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Women of Distinction Nominees 2017

Young Woman of Distinction

Ashley Adile
Ashley Adile is a third-year student pursuing an Honours Biochemistry degree at McMaster University. A professionally-minded individual with a focus in pediatric care, she holds various leadership roles in the Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences Society, is a Welcome Week representative for the Faculty of Science, fundraises for Shinerama, and mentors and inspires students within the McMaster community. She does all of this while also conducting research in Dr. Sheila Singh’s laboratory. Ashley volunteers her time at Ronald McDonald House Charities Hamilton and at the McMaster Children’s Hospital. Generously volunteering 250+ hours yearly with many additional hours of undocumented time, her motto is: “If education is the hero, then generosity and kindness must be its sidekicks”.
Pearl Almeida
Pearl is a fourth-year Combined Honours Arts & Science and Political Science student. Dedicated to a long journey in academia, Pearl hopes to complete a Masters in International Relations and to acquire a medical degree. Pearl is deeply involved with the McMaster Students Union, wearing many hats that range from elected governance positions on the Student Representative Assembly and Executive Board, to working for Campus Events by aiding in planning and promoting events for over 4000 students. Through her work in the Education department, Pearl created a case competition to enhance student engagement and retention within the Hamilton community. A loving daughter and sister, Pearl is very close to her family who has always trusted her decisions and supported her in her challenging endeavours.
Preethi Anbalagan
Preethi was born in Tamil Nadu, India. At a young age, she migrated to Canada with her family. As a result, Preethi was raised in a difficult yet invigorating blend of the traditional South Indian culture at home and the westernized culture of the wider Canadian community. After graduating from high school with Honours, she chose to attend McMaster University to study life science. Preethi has been involved in numerous extra-­-curricular activities, particularly those dedicated to creating a positive change for marginalized communities. Preethi walks upon the words that she preaches and never fails to educate someone on the adversities faced by women and people of colour. She is a self-­-motivated, hard working, and creative individual who inspires everyone around her and has grown into an outstanding female role model.
Lindsay D'Souza
Lindsay D’Souza is a third year Honours English student with a Specialized Minor in Commerce at McMaster University. Since her first year, Lindsay has demonstrated a strong passion for community engagement and has shown a keen interest in both leadership and mentorship initiatives across campus. Exemplifying both talent and grit, her dedication to personal development has inspired her teammates and has had a positive impact among young women she has interacted with. Continuously rising to the challenges put before her, Lindsay does not quit in the face of failure. While many are comfortable doing what they are best at, Lindsay pushes the boundaries to grow. With her innate care and ambitions to create meaningful change, Lindsay has a wide-reaching impact in McMaster student life.
Janelle Hinds
Janelle Hinds has been an instrumental leader within McMaster University and the surrounding community. Janelle founded HackItMac, a collaborative technical community and organized deltaHacks, the first student-run hackathon with a focus on enabling positive social change. Janelle also worked with Engineers Without Borders, Women In Engineering, and several other clubs across campus to promote entrepreneurship, diversity issues, and student development. Janelle was chosen to participate in the Next36 program, an entrepreneurial leadership initiative. She is currently leading the development of a platform to help to increase youth engagement in their communities by helping students find and complete volunteer placements while providing them with skill-building opportunities for future careers. Janelle also works at the Center for Addiction and Mental Health developing tools to address youth mental health issues.
Sarah Jama
Sarah Jama is the Ontario Director for the National Educational Association of Disabled Students as well as co-president of the McMaster Womanists. Sarah volunteers for New Generation Youth Centre as a mentor to youth. She is also a dedicated community organizer who has done great work in anti-racism and anti-carding advocacy. As a student, Sarah has fought for marginalized students and women on campus. Her involvement in PACBIC (the President’s Advisory Committee for Building an Inclusive Community) and OPIRG McMaster are examples of her commitment to student and community issues.
Hannah Kearney
Hannah Kearney has devoted her time at McMaster University to making a tangible difference in both the student and local Hamilton community. She has channeled her passion for giving back into the pursuit of an interdisciplinary community engagement minor. Kearney works with the MacPherson Institute for Leadership, Innovation, and Excellence in Teaching to improve curriculum in her home program of Life Sciences. She also volunteers with Child Life Specialists at the McMaster Children's Hospital and has accumulated over 125 hours of work there over the past two years. Kearney has mentored more than thirty of her peers through initiatives such as the MSU Horizons Leadership Conference and MSU Spark, a transition service for first-year university students.
Shruti Ramesh
An avid intersectional feminist, Shruti Ramesh employs the principles of equity into her numerous involvements. She is a fourth-year Arts & Science student at McMaster University where she has been a researcher for the CIHR chair in Gender, Work, & Health and a teaching assistant in Global Health. She strives to create safe spaces for marginalized groups through creating avenues for sharing narratives of lived experience. Shruti is actively involved with the McMaster Student’s Union Women & Gender Equity Network and as a training facilitator in peer support where she has helped to transform the way the university provides peer-led mental health services. An aspiring lawyer, Shruti hopes to advance equity by working to improve access to legal services, with a particular interest in feminist legal theory and human rights law.

