• YWCA Women of Distinction Awards Alumnae

Past Recipients | YWCA Women of Distinction Awards

Each year, 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. 

Our alumnae include some of Metro Vancouver's most fascinating and influential women whose outstanding achievements have made a lasting impact on the well-being and future of our community.

2016 Recipients

Arts, Culture & Design
Artemis Gordon

An artistic and pedagogical authority in dance, Artemis has been leading the Arts Umbrella Dance Program since 1992. Through her passion and tireless efforts, she has developed the program into an internationally-recognized school that yields graduates who are dancing in companies worldwide. Artemis discarded the status quo in dance education by rejecting traditional body stereotypes, accommodating students from all socio-economic backgrounds and breaking down gender barriers by encouraging boys’ involvement. She secured the affiliation between Ballet BC and Arts Umbrella, extending the impact of international choreographers in Vancouver and increased opportunities for young local dancers. Artemis dedicates her life to young artists. Her vision extends beyond dance, preparing students with skills to navigate their lives with discipline, rigour and innovation.

Business & the Professions
Sue Paish

Sue was the first female managing partner of a major Canadian law firm. She led Fasken Martineau’s international expansion and continued with a growth focus in her role as CEO at Pharmasave. Since joining LifeLabs Medical Laboratories as CEO, Sue has spearheaded two major acquisitions in the same year, growing the organization to 5,400 employees to be the largest diagnostic lab company in Canada. While Governor of the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, Sue became the Founding Chair of the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade’s Women’s Leadership Circle, supporting advancements of women in leadership. Sue is recognized as a leader in the business community and is a committed mentor with an extensive history of volunteering with boards and not-for-profit organizations.

Community Champion
Marcia Nozick

Driven by a passion for building sustainable communities, Marcia founded the Eastside Movement for Business and Economic Renewal Society (EMBERS) as a way to help people transform their lives through the power of work. EMBERS Staffing Solutions is Canada’s only award-winning non-profit social enterprise staffing agency that is tailor-made for people living in the Downtown Eastside. Marcia has turned an innovative idea into a multi-million dollar social enterprise. EMBERS has given thousands of people access to employment opportunities and supported hundreds of entrepreneurs in becoming self-employed. A researcher, published author and leader in her field, Marcia has been recognized locally and nationally for her dedication to serving her community through EMBERS and her other volunteer efforts.

Education, Training & Development
Penny Gurstein

As the first woman to achieve tenure at UBC School of Community and Regional Planning (SCARP), Penny has evolved into a leader in planning education, recognized for learning-by-doing, community engagement and socially just planning. Penny introduced perspectives on gender and social justice into the planning process and transformed the school into Canada’s leader for Indigenous and social planning education. She specializes in the socio-cultural aspects of community planning, with particular emphasis on those who are the most marginalized in planning processes. As Director, Penny oversaw the development of a new degree program in SCARP, the Master of Community and Regional Planning, which provides innovative, real-world learning experiences for students. Following Penny’s example, the next generation of planners is inspired to tackle Vancouver’s biggest planning problems with social consciousness and a desire to serve the community.

Entrepreneurship & Innovation
Lotte Davis

With strategic vision and determination, entrepreneur and philanthropist Lotte Davis has consistently taken risks to break new ground in business. In 1989, Lotte and her husband John launched AG Hair on a $5,000 budget and with no related experience. While John managed manufacturing, Lotte’s marketing acumen and graphic design skills created the brand. Now CEO, Lotte’s keen eye for innovation has successfully built AG into a $25 million business, distributing its 65 products to more than 14,000 salons internationally. In 2008, Lotte established the Women Leading Change (WLC) Foundation, through which she raised $2 million to build five schools for girls across Africa. In 2012, Lotte founded One Girl Can, a non-governmental organization that provides secondary school and university scholarships to the students attending WLC’s schools.

Environmental Sustainability
Amanda Pitre-Hayes

Amanda has been at the forefront of environmental innovation for 25 years, from leading the development and implementation of Vancouver’s Greenest City Action Plan, to leading Vancity’s successful effort to be North America’s first carbon neutral financial institution, to working with the National Academy of Science to develop a sustainability framework for American cities. Her work in the field began in high school, starting on the shop floor at The Body Shop, working her way up through the ranks to become the President’s assistant. Her passion for sustainability is evident in everything she does whether it is meeting with senior climate change officials at the White House, cycling 7,500km across Canada, or her current side project: starting a sustainability-focused, organic winery.

