Selections by Women's Post Editorial Board / Info and Write-ups by Jelena Djurkic and Christine Stoesser
Every year, we at Women’s Post compile our list of the Top 20 Women of the Year. Some of these women are well-known while some operate under the radar. Some have made a spectacular contribution to their industry this year while others are women to watch for in the year to come. They are from different industries, backgrounds, and all have unique characteristics that make them truly great women. Read on for some inspiration and snapshots of our picks. (Part 2 of 2)
When it comes to money, Janice Fukakusa knows a thing or two. As the Chief Administrative Officer and Chief Financial Officer at RBC, Fukakusa is responsible for setting the strategic direction of Canada’s largest financial institution. She’s an RBC veteran, having worked at the institution since 1985.
Fukakusa has dabbled in many roles, having spent time in corporate finance, auditing, treasury and retail banking. She was also one of the bank’s key leaders through the financial crisis in 2008. Her love of all things finance started in her days at the University of Toronto and continued with an M.B.A from the York University Schulich School of Business. Prior to her days at RBC, she became a chartered accountant and chartered business valuator while working at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. While there is yet to be a female bank CEO —a position, rumours say she might fill — Fukasuka sees the role of women in banking as stronger than ever. "It allows us to be more innovative and better serve our clients - many of whom are women who today play a strong role in financial decision-making. It's the right thing, but also the smart thing, to do,” Fukasuka has said.
Angela Robertson has spent her life helping other women. Currently the Director of Equity and Community Engagement at Women’s College Hospital, she has been an active member and leader of the Black and women’s communities, helping implement various programs to help support those in need. As the previous Executive Director of Sistering – A Woman’s Place, an organization that offers support to homeless and low-income women, Robertson helped double the agency's budget and facilitated the expansion of the agency's headquarters.
A York University graduate, Robertson has also been heavily involved in the Black Queer community, co-founding Blockorama, a celebration of black PRIDE, which marked its 12th anniversary this year. She has been a key member of mobilizing campaigns for social justice issues, from her early days at York where she founded the group, Black Women at York, to her current position as chair of the governance board of the Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention. She’s a lady with a heart, whose compassion and vision has helped, and still continues to help, the most marginalized women in our community.
Joelle Berdugo-Adler has been a powerhouse in the fashion industry serving as President and CEO of Diesel Canada Inc. for over twenty years; it is her philanthropy however, that makes her stand out as one of our top women of the year. Berdugo-Adler, along with her husband and business partner Louis Adler, helped establish Diesel Canada as one of Canada’s most successful denim brands.
In 2004, Berdugo-Adler created the Lou Adler Foundation, which helped raise funds for cancer-related charities, following her husband's tragic death from the disease. Since then, the Foundation has evolved into the ONEXONE Foundation, helping to improve the lives of children around the world. After the January earthquake in Haiti, ONEXONE sent millions of dollars worth of goods to help affected families and children. Just recently, it announced a $3 million commitment to help build a hospital in Haiti. We’re not the only ones who think ONEXONE is great, just ask Matt Damon, the foundation’s ambassador. He’s one of the many celebrities who has been involved with Berdugo-Adler's mission. “Not a single life, anywhere in the world, is expendable. By combining passion with action, we can inspire others to commit to improving the world, one person at a time,” Berdugo-Adler has said.
Success has been served sunny side up for Cora Tsoufildou since 1987. It was around this time that Tsouflidou bought a small Montreal snack bar, eventually transforming it into one of Canada’s most delectable and recognized breakfast diners. But it wasn’t all pancakes and syrup. Her story is one of reinvention and creativity. Her husband left her with three teenage kids to support and Tsoufildou was forced to find a way to survive. With some delicious crepes, a pinch of creativity and a solid business plan, she is now the head of an entire Cora’s empire.
The company has been named one of Canada’s 50 Best Managed Companies multiple times and currently has 115 franchised restaurants across the country. Best known for her bright smile, Tsoufildou brought back breakfast with style, healthy, fresh ingredients and the famous signage that adorns each colourful restaurant. This year she released her autobiography, Breakfast with Cora, detailing her journey through food and business. A self-made women, Tsouflidou gracefully manages both the kitchen and boardroom table.
Mary Anne Chambers
Whether she’s on top of the financial world, arguing on behalf of constituents, or mentoring young women, Mary Anne Chambers has always done it with integrity and a love for her home country of Jamaica. She emigrated to Canada from the Caribbean country in 1976 and joined Scotiabank as a computer programmer and analyst, moving up the financial institution’s corporate ladder to the position of Senior Vice-President. In 2002, Chambers retired and set her sights on politics. Less than a year later, she was elected as a Member of Provincial Parliament, serving first as the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, and then as the Minister of Children and Youth Services.
Along the way, she’s supported many causes, serving on the boards of the YMCA of Greater Toronto, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, and as presidents of P.A.C.E. Canada, an organization that supports early childhood development. Through her role at P.A.C.E, she sponsors two schools in Jamaica, adopting 28 schools in the last seven months. A dedicated community volunteer, Chambers has also funded over 30 scholarships for first year post-secondary students and started a mentorship program with the Universityof Toronto Scarborough for middle and high school students.