Arts | Culture | Design

Born and raised in Hamilton, Eshe is an award-winning, professional bellydancer. She's trained extensively in Canada, Japan, Egypt, and Turkey, and performed in Canada, the United States, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, Australia, Indonesia, and Malaysia. In April 2016, Eshe opened her own bellydance studio in Hamilton called Mahasti — The Bellydance Emporium. She teaches bellydance classes to women of all ages and levels at the studio, and also hosts monthly pay-what-you-can workshops. All of the money collected from the pay-what-you-can workshops is donated to charity. Thus far, Eshe has donated nearly $2,000 to various local charities through her efforts at Mahasti — The Bellydance Emporium.
Patricia Karen Gagic
Patricia Karen Gagic is one of Canada's most exceptional national treasures. She is an internationally accomplished contemporary artist, award winning author, business woman, humanitarian and philanthropist. She is recipient of 2016 WXN (Women's Executive Network) Top 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada- RBC Champion, 2015 WXN BMO recipient Arts & Communications, was knighted Dame Order of St. George Canadian Prior, Director Public Affairs Niagara Commandery, Co-Founder Colours of Freedom, advisory/board member of many organizations including: Sir Edmund Hilary Foundation, Ambassador to Friends of Mankind, Canadian Museum Human Rights, and is the recipient of many awards of excellence. Patricia is to be honored April 2017 by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. She is passionate about local, national and global initiatives to make the world a better place for humankind.
Cyndi Ingle
Creative and passionate, Cyndi has had a major impact in creating environments that support artists in Hamilton in a variety of media. Cyndi is a photographer and a volunteer editor for Monkeybiz.ca, a Hamilton-based arts, entertainment, and community website. As editor, Cyndi markets and supports fundraising activities that impact women's lives with regards to mental health, breast cancer, and housing. Cyndi created Hamilton Photographers Rock (HPR) in 2013 which brings together local professional and amateur photographers. HPR has over 2600 members who post photos, share knowledge and advice, and discuss issues of interest to the art of photography. Members have had opportunities to share their work through public showings, create photography shoots, and develop peer mentoring. Under Cyndi’s leadership, HPR members have raised money for many local causes.
Amy King
Originally from Newfoundland, Amy King is a leading music producer and recording engineer at the legendary Grant Avenue Studio in Hamilton, Ontario. Amy joined the Grant Avenue team in 2002, and has worked with some of Canada’s most iconic recording artists and musicians, cultivating a highly respected reputation of her own. When artists are asked why they choose to work with Amy, their list of reasons is impressive. Known for her uncompromising standards and collaborative work ethic, Amy’s approach allows each artist to sound their best quickly, maximizing their creative focus while maintaining a comfortable, no-pressure environment. She has been a key ingredient in an array of award-winning musical projects, and is essential to the success of several artists who use her skills exclusively.
Shelley Marshall
Born and raised in Hamilton, Shelley Marshall is a self-described east-end street kid. She has inspired thousands of people as a public speaker, actor, comedienne, writer, and producer. One of her performances, Hold Mommy's Cigarette, has gained national attention and earned multiple awards, including the Gold award for Best Theatre Production (View Magazine) and Best New Discovery (Now Magazine). Hold Mommy's Cigarette is Shelley's autobiographical play detailing her personal struggle with mental illness, her father’s suicide, her own suicide attempt, and her remarkable journey out of the darkness of depression and into a life of purpose, happiness, and success. Shelley's performance is an honest and unbridled story that brings awareness to the effects of mental illness, and inspires people to engage in a dialogue about stigmatization and the importance of finding real supports for people with mental health issues.
Diana Panton
Diana Panton is a uniquely gifted artist whose talents cover a wide spectrum of the arts. Balancing both her careers as a world-class, JUNO-winning jazz vocalist and teacher of Drama and Visual Arts, Diana Panton is an exemplary role model for young women in Hamilton’s vibrant and diverse arts scene. A proud Hamiltonian, Diana lends her voice to and supports numerous local events and worthy causes. As a leader in the jazz field, she collaborates with Canada's top musicians and performs in shows all over the world. Diana's self-produced albums have earned global recognition, including two Silver Disc Awards in Japan, and chart-topping success on iTunes and Amazon. CBC radio host, Tim Tamashiro, recently named Panton "One of Canada's Top Five Female Jazz Singers."
Cornelia Peckart
Cornelia Peckart graduated from the Ontario College of Art and Design in 1987 with majors in Printmaking and Installation Art. Today, she resides in Hamilton, Ontario after making stops in Toronto, Berlin, Ottawa, Pittsburgh, and Rotterdam. Cornelia has worked as an artist and educator at a number of internationally recognized art institutions, including the Andy Warhol Museum, the Art Gallery of Ontario, and the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh and Villa Zebra in Rotterdam. She has been an art educator and teacher mentor at the Hamilton Conservatory for the Arts for the past six years, and currently works with several Hamilton cultural institutions such as Culture for Kids in the Arts, Centre 3, City of Hamilton Tourism, Dundas Valley School of Art, and the Workers Arts and Heritage Centre.
Meg Smith
Meg is driven and prolific. In her role as senior designer at factor[e], she is a leader who develops impactful, high profile brands, and thoughtful, intuitive web sites. She has made a deep impact at factor[e], positively changing the organization through mentoring, operational process improvement, and thoughtful leadership. Meg’s talents go beyond design; she has a natural talent and eye for art, and is a talented illustrator. Meg is also passionate about helping others and impacting the young women and girls in her community in her role as Co-Lead in the Hamilton chapter of Ladies Learning Code. She has made significant progress in both helping to break gender stereotypes in the technology and design industry, and introducing women and girls to the craft of web design.
Laura Tedesco
Laura Tedesco grew up in her family’s jewellery business: the historic Venetian Jewellers in Hamilton. At 14, Laura's mother passed away from brain cancer. In this difficult time, Laura suppressed many emotions, struggling to find meaning. It wasn't until a trip to Europe in her twenties that Laura rediscovered her love of jewellery and the powerful healing abilities of expression through art. Studying jewellery design in Florence, Italy through the Gemological Institute of America, Laura learned the artistry of traditional drafting techniques, theory and jewellery design. Her new knowledge in organically sketching her ideas led Laura on a path of self-discovery, sketching new designs through the streets and landscapes of the Italian countryside. Finding beauty in everything, she created thought provoking jewellery designs, born from the classical tradition, but distinctively her own. Laura has a custom design studio on Locke Street and is a proud mother of her son, Alexander.
Mindy Tweedle
Multi-award-winning Mindy Tweedle has a business-focused mind, a giving heart, and a creative spirit. She shares her love for the arts through dance, makeup design, and television productions. Her passion enhances client businesses, empowers women through mentorship, inspires with keynote speaking, and advocates with the Mohawk College Scholarship Award, donating a video to charity annually. This is the basis in which she established Tweedle Productions Inc. over 16 years ago. Her company specializes in video production, media and presentation training and VIP event planning, allowing her to fill viewers with hope, build confidence, and design unique soirees for charitable causes. Above all, she gives back to her community, volunteering on endless boards and committees.

