Written by: Origins Media Haus and MESH/Diversity
For International Women’s Day, MESH/diversity and ORIGINS MEDIA HAUS have joined forces to highlight 50 women who inspire us! This is by no means a definitive list!
Founding Partner at Two Small Fish Ventures
LinkedIn: Eva Lau
Eva Lau is an entrepreneur-turned-investor and one of the few women leading a venture fund in Canada. She is a tech-startup enthusiast and loves building the startup ecosystem in Canada.
Eva is the founding partner of Two Small Fish Ventures, which invests globally in early-stage, transformative tech companies with strong network effects.
Before starting Two Small Fish Ventures, she was Wattpad’s Head of Community and Content. She helped nurture and scale the Wattpad community from its infancy to become one of the largest online communities with tens of millions of monthly users around the world.
President & CEO at Bitvo Inc.
LinkedIn: Pamela Draper
Pamela Draper spent almost 14 years in investment and corporate banking at top-tier Canadian banks.
In various roles, she focused on raising capital for North American growth-oriented companies across industry sectors.
Co-founder, CEO at Quill Inc.
LinkedIn: Fatima Zaidi
Fatima Zaidi has had over ten years of experience in Business Development, Marketing, and Strategy. Prior to starting Quill Inc, she was the VP of Business Development for Eighty-Eight, a Toronto-based creative communications agency, where she was responsible for all inbound and outbound sales.
She was named one of Marketing Magazine’s top 30 under 30 marketers and brand developers for 2016, one of Flare Magazine’s Top 100 Canadian Women, and was a finalist for the 2017 Toronto Board of Trade Young Excellence Awards.
Co-founder & COO at Borrowell
LinkedIn: Eva Wong
Eva Wong is Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer at Borrowell, a Canadian fintech company that helps consumers make great decisions about credit.
She provides leadership to the Product, Engineering, Design and Data teams and is a member of the Executive Team. Eva's career has spanned both the private and not-for-profit sectors, including roles at The OTF Group, Maple Leaf Foods, UNDP and Oliver Wyman.
Co-Founder & CEO at Hello Iris
LinkedIn: Nina Iordanova
Nina Iordanova is fascinated by relationships and the many ways people connect. She is the Co-Founder & CEO of Hello Iris, a company that uses tech to build guided meditations for its clients based on psychometrics that help them explore their unique experiences in the world.
Her work focuses on looking at how people meet, couple, and fall in love at a fundamental level, helping to build a more connected world.
Founder at Hotline & Co-Founder at Breather
LinkedIn: Caterina Rizzi
Caterina Rizzi is a passionate believer in human centered design. She has made a career turning lofty goals and left field ideas into game-changing brands and experiences across the globe.
Her ability to read trends, innovate products and translate visions into viable strategies has set her apart and allowed her to work on several important projects and with leaders in major industries.
A strong proponent of the power of women, Caterina also dedicates her time working closely with female entrepreneurs to inspire them, help grow their businesses and achieve their goals.
Marie Chevrier Schwartz
CEO & Founder at Sampler
LinkedIn: Marie Chevrier Schwartz
Marie Chevrier Schwartz is the Founder and CEO of Sampler, the leader in direct-to-consumer sampling.
Marie started her career in advertising at J. Walter Thompson. From there, she had the opportunity to work at a venture capital firm in New York City. After a few years there, Marie came back to Toronto to merge her passion for marketing and technology.
Marie started Sampler with a vision to transform the way consumer packaged good companies distribute product samples. Marie is also the co-host of Tech Toronto’s newest community called: Retail TO and the lead of Retail Tomorrow Toronto, a one-week immersion event that brings US retailers and brands to Toronto.
CEO at Vacation Fund
LinkedIn: Erica Pearson
Erica Pearson is the Co-founder & CEO of Vacation Fund. She left the Capital Markets space to help people live happier, more balanced lives.
Her work at Vacation Fund provides creative and innovative companies experiencing turnover with the benefit of employees’ dreams, to retain the best talent and become the best place to work.
Founder at Ambient Strategy
LinkedIn: April Dunford
An engineer by training and now marketing advisor to tech companies around the world, April has worked on both sides of the tech divide for years.