Health & Wellness
Shimi Kang

Shimi Kang is a Harvard-trained psychiatrist, award-winning academic and best-selling author. As Vancouver Coastal Health’s Medical Lead for Child and Youth Mental Health, a Clinical Associate Professor at the University of British Columbia and the founder of the Provincial Youth Concurrent Disorders Program at BC Children’s Hospital, Shimi has helped thousands of children, adolescents and adults move towards better health and more positive lives. Shimi wrote the Self Motivated Kid (2015) and The Dolphin Parent: A Guide to Raising Healthy, Happy, and Self-Motivated Kids (2014), a national #1 bestseller that won the US News International Book Award. In 2012, Shimi received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for her years of outstanding community service.

Non-Profit
Ann Alexander

As Associate Executive Director of Pacific Legal Education Association (PLEA Community Services Society of BC), Ann Alexander is a compassionate advocate for youth at risk. During her 40 years as a justice worker, Ann’s innovative programing and passionate belief in crime prevention has helped rehabilitate thousands of Metro Vancouver youth. Ann designed Vancouver’s first low-barrier addictions treatment program for girls, launched an award-winning employment program for young people exiting criminal involvement and developed Canada’s first intensive one-to-one community-based support program for youth on probation. Her creative approach to rehabilitation transformed PLEA into a $25 million youth agency that is a provincial leader in youth justice services and earned Ann the Crime Prevention and Community Safety Award from the Ministry of Justice.

Public Service
Kathy Kinloch

Kathy Kinloch is President of the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) – one of Canada’s premier polytechnic institutions – and has held this position since January 2014. Kathy is recognized for leading organizational renewal in complex environments. Through a number of senior leadership and executive roles, she has spearheaded change initiatives in the post-secondary as well as government and health-care sectors. At BCIT, Kathy is focusing on efforts to broaden and deepen the school’s partnerships with business, industry and community, and on taking BCIT global. Under her leadership, BCIT has exceeded provincial performance measures and maintained a 95% satisfaction rate among graduating students.

Research & the Sciences
Patricia Janssen

Patricia conducts research to promote healthy pregnancy and birth, particularly among women marginalized by poverty, addiction and located in remote settings. She undertook the first study in North America to evaluate the safety of planned home births attended by regulated midwives and developed SmartMom, a prenatal education program delivered through text messaging. As the founder and Director of the Master of Public Health Program at UBC, Patricia plays a major role in training the next generation of public health researchers. Her research confirming the safety and cost-effectiveness of midwifery care and home birth has changed legislation and policy around the world and was recently showcased at the European Court of Human Rights to support the efforts of midwives to de-criminalize home birth in Eastern European countries.

Young Woman of Distinction
Zoya Jiwa

Embracing her diagnosis of Lupus as an opportunity help others, Zoya is the founder of As We Are, an online fashion community for people living with health conditions. Through her personal experiences, Zoya recognized that focus is often placed on living a vibrant life “when you are feeling better.” In response, she has created a positive space that encourages people to celebrate and embrace who they are, as they are, in this moment. Zoya is a fourth year SFU Sociology student with an interest in social innovation. She is also a three-time TEDx speaker and the recipient of the 2015 SFU Terry Fox Gold Medal and Prize.

Outstanding Workplace
Peekaboo Beans

Peekaboo Beans takes its commitment to play seriously. The company’s mission is to provide kids with durable, high-quality clothing that facilitates an active lifestyle and emphasizes the importance of play. Peekaboo Beans’ vision to provide the ingredients for a playful life extends beyond quality products to a quality culture. Its head office is referred to as “the Playground”, a space where employees enjoy a family-first culture and where parents are supported to raise their children while excelling in their careers. Through community play dates and its PLAY-ducation workshop series, Peekaboo Beans also urges local parents to encourage healthy play. Its partnership with Playground Builders raised more than $46,000 and built seven playgrounds in war-torn countries.