Business Leadership | Entrepreneurship

Amy Back
Amy Rose Back is a visionary change-maker. With a degree in Sociology-Women’s Studies and Theatre from Boston University, Amy has merged both passions into her life's mission. Her commitment to excellence, profitability, and facilitating opportunity was first evident when she worked in sales and merchandising in New York City. For decades, Amy has championed theatrical initiatives with boundless energy and enthusiasm. She breaks barriers and facilitates change with Computer Help for Adults, which specializes in working with seniors and entrepreneurs to provide education and support and to raise awareness about internet safety. Amy is currently creating and customizing specialized programs for The Memory Project, YWCA, Dundas Community Services, and Ancaster Senior Achievement Center. She has been the driving force behind lnfoSpot Dundas, a pilot project with the Hamilton Council on Aging, Dundas 55+ Group, and Information Hamilton.  
Meg Button
Meg Button is a businesswoman and entrepreneur who was born and raised in Dundas, Ontario. Meg graduated from the advertising program at Mohawk College in Hamilton and co-founded her own company, Nuscreen Inc. in 2012. Nuscreen Inc. is a global digital innovation agency serving clients around the world, including Sally Hansen, Turkish Airlines, and Elle Magazine. Her business is a creative partner to NEXT Canada, Canada’s Startup Accelerator Program. As an expert in e-commerce, her company became a Shopify Partner and reached Expert status. Meg has dedicated much of her career to advancing the position of women in business. She’s an Advisor to Startup Fashion Week, serving on the judging panel for the Canadian Marketing Association Awards in the digital category. Meg was recently nominated for the RBC Women of Influence Canadian Women Entrepreneur Award.
Heather Buttrum
Heather Buttrum is a creative professional with 15+ years’ experience working in marketing and communications. Heather proudly lives and works in Hamilton, Ontario. Over the course of her working life, she has held senior leadership positions at two Hamilton-based marketing agencies. Three years ago, Heather started her own successful digital marketing agency, Rain Digital. Heather is known for taking the time to understand the goals of each project and how those goals correlate to business objectives, as well as leading teams that build incredible websites and digital strategies for their clients. With a reputation of leading by example, Heather is intensely focused in her professional life and passionate about her volunteer work. Her dedication to everything she does is second to none.
Eileen Campbell
Eileen Campbell is vice president of Customer Services at Horizon Utilities. She is one of only four women on the executive management team, a notable accomplishment considering the fact that the electric utility industry is so traditionally male-dominated. Eileen’s unique and collaborative management style is the secret to her success because she cares for customers and employees equally and treats everyone with the dignity and respect they deserve. Eileen’s dedication to increasing productivity and effectiveness has resulted in three million dollars’ worth of sustained cost savings over the past five years. These savings flow through to Hamiltonians, and help to offset rising costs in other sectors of the electricity industry. Eileen serves as a mentor to her team, future leaders in Horizon Utilities, and women across the industry.
Erin Dunham
Erin Dunham was born in, lives in, and bleeds Hamilton. As CEO of The Other Bird, Erin is one half of the creative team behind a hospitality group that includes six unique restaurants and the boutique Arlington Hotel in Paris, Ontario. In the past two years, she was named the young entrepreneur of the year by both the Hamilton and Burlington chambers of commerce. She has also been recognized as a strong female influence in the hospitality industry, being nominated for the RBC Women of Influence awards.
Erika MacKay
Erika is an incredibly driven young woman with a growing list of accomplishments. Currently, she is the principal of Niche for Design, an interior design company that prides itself on going above and beyond for their clients. Her commitment to excellence includes ongoing personal education, onboarding staff with a parallel vision, and demonstrating dedication to her business and her clients. Erika’s constant pursuit of new opportunities has recently resulted in her co-founding a new business, Hamilton Office Pro Inc. In addition to running one successful business and launching another, she also teaches at Conestoga College, is an active member of both the YEP and the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, and is a co-founder of Hamilton Fempreneurs.
Kim McDonald
Kim McDonald is the owner/operator of the Caryl Baker Visage franchise in Hamilton’s Limeridge Mall. She has built her business over the last thirty years, helping it to become the top-producing salon company-wide. Kim is an excellent employer, successful businesswoman, and a kind and selfless person. She always encourages the success of others while simultaneously working to improve her business. She leads by example, expecting the best from her employees and delivering her best at all times in return. Kim motivates, rewards, and supports her staff, which contributes to the excellent reputation her business carries. Kim is an amazing role model to all women in business.
Liz Nield
An accomplished collaborative planning and process designer, facilitator, and community engagement expert, Liz’s approach to work focuses on empowering people to discover, dream, design, and deliver. Her end-goal is to enable people to see their values and ideas in the plans that they help create. Liz is an accomplished speaker, trainer, and proponent of “guided learning.” She utilizes appreciative inquiry methods to establish integrity and trust in process participants, and is a strong and respected integrator, ensuring that community values and ideas are synthesized and embedded into public policy in every project she works on. Liz appreciates and understands the value of meaningful engagement, including the opportunity to integrate contemporary communications and social media channels needed to reach and engage people.
Fareen Samji
Fareen “Far” Samji grew up in Mombasa, Kenya as part of a family with a strong work ethic and deep-rooted values of giving back, which have informed all areas of Far’s life. Far came to Canada to pursue her education and began studying at McMaster University at age 16, earning degrees in both psychology and kinesiology. An accomplished athlete from an early age, Far pursued a professional golf career from 1999–2002. At age 28, she founded the family business with her brothers, which has grown to include three pedorthic clinics and a manufacturing facility serving clients across Canada. Under Far’s leadership and innovative vision, the company has realized year over year growth for 15 years, and is recognized as a model corporate citizen for its support of many community events and programs.
Lisa Stewart
Lisa was born in Guatemala and moved to Canada at the age of five. Growing up in downtown Toronto, her family consisted of seven siblings and a single mom, all adjusting to a new language, new climate, and new culture. Lisa attended college in Toronto, and at 25 she found herself working at a large, fancy lighting showroom. This was where she met her husband, Ryan, who was originally from Hamilton. Going on to work in office management and customer service roles at a few companies, Lisa became a mother of two with a full-time job. Lisa made the choice to clean homes for income to allow her to spend more time with her young family. Her company POSH was born, and in five years’ time would grow to be an award-winning home-cleaning service.
Trish Tonaj
As an entrepreneurial mentor and lifestyle coach, Trish Tonaj works with individuals and leadership teams shaping organizational culture. Trish is certified in Emotional Intelligence, EQ-1 and EQ-360, an internationally recognized talent assessment, communication, and change management tool. She has a certificate in Mediation and Dispute Resolution from Harvard Law School’s Negotiation Institute and a B.A. in Labour Studies/Communications. She is a certified personal trainer, nutrition /wellness specialist and certified yoga specialist. As an author, she has published A Diary of Change: 12 Personal Tools and Breaking Barriers — 10 Female Entrepreneurs Share Their Stories. She is a painter, loves to travel, and will readily admit that life is a "work in progress." "Love, laughter, and adventure" is her personal mantra and focus for maintaining a healthy work/life balance.
Suzanne Zandbergen
Suzanne is a trailblazer in female entrepreneurship and highly respected by her team, clients and Hamilton's entrepreneur community for her leadership and industry expertise. She is the owner of The Generator, a social media marketing company, and through this is always looking for ways to facilitate opportunities for others to succeed. Suzanne is also co-founder of The Hamilton Fempreneurs, a female entrepreneur group of over 400 entrepreneurs, created when she saw a need in the Hamilton market for women business owners to learn, grow and support each other. Suzanne is also actively involved with Hamilton’s co-working community and multiple entrepreneur and professional groups.

