YMCA Women of Excellence 2021 Honourees

Presented by BMO

Michele Beaudoin

Michele Beaudoin

Arts, Culture, Education & Training
Sponsored by TD

Recognizes impactful contributions to the creative arts, culture, or heritage in the community; or leadership in education through teaching, research, training and development or alternative learning programs.

Michele Beaudoin’s distinguished career in higher education has been defined by advocating for the advancement of women and empowering future leaders. As Fanshawe’s Vice President of Student Services, Michele is a champion of student autonomy and provides leadership, strategic planning and direction to 300 full-time employees in delivering student affairs, library services and campus life activities. Some of her career highlights include receiving the Ontario College Administrative Staff Association Distinguished Administrator Award, becoming inaugural chair of the provincial Heads of Student Affairs committee, authoring a paper in the mid-1990s that influenced the direction of college libraries across Ontario, designing and delivering Fanshawe’s Student Affairs Reflective Leader program, launching one of Canada’s first Military Connected Colleges at Fanshawe, and introducing “Here for You”, a branded awareness campaign at Fanshawe promoting services  to students with disabilities, Indigenous students, students at-risk and students seeking to engage in college life. Her contributions to community service over the past 30 years are many and include: volunteer consulting with the Ontario Provincial Police and Police Association, Children’s Aid Society, and University of Toronto (Faculty of Law); chair and active member on over 15 provincial committees and task forces; chair and primary lead on over 25 college committees and task forces; and an active member on over 35 college committees and task forces. Michele is known to be a dynamic catalyst for change who instills that, regardless of position, everyone has the potential to effect positive change. 

Michelle Baldwin

Michelle Baldwin

Business & Professions
Sponsored by PwC

Recognizes achievement in a business or profession in the public, private or non-profit sector.

Michelle Baldwin, Executive Director of Pillar Nonprofit Network, is known as a visionary leader, purpose-driven, community connector, mentor and change-maker. Michelle led the charge in creating a London first, shared space for social innovation called Innovation Works, bringing together individuals, organizations, academic partners and entrepreneurs. Michelle was instrumental in the founding of VERGE Capital, a social finance intermediary that has catalyzed $3.5 million, investing in 20 social enterprises and affordable housing initiatives. As a leader in the non-profit sector, Michelle was at the forefront of developing and growing the Pillar Community Innovation Awards, which has become the largest community storytelling awards celebration in Canada. Across the province and Canada, communities are exploring the development of Pillar-like organizations - a direct result of the significant impact of Michelle’s reputation, leadership and collaborative spirit that others wish to replicate. As a mentor to young leaders, she models a level of personal introspection that encourages them to believe in their own capacity to change the world around them. Michelle has been involved with multiple other projects and serves on boards and committees including Atlohsa Family Healing Services , Ontario Nonprofit Network, Yotuni Social Enterprise, Inclusive Economy London, and Recovery Collective, among others. Currently, Michelle has started teaching at Huron University College in the Governance Leadership Ethics program and she is transitioning to a role with Community Foundations of Canada as Senior Advisor, Transformation. Firmly ensconced as a star local leader, she now moves into a leadership role on the national level. 

Amanda Kennedy

Amanda Kennedy

Breaking Barriers
Sponsored by Scotiabank

Recognizes a self-identified woman of colour, LGBTQ2+ member, or woman with a disability who through their personal or professional experience, has broken down barriers for themselves or made significant improvements that benefit others in their profession, industry or community.

Amanda Kennedy is a gifted Haudenosaunee educator and storyteller who brings people and communities together in the spirit of healing, truth, and reconciliation. As the founder of two social enterprises, Yotuni (“it’s growing”) and Kuwahs^naha:wi (“they are name carrying for her”), she builds spaces and opportunities for Indigenous youth and women to thrive. The Yotuni program T.E.N. (Truth Empowering Nations) and Digital Hub connects Indigenous youth through camps, leadership programs, and an innovative online platform for expression, support, and traditional teachings. Addressing root causes of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls crisis, Yotunihati ("they are growing along") helps participants re-root themselves with their identities in safe spaces through workshops and traditional practices. These initiatives promote empowerment and leadership, creating positive ripple effects for generations to come. Supporting this critical work, Amanda also runs the successful consulting business Kuwahs^naha:wi (“they are name carrying for her”) providing innovative education and training on decolonization and anti-racism to non-Indigenous audiences. She has presented at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, Global Minds Collective, Brescia University, and EconoUs2019 (a gathering of 400 community leaders across Canada). In 2020, Amanda joined the Women of Ontario Social Enterprise Network (WOSEN) as a consultant and innovative educator through the Pillar Nonprofit Network. In this role, she launched a 10-week Social Enterprise Accelerator for Indigenous women entrepreneurs, connected female leaders from First Nations and non-Indigenous communities for a Learning and Witnessing Program, and joined the coaching team for the province-wide Resilience program supporting female-identified entrepreneurs during the pandemic. 