Connecting the Community Award
Traci Costa

As Founder and CEO of Peekaboo Beans, Traci Costa leads an award-winning playwear company that breaks down barriers for working mothers. Traci’s concept for functional, fashionable and lasting playwear originated in her basement 10 years ago and has become a multi-million dollar publicly traded company, employing more than 800 women across Canada. A passionate advocate for the benefits of unstructured play in a world of overscheduling and technological distractions, Traci revolutionized the direct sales model by selling Peekaboo Beans products through “independent play stylists” across Canada. Traci’s family-friendly brand empowers women to manage their own businesses without sacrificing their family lives. Traci was recognized as a Top 40 Under 40 by Business in Vancouver and is a strong advocate for creating a culture that supports working families and mothers.

Read about the 2016 nominees.


2015 Recipients

Arts, Culture & Design
Emily Molnar

Accomplished dancer and choreographer, Emily was named by The Globe and Mail as 2013 “Artist of the Year” in Dance. In 2009, she accepted the role of Interim Artistic Director with Ballet BC when the company was facing bankruptcy.  Emily accomplished what some critics thought would be impossible.  She turned a struggling contemporary ballet company, where she fills the role as Artistic Director, into a highly regarded and successful organization – a jewel in Vancouver’s cultural community. She has since taken on critical volunteer leadership roles with the BC Arts Council and the greater arts community that has once again underscored her strong skills in building consensus, advancing the cause and developing a sense of togetherness.

Business & the Professions    
Laurie Schultz

A fearless, innovative leader in the competitive technology sector, as President & CEO, Laurie has fundamentally transformed ACL, positioning it as a leader in its market category. Her forward-thinking approach and collaborative acumen has reinvigorated the team at ACL and instilled a culture that is both success-driven and community-minded. ACL is now proud to be the 4th largest Vancouver-headquartered software company and a Top BC Employer (2014). Board member for BCTIA, Laurie is an active advocate for technology in BC, and in particular for growing BC’s mid-sized technology sector. She serves as Chair of the Board of Dress for Success Vancouver to give back to her community. She has been recognized with numerous awards, including the 2014 Women of Influence Award from Business in Vancouver. 

Community Champion    
Heather MacKenzie

A human rights lawyer, steadfast community volunteer and Co-Founder of The Cinderella Project, Heather pursues inclusivity and dignity for all, especially women, children and people with disabilities. One of a very small community of blind and visually impaired lawyers, she left a traditional law practice to create her own unique firm, The Integrity Group, which focuses on building inclusive and barrier-free workplaces through human rights education and mediation. Today, she is a nationally-regarded speaker and conflict resolution expert. For 16 years, The Cinderella Project has encouraged and supported at-risk youth to make healthy life choices and reach the milestone of high school graduation. Heather’s vision is to celebrate some of our most courageous citizens – at-risk youth. 

Education, Training & Development    
Natacha Beim

Natacha believes strongly in giving children the best possible start in life. She is the CEO and Founder of CEFA Early Learning, a full day early learning school for children aged one to five. From one school in 1998, today CEFA operates in 15 locations across BC.  She also developed the entire curriculum for children, intensive specialization training for teachers and early childhood educators, and offers free parenting classes which she teaches to all parents in the community. Natacha is on the board of the Provincial Child Care Council, volunteers to help survivors of rape and single moms and mentors women entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurship    
Alexandra Greenhill

A nationally-recognized physician and the Co-Founder and CEO of myBestHelper, an award-winning technology start-up, Alexandra is a rare leader who collaborates across the business, health care and non-profit sectors. After a successful career as a physician, Alexandra Co-Founded myBestHelper to match working families with child and elder care. The service saw immediate success, with more than 8,000 users across Canada in the first few years, and Alexandra was noticed as an innovative new leader. myBestHelper has sped to the forefront of technology start-ups, including selection in 2012 as one of three Canadian companies to go to the Canadian Technology Accelerator in San Francisco. She is a mentor and role model and organized the Women Lead Tech initiative to showcase BC businesses led by women.

Environmental Sustainability    
Tzeporah Berman

Tzeporah, Co-Founder, Forest Ethics Advocacy, has been an inspirational leader in the environmental community for more than two decades, beginning with an instrumental role in the Clayoquot Sound protests. With vision, courage and creativity, Tzeporah has transformed intractable environmental conflict and complexity into workable, durable solutions. After working with Greenpeace to bring international attention to BC’s old-growth rainforests, Tzeporah co-founded ForestEthics, which calls on consumers to use their market power to meet environmental goals. Her inclusive, collaborative advocacy style was instrumental in helping protect the Great Bear Rainforest. She has now joined the fight for renewable energy and strong climate leadership.  Tzeporah was honoured by inclusion into the BC Royal Museum permanent exhibit as one of 150 people who have changed the face of British Columbia.