The Vancouver Olympics showcased the talents of Canada’s top female athletes, but viewers of the 2010 games will hold the brave and emotional performance of Montreal’s Joannie Rochette in their memories for years to come.
Rochette, a medalist in the World Championships, was under pressure to earn a place on the Vancouver podium before the unexpected happened: Her mother died of a heart attack just days before her competition. The 24-year-old figure skater trained her whole life for the Olympics and knew her mother would have wanted more than anything for her to compete, so she held her head high and followed through with her dream. The country seemed to mourn with her as she fearlessly skated through her short program, breaking down only after the music had stopped. Her long program, dedicated to her mother, brought many viewers to tears and earned Rochette a bronze medal. Her win was one of the most inspirational displays of courage and determination Canadians have seen from an athlete; it was also the first time a Canadian female figure skater has been on the Olympic podium since 1988.
Connie Clerici combines sharp powers of observation with the can-do attitude of a woman who takes what she sees and turns it into something far better. A Registered Nurse with a Bachelor of Health Science in Nursing, Connie worked for years in hospitals and community health centres before deciding that health care needed higher standards, particularly for patients suffering from long-term illnesses. She took out a loan and founded Closing The Gap Healthcare in 1980, a company that specializes in providing personal health services in homes, schools, work places and long-term care homes.
Twenty years later, Closing The Gap Healthcare’s revenue is in the millions, the organization is receiving government support, and in 2010 Connie herself was inducted into the Top 100 Hall of Fame for Canada’s Most Powerful Women. On receiving her award, Connie said, “I accept this honour on behalf of all women in healthcare and more specifically on behalf of the passionate woman leaders within Closing The Gap Healthcare Group.”
Erica Diamond started her first business when she was 24. The promotional company, Unique Corporate Gifts, founded in 1999, earned her financial success, entrepreneurial awards and appearances in the media. However, Erica dreamed about creating an inspirational and informative hub for women, so she sold her company in 2006 and founded womenonthefence.com, a blog that focuses on the many roles that women play in their lives.
Written primarily by Erica, but also featuring various guest bloggers, womenonthefence.com has already won significant recognition from other online communities since its inception in 2009. In addition to running the blog, Erica regularly speaks to and mentors other entrepreneurs, and in 2010 was the headlined speaker at the National Women’s Show. Erica takes a down to earth approach in her blog in order to inspire women to be the best they can be—without being too hard on themselves. As she wrote in 2010, “We’re told to be sexy for our partners, nurturing for our children, savvy in business, a loyal friend, in other words…perfect. But who’s perfect? Yup, you know the answer.”
Kathy Bardswick knows a thing or two about teamwork as President and CEO of Canada’s leading insurance company, The Co-Operators. A graduate of McMaster’s M.B.A. program, Kathy joined The Co-operators in 1978. She worked as COO of The Sovereign General and L’Union Canadienne from 1998-2002 before she was appointed Chief Executive Officer of the Group on March 1, 2002. The past few years have not been easy in the insurance industry; with Kathy’s leadership, her company implemented progressive business plans to support environmental longevity.
In the last two years alone, The Co-operators has started to provide additional coverage in restoring property with environmentally friendly options after a claim, discounts on auto insurance for hybrid vehicles as well as options that allow customers to invest in companies with strong ties to environmental protection and human rights. Kathy says these important progressive ideas were inspired by her children: “We would talk more and more at the dinner table on issues of health, well being, and physical resources. I had all of this in my head – that I wasn’t doing enough as a leader of this organization, as a parent in my family, and as a member of my community…”
In the early nineties, Susan Niczowski, along with her mother Francis, found themselves consumers in a marketplace of ready-to-go cuisine. There were TV dinners and microwaveable meals, but as Susan and her mom quickly distinguished, there was a need for fresh food that could be served fast. Susan, who holds a B. Sc. in Chemistry from the University of Toronto, began her career as a Microbiologist at Maple Leaf Foods. Once she identified the market value of readymade fresh food, she and Francis founded Summer Fresh Salads Inc. in 1991. These days, Summer Fresh is a household name not only in Toronto but across much of North America; the multi-million dollar company is well known for its array of salads, dips, appetizers and soups.
Susan’s venture into the world of food and entrepreneurial experience was supported by an idea that Summer Fresh Salads has trademarked: Food is Fashion™. Says Susan, “Essentially, it means that while the staples like meat and potatoes stay the same, the foods that you use to accessorize this dish change with the seasons like fashion. Whatever the season, you can be confident that Summer Fresh is setting trends with many new and exciting product introductions with every quarter.”Author:Women's Post Editorial Board / Info and Write-ups by Jelena Djurkic and Christine Stoesser
Tuesday, 8 March 2011
Top 20 Women of 2010 (Part 2) | womenspost.ca