than 100 times, reaching over 3,000 women in Metro Vancouver. The workshop often helps women who are vulnerable to violence and who historically had negative perceptions and/or experiences with the police. In building trust, many have come forward to report abuse and harassment. Colleen also created a certified self-defence training program for Vancouver female police officers of all levels of seniority and experience to enhance their skills, knowledge and confidence.

Education, Training & Development

Bethany Edmunds

Bethany was the first female Associate Dean of Computing at BCIT, where she envisioned and initiated the TEC (Technology Education and Collaboration) Hub. In developing ground-breaking classroom designs that provide students with the opportunity to actively participate in their own education, this new platform has set the standard for new best practices in computing education in BC. While earning her PhD in Machine Learning, Bethany co-organized the second international Women in Machine Learning Workshop and continues to actively encourage women and girls to pursue a career in tech as a mentor and speaker at events like DigiGirlz Day. For her visionary approach to tech and teaching, Bethany was named one of BC Business’ most influential women in STEM in 2018.

Entrepreneurship & Innovation

Carolyn Cross

Carolyn is Chairman and CEO of Ondine Biomedical. Since assuming leadership of the company in 2005, Carolyn has redirected Ondine’s focus to treat life-threatening infections across the healthcare spectrum with the company’s photodisinfection technology, treating over 600,000 people globally and helping prevent more than 500 surgical site infections at Vancouver hospitals in the past seven years. She has raised $120 million of innovation capital for the company on the basis of compassionate benefits to humanity. Carolyn founded the Women’s Economic Business Advisory Council and is cofounder of the EY Global Women in Business Advisory Council. She has held leadership roles on the National Research Council Canada, Canada Foundation for Innovation, World Innovation Health Network and International Photodynamic Association.

Environmental Sustainability

Lauren Hornor

Lauren is Partnership Lead, Western Canada for Swim Drink Fish Canada and has helped build the movement to include nearly 3 million members. Lauren launched Fraser Riverkeeper in 2007. She also founded the Annual Fraser River Cleanup, an event that attracts thousands of volunteers who have collected more than 125 tonnes of waste. Lauren spearheaded the Fraser Valley Illegal Dumping Alliance, whose efforts have removed around 100 tonnes of illegally dumped waste and contributed to a 60% increase in reports of dumping. In 2018, Lauren and her team launched the False Creek Water Monitoring Program to record observations about water quality. Lauren helped launch the Swim Guide to provide information about the water quality of more than 7,000 beaches and brought Water Literacy Workshops to schools and groups across Vancouver and the Fraser Valley.

Health & Wellness

Sheila Early

Sheila is a Forensic Nursing Educator who founded the first sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) program in BC. Launched in 1993, SANE trains nurses to gather legal forensic evidence while providing supportive, confidential care following a sexual assault. Sheila developed Canada’s first classroom-delivered specialty certificate program in forensic health sciences and, in 2017, led the effort to convert BCIT’s Certificate into a Graduate Certificate to ladder into a Masters in Nursing. As coordinator of the program, Sheila oversaw its expansion to include responses to human trafficking, child abuse and other forms of interpersonal violence. Sheila is a co-founder of the Forensic Nurses’ Society of Canada and the first non-American elected President of the International Forensic Nursing Association, which serves 3,500 nurses across 26 countries.

Non-profit

Ingrid Kastens

Ingrid is CEO of Pacific Community Resources Society (PCRS), a not-for-profit society providing services for youth, families and individuals. Under Ingrid’s leadership, PCRS opened West Coast Alternate, the first high school program internationally for youth with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. Ingrid pioneered the one-stop hub model for youth services in BC, opening the Broadway Youth Centre, which has helped thousands of youth stay off the streets, including the first LGBTQ2S youth housing in Canada. She was instrumental in establishing partnerships with Starbucks, resulting in the creation of the Baristas in Training Program for at-risk youth, a model that has been adapted and implemented across Canada.

Research, the Sciences & Technology

Suzanne Lewis

Suzanne is Chief Medical Officer & VP Research at the Pacific Autism Family Network (PAFN), a Clinical Professor in the Department of Medical Genetics & Genomics at UBC and a Pediatrician & Medical Geneticist. Suzanne founded and leads innovative research collaborations in the discovery of new genes and environmental factors causing Autism Spectrum Disorder. She has co-conceived PAFN’s “Inform Every Autism” research strategy and co-chaired PAFN’s Inter-Institute Research Advisory Committee. Suzanne conceptualized and leads the $7-million dollar iTARGET Initiative, Canada’s first family-centred, genomics-based, personalized, precision medicine initiative that integrates research, service and patient communities and identifies the most beneficial treatment pathway for each unique patient. Suzanne has supervised 60 burgeoning scientists’ and doctors’ graduate and post-graduate work, 49 of whom are women.

Young Woman of Distinction

Jennifer Wildi

Jennifer is the Coordinator of Canuck Place Visits and Chair of School Visits with the Reading Bear Society. As Coordinator of Canuck Place Visits, Jennifer enhances the lives of palliative children by coordinating visits where fun activities provide an opportunity for children and families to sing, play and learn with loving teddy bears (Jennifer and her team dress in costume). As Chair of School Visits, she is developing material to improve access to healthy living resources for underprivileged families in Metro Vancouver to improve access to nutrition, medical resources, physical activity, literacy and wellness. Jennifer coached Nordic ski athletes with disabilities and supported research with the UBC Diabetes Research Group. In 2017, Jennifer was selected as a Wesbrook Scholar and was a recipient of the Carl Bradford Robertson Premier Scholarship.

Outstanding Workplace

ACL

With a focus on work-life balance, ACL offers flexible work hours, shortened work week opportunities, telecommuting and work from home options, extended unpaid leave and a 15-week maternity or paternity top-up program. ACL is also committed to women’s advancement and has promoted seven women to the director level, a 35% increase since 2015. As of 2018, ACL’s Board of Directors is now 50% female. CEO Laurie Schultz presents to student groups to inspire the next generation of women to pursue a meaningful career in tech. Through feedback from Employee Engagement surveys, which are conducted every six months, ACL has created Job Shadowing Days, Emerging Manager training, The Change Agents program and educational and professional development support. ACL also provides employees with paid volunteering time to give back to the community.


The YWCA Women of Distinction Awards honours individuals and organizations whose outstanding activities and achievements contribute to the well-being and future of our community. 

Since 1984, YWCA Metro Vancouver has paid tribute to more than 310 award recipients and more than 1,860 nominees.

Read more about our 2019 nominees.

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