Health & Wellness    
Jan Christilaw 

Jan, President, BC Women's Hospital and Health Centre, is a powerhouse for advancing women's health in BC and a global leader in maternal care. Her work in preventative health care, combating maternal and newborn mortality and promoting human rights exemplify her passion for helping others. Her more than 25 years of accomplishments include being President, Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada; Expert Advisor, Canadian Institute for Health Information for Maternity; and Founding Chair, Aboriginal Maternity Committee - all while delivering thousands of babies in BC. She has positioned Vancouver as a global leader in maternal and newborn health care. Jan has saved countless lives and has trained and mentored hundreds of health professionals globally, including establishing emergency obstetrical training in Uganda. Women and families everywhere benefit from her influence, excellence and generosity.

Non-Profit or Public Service    
Krista Thompson

In serving as Executive Director of Covenant House since 2006, Krista has successfully elevated service to homeless and at-risk youth through her vision, strategic guidance and commitment to providing young people with unconditional love and absolute respect.  Under Krista’s leadership, Covenant House embarked on the largest expansion in its 18 year history, more than doubling the number of crisis beds from 22 to 54. She spearheaded the Covenant House Vancouver ‘SleepOut’ event that raises both awareness and funds to help youth get off the street. Krista also provides a voice for at-risk youth at the City of Vancouver Mayor’s Taskforce on Mental Health and Addictions and the Greater Vancouver Regional Steering Committee on Homelessness. 

Outstanding Workplace       
GOLDCORP

A global mining company, Goldcorp treats its people as its greatest asset. With a vision to build positive social, environmental and economic legacies, Goldcorp creates careers, supports community development and contributes to employee wellness. This vision is supported by programs tailored to employees to achieve professional development, wellness and community engagement – all while keeping employee safety paramount. The company promotes family-friendly policies such as family responsibility leave and programs that foster overall mental and physical health. Goldcorp has shown leadership and commitment to develop and advance women by launching Creating Choices, a training and mentoring program created by women for women at Goldcorp. It is the first global mining company to launch a women’s program, which, since 2010, has graduated more than 1,200 participants. 

Technology, Science & Research    
Liisa Galea

A world-renowned researcher and award-winning Professor of Psychology at UBC, Liisa is one of the few researchers in the world to study the female brain. Her research centres on understanding how hormones influence the female brain across the lifespan and she was an early pioneer in the field of postpartum depression research. She is a truly gifted communicator whose innovative and ground-breaking research has led to numerous local, national and international awards. Liisa has volunteered countless hours to mentoring students and reviewing scientific literature. She has become a prominent scientist with a large media following in Vancouver, and she uses these opportunities to disseminate her findings to local women, with the aim of helping them improve their quality of life and health.

Young Woman of Distinction    
Selin Jessa

An innovative, exceptional scientist, Selin’s natural curiosity, dedication and hard work allowed her to embrace the science curriculum and expand it far beyond the typical student interpretation. By Grade 12, she was conducting HIV vaccine design research at the HIV/AIDS Molecular Epidemiology Lab at SFU. Her research earned her international attention and ranked her internationally as the 4th place young scientific mind at the 2013 annual BioGENEius Challenge. Her natural tendency to ask questions allows her to find ways to implement positive change. She is one of the original organizers of TedXKids@BC and the first to launch a TED event in Antarctica. Today, she leads a project improving access to health care in Montreal, where she is a 2nd-year Immunology and Geography student at McGill University, supported by numerous scholarships.

Connecting the Community Award
Julie Blue

Safe and affordable housing: As a woman who has passion for creating safe spaces to encourage others to express their authentic voices, it is with great honour that I support the YWCA program to provide safe housing for at-risk women and children. It’s clear to me that to have safe housing for mothers and children is not a luxury, but a necessity.

 

 

Read about the 2015 nominees.