Throughout her career that spans more than a decade, her work with fast-paced startups, such as Tulip Retail, DataMirror (acquired by IBM), Janna Systems (acquired by Siebel Systems), Sitraka (acquired by Quest software), and Watcom (acquired by Sybase) is a testament not only to her wealth of knowledge but also her dedication to the changing industry. In addition to her ongoing consulting work, she was an executive at several emerging startups and now an angel investor, board member, advisor, and mentor to dozens of tech startups.
Founder & CEO at MarketBox
LinkedIn: Diana Goodwin
Diana Goodwin is Founder & CEO of MarketBox, a B2B SaaS product which enables service-based marketplaces and businesses to grow and scale their businesses.
Diana initially founded AquaMobile, an on-demand swim lesson provider which is now the largest of its kind in North America and Australia. She is considered a tech innovator and thought-leader in marketplace businesses, the gig economy and scaling businesses internationally.
CEO at Flindel
LinkedIn: Ugochi Owo
Ugochi Owo founded Flindel as a way to improve customer experience in the e-commerce sector by changing how they process product returns.
Her company is one of the first startups in the Black Innovation Fellowship through the DMZ, a program that helps black entrepreneurs in the tech sector.
Diversity & Belonging Lead at Shopify
LinkedIn: Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh
Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh is the Diversity & Belonging Lead at Shopify. She cultivates a high impact and inclusive environment by empowering everyone to own culture.
She leads a team that guides diversity and equality initiatives that advance inclusion, so employees feel valued for their authentic voices and talents and are empowered to reach their full potential.
Shavonne also sits on Manifesto’s Board of Directors, a not-for profit organization that creates spaces that inspire, develop, and amplify diverse communities of young people through the arts, culture, and media.
Technology Journalist and Founder at VentureKids
LinkedIn: Takara Small
Takara Small is an award-winning entrepreneur, journalist and public speaker. She currently appears on Metro Morning as a technology columnist as well as an on-air tech expert for CBC and CTV.
She was previously the host/producer for the Globe and Mail startup podcast “I'll Go First,” the number one technology podcast in Canada, and contributing editor for Fortune magazine.
She is also the founder and executive director of VentureKids Canada, a nonprofit that provides free coding classes and startup workshops to youth living in low-income and underserved communities in Ontario.
Founder at Scale Without Borders and Program Lead at DMZ
LinkedIn: Nouhaila Chelkhaoui
Nouhaila Chelkhaoui is passionate about helping newcomer tech entrepreneurs access the abundant resources available in Canada to scale their startups globally. Her work at Scale Without Borders is to position it as a one stop shop for newcomer tech entrepreneurs.
Nouhaila is also the Programs Lead at the DMZ for the DMZ Accelerator, their flagship program, and the DMZ Women Founders programs. In this role, she helps tech entrepreneurs scale their startups into world class businesses that create global impact.
Founder & CEO at Juno College of Technology
LinkedIn: Heather Payne
Heather Payne is the CEO of the Juno College of Technology, a post-graduate coding school that helps people quickly build a fulfilling career as a web developer.
In 2011, Heather co-founded Ladies Learning Code, a Canadian not-for-profit organization that runs popular workshops for women (and their friends) who want to learn computer programming and other technical skills in a social and collaborative way.
Ladies Learning Code has since re-branded to Canada Learning Code and has chapters in dozens of cities across Canada as well as thriving programs for youth.
Co-Founder & President at Clearbanc, Dragon on Dragon’s Den
LinkedIn: Michele Romanow
Tech Titan, Michele is the youngest ever entrepreneur to join CBC’s hit show Dragons’ Den. She previously co-founded e-commerce platforms SnapSaves (acquired by Groupon) and Buytopia.
Michele is ranked in WXN’s “100 Most Powerful in Canada” and listed as the only Canadian on Forbes’ “Millennial on a Mission” list. She is a director on the board of Vail Resorts, Freshii, SHAD, Smith School of Business and League of Innovators.
CEO & Co-Founder at Willful
LinkedIn: Erin Bury
Erin Bury is an entrepreneur, speaker, startup advisor, and former technology journalist. She is the co-founder and CEO at Willful, an online estate planning platform that makes it easy for Canadians to create a will in less than 20 minutes.