Community Leadership

Sarah Adjekum
Sarah Adjekum is a community activist, researcher, recent MSW graduate, and a McMaster alumni whose work has focused on the injustice faced by racialized people, immigrants, and refugees in Canada. As a McMaster undergraduate, Sarah founded United in Colour, a group for students of colour to share and critically analyze their lived experiences as students of social work and other disciplines. She continues to work alongside the Community Coalition Against Racism, McMaster Womanists, and all groups that support the struggle against racism and oppression. Some of her work includes co-organizing the Anti-Racism Action Initiative and Rise Up: Rally Against Police Brutality.
 Lena Bassford
Lena has held a variety of leadership roles in non-profit organizations that aim to improve the lives of children, including Big Brothers Big Sisters Canada, Big Brothers of Halton, Boys & Girls Club Central West Ontario, and Halton Food for Thought. Lena has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to support children in need through mentorship, empowerment, and nutrition provision. Most recently, Lena spearheaded the creation of Food4Kids Hamilton-Halton, an innovative program that directly addresses child hunger by providing weekend packages of healthy food to at-risk children. Lena also developed the Food4Kids summer feeding program, the first program of its kind in Canada. Her passion, leadership, and experience have helped grow Food4Kids from a program that supported 65 children in three schools to one that supports 1,335 children in 89 schools. 
Heidi Billyard
Heidi started volunteering in the housing co-op where she lived. She became a certified instructor, consultant, and then executive director for the Co-operative Housing Federation. She was also the first Coordinator of the Women’s Community Co-op. She is seen as a mentor for colleagues in the housing field, and is called on to troubleshoot or manage projects in trouble. At Good Shepherd, Heidi manages 526 housing units at 94 locations in collaboration with 29 private landlords. She has become a leader on community housing committees with a clear commitment to help support both landlords and tenants to improve housing quality and avoid evictions. As a 16-year breast cancer survivor, Heidi also volunteers her support to other women who are diagnosed with breast cancer.
Sherri Bonnallie
Sherri Bonnallie is a dynamic woman whose skills, interests, and accomplishments vary widely. She was Honourably discharged from the Canadian Armed Forces at a young age, achieving three different college diplomas, founding Give Proof to Our Youth, and leading the Barton Street Peace March. She is an artist, published poet, activist, motivational speaker, and role model and friend to many. Sherri’s achievements have been showcased in the Hamilton Spectator, the Mountain News, the World Poetry Movement, the Bill Kelly Show, and the John Howard Society Hamilton. This year, Sherri took home an Absolutely Fabulous Women – Over Forty award. Since the murder of her son in 2014, Sherri has turned tragedy into a sharing and healing experience for others.
Krysta Boyer
Krysta Boyer is a city-builder, connecter, and advocate for the Hamilton community. She is a dedicated volunteer and an innovative thinker who utilizes her skills to encourage positive growth and opportunity. As founder of Try Hamilton, she has inspired Hamiltonians to share their success stories and to encourage others to consider living, doing business, and investing in the area. The energy and commitment that she provides to local organizations such as Hamilton Future Fund and YEP Hamilton is admirable, and she is a worthy role model for other Hamiltonians.
Erin Buckle
Erin Buckle has made great contributions to the Hamilton community through her professional and personal endeavors. She has worked in a variety of non-profit settings for many years, up to and including her current work at the John Howard Society. Erin creates positive change as she provides leadership to her community, her work team, and youth who are served through program support. Erin is a dedicated and motivated team player, as she continues to challenge those around her to excel. She spends her spare time assisting the Glanbrook Hockey Community and participating in an active family life, with her husband and two sons. She is an advocate, role model, and cheerleader.
 Captain Marilyn Coleman
Marilyn Coleman has devoted most of her adult life to the betterment of Hamilton youth through her work with Air Cadets. She strives to "kindle the fire" in each young man and woman under her command. Many have benefited from her inspiration and leadership. Since 1989, Marilyn has been a Cadet instructor. She took on many roles before being appointed to commanding officer of 735 Firebird Squadron in Dundas. After 12 years, she was appointed to the position of Regional Cadet Advisor for Western Ontario Area where she advised 17 squadrons. Marilyn is now back at 735 Squadron as commanding officer. In her civilian life, Marilyn is a national manager with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
 Gabriela Covaci
Following her arrival from Romania in 2003, Gabriela’s interest in embracing and supporting diversity motivated her to accept a part-time job with HWDSB’s International Language program. Ten years ago she started a group called Rocateach, which provides events and programs free of charge to children born in Canada but raised in multicultural families. Gabriela has spearheaded campaigns which ships necessities from Canada to Romania, including clothing and school supplies. She has been appointed project coordinator and emcee for 2011’s 100 Year International Women’s Day, project coordinator for the Join Me on the Bridge event in 2012, and project coordinator of the HMC Gala, which supports newcomer and refugee programs. Gabriela’s interests in multiculturalism and diversity have also motivated her to serve as a volunteer in settlement and integration agencies.
Kathryn Crooks
