With International Women’s Day in our sights, we’d like to take a moment to celebrate those women who have pushed beyond what people expect of them. Way, way beyond, to a place of new possibilities and new challenges. Whether it is raising awareness about violence against women or leading the charge in arenas that were once perceived as for men only, these leading Canadian ladies are kicking butt on their own terms.
They’re business owners, inventors (one inventor is 19), whistle-blowers and some of the smartest people in the world. We talked to these amazing women and asked them for advice. We promise you’ll hang on their every word:
Words of wisdom from 12 inspiring women who make us proud to be Canadian
Lucy Decoutere, 44Who she is: Actress, Royal Canadian Air Force captain and the first woman to openly come forward in the case against Jian Ghomeshi.
Best advice she ever received from a woman: "In life, there are no have-tos. Sometimes that means making dinner for your family, sometimes it means wanting to work. Sometimes it means just forgetting it all."
Her advice for young women: "If something happens that you're not cool with, there's a reason. Use your voice to activate what your amphibious brain is trying to tell you. If something feels wrong, it probably is... Trust the feeling."Getty Images
Robyn Doolittle, 30Who she is: Investigative journalist, Crazy Town author and the woman who broke the Rob Ford crack scandal.
Best advice she ever received from a woman: "Questioning the powers around you is not a sign of disobedience, it's a sign of engagement. [This] didn't come in a succinct sentence you put on an inspirational poster, it was more of an idea that [my mother] reinforced with me throughout my childhood and teenage years."
Her advice for young women: "Don't be a jerk. You don't need to cut down the people around you to get ahead. If you feel the need to send a snarky tweet, resist. This isn't about being a doormat, just polite and professional. Kindness will get you everywhere."Getty Images
Vivienne Poy, 73Who she is: Former Canadian senator and first Canadian senator of Asian heritage.
On women: "I wish I had been able to amend our national anthem through legislation to make it inclusive of women. I tried a few times, but because there was no political will from the federal government, it failed to become a reality. I am certain this will be taken up by future generations of Canadian women." - China Daily USAGetty Images
Attiya KhanWho she is: Writer and director of A Better Man, a documentary that aims to empower you to put an end to violence against women.
Best advice she ever received from a woman: "It came from a woman named Joss McLennan, who was my boss at a small graphic design company where I used to work and who has become one of my best friends. She said, 'You are smarter, more creative and funnier than you think. If there is something you really want to do but you think it is out of your range, then I say try it. I am 100 per cent certain that you will succeed.'"
Her advice for young women: "Let other women know what they are good at. Too often, I have found that women in my life don't recognize their own strengths. Sometimes, the simple act of pointing it out can be a big confidence booster."A Better Man
Jessie MacAlpine, 19Who she is: One of Plan Canada's Top 20 Under 20 for her research on mustard oil, including how it can be used as an inexpensive and effective malaria treatment.
Best advice she ever received from a woman: "In science, just as in life, you are defined by your passions. Find what you love and don't stop until you've reached the stars!"
Her advice for young women: "Attack the day with enthusiasm, because each new day should present an exciting opportunity to go outside and make a difference, even just in small ways to help those around you." Jessie MacAlpine
Chantelle Winnie, 20Who she is: Former America's Next Top Model contestant, current runway model (with vitiligo).
On women, everything: "Focus on your opinion of yourself and not the opinion others have of you... I'm not for or against anything other than being happy." - New York Daily News and MicGetty Images
Eve GabereauWho she is: Co-founder and managing director of Soda Pictures, a film distribution company with offices in London, Toronto and Los Angeles. She works with titles like Only Lovers Left Alive, Night Moves, Slow West and more.
Best advice she ever received from a woman: "'You can have everything, but you don't have to have it all.' As a mother of two, partner to my husband, owner and manager of a film company with a strong support network of family, friends and colleagues, I feel like there is so much to do and keep up with all the time."
Her advice for young women: "There are no rules. We are setting new boundaries and paving a new road and must do what feels right."Eve Gabereau
Tara Slone, 41Who she is: Former lead singer of Joydrop and host of Inside Jam, current host of Calgary's Breakfast Television.
Best advice she ever received from a woman: "The greatest piece of advice was from my mother when I was very young: 'You can ride the wave but you don't always have to jump in.' She was referring to not always succumbing to the intensity of emotions when they arise – passion, aggression, fear, whatever."
Her advice for young women: "Know and trust your personal power, your confidence. You are strong enough to say yes when you need to, and you sure as hell are strong enough to say no when you need to."Getty Images
Jacqueline ShanWho she is: Co-founder and inventor of Cold-FX.
On being a mom: "My job is demanding, especially when I travel. But I take the approach that learning to balance it all helps me be a better mom and manager as well. Whenever there is a challenge, I’m focused on finding a solution."Afinity
Dr. Roberta Bondar, 69Who she is: Former Canadian astronaut
On women: “It’s uncomfortable if women get the same job... Somehow, it takes away from [men’s] image of themselves because they don’t see women as being their equal in a professional sense. I think there are some people who still have that problem and it makes it difficult for women in many fields, but in the astronaut program it’s a big one.”
She adds, "As long as you have the skill set, it’s all about confidence and it’s all about support. Success deals with not being arrogant, but rather about being confident." - Women of InfluenceGetty Images
Natasa Kajganic, 29Who she is: Founder of the Toronto Flower Market and a freelance communications specialist and producer. Most passionate about developing new intersections between community and creation.
Best advice she ever received from a woman:"An older friend quoting Adrienne Rich said, 'Responsibility to yourself means refusing to let others do your thinking, talking and naming for you; it means learning to respect and use your own brains and instincts: hence, grappling with hard work.' Through exploring what my balance was, what mattered most was the interest I had in defining my own voice and the need I had for it to exist."
Her advice for young women: "We create many of our own limitations. The questions we ponder, the fear we imagine, the negative perceptions we believe — they are all in our head. Overcome the chaos in your mind by giving more space to the manifestation of positive intentions, courage and conviction to accomplish anything you wish to be true." Natasa Kajganic
Jasmine BakerWho she is: The woman and hospitality professional behind the launches of The Drake Hotel, TIFF Bell Lightbox, Arts and Crafts' Field Trip, Gentlemen of the Road in Norfolk Country and Taste of Toronto at Historic Fort York.
Best advice she ever received from a woman: "My mom says, 'Be a positive, inspiring and empowering force in the lives of the people around you. Enjoying one's own success is rewarding, but helping others to achieve theirs can be better.'"
Her advice for young women: "Believe in your dreams and let go of your fears, you can achieve anything; fear is the only thing standing in your way."Jasmine Baker