At Willful, Erin is responsible for driving the company’s mission to make it easier for Canadians to prepare for and deal with death in a digital age. Erin also named one of Marketing Magazine's top 30 Under 30 marketers, journalists & PR pros in August 2012.
Executive Director at OneEleven 111
LinkedIn: Siri Agrell
Siri Agrell is the Executive Director at OneEleven 111. She was the former director of strategic initiatives for Toronto Mayor John Tory’s office, has joined OneEleven Toronto as its Toronto managing director.
During her time as director of strategic initiatives, Agrell worked with the local tech ecosystem, leveraging partnerships and facilitating procurement from companies like Ritual, Waze, and Miovision. She helped lead the overhaul of the city’s recreation registration system, the King Street Pilot project, and was responsible for federal intergovernmental affairs such as the Waterfront Toronto and Sidewalk Labs’ Quayside pilot, the Cities & Mental Health Summit, and the #TorontoStrong Fund.
Founder & Director of the Civic Innovation Office for the City of Toronto
LinkedIn: Paula Kwan
Paula Kwan served as the Founder and Director of the Civic Innovation Office for the City of Toronto.
Paula has built long-lasting trusted advisor relationships with small companies all the way through to Fortune 500 organizations across North America who have trusted her with their business pains and challenges, budgets, high expectations, and reputations.
Co-Founder & Partner at Raw Signal Group
LinkedIn: Melissa Nightingale
Melissa Nightingale is a founder and partner at Raw Signal Group. She is editor of The Co-pour and bestselling author of "How F*cked Up Is Your Management? An Uncomfortable Conversation About Modern Leadership."
Melissa moved to Toronto after more than a decade in senior leadership roles in Silicon Valley. She has held executive roles at both Wattpad and Edmodo, where she led the marketing, community, customer success, and growth teams. She learned to boss on the job as Mozilla’s first Director of Global Public Relations.
Founder & CEO at The Workaround
LinkedIn: Amanda Munday
Amanda is the Founder and CEO of The Workaround, a parent-friendly workspace with childcare in Toronto. She is also the author of Day Nine: A Postpartum Depression Memoir, by Dundurn Press (March 2019).
She has received international media coverage, including being named an Inspirational Speaker in Forbes Magazine, and is a regular contributor to The Globe and Mail. The sole owner and founder of The Workaround, Amanda is a skilled marketer and storyteller, with years of experience growing companies through online social channels, traditional marketing and public relations.
Founder at Ample Labs
LinkedIn: CG Chen
CG Chen is the founder of Ample Labs, a tech nonprofit committed to using technology to empower individuals facing homelessness. Chen is a community builder who cares about building a more inclusive, accessible and equitable tech sector that includes the most marginalized and vulnerable.
Prior to Ample, she was at ecobee designing mobile experiences for IoT devices. She has also worked at Tulip designing enterprise software for luxury retailers like Chanel, Kate Spade, Michael Kors, and Frank & Oak.
Founder of Jarsss and Process Manager at Skylight
LinkedIn: Sindhu Jawed
Sindhu Jawed is the founder of Jarsss, a woman-led e-commerce company dedicated to offering socially impactful leather goods to young professional women across Canada. Sindhu also works at Skylight, a tech company focused on reinventing the home renovation process.
Founder & CEO at Bloom
LinkedIn: Avery Francis
Avery Francis has over a decade of recruiting experience, having hired thousands of people for some of the world's best companies. With a specialty in high growth tech, Avery has worked with top startups to build out their talent strategies and bring their growth to new heights through hiring the best and brightest.
She has a mission to bring that knowledge to as many companies as possible, making the hiring experience more human and enjoyable for all. As a champion of diversity, inclusion and belonging, Avery has founded Bridge School as well as Bloom.
Founder & CEO at Camp Tech
LinkedIn: Avery Swartz
Avery Swartz is a Toronto-based entrepreneur, tech writer, digital marketing consultant, and speaker. She is all about helping businesses and charities use technology to achieve their goals.