Like many others, motivational speaker and personal power expert Kathryn Crooks spent several years on auto-pilot, acting as a passenger of life, rather than stepping out of her comfort zone and taking the wheel. Kathryn helps individuals increase their confidence and use personal power to activate their destiny. With nearly two decades of business experience, Kathryn brings personal and professional experience to her presentations that allow her to connect with her audience, inspiring and energizing them to take their confidence and success to the next level. Kathryn is an associate business analyst on the Infrastructure Ontario portfolio at CBRE and the executive director of Charity Chicks Hamilton and an Angel network that provides financial assistance to working poor who are struggling to make ends meet.
Margaret Denton
Dr. Margaret Denton is a researcher, academic, community leader, and advocate for older adults in Hamilton and beyond. She has been a valuable member of the McMaster community, serving in a number of directorial roles and sitting on many university committees. She has served the wider gerontological community as secretary-treasurer and board Member of the Canadian Association on Gerontology, and published over 60 peer-reviewed articles in academic journals. Margaret is a founding and the longest-serving board member in the history of the Hamilton Council on Aging. Margaret was the driving force in making Hamilton the first city in Ontario to begin the process of becoming an age-friendly city. Margaret’s work extends beyond Hamilton, collaborating with many communities to develop best practices in implementing age friendly communities across Southern Ontario.
Brenda Duke
Brenda is a longtime resident of Hamilton who has contributed significantly to fostering a healthy and safe community for the residents of her inner-city neighbourhood and Hamilton as a whole. Most of this work has been done through her grassroots leadership in key community initiatives, including the development of the Gibson-Landsdale Neighbourhood Hub, the Beautiful Alley’s project, and improving neighbourhood parks, greenspaces, and urban areas. Brenda acts as a catalyst for change and is a mentor and coach for those of all ages. She has fostered others’ desire to give back despite their physical challenges, social locations, or social views of marginalized individuals. She has been recognized by Hamilton’s 40 Women over 40 Awards in 2015, and through the Beautiful Alleys initiative by Environment Hamilton in 2015.
Linda Jackson
Linda Jackson has been working tirelessly in community groups and in the Hamilton corrections system for over 20 years, supporting women in various ways in this city. She was a volunteer leader of a Salvation Army choir for 12 years, and has been involved in quilters groups and guilds for many years, currently leading a group of quilters at the Salvation Army Meadowlands church. She runs a Cafe 55 group of seniors in Dundas every week. Linda has given countless hours of her time to endeavors which strengthen and support women locally, supporting them through difficult times and giving them confidence to provide support and leadership to others. Her work in court and at the Hamilton Wentworth Detention Centre has supported women at various crisis points in their lives.
 Milja Minic
Milja Minic attended Brock University, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in psychology with a minor in women's studies and philosophy. She began her career working in youth treatment homes for boys and girls, and then worked as a child and family worker for children with diverse behavioural needs. She is currently the school age manager for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Hamilton where she oversees programs that service over 700 Hamilton children and youth per week. In addition to collaborating with numerous community groups in her role as manager, Milja also volunteers at the Women's Centre and is a member of the Kiwanis Club of Hamilton East.
 Erin O'Neil
Erin O’Neil moved to Hamilton from Alberta in her early teens, and has always been strongly committed to serving her city. Involved in up to four different volunteer roles at a time, as well as a busy career in advancement at McMaster University, Erin has dedicated herself to solving social problems – especially those affecting women and girls – in Hamilton. Contributing to the Women 4 Change committee of the Hamilton Community Foundation, founding the Hamilton Chapter of Ladies Learning Code, or volunteering for the SACHA crisis line are only a few of the ways she gives generously to her community. Erin is continuously looking for ways to improve the city she loves, and Hamilton is a better place for her involvement.
 Carolyne Rashford
Carolyne is a wife, mother, daughter, police officer, immigrant, and coach. Her policing career has afforded her 22 years of connecting with citizens in our community, and she hopes that she has made a positive impact. Carolyne satisfies her passion to empower women and young girls through coaching, coordinating one-day conferences for girls, and participating in women’s conferences. Carolyne was raised by an incredible mother who taught her that we all have the ability to help and empower others, which she did for her entire life. Her mother’s example is the foundation upon which Carolyn lives her life.
 Nancy Smith
Nancy Smith started her career in 1981 in the not-for-profit sector as a residential coordinator, case worker, and program coordinator. Nancy joined Interval House of Hamilton in 1997 as the residential program manager and now serves as the executive director. Nancy devotes her time to over 13 committees, including the Hamilton Police Services’ Women’s Advisory Committee, National Shelter Association, HR Roundtable, EMS Protocol, and MentorAction. Nancy’s many accomplishments in making a difference in our community include assisting in the sustainability of the shelter and its services over the last 19 years, paving a road for collaboration between different social services within our community, and assisting in the expansion and advocacy for safe housing.

