2018 Women of Inspiration Winners Celebrating our 2018 Women of Inspiration who take the road less travelled to lead, inspire and motivate!

The 2018 Woman of Inspiration Awards knocked it out of the park. Host and Canadian Business Chicks CEO, Monica Kretschmer presenting WOI2018 awards to women doing amazing things locally, nationally and globally.
This years keynote speaker, Barb Stegemann with humor ... with joy and with hope.

We are honoured to celebrate the women who are making an impact and leading with purpose who embrace the "crazy", Ignore the naysayers and believe that anything is possible!

Thank you to Armand M. Flores, Porofolio Photography for capturing the individual strength and beauty of our WOI2018 Award Winners.

WOI2018 - Advocate and Catalyst for Change

Karen Stewart - Founder and CEO, Bumble Bees Venture Capital Inc. and Fairway Divorce Solutions Ltd

Karen is a serial industry disrupter and entrepreneur. She has over 25 years of experience in founding and building businesses that are disruptive and create significant shareholder value. Being nominated for Women of Inspiration touches her on so many levels. To Karen, a woman of inspiration achieves success by inspiring others, therefore impacting both lives and society in a positive way. Her story is one of hope, vision, and simple determination. Karen believes that each and every woman can have everything. By everything she means whatever your heart desires. “I believe you can be a strong leader, a business success, and at the same time have deep maternal instincts. While in her 50’s, Karen feels like she is just entering the prime of her career and will continue to be inspired by ideas that have impact in a positive way. Karen has started more than 7 companies and to date have had zero failures. She’s only just beginning.

A Woman of Inspiration is a woman who sees no boundaries, who thrives in the divine feminine but tackles the world with a bold and brave attitude. A woman who truly supports other women and understands that the world will be a better place when we have more women leading it. A woman who cherishes others' opinions but who defines herself by an internal locus of control and therefore has the backbone to embrace and grow from life’s lessons.

Power Song - Ray of Light

WOI2018 - SupportHER

Tara Wilson - General Manager, Income Access (A Paysafe Company)

Tara Wilson has almost two decades’ experience in the tech sphere and over 15 years’ expertise in operational leadership within the payments and marketing sectors and has had a career path few could have predicted. Tara’s story has humble beginnings in a little hockey town called Peterborough, Ontario. The diversity of her early career – moving from role to role and trying many new things – was incredibly important for my development as a leader. Her career has been exceptional in that she has progressed very quickly – and for that, will always be grateful. However, that does not mean it has been without significant barriers. Tara learned that the antidote to feeling humiliated was to be humble and set aside her ego, instead focusing on pursuing goals and passions and to never stop fighting for what she believes in. The exceptional impact that Wilson has had on the companies for which she has worked is evidence that her innovative, ‘intrapreneurial’ approach to leadership is an effective one because fulfilled employees make happy customers, and happy customers make a successful business.

A Woman of Inspiration is a disruptor who goes against the grain or the popular choice and is willing to be brave and not afraid to take on the work in order to share her true thoughts and pursue her goals regardless of who else is in the room.

Power Song - Feeling Good – Nina Simone

WOI2018 - Global Impact

Audrey Mascarenhas - President and CEO, Questor Technology Inc

Audrey's family immigrated to Toronto, Canada in 1974 from Nakuru, Kenya in East Africa. It has been a long journey to this point. Audrey believes a woman of inspiration is one that boldly champions change that has a positive impact and inspires those around her to take on the challenge for change. Audrey has passionately believed in being a role model to showcase that girls and women can succeed in a male-dominated world and be whatever they want to be. Audrey has successfully demonstrated a woman can succeed in a male dominated world in engineering, science, field operations, oil and gas and in clean technology and business. Being recognized as a woman of inspiration would show others that it is possible and showcase that women can contribute greatly to society with their skill. And yes, women are good at math and science. The work being done at Questor is showcasing we can have a strong industry and protect the environment at the same time. Questor is providing solutions around the world that address climate change, air quality, social license, and clean energy for all in a practical cost-effective way.

A Woman of Inspiration is a woman that boldly champions change that has a positive impact and inspire those around her to take on the challenge for change.

