For Women’s History Month, we are looking at women who are making history today. The women featured in this list range from CEOs to activists to actresses to sneakerheads. Although their professions may differ, each powerhouse has one thing in common; the path they forge for our future communities.
Founder of Chic Geek and “self-proclaimed nerd,” Kylie Woods followed her own formula, rooted in personal experience when it came to paving her career path. Woods’ keen interest in tech took her into the world of computer programming shortly after graduating. Between coding classes, tech workshops, and networking, Woods’ quickly noticed a lack of gender parity. Drawing from this experience and her newfound passion, Woods founded Chic Geek, a non-profit organization whose sole purpose is to build gender diversity in tech. Through safe spaces, Chic Geek offers programs, events, services, and partnerships to foster meaningful connections, and to support women in tech to achieve their career goals.
Miley Cyrus says, “I can buy myself flowers,” and Mejuri says, “I can buy fine jewelry for my damn self.” Noura Sakkijha, Mejuri’s co-founder and CEO, flipped the switch on the jewelry industry by making the practice of ‘gifting’ accessible to women. Sakkijha noticed that much of the jewelry industry upheld a traditionalist value based on men gifting women. In reality, women lead the charge in purchasing and buying jewelry for themselves or for others. Based on this concept, the direct-to-consumer fine jewelry brand Mejuri was born and has skyrocketed to having over one million followers on Instagram, celebrity endorsements, and brick-and-mortar stores across Canada, the United States, and the UK.
Like many industries, sneaker culture has historically been a boys club. Abby Albino and Shelby Weaver, co-owners of Makeway, didn’t want to break into the boys club; they wanted to break down its walls and completely rebuild them. The two entrepreneurs created a safe space for women within the sneaker culture by creating Makeway, a sneaker and streetwear boutique designed for women. Outside of browsing Nike’s latest drop, Makeway becomes a gathering place for women to connect, celebrate and build community.
Fae Johnstone is the Executive Director and Co-Owner of Wisdom2Action, a social enterprise and consulting firm that specializes in community engagement, creative facilitation, research and evaluation, knowledge mobilization and equity, diversity and inclusion. Wisdom2Action is a proudly 2SLGBTQ+ owned and operated firm that holds a deep commitment to ensuring all aspects of their work are considered from an anti-oppression and social justice lens. Outside of Wisdom2Action, Fae is a sought-after keynote speaker, writer, and an award-winning 2SLGBTQ+ and trans advocate.
Words have meaning. And in this case, one small word makes a huge difference. Canadian R&B/Soul artist, Jully Black, performed the Canadian anthem at the 2023 NBA All-Star Game. She sang, “O Canada! Our home on native land,” a change from the original lyrics, “Our home and native land.” The song’s original lyrics exclude the Indigenous history in this country, and Black’s choice of word acts as an acknowledgment of Indigenous rights and history.
“I just want to thank the Academy for not being mortally offended by the words ‘Women’ and ‘Talking’ so close together like that,” said Sarah Polley, accepting the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for her film, ‘Women Talking.’ Among her many accomplishments, this Oscar-winning filmmaker, writer, producer, actress, and political activist is known for sharing stories that need to be heard. Sarah Polley’s recent film, Women Talking (2022), is based on Miriam Toews’ novel inspired by real-life traumas within a Mennonite community in Bolivia.
“This is the toughest time in our history, but I know that food banks are tougher,” says Food Banks Canada CEO Kirstin Beardsley. Food Banks Canada has one mission: a Canada where no one goes hungry. This national charitable organization is focused on assisting Canadians with food insecurity by supporting a food bank network that spans coast to coast. Kirstin is a strong advocate for long-term policy solutions to food insecurity, including actions on affordable housing and policy reform, as she believes food can’t solve hunger on its own.
“Diversity and inclusivity are not options. Our generation can change things,” said Kélicia Massala in Hershey Canada’s newest #HERFORSHE campaign. It’s Kélicia Massala’s drive for gender equality that has gotten her to where she is today. She is the founder of Girl Up Québec, a United Nations Foundation organization that is a girl-focused leadership development initiative that promotes equity for girls and women in underrepresented spaces.
Entrepreneurs supporting entrepreneurs is the backbone of Christina Wong’s co-founded local grassroots charity – Employ to Empower. Employ to Empower supports people in the Downtown Eastside community of Vancouver who are faced with work and social barriers by encouraging connections to the community through entrepreneurship. Employ to Empower has a three-stage program which includes Business Skills Training, Mentorship Program, and Self Advocacy. Outside of the program, they offer financial support through micro-loans up to $10K.