 


2010-2014 Recipients

Arts, Culture & Design 

  • 2014: Shaira SD Holman, Co-Founder/Artistic Director, Vancouver Queer Arts Festival
  • 2013: Chan Hon Goh, Principal, Goh Ballet Academy/Goh Ballet’s The Nutcracker
  • 2012: Violet Goosen- General Manager, Vancouver Chamber Choir
  • 2011: Morna Edmundson - Artistic Director, Elektra Women’s Choir 
  • 2010: Ardell Brophy

Business & The Professions 

  • 2014: Lisa Vogt, Partner & Chief Diversity and Engagement Officer, McCarthy Tétrault LLP
  • 2013: Lois Nahirney, Executive Vice President, Corporate Resources, Teekay Corporation
  • 2012: Patricia Graham - Vice-President of Digital, Pacific Newspaper Group
  • 2011: Tamara Vrooman - President and CEO, Vancity Credit Union
  • 2010: Barbara Hislop

Community Building                

  • 2014: Shashi Assanand, Founder & Executive Director, Vancouver & Lower Mainland Multicultural
  • 2013: Kamal Dhillon, President, Black and Blue Sari
  • 2012: Ginny Dennehy - Co-Founder, the Kelty Patrick Dennehy Foundation
  • 2011: Christina Anthony - Director, Odlum Brown Limited, Founder & Chair, Forum for Women Entrepreneurs
  • 2010: Donna Stewart                

Education, Training & Development

  • 2014: Janis Sarra, Professor, UBC Faculty of Law & Director, Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies
  • 2013: Elizabeth Croft, Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, UBC
  • 2012: Catherine Vertesi - Vice President, International, External Relations and New Initiatives, Capilano University
  • 2011: Margorzata Dubiel - Senior Lecturer of Mathematics, SFU
  • 2010: Iona Whishaw

Entrepreneurship         

  • 2014: Shannon Rogers, President & General Counsel, Global Relay 
  • 2013: Shahrzad Rafati, Founder & CEO, BroadbandTV 
  • 2012: Nicole Stefenelli - Founder and CEO, Urban Impact
  • 2011: Beverley Pomeroy - Founder & CEO, Global Currents Enterprises
  • 2010: Linda Coady

Environmental Sustainability

  • 2014 :Lyda Salatian, Founder & Program Director, The Lower Mainland Green Team (LMGT)
  • 2013: Mae Burrows, Founder, Toxic Free Canada
  • 2012: Louise Schwarz - Founder, Recycling Alternative

Health & Wellness

  • 2014: Victoria Bernstein, Director, Post-Operative Cardiac Surgical Unit, Vancouver General Hospital
  • 2013: Maureen de St. Croix, Founder & Head Coach, Ocean Athletics
  • 2012: Ann Meraw - Professional Swimmer & Coach, Vancouver Board of Parks & Recreation
  • 2011: Verity Livingstone - Medical Director, Vancouver Breastfeeding Centre
  • 2010: Janice Eng

Non-profit & Public Service

  • 2014: Darlene Marzari, Former MLA and Vancouver City Councillor
  • 2013: Dianne Watts, Mayor, City of Surrey
  • 2012: Wendy Au - Assistant City Manager, City of Vancouver
  • 2011: Linda Malcolm - Constable and Sex Industry Liaison Officer, Vancouver Police Department
  • 2010: Shirley Chan

Technology, Science and Research

  • 2014: Jennifer Gardy, Senior Scientist, British Columbia Centre for Disease Control
  • 2013: Deborah Money, Vice President, Research, BC Women's Hospital & Health Centre
  • 2012: Dianne Miller - Head Division of Gynecological Oncology, Dept. of Obstetrics and Gynecology, VGH & UBC
  • 2011: Janet Wood - Executive Vice President, SAP
  • 2010: Karimah Es Sabar

Young Woman of Distinction

  • 2014: Isabel Chen, Co-Founder & Executive Director, Keep Safe Initiative
  • 2013: Sara Eftekhar, Youth Activist
  • 2012: Alison Lee - Medical Student, UBC
  • 2011: Alia Dharamsi - Former President and Founder, UBC Meal Exchange UBC
  • 2010: Saara Bhanji

Innovative Workplace

  • 2014: Pacific Blue Cross
  • 2013: Vancouver City Savings (Vancity)
  • 2012: SAP Canada
  • 2011: McCarthy Tétrault LLP 
  • 2010: Nurse Next Door

Connecting the Community 

  • 2014: Kristi Blakeway
  • 2013: Barbara Mowat, President, Impact Communications Ltd. & GrowYourBiz
  • 2012: Wendy Au - Assistant City Manager, City of Vancouver
  • 2011: Saleema Noon - Principal, iGirl Empowerment Workshops
  • 2010: Amanda Tapping