Power Song - We Are The Champions

WOI2018 - Unsung Hero

Debora Bergeson - Captain Calgary Fire Department

Deborah is the first female captain of the Calgary Fire Department in its 129-year history, appointed in 2014. In 1998, Deb was the third female firefighter hired in the history of the Calgary Fire Department. There were about 1,000 firefighters at that time. Twenty years later, there are now 37 female firefighters. She has advanced through the ranks and exceeded expectations in the face of intense scrutiny. She has shown women and men alike can be amazing firefighters. Both women and men have to accept responsibility and have to unlearn the untruths. Female firefighters in Calgary are gradually increasing in numbers and are slowly making their way to leadership positions. She celebrates 20 years of firefighting and trail blazing and admits to seeing many changes through her career. She continues to proudly serve the citizens of Calgary and to empower others to challenge traditionally male roles.

A Woman of Inspiration is a risk taker. She is an activated person with the courage to create a better world for those around her. She is dedicated to the common good, even against great odds. Women of inspiration make decisions based on bringing their inner conviction into harmony with their outer acts.

Power Song - Alicia Keys - The Girl Is On Fire

WOI2018 - The Nest Award

Cindy Luffer - President and CEO, iPhix Inc.

Cindy is the President and CEO of iPhix Inc. Cindy was an engineer, playing stay-at-home mom on her third maternity leave when she broke her phone. Being nominated as a woman of inspiration means the world to Cindy. Starting your own business in any field can be daunting but starting your own business as a woman in a tech field may feel impossible. Cindy believes in the happily ever after as much as she believes in the life you will need is 100% what you make of it. It’s your life and just do it. She doesn’t feel like she is better or worse as a woman owning a STEM company as opposed to a man but does feel like there is not a chance anything anyone could have ever said to her that could bring her down. Cindy believes everything is fixable and found out no one was fixing phones, so she took a chance starting a business. Cindy was the first with a tech repair business of this kind in Alberta. They now have 4 locations and growing.

A Woman of Inspiration is one who will bring up others around her. She will not hide her struggles, as it makes her human. Being inspiring means helping her family and friends even when she is not asked.

Power Song - Titanium – SIA

WOI2018 - Global Influencer

Dr. Laura Hambley-Lovett - President, Founder, Industrial/Organizational Psychologist, Author, Mom - Work EvOHlution, Canada Career Counselling, Leadership Success Group

Dr. Laura is an industrial/organizational psychologist, mother of three, and serial entrepreneur based in Calgary, who is passionate about making a difference in people’s lives, and the community both in Calgary and more widely in Canada and globally. One of her greatest joys continues to be mentoring and leading other women, and Canadian Business Chicks fits well within these values. Between her busy schedules at work and home, she somehow found time to publish two novels (Losing Cadence, and its sequel, Finding Sophie), both of which have received international attention. It’s interesting to reflect on the twists and turns our lives take, but Dr. Laura is passionate about making a difference, and about the future of our country. She has enjoyed mentoring through the Boss Chicks program over the past 10 months and is inspired by the way this organization continues to make a difference for women.

A Woman of Inspiration is someone who empowers others to reach their full potential. They lead, mentor, innovate and problem solve, working every day with integrity, courage and a desire to continuously learn and develop.

Power Song - 99 Red Balloons – Nina

WOI2018 - Difference Maker

Dr. Jody Carrington - Psychologist & Chief Happiness Officer, Carrington and Company

Dr. Carrington is a clinical psychologist who has spent the past 15 years talking about connection and relationships. Being a woman of inspiration is a feeling of immense gratitude. Her first book, “First, Last, and All Ways: Inspiring Connection with the People we Teach, Lead, and Love” is due out in fall 2018. We are gaining attention across this country, as questions of mental health, suicide, and school shootings demand answers for what’s wrong with “kids these days?” Dr. Carrington thinks kids are not the problem. They’re only ok if those who hold them are ok. She believes the only way you learn that you matter, the only way you learn how to regulate emotion, stay calm in times of distress, is through relationship. We are more and more disconnected from the people we love today more than we ever have been before. The only way we teach our babies the most important skill we will ever teach them is through connection.

