Top 10 women in business
Canada ranks as one of the top countries supporting women in business. There are over 800,000 women business owners and according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, there are over 98 million women at the helm of established companies in Canada.
In a male-dominated world of business, these women are recognized as leaders because they’re changing perspectives, creating legacies, and transforming the face of business. Women in business help inspire other women to pursue their dreams, and these 10 women are reshaping the future of business in Canada.
10. Shannon MacDonald
As the Atlantic Practice Managing Partner for Deloitte & Touche LLP, MacDonald oversees the company’s marketplace presence in Atlantic Canada. With more than 20 years of consulting and public accounting experience, she has devised and provided government training for major public-sector clients while also advising several organizations on accounting requirement changes and the implications of outsourcing. She is a member of Deloitte’s national board of directors and several medical industry boards, including Women’s College Hospital board in Toronto.
9. Marianne McKenna
Marianna McKenna is one of the primary partners of Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg, one of Canada’s leading architecture firms. Coming from a medical family, McKenna wanted to pursue architecture so she could blend her creativity with her passion for advancing causes.
"I wanted to create great projects in the community," McKenna says. Her aim is to work with institutions to transform society and encourage people to get involved in the community. "The buildings are a kind of outreach. People walk by and say, 'Gosh, what's that?' They might think, 'Maybe I should take lessons, maybe I should be a part of that.”
Along with working on a variety of projects for KPMB, her past accomplishments include a research center at McGill University in Montreal, the Torys LLP office in Toronto and the Genome Quebec Innovation Center. However, her proudest achievement has been the transformation of the Royal Conservatory of Music – a project 18 years in the making.
8. Harriet Lewis
Since 1988, Harriet Lewis has been the university counsel for York University, taking on roles at Secretary of the Board of Governors and the Secretary of Senate. In 2011, she received a York University Alumni Association award for their leadership and contributions to the school. During her tenure at York University, Lewis has been a member of numerous committees, as well as serving as president of the Canadian Association of University Solicitors. She has also supported various programs including the SmArt program with the Art Gallery of Ontario, helping to raise funds for student scholarships in creative writing and literature. Lewis retired in 2014.
“I’m an alum of York so I’m sure I will continue to have some sort of relationship with it,” said Lewis. “You can’t spend 26 years at an institution as exciting and confusing and wonderful as York without having met an awful lot of people who you care about.”
7. Rosemarie Leclair
Rosemarie Leclair has been Chair and CEO of the Ontario Energy Board since 2011. She previously worked as president and CEO of Hydro Ottawa Group of Companies, helpiing to increase the company’s profits and shareholder value, as well as improving community contributions and enhancing services. In addition, she was vital in creating innovative energy conservation programs that are now offer across Ottawa.
Leclair is known for her skill in handling and negotiating complicated issues in public administration having spent more than 15 years with the City of Ottawa as a senior manager in the Public Works and Services sector.
6. Anne-Marie Hubert
As Managing Partner and Advisory for Ernst and Young LLP, Anne-Marie Hubert has carved a name for herself in the business world. Joining the company in 1985 as a senior accountant, Hubert became managing partner of the advisory services practice in 2009. She has been on the forefront of the firm’s gender-equity programs in Canada, receiving numerous awards for her role in the advancement of women in business. In addition, Hubert is a board member of the Chamber of Commerce in Quebec as well as sits on the public affair committees of several chartered accountant organizations.
5. Leslie Galway
Leslie Galway is chief executive of WHSCC, an employer-backed, no-fault insurance system that services roughly 12,000 injured workers in Canada. Galway has previously worked as deputy minister of business for the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as vice chairperson of the Board of Commissioners of Public Utilities.
In 2014, Galway was reappointed as Governor representing Newfoundland and Labrador on the Council of Governors of the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. She has been recognized numerous times as one of Canada’s most powerful women.
4. Margaret Franklin
Margaret Franklin has been the President and Chief Executive Officer at Kinsale Private Wealth Inc. since January 2010. She is a former Chairman of the board of governors of the global CFA Institute, as well as a past president of CFA Society Toronto and is a CFA charterholder.
In 2014, Franklin received the CFA Institute’s Alfred C. “Pete” Morley Distinguished Service Award, signifying her outstanding contribution to the financial industry, both locally in Toronto and globally.
3. Mary-Lou Donnelly
As President of the Canadian Teachers’ Federation, Mary-Low Donnelly has spent the last 30 years as an educator in the Halifax Regional School Board system, residing as president of the Nova Scotia Teachers’ Union before being appointed to her new position. She has founded various programs across Canada, including the Nova Scotia’s Coalition Against Workplace Violence. In 2005, she won the Canadian Progress Club Women of Excellence Award.
2. Anne Doig
Anne Doig is president of the Canadian Medical Association in Saskatoon. She is involved with various medical committees and agencies, including the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency, as well as clinical associate professor at the University of Saskatchewan. In addition, is the owner of Saskatoon’s City Centre Family Physicians, where she has been a doctor for 32 years.
In 2010, the Women’s Executive Network recognized Dr. Doig as one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women. She has been honored as a recipient of an Exceptional Service Award in 210 by the Saskatoon Health Region, as well as given an Award of Excellence from the College of Family Physicians of Canada in 2011.
1. Nathalie Bernier
Making our list at #1 of the top women in business in Canada is Nathalie Bernier. As associate director of KPMG, Bernier has held various leadership roles at the firm as well as working with KPMG’s senior management on developing strategies and redesigning the company. In addition, Bernier is a chairman for KPMG’s management committee in Montreal and a member of the firm’s national committee for strategic and operational decision-making. She also sits on board for the Quebec Federation of Chambers of Commerce and the Montreal Women’s Centre committee.
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.