Avery is the founder and CEO of Camp Tech, the digital marketing training company for small business. She acts as a digital advisor to a number of charities, including the Art Canada Institute and Canadian Cancer Society. Avery also started Gather North - a retreat for people of marginalized genders in tech, and is #5 on the Top 50 Women in Marketing list by Search Engine Journal.
Co-Founder & CMO at REITIUM
LinkedIn: Laura Fortey
As a real estate entrepreneur, Laura has bought, managed, renovated and sold her own investment properties, as well as investing in REITs and MICs.
Bringing more than a decade of expertise in the digital marketing space, from the early days of Youtube, Facebook and social media, Laura's involvement in the tech sector and internet marketing has enabled startups and SMEs grow from ideation to multi-million dollar revenues.
Inspector at Durham Regional Police Force
LinkedIn: Cathy Bawden
Insp. Cathy Bawden started off her tenure at north division by adding a new title to her resume — Champion for Children.
Bawden was honoured by the Durham Children’s Aid Society with a 2018 Champion for Children award this month, in recognition of her ongoing community partnerships and dedication to improving the lives of all residents.
She continues to inspire and empower youth within our community to be the change. Through her work as a diversity, equity and inclusion unit leader, she is positively contributing toward the wellness of our communities through respect, kindness, understanding and empowerment for all.
VP & GM at Casper
LinkedIn: Nicole Tapscott
Nicole Tapscott is an INSEAD grad, global business strategist, and multi-channel and consumer products expert based out of Toronto. Currently, she is VP and GM of Casper, Canada.
Nicole believes that there are unique, profitable and exciting ways to design business strategy which include innovation, technology, marketing and realistic implementation. She thrives on building and growing innovative companies that find ways to engage customers and employees alike.
CEO & Executive Producer at Pink Moon Studio
LinkedIn: Emilia Zboralska
Dr. Emilia Zboralska is co-founder and CEO of Pink Moon Studio, an end-to-end media company that focuses on out-of-the-box, premium, storytelling through both its branded and original content divisions.
Emilia is also the director of Ryerson’s media innovation incubator, the Transmedia Zone and the creative director of The Studio’s new event venue, HQ. A recipient of Ryerson’s Gold Medal, and the Communication and Culture Dissertation prize, Emilia’s research has been published in peer-reviewed journals, and she has presented at conferences worldwide.
Founder & Director at Fuckup Nights Toronto
LinkedIn: Marsha Druker
Marsha Druker is passionate about providing people with an experience and a place where they can go to expand their mind.
She is currently building Fuckup Nights, a community and speaker series that de-stigmatizes failure. Before getting into community building, she held various Marketing and PR roles in companies ranging from consumer packaged goods to tech startups. Marsha believes that community building is all about being a good listener and creating value - for event attendees, partners and team members.
Managing Director at Now Creative Group
LinkedIn: April Hossain
April is the Managing Director at Now Creative Group, an agency fuelled by entrepreneurial thinking and positive impact. They focus on strategic branding paired with quality content to share stories, create change, and enable growth.
Founder & Host of The E Project podcast
LinkedIn: Jodianne Beckford
Jodianne Beckford is a lifestyle, and portrait photographer who currently resides in Toronto, ON. Jodianne is the creator and host of The E Project podcast.
She began this project back in 2015 as a blog, while living in Ottawa. Jodianne soon realized how many amazing creatives were in the capital and wanted to share their stories in hopes to encourage fellow creatives. She was curious to know who was doing what, how they did it, and why they did it.
Ph.D, Founder at xSensa Labs
LinkedIn: Natasha Kovacevic
Natasha Kovacevic, PhD, computational neuroscientist and award-winning innovator, founded xSensa Labs in 2017 with a vision to open new paths towards optimized human performance and consciousnesses and revolutionize the prevention and treatment of mood and cognitive disorders.
Prior to starting xSensa Labs, Natasha's academic work focused on data-driven methods linking neuroimaging (EEG, MRI, MEG, CT), behavioral metrics, demographic and genetic data. She authored and co-authored over 80 papers in peer-reviewed journals and her data pipelines are used in neuroscience labs across the world.
Founder at Worldview Projects
LinkedIn: Kate McKenzie
As an artist, innovator and champion for positive change, Kate McKenzie is not your average communicator. Kate brings to her work a results-driven approach and a passion for contributing to her community.
