YMCA Women of Excellence 2023 Honourees

Presented by BMO

Dr. Lauretta Frederking

Dr. Lauretta Frederking

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.

After just three years of employment with Brescia as the academic leader of the university, Dr. Lauretta Frederking was named Brescia’s new president. It is of note that only 20 percent of the world’s universities have female Presidents and Brescia is Canada’s only women’s university. Lauretta’s appointment speaks to her strengths as an academic with a robust curriculum vitae, a strong leader and a women’s advocate. In the 1990s there were approximately 250 women’s colleges across North America, now there are less than 35. Knowing this, Lauretta faced the challenges inherent within a niche educational environment with an unimaginable degree of grit and grace. Despite government funding freezes and barriers to education and connection created by COVID, Lauretta put the ability of her students to access an inclusive and empowering education above all else. Lauretta has led a vibrant academic career that seamlessly combines brilliance with community benefit.

Deb Matthews

Deb Matthews

Business & Professions
Sponsored by PwC

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

At the age of 34, Deb Matthews led a successful province-wide campaign for the Ontario Liberal Party.  She was widely regarded as a rising star within the party and the province. In 2003 Deb was elected to the Ontario Legislature and later that same year was elected President of the Ontario Liberal Party, becoming only the second woman in Ontario to hold that role. During her fifteen years in office, along with supporting her family, becoming a five-time grandmother, and completing her Ph.D. in social demography, Deb held three of the most senior roles in provincial politics:  Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, President of the Treasury Board, and Deputy Premier. Her policy accomplishments in these roles are extensive including the lead in both the introduction of the Ontario Child Benefit and the development of Ontario’s Poverty Reduction Strategy, and the championing of the Free Tuition Policy. Deb has demonstrated a career-long commitment towards the advancement of women and normalizing the idea that women can lead in such roles. 

Kathleen Holland

Kathleen Holland

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.

Kathleen Holland is a leader, mentor, and pioneer in the LGBTQ2+ Community. She has been a role model for women for over 30 years. Kathleen has led and worked with groups to support women at varying levels of self-acceptance on the sexual orientation pendulum and impacted numerous lives. This is demonstrated through her ongoing leadership with Adventurous Women of London (AWOL), as Coordinator for Teachers’ Association of London Lesbians (TALL), as an activist with Heterosexism and Homophobia in Education Working Group, through her involvement with The Women of Influence, and as a committee member of London Pride. She has achieved many goals including securing same-sex spousal benefits for the former London Board of Education, with the Supreme Court following suit 5 years later, and making life safer for LGBTQ2+ students and staff at the former London Board of Education. As well through her work, prior to retirement, as a financial consultant, Kathleen provided timely information on legal gains for the financial wellbeing of LGBTQ2+ clients and AWOL members. She has worked hard to break barriers and in turn has given hope and inspiration to many. 

Allison DeBlaire

Allison DeBlaire

Social Justice
Sponsored by RBC

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

Allison DeBlaire is a living example of how one person can create an incredible impact in a short period of time. While working at a downtown bar, Allison listened to the stories of Londoners experiencing homelessness, sparking her determination to make a difference. She founded the grassroots not-for-profit 519Pursuit in 2017, leading outreach and support to people living in extreme poverty using a friendship-based and empathy-driven approach. Building trust and relationships with volunteers through meaningful conversations helps many hit the reset button, providing them with new resources and making them feel heard. As a community connector, Allison develops strong partnerships with agencies and businesses to create meal programs and clothing drives, after which 519Pursuit meets ‘friends’ on the street where they share supplies. Her personal mentorship has helped many women transform their lives. Allison believes all people have the potential to overcome challenges, and her inspirational efforts change perspectives on how we see people who are homeless in our communities. 


Karen Fryday-Field

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. 