Aruna Koushik

Aruna Koushik

Social Justice
Sponsored by RBC

Recognizes impact and advocacy in Social Justice through work or by taking action against social, ethnic, or gender inequalities.

Aruna Koushik is a dedicated and effective human rights advocate both personally and professionally and has been so for decades. She has led as an example, an inspiration, and as a catalyst for positive efforts in the Windsor-Essex community. Aruna commendably served on the Ontario Human Rights Commission for over 15 years ensuring effective representation, advocacy, and ultimately, settlements.  In her roles as a Mediator, Officer, Project Manager, and Acting Office Manager, she sought to ensure effective representation, especially in the areas of sexual and racial harassment. Her position as an officer with the OHRC afforded her the opportunities to create and develop stakeholder networks to specifically address the needs of minority women. Later, in her role as Mediation & Human Rights Services Commissioner at Windsor Regional Hospital, Aruna was essential in the establishment of the office as a health care sector pilot project for dispute resolution. She was also responsible for the implementation of the Harvard Model of Mediation which encourages parties to negotiate and craft resolutions. In her community, she is a founding member of several service organizations and has played an integral role on the committee for Windsor's first Visible Minority Women's Conference, bringing attention to women’s rights, skills training, employment, and domestic violence. For her ongoing efforts and achievements, she has been recognized with local, national, and international honours. Aruna has accepted the challenge and responsibility to leave our world better than we found it, and she relishes her role as a champion and promoter of that ideal. 

Kyle MacDonald

Kyle MacDonald

Sponsored by Ivey Business School at Western University and Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry

Recognizes achievement in organizing and operating a business or businesses, taking on considerable financial risks and other initiatives to do so. 

A visionary leader and industry disrupter, Kyle MacDonald serves as a powerful example for female entrepreneurs. Founded in 1987, her company Phoenix Interactive Design Inc. shattered the barriers of the male-dominated tech industry and revolutionized self-service banking. The company developed the first intelligent and centrally managed ATM software solution capable of running any ATM, regardless of who manufactured it – a truly ground-breaking accomplishment that garnered global attention. While maintaining a base in London, Kyle scaled her business internationally, as Phoenix’s software was adopted by banks around the world. She sold Phoenix in 2015 and in that same year, Kyle founded Harbour Grace Group Inc., and become a strategic investor and CEO of AIRIA Brands, a leading, London-based manufacturer of ventilation and air purification systems known as LIFEBREATH.  
With her entrepreneurial spirit and bold business strategies, Kyle has twice been honoured with the prestigious RBC Women Entrepreneur of the Year award and London Chamber Business Achievement Awards. Under her leadership, her company was recognized with the Ontario Global Trader’s Award, Deloitte Fast 50 (Canada), and Deloitte Fast 500 (North America). A mentor and employer to hundreds, Kyle continues to advocate for the success of women in both higher education and business. Kyle is a proud supporter of Western University’s Accelerate program providing financial assistance to women pursuing a dual degree in Honours Business Administration and Engineering. She helps young Canadians pursue their goals with established scholarships and has served as sponsor for the inspiring BresciaLEADs program. 

Elana Johnson

Elana Johnson

Health, Science & Technology
Sponsored by 3M

Recognizes outstanding achievement or contributions to the health, wellness, science, or technology industries.