She is a sought after speaker because of her inspiring message of hope and experience in designing and executing successful community engagement programs. Alongside her work with Worldview Projects, Kate is also a co-director and producer of the documentary The Secret Marathon and an advisor at ATB Calgary.
Partner at Nudo & Rook Communication
LinkedIn: Jessica Nudo
Jessica Nudo is a Media Strategist, Consultant and Content Creator that wears many hats and brings a wealth of experience that covers several fields of expertise.
Jessica is also the CEO of The Elevated Collective Inc., a female-powered, grassroots collective within the cannabis space that uses community and industry to eliminate stigma through storytelling, education, and advocacy.
Creative Director at You X Ventures
LinkedIn: Teija Bean
Teija Bean is the Creative Director at You X Ventures, a human-centred, business driven design firm that believes people matter most in the digital products they create.
She is always striving to create a better product and user experience for her clients. Teija loves to work on unique projects where she can collaborate with a group and be part of the products evolution and success. Work culture is a very important consideration for her, striving to create environments that foster collaboration and mutual respect.
Head of Production at Media One Creative
LinkedIn: Áine Corby
Áine is a Producer at Media One Creative with over 8 years of project and production experience in both media and live events. Áine has toured the world with numerous international performers, including Andrea Bocelli, Dead Can Dance and Robin Guthrie of the Cocteau Twin.
She has coordinated events in over 80 cities worldwide. Áine is passionate about travelling, trying new food, live music and getting outdoors, exploring all Toronto has to offer.
Cait Martin Newnham
Freelance Creative Producer
LinkedIn: Cait Martin Newnham
Cait Martin Newnham is a freelance journalist and documentary filmmaker. She has reported on topics including health sciences, the environment, psychology, and sports for publications such as CBC News and SickNotWeak.
Chief Operating Officer & Executive Producer at Contraverse
LinkedIn: Maria Tassone
Marisa develops world-class digital distribution apps that supports all major VR headsets and mobile platforms to showcase high quality narrative 360 video content to a global audience.
Contraverse is an end-to-end VR production and distribution company for innovative and exceptional story-driven virtual reality. We produce immersive VR experiences that immerse you in alternate worlds and put you in the perspective of the main characters in the story.
CEO at TechImpact, Co-Founder UP+G
LinkedIn: Cathy Simpson
Cathy Simpson is the CEO of TechImpact and growing the TECH industry is key to the economy in Atlantic Canada. Cathy has had the pleasure of working for T4G Limited for the past 15 years and most recently led our People & Culture practice.
Her passion is creating and facilitating amazing learning experiences for women and teens, particularly girls. Cathy also founded UP+GO, a Social Enterprise focused on growing skills, awareness of and mentorship opportunities in leadership, STEM, and entrepreneurship.
COO at Venn Innovation, Inc
LinkedIn: Barbara Ells
With a background in the life science industry, Barb brings a wealth of experience in scientific research, product development, product management, and marketing communications to Venn.
While her primary responsibility as COO is development and delivery of business programming for our members, Barb truly is the tie that binds it all together. From client services to managing our day to day operations, Barb is at the heart of the Venn experience.
Founder & CEO at SomaDetect
LinkedIn: Bethany Deshpande
A highly motivated, big picture thinker, Bethany Deshpande has experience in community engagement, Northern environmental science, mathematics, and data analysis. She has a passion for entrepreneurship, art, and creativity.
Bethany Deshpande founded SomaDetech in 2016 to develop and commercialize a new way to measure milk-quality indicators, working with an inspiring team who challenge her and support her.
Financial Executive, East Valley Ventures
LinkedIn: Elaine McKinnon
Following a 20-year career in financial and operational roles in the IT and telecommunications sector, Elaine joined the start-up community in the province of New Brunswick and shares her passion for growth and innovation with new entrepreneurs looking to bring their ideas to market.
With a relentless focus on business fundamentals, financial discipline and risk management, Elaine is at her best when working with dynamic new leadership teams to scale their business and attract new investment. Her love of the start-up community is only surpassed by her passion for food and creating culinary delights for family and friends gathered around the dinner table.