Karen Fryday-Field's gift is her ability to envision where change needs to happen, see possibilities, and a path forward. She began her career in the corporate healthcare world, and soon realized her strength was in the entrepreneurial realm. Karen completed her MBA at the Ivey Business School and achieved Ivey Scholar Distinction before founding Meridian Edge Leadership and Governance Consulting in 2000. There she has consulted with over 220 organizations, and Boards to address governance effectiveness and strategy, focused on purpose and enabling results through advancing organization/Board integrity, prudence, and equity to achieve best possible outcomes. Karen has recently taken the role of CEO at GOVERN for IMPACT, an international organization whose purpose is to advocate and research governance excellence to change the world one Board, organization, and business at a time. Karen’s entrepreneurial passion led her to found private healthcare companies; True Hearing Health and Meridian Spine & Joint Physiotherapy. Through mentoring young women every year, leading on Boards of Directors (including Brescia University), leading third-world hearing clinics and women’s leadership projects, Karen shares her indomitable energy, focus, spirit, and compassion with all those around her.     

Dr. Jackie Schleifer-Taylor

Dr. Jackie Schleifer-Taylor

Health, Science & Technology
Sponsored by Lerners

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

Dr. Jackie Schleifer Taylor is Canada’s first Black female President and CEO to lead a research-intensive acute care teaching hospital. She holds a strong unifying vision for London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) to strengthen the organization’s mission of excellent care, teaching, research and system leadership.  This vision is evident in her commitment to communities LHSC serves, and her advancement of the regional role LHSC plays across Ontario. Dr. Schleifer Taylor is passionate about growing LHSC’s role in local initiatives that will advance health and wellness opportunities for the populations it serves. She believes deeply in the privilege and service of leadership. Having surpassed unique barriers and challenges, Dr. Schleifer Taylor is never afraid to show her passion, emotion and motivation. She demonstrates that leading with compassion is not a weakness, but an effective and powerful form of leadership. Dr. Schleifer Taylor’s ability to see people’s potential, her commitment to providing the framework for other women to advance their vision, and her delivery of ongoing organizational support are tenets of the rare kind of leadership she embodies.    

Victoria Paraschak

Dr. Victoria Paraschak

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. Victoria Paraschak never takes the easy way out. A leader in teaching a feminist perspective of history and sociology in sport, she challenges the traditional, gender-based norms in sport culture and institutions in the face of resistance. Vicky is a longstanding advocate for both students at the University of Windsor as a faculty member in Kinesiology (a role she has held since 1984), as well as for young women in the community, creating opportunities for young women to build confidence through experiential learning and mentorship. She has served in leadership roles for the North American Society for Sport History and the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport, is an advocate for Leadership Advancement for Women and Sport and is the visionary behind a successful outdoor recreation high school program for at-risk youth. She also strives to showcase the achievement of Indigenous athletes, ensuring they are recognized in Wikipedia and by sport Hall of Fame institutions. Vicky champions changes to policies and practices to transform culture in sport and education, creating more equity and inclusivity for women and marginalized communities.

Maggie Mac Neil

Maggie Mac Neil

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.

Maggie Mac Neil has inspired innumerable young women to pursue their dreams. She has demonstrated that success is achievable by applying oneself and that it is not one dimensional. As one of the world’s best female competitive swimmers, Maggie has won Olympic, World Championship and Commonwealth Games gold medals, is a U.S. collegiate national champion and world record holder. Maggie made her first senior national team in 2018 but stuck to her plan of being a leader on her current team and getting an early start on her studies. She had strong belief in herself and her long-term plan that she could achieve excellence. That excellence was on display for the world sooner than many would have thought as Maggie achieved international recognition in 2019 in South Korea, followed by a gold medal at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Through her achievements in the world of competitive swimming, Maggie has inspired an entire generation of young women by showing how she has achieved incredible milestones while continuing to excel academically and stay close to her roots. 

2023 YMCA Women of Excellence Awards

Join us for our return to in-person 2023 YMCA Women of Excellence Awards on Tuesday, May 16, 2023 at RBC Place London!

BMO Blue Lounge Reception: 5:00 pm
Dinner: 6:00 pm


See past recipients from other years.