A Woman of Inspiration to me is kindness, humour, and kick-ass bravery personified. Those three things is what it takes to change the world.

Power Song - Make Way Aloe Blacc

WOI2018 - Power Partner

Heather Erlen - Alberta Representative, Canadian Labour Congress | Co-Founder, Virgin Beauty B!tch Podcast

With her partner, Chris Kennedy, Heather has honed her passion for exploring the collective experience of The Feminine. Since the day these power partners met they vowed to work together to break free of social prescriptions of feminine and masculine – and by doing this catalyze change. They wanted to have conversations and hear from persons of all genders to elevate the importance of Feminine. That is how the Podcast – The Virgin, The Beauty and The Bitch was incepted and nurtured. They have hosted a wide range of persons on the show. From a psychologist professor talking about pornography, to a couple battling through changing gender roles, to a woman who gives make overs to women in severe poverty. Heather, along with Chris, is dancing and pulling and pushing in these conversations that tackle some of the greatest social justice issues of our time, and their following is growing.

A Woman of Inspiration stays true to her authentic self, she brings her passion and determination to set and achieve her aspirations while simultaneously encouraging the advancement of others. In true leadership, she purposefully creates opportunities for the growth of those around her, both personally and professionally. The more you know her, the more she shows you that achieving your dreams is possible, and there are people around you to help make it happen.

Power Song - Sorry Not Sorry – Demi Lovato

WOI2018 - Millennial Leader

Jessica Tsang - Founder and Director, Direct Health Canada

Jessica is a family nurse practitioner on a mission to improve the quality of health care and increase access to health care. Throughout her life, she’s been inspired by people who overcome significant adversity and manage to push through to live another day. Jessica has always looked up to women who challenged societal norms to advocate for vulnerable populations. By studying their ambitions and initiatives, Jessica was inspired to find her own passion and pursue her own mission to change the world. A woman of inspiration is a leader in the community who acts to achieve a better tomorrow. In 2017, Jessica started Western Canada’s first medical house call company that promises individualized, nonjudgmental, and convenient care for those who don’t “fit” the traditional medical clinics. It has been an unbelievably rewarding journey to provide people with an alternative option to access healthcare. Jessica connects with people experiencing severe anxiety and provide counselling to make their symptoms more manageable and is honoured to be able to provide needed medical care to these vulnerable people.

A Woman of Inspiration is a leader in the community who takes action to achieve a better tomorrow. Fueled with optimism, courage, and determination, she makes lasting contributions to solve significant world problems. Her charisma motivates and inspires others to engage in her vision, challenge their own boundaries, and accomplish amazing things.

Power Song - Rachel Platten – Fight Song

WOI2018 - Game Changer

Kimberley Van Vliet - Founder and CEO WaVv / ConvergX®

As a game changer she is a thought leader and visionary with a disruptor mindset. She is a founder or co-founder of business with global reach and proven success. Being a woman of inspiration is an honour that comes with the responsibility of inspiring people to do or create something of significance to them. A woman of inspiration is a woman who deals with the obstacles, strives for greatness and builds a world. She has grit. Kimberley was unsure of how we would work with other industries. She is the founder & CEO of WaVv and the ConvergX® Conference. WaVv is the only consultancy of its kind connecting technologies in the Aerospace, Defence, Security, Energy and Mining industries. Three years ago, ConvergX® was created to bring together the senior executives of these industries to discuss opportunities for collaboration and find solutions for problems.

A Woman of Inspiration is a woman who deals with the obstacles, strives for greatness and builds a world . She has Grit. In other words, not ignoring information (good, bad or ugly), but rather taking it in, absorbing it, and still continuing to move ahead. Congratulations Kimberley Van Vliet!

WOI2018 - Innovative Leader Award

Maria Martiniello - Business Development Manager, Calgary Zoo

Maria is a role model an innovative result-oriented, customer-focused professional with years of experience in a variety of fast paced non-profit, oil & gas, health, technology and beverage sectors including television advertising. In 2017 Maria was awarded a year scholarship with Sandler Training renowned as the largest provider of sales, leadership and customer service training in the world. Maria is an effective leader, trainer, mentor, communicator, who builds and guides high performance teams. She always strived to motivate others to be their authentic and successful selves. Maria empowers people to be themselves, to show them that they have the courage and strength to grow into whatever they want to be is INSPIRATION – Inspiration that she will take for a lifetime. Maria surrounds herself with those who are vulnerable, honest, and allow for mistakes and forks in the road.