Elana Johnson’s contribution to Ontario midwifery, historically and in recent activities, is a demonstration of her fierce commitment to midwives - a profession made up almost entirely of women and in service to clients, who are almost exclusively women. She was instrumental in moving midwifery from an unregulated profession to being recognized under the Regulated Health Professions Act. Later, as president of the Association of Ontario Midwives, Elana advocated for fair compensation for midwives resulting in the first increase midwives had seen in eleven years of regulated, funded midwifery. More recently, Elana was a key player in securing new streams of Provincial funding for midwives, including for midwives with disabilities and new models of midwifery care. Elana's influence in midwifery extended beyond London and included sitting on the Board of Directors of the Association of Ontario Midwives and serving as President of the Association twice, as past coordinator of the Canadian Confederation of Midwives, and appointments to committees such as the Interim Regulatory Council for Midwives and College of Midwives of Ontario, a member of the Ontario Maternity Care Expert Panel, and a member of the LHSC’s Family Medicine Obstetrics Committee. Post retirement, she continues to apply her strengths and expertise through volunteer efforts that contribute to improving and saving lives for children and youth. For Elana, primary volunteer commitments include Children’s Health Foundation and Aeolian Hall.  As Chair of Children’s Health Foundation Board she takes pride in being able to see Midwifery advance within Children’s Hospital and a growing regional focus on the first 1,000 days for a woman’s pregnancy and a child’s first two years.  

Marg Holman

Dr. Margery Holman

Sport, Fitness & Recreation
Sponsored by EY

Recognizes significant impact and contribution to fitness and athletics, through recreation community programs, education and amateur or professional sports.

Dr. Margery Holman is a trailblazer in the field of Sport, with over 40 years' experience as a coach, official, and academic. She served as Director of Women’s Sport at the University of Windsor for 18 years while coaching the women’s synchronized swimming and competitive swimming teams for 3 years, followed by 21 years as a women’s volleyball team coach. She has also served as a juror at international volleyball competitions representing Canada. Starting in 1970 she taught in the Kinesiology program, including a Gender and Sport course she developed to ensure future leaders better understand the barriers and opportunities for women. In the community, Margery has been a Regional Coach for Ontario’s Summer Games, an Assistant Coach at the Canada Games, and spent over 16 years as a volunteer coach for a local high school. Working with community partners, she established the first travel volleyball team for girls in 1973 and helped develop several leadership programs for girls in sport. As founder and Chair of Windsor-Essex County Volleyball Association, Margery was a role model and encouraged girls to pursue officiating positions for financial and career development. Her proudest achievement is the establishment of Leadership Advancement of Women In Sport, founded with peers in the 1990s while maintaining its influential presence to date. She has been recognized as Woman of the Year in Windsor, WESPY Female Legacy Award winner, inducted into the Windsor Essex Sport Hall of Fame and received the Builders Award from the Ontario Volleyball Association. Her vast experience in the world of athletics extends to an important role in research, co-authoring pieces on gendered pay inequities, hazing, sexual harassment and abuse in sport. She was invited by the International Olympic Committee to serve on a committee addressing this important issue in sport worldwide.

Maame De-Heer

Maame De-Heer

Young Woman of Excellence
Sponsored by Brescia University College

Recognizes a young leader (18 to 30 years of age) who demonstrates inspiring commitment, achievement, and leadership in their community, school, or workplace.

Maame De-Heer demonstrates commitment, achievement, and leadership in her community, school, and workplace. To realize her vision and initiative to break new ground and rid old barriers, she created her not-for-profit organization, Power of Love Foundation Canada, where she established a program called Transitions. The program mandates to provide young women in low-income settings with the tools and materials that create sustainable pathways for their careers. In addition, Maame serves as a Policy Analyst at the Government of Canada, specifically within the Mental Health for Black Canadians initiative. Maame's dynamic impact within her workplace has been to ensure that federal policies are created to mitigate systemic racism, structural inequality, and oppression. Her exceptional work was acknowledged by the Senior management committee at the Public Health Agency of Canada, as it showed Maame's dedication to contribute and improve the workspace. Maame has motivated many people in her community and field, especially serving as a role model for many young Black women and girls, who have not had the opportunity to witness many people within the community excel as Maame has.

Virtual 2021 YMCA Women of Excellence Awards

Join us for our Virtual 2021 YMCA Women of Excellence Awards on Wednesday, May 19, 2021! 

6:00pm Virtual doors open
6:30pm BMO Blue Lounge Cocktail Reception with entertainment
7:00pm YMCA Women of Excellence Awards presentation

Purchase Tickets

See past recipients from other years.