Education | Mentorship

Nana Bonsu
Nana was born and raised in Ghana, West Africa. She came to Canada in April 1992 for a visit and has lived here for over two decades. She is a mother of two, a community advocate, a motivational speaker, and an evangelist. Funny, energetic, and compassionate, she’s passionate about bringing positive change to her community. Nana has seen many challenges: Homelessness, abuse, sexual assault, and depression. Through prayers and self-care, she overcame them and became a voice that brings positive transformation to women who are facing similar challenges. Nana sits on two advisory committees: Women Abuse Working Group (WAWG) and Women Housing Planning Collaborative Committee (HWPC). Her compassion led to the birth of Empowered Women’s Circle Support Group, a safe environment for women to learn how to overcome challenges. 
Dr. Melissa Brouwers
Dr. Melissa Brouwers is a professor at McMaster University; the Scientific Director of the Program in Evidence-based Care (PEBC), the guidelines program of Cancer Care Ontario. Her academic interests are in the areas of implementation science/knowledge translation. Understanding how to improve the uptake of knowledge into practice and decision-making is a key part of improving access and quality of cancer care and a major theme that cuts across all projects of the HSR-KT team. She leads this effort with projects aimed at identifying organizational, provider, and consumer knowledge translation interventions and creates tools and resources that enable the implementation of these interventions. She is known for her work in developing the AGREE suite of guideline resources (AGREE II, AGREE Lite, AGREE REX, and AGREE HS).

Ellen Corsini-Chappel
Ellen has been a post-secondary educator in health sciences for 14 years, as both a classroom and a clinical professor. Ellen obtained her nursing diploma and a certificate in occupational health nursing from Mohawk College and her Bachelor of Science in Nursing (post-RN stream) from Laurentian University. Her Master's degree through Athabasca University is well under way! As a professor, Ellen has the unique opportunity to help strengthen the bond between education and community partners with each student she mentors at local hospitals and long-term care facilities. She emphasizes the need to advocate for quality patient care. Ellen believes in life-long learning and encourages her students to share her passion and belief by continuing their own education beyond their graduation, in the classroom or through the school of life.
Anegret Cucuz
Anegret Cucuz was born in Germany, grew up in Toronto, and is the daughter of Serbian immigrant parents. She’s a proud Canadian. She moved to Hamilton in 1984 after graduating from the University of Toronto. Upon completion of her teaching degree at Brock University, Anegret accepted a teaching position with the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board in 1985. Her unending dedication and "Never Give Up!" attitude have inspired and motivated colleagues and students alike. During those 23 years, Anegret and her husband, Michael, also ran a successful business and raised two sons. During her last eight years in public education, Anegret was a respected vice-principal and principal at W. H. Ballard and Lake Avenue elementary schools. Recently retired, she has many projects in mind focused on fueling her unrelenting zest for life.
Dr. Susan Denburg
Dr. Susan Denburg is a professor in the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioural Neurosciences and Associate Vice-President, Academic in the Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS) at McMaster University. She joined the university in 1978, first as staff psychologist at St. Joseph’s Hospital, then education coordinator and vice-chair of the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioural Neurosciences, and then as Associate Dean Education, FHS. Susan has provided leadership on numerous university committees, as Strategic Advisor to the President (2011-2016) and as Acting Provost and Vice-President Academic (2015). She oversees the Labarge Optimal Aging Initiative and champions the university’s commitment to research in aging. She is dedicated to mentorship, professional development, and initiatives that enhance innovative and interdisciplinary education and research across the university.
Emily Ecker
Emily Ecker is the Manager of Community Access and Engagement at Mohawk College. Throughout her career, she has led innovative projects such as the School College Work Initiative, the development of Mohawk’s Community Integration through Cooperative Education (CICE) program, and City School by Mohawk. She is a champion for making education accessible and her efforts within the college and community have been pivotal in opening a world of hope for Hamiltonians. An educator, mentor, and innovator, Emily continues to work to inspire those around her and those touched by her programs.
Dr. Maja Jovanovic
Maja Jovanovic is the founder and CEO of ALL IN Enterprises, a company that gives women the tools and strategies they need to become leaders in all areas of their lives. Prof. Maja became so frustrated hearing women apologize for everything ALL. THE. TIME. She decided to do something about it. She started a blog and wrote two books: Hey Ladies, Stop Apologizing … And Other Career Mistakes Women Make and its companion Hey Ladies, Stop Apologizing: THE WORKBOOK. Professor Maja is a medical sociologist, researcher, writer, and public speaker. Maja earned her master’s degree (Waterloo) and her PhD in sociology (McMaster). Her main research interests are female empowerment and confidence, along with health and body positivity. She teaches at McMaster University and Mohawk College where she interrupts the apologies, everywhere she goes.
Sherrie McAdam-Sadauskas
Sherrie McAdam-Sadauskas has been the Firearms Officer with Halton Regional Police Service for 29 years. She is currently seconded to the Ontario Provincial Police as a Provincial Firearms Officer. In 1994, she delivered the federal government’s Canadian Firearms Safety Course and Canadian Restricted Firearms Safety Course. In 2012, Sherrie became the Deputy Chief Instructor for the Province of Ontario, and was then named the Chief Instructor for the Province of Ontario, becoming the first female with the role in Ontario. In this male-dominated environment, Sherrie has 350 plus instructors that she is responsible for training. In general, she oversees all educational aspects of program delivery and instructor training. Her expertise is often sought across Canada. Sherrie’s leadership has inspired and motivated her instructors to strive for excellence.
Chrisanthy Nicholaides
Chrisanthy Nicolaides is a dedicated educator with the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board. She began her teaching career in 1992 and has taught science, cooperative education, special education, and alternative education. Since 2010, she has been vice principal at Saltfleet District High School, Delta Secondary School, and most recently at Glendale Secondary School. Chrisanthy's vision, dedication, and compassion for the wellness of others drives all that she does. She tirelessly works to support students and families in need. Chrisanthy is also the proud mother of two young women, Frances and Eleni, and wife to Gabe.
Mary O’Connor
In her 32 years at McMaster, Mary O’Connor has worked tirelessly to make the university a more vibrant learning environment and workplace — and a more inclusive one. She has led by example, producing path-breaking scholarship on women’s stories, art, and culture, from direct-action research engaging women’s voices in health promotion to the recovery of the important work of Hamilton-born photographer Margaret Watkins. Mary has had a transformative impact on her students and colleagues, who have been empowered by her compassionate, insightful mentoring to pursue creative, critical, and community-oriented projects. In her administrative roles, she has been a major champion of equity, innovation, and social justice.


