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Meet the 2019 Annual Award Winners

This year, WCT celebrated 11 incredible women, men and organizations at their 2019 Annual Awards Gala. They are stars in Canada's digital economy, working to propel Canada as a leader in the global digital economy.

 

Woman of the Year

Rola Dagher
President, Cisco Canada

 

We live in a world that’s changing so frequently and fast. To be successful, companies must build teams that can navigate the changes and evolve through them together. You need diverse and adaptable teams to be innovative and drive the next wave of disruption in the digital age.

Ask Rola Dagher to define leadership and she’ll say it’s an action — one that requires empathy and a relentless focus on developing and supporting others. Rola believes that leadership is not a position it’s an action and to achieve greatness you need to lead with your heart, mind and soul.

Rola became President of Cisco Canada in 2017 after holding a variety of leadership roles at Dell EMC. Seeing diversity as foundational to building a high-performance workforce, Rola has set new standards for diverse hiring practices while increasing the number of women on Cisco Canada’s Senior Leadership Team from 22% to 33%. Rola is fiercely committed to realizing the power and potential of women both within Cisco and throughout the IT industry. In 2018, she took the helm of Cisco’s Connected Women’s Network for the Americas which strives to empower and increase the number of women in IT; and she is part of the Cisco Canada Women Entrepreneurs’ Circle.


 

Company of the Year

APTN (Aboriginal Peoples Television Network)

As the world’s first national Indigenous broadcaster, APTN provides a modern Indigenous experience that includes gender-positive representation. 

A broadcaster dedicated to fair and equal representation of Indigenous Peoples, APTN is also committed to honouring their traditions and cultures. As a result, women are — and always will be — an inherent and vital part of the network. Through the progressive leadership from CEO Jean La Rose and chair Jocelyn Formsma, the company has maintained a higher-than-industry average of working with female directors, and a comparable female-to-male ratio for producers at all levels.

Gender equality and cultural diversity are seen throughout APTN, from the management level to the executive suite. Women make up 55% of the overall workforce, 57% of managers and 67% of directors, 75% of whom are Indigenous. The board of directors is 65% female, including the chair, secretary and six quadrant representatives. APTN’s formal internal mentorship program, which seeks to position participants for continued growth and success, currently has five participants – all of whom are female.

Leadership Excellence Awards

Diversity Champions

Rekha Rao-Mayya
Country Manager, GSI/SI Services Partners, Microsoft Canada

Empowering each person — by giving all a voice and a opportunity to flourish — is what delivers better ideas and greater innovation. Diversity is power and Inclusion is sharing of that power to deliver breakthrough outcome.

As the country lead for Microsoft Canada’s System Integrator/Global System Integrator portfolio, Rekha Rao-Mayya has earned respect and recognition for her dedication to diversity in the workforce and in STEM fields.

Recently honoured by her iconic employer with a Founder’s Award for outstanding leadership and exceptional business results, Rekha is known for empowering employees, teams, and mentees to achieve their goals. When she’s not championing initiatives related to advancing women in technology and leading an employee resource group, Women@Microsoft, Rekha is busy supporting projects that encourage young women to pursue STEM, like local hackathons and Microsoft’s DigiGirlz program. An engineer by training, Rekha has presented on diversity at Teachers Can Code, #EDGE2018 Ethnic Diversity Conference, First Robotics Canada, and the CSPN Women in Leadership event


Dr. Andrew Rau-Chaplin
Dean, Faculty of Computer Science, Dalhousie University 

Software is truly imbued with its designer’s thoughts, values, and imagination. Given that computing professionals are building the world in which we all live, it is critical that they reflect the full diversity and potential of our society.

As dean of Dalhousie University’s Faculty of Computer Science, Dr. Andrew Rau-Chaplin is committed to helping achieve true gender balance in computer science classrooms and the IT industry. Thanks to the new standards Andrew has set for gender diversity and inclusiveness in the department, women have increasing access to academic programs and research opportunities. As part of the “We are all CS” campaign launched for Dalhousie’s 200th, Andrew set a goal to double the number of women entering the computer science program in 2018. Not only did the number increase by 144%, new industry partnerships led to 37 women students receiving financial scholarships, and the entire cohort benefitting from mentorship from women leaders and industry professionals.


Empowerment

Canadian Association For Girls in Science

For 27 years, the Canadian Association for Girls in Science (CAGIS) — the only national organization of its kind in Canada — has grown from a single chapter to a powerful pan-Canadian force for closing the gender gap in STEM. As long as women remain under-represented in STEM occupations, CAGIS is crucial to fostering girls’ interest in those fields and removing barriers by stoking their scientific curiosity in through fun activities. Over 6,000 girls have been members in 10 chapters across Canada — with more chapters on the way. In a proudly grassroots approach, CAGIS chapters are community-led with mentorship and oversight from the national body. CAGIS also engages in advocacy and commentary regarding girls in STEM. As a result of its programming and leadership development, 94% of CAGIS alumnae reached in a recent survey are currently studying or working in a STEM field. Now that’s empowerment in action.


Entrepreneur of the Year

Zainab Muse
Founder & CEO, Wingd Inc. and Creatorland

Empowering women, particularly those who identify as visible minorities, is a big part of why I do what I do.

Zainab Muse, founder and CEO of Wingd Inc. and Creatorland, is a strategist, process designer, interactive digital media expert and mission-driven entrepreneur. Her core mandates include advocating for youth leadership, women and newcomer entrepreneurship, disruptive technologies and diversity in the workplace.

