Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Celebrating Canadian Female Investor & Founder Trailblazers – Part 2: Inspiration

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The CVCA’s Celebrating Canadian Female Investor & Founder Trailblazers is a five-part series celebrating the success of Canadian Women in business as part of International Women’s Day. 

Yesterday was International Women’s Day. A day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women all over the globe. However, progress has slowed in many places across the world, so global action is needed to accelerate gender parity.

The Canadian federal government, under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, has made headlines for its approach to gender equality. The government took meaningful steps to support women’s leadership by appointing Canada’s first gender-balanced cabinet and deciding to restore funding for women’s rights advocacy,” in November 2015.

While the government has put an increased focus on gender-based policy analysis and women’s rights in international development, there is still room for improvement.

Female leaders are important for the attitudes and ambitions of young women. According to a 2012 study from MIT, Seeing women in charge persuaded parents and teens that women can run things, and increased their ambitions. Changing perceptions and giving hope can have an impact on reality.”

The theme for International Women’s Day in 2017, is #BeBoldForChange; a call on the masses, or call on yourself, to help forge a better working world and a more inclusive, gender equal world. On ways you can declare bold actions to help progress the gender agenda, visit the International Women’s Day website for a list of resources.

In the spirit of International Women’s Day, the CVCA reached out to successful female investors and entrepreneurs to expand on their career stories, address current roadblocks to success, and to provide some advice on how to combat inequality in 2017.

The CVCA’s Celebrating Canadian Female Investor & Founder Trailblazers continues with the female influencers who’ve shaped our contributors to who they are today.

What woman inspires you and why?

Annette Verschuren, Chair and CEO of NRSTOR. She has risen to the top of her game from ordinary roots and in the process, has demonstrated a flexibility of thinking and skills that has allowed her to capitalize on opportunities that others would have wavered to take on. – Shirley Speakman, Partner, CYCLE Capital Management

Ping Fu. I had the pleasure of meeting Ping Fu a few years ago, and found her story fascinating. She started me on a journey to understand resiliency and grit better because I became curious as to why some people fall victim in the face of adversity while others persevere and become incredibly successful. 

Her story remarkable. She was taken away from her family at the age of 8 to live in a labour campus during the Cultural Revolution in China while caring for her younger sister. She started to work in a factory at the age of 9, was raped at 10 and labelled a broken shoe. She persevered for ten long years. In 1983 the police asked Ping to leave the country and in 1984 she scraped enough money to buy a one-way ticket to the US and eventually studied computer science. She worked day and night as a programmer for Resource Systems Group and Bell Labs. Later she founded a 3D software company, Geomagic, secured venture funding and sold the company to 3D Systems. She is the definition of iconic. – Whitney Rockley, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, McRock Capital

There are many inspiring women in different aspects of my life. If I am limited to one choice, I’d say it’s the group of female entrepreneurs that I meet through the Kiva micro loan platform. Many have had to turn to starting a business as a way to survive terrible hardship brought on by war, violence, poverty or natural disasters. I admire their resilience and creativity in the face of that adversity. As a fintech investor, I also can’t help but be impressed that the repayment rate on the Kiva loans to these inspiring entrepreneurs is 97%. – Kerri Golden, Partner & CFO at Information Venture Partners Inc.

My mother does – she was a full-time teacher, went back to school to finish her university degree (and graduated summa cum lade) all while ensuring she took care of the family. She made it clear to me from a very early age that I could be whatever I chose to be. She continues to be an inspiration. – Michelle McBane, Director, MaRS Investment Accelerator Fund

Margaret Thatcher inspires me. She was in an extremely male-dominated, tough environment, yet she persevered and did what she thought was best for the country. – Janet Bannister, Partner, Real Ventures

My mother is definitely a woman that inspires me. She had dreams of becoming a doctor, however circumstances left her unable to do so. After immigrating to Canada with two small children, she worked hard to obtain her Masters in Social Work and excel in her career. Witnessing her ambition taught me to dream big and believe that anything is possible. – Neha Khera, Partner, 500 Startups

Sheryl Sandberg. A couple of years ago, I watched her famous TED talk: Why we have too few women leaders” and I learned that I wasn’t alone in feeling intimidated as a female leader in a male-dominated world. As I sat listening to this very real woman talking about her mom guilt’ and switching right into her 3 most important points: 1. Sit at the table 2. make your partner a real partner 3. Don’t leave before you leave, I knew that she was someone I’d look up to and be inspired by- she was also someone I felt I could relate to. Sheryl was so real and so right. But it wasn’t until her husband died and I watched her share with the world in her Berkeley Speech how she’d get through it, that I knew she was the most inspirational woman I’d come across. This talk sealed the deal for me – Sheryl is the strongest woman I know- she encourages women to lean in, but she also encourages everyone to go on, even when things are tough as hell, and as a company founder and woman in tech, that encouragement speaks volumes to me. – Tami Zuckerman, Co-Founder & Chief Customer Officer, VarageSale

Deborah Borda, President and Chief Executive of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. She is widely regarded as a bold manager and as one of the most successful arts executives in the United States, and is known for her innovative approach to shaping the role of orchestras in the 21st century. – Jen Lee Koss, Co-founder and Builder of Business, Brika

All kinds of women inspire me. It just depends on the topic. Women inspire me with their business success, their social contributions, their kindness, their inner strength…. I take what I can get wherever I can get it. – Carol Leaman, President & CEO, Axonify

There are so many women who inspire me. Two of the women I am speaking with on International Woman’s day – the Honourable Rona Ambrose and Rosemary Chapdelaine are very inspirational to me. They always handle themselves with so much grace and composure, and every professional interaction I have had with them, they are always prepared, with the facts and homework done – they work hard, help others and know their stuff. Michele Romanow (Dragon’s Den) has inspired me immensely over the years as well – she is a kick ass entrepreneur, that has always been there to push and inspire me to think bigger. – Nicole Verkindt, President, OMX

I am inspired by women that have managed to balance their work and family life while being thoughtful leaders; women that genuinely want to give back and help other women be successful in their own right; women that are confident and not afraid to be vulnerable. – Stephany Lapierre, CEO, tealbook

I’ve always thought if I could bring to the world what Ellen Degeneres brings, I would have achieved many of my life goals- bringing laughter, kindness and inspiration to people, and being authentic to myself by pursuing the passions that I feel will make an impact in the world. – Jaclyn Ling, Director of Partnerships at kik, Co-founder of Blynkstyle

I look up to so many Women in Toronto’s tech echo system. I’m lucky to have two amazing women on my board of directors Michelle McBane and April Dunford. I admire them for their ability to balance their own careers while lending their time to supporting young companies in their growth. Both Michelle and April are such amazing examples for women looking to build a career in technology or venture capital and they make a difference every day by leading by example.– Marie Chevrier, Founder, Sampler

Dessy Daskalov, one of my co-founders and our company’s CTO. She’s a genius with the best attitude of anyone I’ve ever met. Not only does she have technical capabilities and leadership capacity, she is fearless and she lives, bleeds and breathes the entrepreneurial spirit. – Lindsey Goodchild, Founder, Nudge Rewards

This article was part two of the CVCA’s Celebrating Canadian Female Investor & Founder Trailblazers. Celebrating Canadian Female Investor & Founder Trailblazers is a five-part series celebrating the success of Canadian women in business as part of International Women’s Day.