CEO & Co-Founder, RIDDL
LinkedIn: Jenelle Sobey
Jenelle Sobey is motivated to build a sustainable, competitive and resilient world and believes the tech sector enables and scales those solutions to achieve that.
Jenelle is a co-founder and CEO at RIDDL, a tool that tracks, manages and measures impact investments and returns. In 2017, Jenelle was recognized as the National Emerging Leader in ICT, and was awarded St Francis Xavier University’s Young Alumna of the Year
Vice President Customer Experience and Operations at CNB and ANBL
LinkedIn: Lara Wood
Over the last twenty years, a variety of roles have helped Lara build on a strong foundation in brand management and traditional marketing to incorporate operations, team development, project management and more.
Her personal and professional interest in digital and social media has also woven a specialty in this area into her overall experience. Lara believes broad experience beyond technical knowledge - team engagement, customer engagement and continuous improvement among them - are required to drive success in an omni-channel environment.
Dr. Lisa Toppin
Human Resources Consultant
LinkedIn: Dr. Lisa Toppin
Dr. Lisa Toppin is an experienced Human Resources Executive now leading as a consultant in Human Resources. She helps organizations design and implement learning and inclusion so that employees broadly can engage and grow.
She supports leaders in the practice of leadership integrating inclusive behaviours leading to diversity and ultimately innovation. Dr. Toppin believes that the strongest, most sustainable path to an innovative culture is through leaders that practice inclusion and programs that are self replicating that yield these outcomes.
Associate, Anti-Money Laundering Reporting Office at BMO Capital Markets & Strategic Advisor for Venture Out
LinkedIn: Lisa Durnford
Lisa Durnford is a lawyer working in Anti-Money Laundering Regulatory Compliance Management at BMO Capital Markets. She helps manage their global regulatory requirements and outsourcing frameworks, and supports the team in driving efficiencies with how they perform their responsibilities.
Lisa has been a volunteer with Venture Out for three years, a non-profit organization dedicated to connecting LGBTQA+ entrepreneurs and folks in tech to career opportunities, mentors, and each other. Lisa loves tackling a new challenge, incorporating creativity into every role, and helping teammates and communities grow in any way that she can.
Executive Director at The Upside Foundation of Canada
LinkedIn: Jennifer Couldrey
Jennifer Couldrey helps people figure out how to make a difference through their businesses. She is a champion for ensuring Canadian tech has a positive impact.
Jennifer has been recognized as one of the Top 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada by WXN, Top 30 Under 30 Sustainability Leaders by Corporate Knights and one of Ryerson DMZ's 30 inspirational women making a difference in tech. She is a connector of people and ideas, primarily in the Canadian tech ecosystem and in social impact.
Principal VP at Dream Maker Ventures
LinkedIn: Danielle Graham
Danielle is a Principal at Dream Maker Ventures, the first Canadian Venture Capital (VC) Fund founded by persons of colour and women, focused on investing in diverse, underrepresented, underestimated entrepreneurs.
She is a champion and advisor for women’s initiatives such as #MovetheDial, the Big Push, Dovetail Summit, the Canadian Women’s Network and GTAN WIT, the first angel group training program for female investors. She has been an important part of the angel community network, as a board member, investment officer and advisor to GTAN, the Angel Alliance, Holt Fintech Accelerator and the Laurier Startup Fund.
Principal at Georgian Partners
LinkedIn: Emily Walsh
Emily Walsh is a Principal on the Investment Team at Georgian Partners, a growth stage fund investing in software companies that leverage applied artificial intelligence, conversational interfaces and trust as business differentiators.
In addition to sourcing and leading new investments, she provides expertise to portfolio companies in the areas of operational efficiency, human capital and financial analysis. Prior to joining Georgian Partners, Emily was a consultant with McKinsey & Co where she led engagements in digital and cost transformation for clients in the finance and insurance industries.
Thank you to MESH/Diversity for co-producing this article with us!
MESH/Diversity is dedicated to building inclusive workplaces where the best people will want to work, and can thrive.
Driven by data, MESH uses behavioural analytics to tailor effective D&I strategies that can scale globally and across the talent life-cycle.