Known a strong advocate for design thinking and entrepreneurship, Zainab ushers in innovative strategies and new technologies in her diverse portfolio, including documentary producer, lead author of Ottawa’s first millennial guidebook, board director of RBC Bluesfest and growth strategist for Ottawa social enterprises. She is launching Ottawa’s first pre-stage incubator program inclusive of early stage entrepreneurs.

She has been recognized as an Ottawa ambassador and one of 2018’s Top 10 Shifters in Ottawa. She is the first Canadian Chapter Lead for SoGal Foundation, the largest global community with a mission to close the diversity gap in entrepreneurship.


Innovator of the year

Johanne Hinse
Vice President, Programming and Community Relations, Cogeco Connexion Inc.

Encouraging the innovation opens a wider space for success. Technology represents a perfect fit to promote this!

Innovation is in Johanne Hinse’s nature. As Vice President of Programming and Community Relations for Cogeco Connexion (CCX), Johanne is co-leading the largest innovative project in the company’s history. With a goal of serving customers in a cutting-edge way, the digital-first initiative has Johanne leading both business and culture change at CCX. To guide the re-thinking and re-organizing of the workforce, including thousands of internal business processes and protocols, Johanne leverages her expertise in organizational systems and people skills.

Previously, Johanne used ingenuity to bring NousTV (community television) into the digital age. And over 20+ years at the helm of the Sales team, she led CCX to nine SQM Excellence Awards. Recently elected President of the Fondation Régionale pour la Santé de Trois-Rivières, Johanne is an active board member with several community non-profits.


Mentor of the Year

Caroline Gayle
Managing Director, Technology Financial Services, Accenture

Diverse teams are the most effective, and I relish the “freshness” that diverse thoughts bring to every situation.

Caroline Gayle is a passionate leader committed to inclusion and diversity in her personal and professional life. A strong mentor, Caroline has a unique ability to listen, understand different perspectives, and provide timely feedback that empowers her team to shine.

While Caroline has a record of excellence in leading large, multi-functional business and technology solutions, she is always be available to mentor her team members and other women within and outside of Accenture. She regularly identifies future female leaders, invests the time to coach them in their careers, and champions her mentees for new opportunities.

Currently, Caroline is the lead of Accenture Technology’s Women’s Initiative, championing mentorship circles, unconscious bias training, networking events and other strategies to increase the participation, recruitment, retention and advancement of women. Caroline also sits on a number of boards in the Toronto region, and champions Accenture’s Getting to Equal movement.


Rising Star

Sarah Ryan
Program Director, Brilliant Labs

Brilliant Labs Canada’s commitment to promoting gender diversity is crucial for our nation to become leaders in Technology. Equality within education, mentorship programs, and our workforce is paramount for building a healthy and strong economy.

Sarah Ryan has made it a mission to help close the gender gap in STEM/ICT. Thanks to her passion to do, more girls and young women in Nova Scotia are getting the encouragement and opportunity to pursue those fields.

As Program Director at Brilliant Labs Nova Scotia, Sarah dreams up ways to inspire girls and young women through innovative learning techniques and community partnerships. Whether she is teaching digital literacy to Girl Guides or helping educators increase their confidence with technology, Sarah is all about making learning fun and relevant. Her commitment to diversity and inclusion has helped increase accessibility to STEM/ICT learning opportunities for under-represented groups across Nova Scotia. As a community advocate, mentor, mother, and artist, Sarah is a role model for countless other rising stars who will lead our STEM/ICT industries into a bright future.

 

 


Trailblazer of the Year

Anuja Sheth
Vice President, Business Networks and Supply Chain, Bell Canada

"To me, gender diversity means the celebration of individual differences that makes us collectively better in every way."

Even as a child in India, Anuja Sheth challenged gender norms by excelling in math and science. Since ascending at Bell after increasingly senior management positions at other technology companies, Anuja has paved the way for women and immigrant women of colour in the sector. Now, as Bell Canada’s Vice President — Business Networks & Supply Chain, Anuja leads a team of 1,100, of which 21% are women.

Anuja has introduced diversity primes to ensure accountability in hiring decisions and to address gender imbalance. Her determination to succeed where women may not have been allowed to before has a powerful effect on the women she mentors. Challenged by Anuja to focus on their capabilities and on the potential rewards for taking risks, mentees have advanced in their careers. 


WCT Leader

National Capital Region Chapter 
Sally Douglas, WCT-NCR Co-Chair, Principal, Earnscliffe
Kristal Felea, WCT-NCR Co-Chair, Executive Producer & Partner, Banfield Agency

National Capital Region has taken WCT’s mission to a new level, developing a calendar of inspired programs and tangible strategies to advance women in the Ottawa region. Each year, the National Capital Region engages and inspires a cohort of professional women across the region through their Mentorship Circle Program, engaging one mentor with three mentees. Now in its third year, the board has leveraged personal networks and provided local and virtual mentorship opportunities for women at every stage in their career. In fact, this year they ran a reverse mentoring circle with a 26-year-old mentoring three women who are over 50. And it doesn’t stop there. The chapter has developed an online video gallery called Her Words Our Wisdom, which enables women and men to share their experiences, knowledge and advice in a simple but effective way. Her Words Our Wisdom offers women at any level in their career the opportunity to learn from one another and directly impact the advancement of women in Canada and beyond. The National Capital Region and its dedicated board of volunteers is a shining example of how WCT will close the gender gap through grassroots empowerment.