Lindsay Bray
Lindsay Bray is an accomplished physiotherapist who has been practicing for over 16 years. Her career includes treatment in a variety of capacities. Currently, Lindsay works as a pediatric physiotherapist in Developmental Pediatrics and Rehabilitation at the Ron Joyce Children’s Health Centre (part of McMaster Children’s Hospital). There she provides centre-based treatment to children aged 0-18 years with physical disabilities and support to their families. Additionally, she maintains a community-based role with Hamilton’s Best Start initiative, providing center-based consultation to childcares. In both capacities, Lindsay is a highly skilled, caring, and committed professional dedicated to family-centered care. Lindsay remains passionate and committed to advocating for accessibility and inclusion for children and youth with physical disabilities.
Laura Laverty
Laura Laverty, who has worked for 12 years as a public health nurse in the Hamilton school program, has greatly extended her work to co-found Wever CORE (Children’s Opportunities in Recreation and Education) and WAVE (Wever After-School Ventures in Education), two completely unique school-based programs bringing hope and better health to children and families in challenged neighbourhoods. Working with principals, teachers, agencies, volunteers, and other professionals, she provides innovative, comprehensive support, engagement and leadership to the people she serves. While raising four daughters with her husband, Laura returned to school, graduating from Westdale Secondary, Mohawk College as an RN, and McMaster University with a Bachelor of Science. She has volunteered as a doula for underprivileged women and as a literacy instructor and has received Hamilton Rotary’s Paul Harris Award for “service above self.”
Kathy Levy
Driven, motivated, and passionate, Kathy Levy has a proven ability to lead and motivate others to achieve their goals. She is a direct and honest communicator, empathetic listener, and effective counsellor. She is an innovative and strategic thinker who is able to accomplish goals and to create value with minimal resources. Kathy is a highly collaborative and hands-on implementer who follows through on goals and honours her promises. She is in demand for many speaking engagements both professionally and personally. She is a loyal and tenacious friend and a determined advisor who goes above and beyond to remove any barrier in the way. Her motto is: When facing your dragons, never give up and never give in.
Frances J. Manias
Athlete, coach, mentor, Rotarian, entrepreneur, chief strength advocate, Frances Manias has taught, presented, and preached within the fields of health, fitness, and wellness for over two decades. She’s represented Team Canada in bodybuilding and powerlifting multiple times. Through IronSisters.ca & IronSistersUSA.com, Frances is reaching women locally and worldwide in a community best described by her as: “Iron Sisters™ are the strong women surrounding us. They are like-minded and passionate about the iron! Iron Sisters™ are the women who are picking up their first barbell today and those that have been lifting for years – even when it wasn’t socially acceptable or encouraged. Young and older, experienced or not, our commonalities are such that we have the strength to go it alone, but know that sisterhood is better.”
 Photo to comeDr. Carys Massarella
Carys is an emergency physician at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton and is the lead physician for the Transgender Care Program at Quest Community Health Centre in St. Catharines. Dr. Massarella sees and treats transgender-identified clients and is a leading expert in transgender care. She is an assistant clinical professor at the DeGroote School of Medicine and also lectures widely on transgender health care. Recent appearances include TEDx: The Depathologization of Trans Identity, TEDx Hamilton: The False Narrative of Deception, and the CBC Doc Zone documentary Transforming Gender. She was the first transgendered person to be a president of a hospital medical staff anywhere in the world and was named one of the World’s 50 Transgender Icons by Huffington Post.
Dragana Skokovic-Sunjic
When faced with a problem, Dragana Skokovic-Sunjic does only one thing: She solves it. An Ontario licensed pharmacist since 1996 (after fleeing civil war in her home country of Bosnia), Dragana has developed solutions to some of the most challenging aspects of prescribing medications, herbal products, and supplements. She has created several resources for fellow pharmacists and other health care providers to answer complicated prescribing questions that, until now, been left unanswered. A large focus of her pharmacy practice is helping women cope with their menopausal symptoms; Dragana became a Certified Menopause Practitioner in 2003, and she “find(s) great satisfaction in helping women make the link between the effects of stress on the body’s physiology … and ultimately, the way they feel.”

Teresa Smith
Teresa Smith is vice president of Adult Regional Care at Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) and executive site lead of the Hamilton General Hospital (HGH). HGH is one of seven sites within the HHS family of hospitals and is home to several programs that serve over 2.3 million residents in the south central Ontario region. An accomplished and visionary leader, Teresa provides oversight and strategic direction for the delivery of clinical and academic services in the regional cardiac, vascular, neuroscience, medicine, trauma, and burns programs. With over 20 years of clinical and management experience, Teresa possesses extensive skills in team development, quality improvement, strategic planning, and execution. She is highly committed to achieving excellence in patient and family centered care within a culture of safety, innovation, continuous improvement, and efficiency.
Kim Thompson
Kim Thompson runs a successful personal training business, is a certified yoga instructor, and active community volunteer and fundraiser. Her involvement with Osteoporosis Canada has educated the community and helped raise thousands of dollars locally for Osteoporosis education and research. Kim’s expertise, positive spirit and contagious enthusiasm have supported hundreds of people on the path to wellness through exercise, nutrition and belief in their own abilities.