A Women of Inspiration inspire themselves and others to persevere. Regardless if you are a women or man you need to identify what is important to you and create your own path and define what success is to you. Along the way you also need to inspire those around to you to be their best selves. You lead by example and people will follow.

Power Song - Bird Set Free – Sia

WOI2018 - Authentic Leader Award

Marsha Laine-Dungog - Director (US Tax Law) - Moodys Gartner Tax Law LLP

Marsha is a Director at Moodys Gartner Tax Law LLP providing international tax planning, tax compliance and controversy services for multinational businesses, entrepreneurs, investors, high net worth individuals and U.S. citizens living abroad. To Marsha, a woman of inspiration is one who aspires to be more than the sum of all her talents, abilities, and skills. Marsha has succeeded in a pursuing a career where very few female lawyers thrive. Her immigrant background combined with unique traits and skills have made such a career possible, but it didn't happen overnight. It took years and years of heartache, preparation, and perseverance to make this career a reality. As JK Rowling once said, "rock bottom became the foundation on which I built my life."

A Woman of Inspiration aspires to be more than the sum of all her talents, abilities and skills. She lives life as fully, bravely and truthfully as she can. She undertakes risks to become the best version of herself that she can share with the world. She understands her purpose and she is grateful for opportunities to fulfill it. She gives of herself generously to others and values the unique blessings or lessons they bring in her life. She always stands up for what she believes is right. She has resilient faith and hope in all that is good, pure and true. And did I mention she never gives up?

Power Song - Lada Gaga – Born This Way

WOI2018 - Cultural Ambassador Award

Michelle Minke - Founder and Artistic Director - Cowtown Opera

Pushing the boundaries of classical opera, Calgary Soprano Michelle Minke has made a career out of inspired disruption. A woman of inspiration to Michelle is someone who contributes to her community, industry, family, relationships and lifts others up in her leadership. In creating Cowtown Opera Michelle changed her own path of what singing is for herself, what it is for her fellow colleagues and how she can impact her community with the power of the human voice. It has not been easy, there has been backlash from purists, yet Michelle believes the arts can change someone’s life, their community, family, and themselves. She always knew that the greatest gift would be to be a mom and she is so proud this journey that has led her here to be able to be successful and to enjoy her beautiful family as well as a working mom.

A Woman of Inspiration is one who tries to do it all, perhaps some days, not everything well but a woman who strives to be her best self every day. A woman that while being a leader, creates other leaders.

Earth Wind and Fire – September

WOI2018 - Trailblazer (STEM) Award

Rena Tabata - Co-Founder and CEO, Think Tank Innovations Ltd.

Rena is disrupting how healthcare professionals around the world collaborate on patient care and how they safeguard patient privacy. Rena came from an immigrant family who showed her that hard work and integrity earns you equity and respect. She had to overcome logistical hardships growing up in a society that your parents do not have the experience or knowledge to help you navigate. Health information privacy practice and technology has been an area that has been largely unchallenged and innovated upon. In launching ShareSmart, Rena and her team have disrupted the status quo of "don't ask, don't tell", when it comes to mobile apps in healthcare. Until ShareSmart, there was no unified, comprehensive guideline on appropriate mobile technologies for medicine. ShareSmart not only raised the alarm and encouraged dialogue around the important topic of patient privacy but went ahead and developed a solution for it.

A Woman of Inspiration motivates others through her unique ingenuity or innovation in an impactful way.