Outstanding Workplace

At Kitestring, a Hamilton-based full-service advertising agency, co-founder Jenn Hudder guides the company with strategic business development and leadership, while fostering a sustainable workplace culture based on core values. For the past ten years, she has been dedicated to growing the business through maintaining incredible client relationships and her vital role has led the award-winning agency to recently open their second office located in Moncton, New Brunswick. Jenn is also a recipient of the Hamilton/Halton Forty Under 40 Business achievement awards, serves on Loyalist College’s Advertising and Marketing Communications Advisory Committee and provides mentorship and inspiration through the City of Hamilton’s Small Business Enterprise Centre Access to Professionals Program. In addition, Jenn co-hosts the My Better Business Half podcast and is a frequent lecturer on the topics of branding and entrepreneurship in Southern Ontario. 
Lake Road Restaurant and Twisted Lemon
At Hamilton restaurants Lake Road and Twisted Lemon, creating a positive, inspiring culture is no easy feat. The business places great demands on stakeholders at all levels and is widely known as being one of the most stressful industries to work in. For that reason, what Laurie Lillman has succeeded in creating at both of her restaurants is truly remarkable. Laurie not only actively champions leadership roles for women in her workplace, she mentors and facilitates their achievement. Her commitment to enabling and insisting on work/life balance (embodied in her mantra “family comes first”) is rare in many professions but especially so in the restaurant business. What makes Laurie all the more inspiring is that she does so with grace, compassion and a genuine appreciation for her people.
Program in Evidenced-Based Care (PEBC), McMaster University
The Program in Evidence-Based Care (PEBC) is an initiative of the Ontario provincial cancer system, Cancer Care Ontario (CCO). It is located at the Juravinski Cancer Centre. The PEBC mandate is to improve the lives of Ontarians affected by cancer through the development, dissemination, and evaluation of evidence-based products designed to facilitate clinical, planning, and policy decisions about cancer control. The PEBC supports the work of Guideline Development Groups (GDGs) in the development of various PEBC products. GDGs are composed of clinicians, other healthcare providers and decision makers, methodologists, and community representatives from across the province.
REfficient Inc.
REfficient is a marketplace that sells refurbished and reclaimed products in the Telecom, AV and building materials spaces. Since its launch in 2010, REfficient became Hamilton’s Certified B Corp, meaning the company is for profit and for good, and was named four times to the “Best for the World” list for the company’s environmental impact. REfficient maintains a flexible work environment, promoting teleworking and launching Flex Time in 2015, a new type of vacation time that balances both the employee’s and business’ needs. REfficient employees are solicited for feedback on a range of company matters, including creating a company donation policy. In 2016, initiatives included staff volunteering for Hamilton Victory Gardens, participating in the YWCA S.I.S.T.E.R program, and making donations to two other non-profits.

Science | Technology | Trades

Anne Tennier
Anne Tennier, M.Eng. (Chemical Engineering), is a chemist and professional engineer with more than 35 years’ experience in industry. She was Vice- President, Environmental Sustainability for Maple Leaf Foods and Lead Community Liaison Officer in Hamilton. Her career has focused on researching, designing and constructing innovative solutions to complex environmental problems in various industrial sectors, and seeking ways to reduce industry’s environmental footprint related to climate change, water and waste. In January 2016, she created Anne Tennier Consulting Inc. to help new and existing companies integrate community and environmental concerns and government regulations into effective planning that benefits all. In addition, Anne’s participation on many community boards and extensive mentoring of young women leaders form a vital part of her 15- year contribution to Hamilton.
Deborah Sloboda
Dr. Deborah Sloboda is an associate professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences at McMaster University. Her research investigates the relationship between prenatal risk factors, including poor maternal nutrition, and long-term disease risk, with the goal of improving maternal and child health. Deborah’s research is highly cited and she is a recognized global leader in her field. She has worked tirelessly to translate her science into clinical practice and to involve community health groups that service women. She has been a mentor for young women in science at all stages of their education and works with local schools in the community to inspire young minds and to expand the visibility of women in science.
 Leah Mojeski
For the past 16 years, Leah Mojeski has served in various roles with ArcelorMittal Dofasco in Hamilton currently as its Manager of National Real Estate, Support Services and the F.H Sherman Recreation Centre, representing the company’s Canadian holdings. She’s the first woman to hold this position in the company’s 103-year history. Leah has a Bachelor’s Degree of Engineering and Management from McMaster University and holds a professional engineering license. Leah has been in the metals industry since 1997. In addition to her position with ArcelorMittal Dofasco, Leah also holds the position of Central Regional Director for the Association of Women in the Metal Industries (AWMI) and is a leader with the Girl Guides of Canada, where she tirelessly promotes getting young girls and women into non-traditional occupations, particularly in the fields of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). Leah, her husband and three daughters live in Grimsby.
Marie Elliot
Dr. Marie Elliot is an associate professor in the Department of Biology at McMaster University. She has devoted her scientific career to understanding how bacteria grow and communicate with each other to find new ways to tackle the antibiotic resistance crisis. Marie Elliot studies Streptomyces to find new antibiotics that can cure multi-drug resistant infections. She is a leader in her field and a mentor to many successful female scientists, but her commitment to empowering women extends beyond her professional activities. Marie Elliot is also a founding member of the FAB Foundation, an organization dedicated to providing girls from deprived backgrounds with the leadership skills to reach their full potential. Marie Elliot inspires girls and young female scientists in our community to pursue their dreams in fields predominantly dominated by men.

Lifetime Achievement:
The following women have also been nominated for the Lifetime Achievement award.

Lena Bassford
Heidi Billyard
Margaret Denton
Patricia Karen Gagic
Kathy Levy
Sherrie McAdam-Sadauskas
Mary O'Connor 
Anne Tennier

Professional head shots taken by Paulina Rzeczkowska