Power Song - Broken Clock – SIA

WOI2018 - Mentorship Award

Yvonne E.L.Silver - Founder, Flourish – with Yvonne Silver

Yvonne is a speaker, coach, mentor, author, founder, advocate, mother, wife & growth catalyst. Yvonne is passionate about teaching women to flourish in business - by elevating their confidence and developing a juicy vision. She does this by supporting female visionaries who are leading women’s organizations, speaking, chairing group mentorship programs, plus one-on-one and group coaching. Yvonne is a passionate advocate for women’s empowerment and about making a difference in the world, especially with high growth women-founded businesses. With over 25 years of business success, as a senior human resources leader working with high growth start-ups, and later as a professional coach, Yvonne has interviewed and hired over 6,000 people. She believes that where possibility, purpose, and consciousness meet – WE FLOURISH! Congratulations, Yvonne!
A Woman of Inspiration is clear on her purpose and living her mission proudly. She empowers others simply by being who she is and sharing her gifts. She is smart, savvy, courageous, generous and intuitive.

Power Song - Up – Shania Twain

WOI2018 - Mompreneur Award

Shannon Collins - Owner and President, Chair Flair Inc & Event

Shannon is a born and raised Calgarian who fell in love with community service at a young age. She has a diploma in journalism from SAIT and degree in communications and marketing from U of C. She started her first company in 2006, Chair Flair. Chair Flair has grown from a small business out of her basement doing 20-30 weddings a year, to now having 6 full time employees and over 20 seasonal workers and do over 500 weddings a year! Two years ago, she founded her second company, Event Core, whose mission is to create a community of partnerships that is beneficial to both event vendors as well as their clients. Even though there are tough days, she is not alone and knows her strength as a business owner, boss, mother, daughter, and friend are the foundations for the successful future she is destined for. In an economy where so many small businesses are having to close their doors, Shannon and her team are proving that when you work together; two heads are better than one, and 10 are better than 2!

A Woman of Inspiration is someone who every day, in all areas of life, provides an excellent example to girls and women around them. It is someone who leads by example and is a role model and a mentor to those around her. This means helping to instill in these girls and young women a sense of confidence, self-esteem, and health in body, mind and spirit.

Power Song - Rise - Katie Perry

WOI2018 - Lifetime Achievement Award

Vera Goodman - President, Reading Wings

Vera founded the Calgary Young Writer’s Conference in 1982 which, 36 years later, is still being held every spring with 1,400 participants this year. Vera is author of the bestseller, Simply Read! Helping Others Learn to Read; Simply Write! Personal and Family Writing and Simply Too Much Homework! What Can We Do. She taught Mayan teachers in Guatemala in July 2017 and continues her outreach to other countries. Currently, she is making plans to take her model of education around the world. Vera’s philosophy? Most everyone can learn to read if not burdened with negative images of reading nor of themselves as learners. She believes in involving learners in activities that build skills while fostering an interest in learning for its own sake. Her broad knowledge about the current state of education and research into simple ways to affect change make her an interesting guest for conversation. The fact that she is still actively engaged in education at 83 years of age makes her story even more compelling and inspiring.

A Woman of Inspiration has an important vision that she is passionate about sharing. She has a wide circle of friends who she supports in their endeavors and who believe in her and contribute to the work she is doing. She shares and receives wisdom from all those she meets.

Get This Party Started – Pink

WOI2018 - Boss Chick Award

Filomena Abdi - Owner, La Brezza Ristorante

Filomena is the proud owner of La Brezza Ristorante, Bridgeland’s original “Little House on the Corner” where she specializes in serving up authentic Italian cuisine and making each patron feel like they are part of the family. Under her leadership, together with a strong team of employees, she has secured La Brezza’s position as a consistently top-rated dining destination in Calgary. Being recognized as a woman of inspiration means she has succeeded in her efforts to empower others to make changes for the betterment of their lives through positive reinforcement, kindness, caring and a strong desire to be helpful. Her life was far from what she thought it would be but absolutely surprising exactly what fulfilled her. Filomena has owned the restaurant for over three years and both her customers and herself are amazed by what she has learned and achieved. “Sometimes life throws you a curve ball and you either get knocked down or knock the ball out of the park.” Her hope is that she can continue to inspire those around her into finding their strength within, overcome adversity, and live to their fullest potential.

A Woman of Inspiration is someone who exudes kindness, generosity, passion, non-judgment and confidence. She strives to empower women by sharing her story in a safe and caring environment – lifting them up and helping them to reach their fullest potential.

Never Give Up – SIA