Atlantic Canada’s 25 Most Powerful Women in Business

Posted on March 08, 2021 | Atlantic Business Magazine | 0 Comments

As medical professionals, these doctors don’t have roles that scream “business” on first glance. However, these three public health officers played an important role in controlling the spread of the coronavirus, both in their own provinces and throughout Atlantic Canada. As a result, the region has largely limited the spread of COVID-19. The impact on the business community has been significant: the health guidelines they helped put in place allowed for a regional tourism season during the Atlantic Bubble and helped many local businesses find safe ways to reopen.

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Dr. Heather Morrison
Chief Public Health Officer, Prince Edward Island

Dr. Heather Morrison (above) of P.E.I. was appointed to her role in 2007. Her province’s first female Rhodes Scholar, Dr. Morrison completed her Master and Doctorate degrees at Oxford before returning to Canada for her medical training. She continues to balance her role in government with her emergency medicine practice in Charlottetown. Throughout the pandemic, she worked with Island businesses and industries to help them understand and implement the public health measures. She also guided businesses through COVID exposures and outbreaks, providing empathetic advice to struggling business owners. Her goal was two-fold: to minimize illness and death, and to minimize social disruption. To date, P.E.I. is the only Canadian province without any COVID-related deaths.

Dr. Janice Fitzgerald
Chief Medical Officer of Health, Newfoundland and Labrador

Newfoundland and Labrador’s Dr. Janice Fitzgerald (above) began her medical career as a family physician in Springdale, N.L. in 1996. Since then, she has worked as an emergency room doctor and a family physician (the latter while also working in long-term care facilities). A year after completing a Master of Public Health in 2016, Dr. Fitzgerald was named clinical chief of long-term care at Eastern Regional Health Authority. In September 2019, just six months before the start of the pandemic, she was appointed acting Chief Medical Officer of Health. Her guidance during the pandemic has made her one of the most respected people in the province. In November 2020, Dr. Fitzgerald was named the province’s family physician of the year by the College of Family Physicians of Canada.

Dr. Jennifer Russell
Chief Medical Officer of Health, New Brunswick

A native of Bathurst, N.B., Dr. Jennifer Russell (pictured above) joined the military in her second year of medical school, and between 1997 and 2007, she served as a medical officer in the Canadian Armed Forces. After the armed forces, she worked briefly for Veterans Affairs and then in family medicine and mental health in Fredericton, including several years at a substance use disorder services clinic. Following progressively responsible roles with the provincial department of health, she became New Brunswick’s chief medical officer of health in 2018. The general public, government and private sector businesses have been particularly appreciative of Dr. Russell’s plain-spoken honesty during COVID-19—fluently delivered in both official languages.

Mary Robinson
Managing Partner, Eric C. Robinson Inc./Island Lime
Board member, P.E.I. Agromart
Board member, Mid-Isle Farms
Board member, P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture
Board member, World Farmers’ Organization
President, Canadian Federation of Agriculture

Mary Robinson (above) is part of a family with a long history in agriculture in Prince Edward Island. Eric. C. Robinson Inc. is a sixth-generation family farm as well as a third-generation family agribusiness. Robinson, who has degrees in economics and business, has worked in Canada and Scotland in all aspects of the potato industry (including agronomy, food processing and production). She has served on Agriculture and Agri-food Canada’s national Program Advisory Council (2015-17), the External Expert Panel of the Business Risk Management Program Review (2017) and the Sustainable Development Advisory Committee. Robinson is also the first female president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, Canada’s largest general farm organization. The role requires her to represent about 200,000 farm families across the country and to advocate for the country’s agriculture industry around the world.

Sheri Somerville
CEO, Atlantic Chamber of Commerce

A globally certified business communications professional, Sheri Somerville (pictured above) has more than 24 years of multi-sector business experience. She needed every bit of it this past year. Representing more than 16,000 businesses, the Atlantic Chamber of Commerce is the largest accredited business association in Atlantic Canada. Somerville and her team—together with their network of 94 chambers across the region and 29 corporate partners—worked around the clock, especially during the early days of the pandemic, to support those businesses and their 300,000 employees. Somerville et al gathered valuable information from the Atlantic business community and communicated that information to government representatives, all all while advocating for the essential programs that kept many businesses afloat during COVID. Her professional philosophy is: “Do something that matters and try to help a few people along your way.”

Nancy Mathis
Executive Director, Wallace McCain Institute
Partner, Pivotal Input
Board member, Emera
Board member, Q5X Systems

The Wallace McCain Institute (WMI) has three goals. First, to grow the personal capacity of entrepreneurial leaders though peer support, mentoring and judgment building. Second, to increase access to the critical resources required to grow (people, money and opportunities). And third, to foster a positive business ecosystem by aligning with similar initiatives inside and outside the Greater Atlantic Area. As WMI’s executive director, Nancy Mathis (above) is knocking those goals out of the park. Over the last decade, she has launched 35 peer groups to support over 500 business leaders. In her consulting work with Pivotal Input, where 70 per cent of her clients are multi-generational family businesses, she provides strategic planning, team alignment, culture re-sets and executive mentoring. Mathis has been in their shoes—for more than a decade she was the CEO of Mathis Instruments, a company which grew from the commercialization of her PhD research in chemical engineering.

Cathy Simpson
CEO, TechImpact
Board Chair, New Brunswick Innovation Foundation
Founder, UP+GO

Cathy Simpson (above) has spent her entire career furthering the technology and innovation sector in Atlantic Canada. “That means growing our digital economy to create jobs, building more talent and skills, finding access to more capital, connecting companies and people to interesting problems, mentoring founders and leaders, and exposing more women and girls to the sector.” As the CEO of TechImpact, an industry-led organization, Simpson’s mission is to accelerate regional technology adoption and innovation as an economic driver. Through her work with NBIF, an independent, private organization focused on venture capital and funding, she helps N.B. innovators access research, advice and capital. UP+GO, an organization she founded, builds and delivers leadership programs for high school girls, nurturing future generations of women leaders. A self-described “lifelong learner,” Simpson recently launched a podcast called TechTalks with Cathy Simpson. “I push myself to try new things.”

Carolann Harding
Executive Director, SmartICE Sea Ice Monitoring and Information Inc.
Board Chair, FoodFirst NL
Board Member, Women in Resource Development Corp.
Executive Committee Member, ICD Newfoundland and Labrador Chapter

The leader of an award-winning tech start-up social enterprise that focuses on climate change adaptation, Carolann Harding (above) works with people in 25 locations across Canada’s northern coastal communities. SmartICE recruits Indigenous youth to locally manufacture and deliver their environmental monitoring systems. Together, they are incorporating sea ice monitoring data with local Indigenous knowledge of sea ice conditions. They hope this collaborative approach will contribute to more informed decisions regarding safe land, water and sea ice use. Under Harding’s direction, SmartICE has been recognized with an Arctic Inspiration Award, United Nations Momentum for Change Award, a Governor General’s Award and the 2020 President’s Award for Public Engagement Partnership from Memorial University of Newfoundland. In addition to her current role, Harding has a long history of entrepreneurship and advocacy for supplier diversity, women in technology, HR development, leadership and youth empowerment.

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Mary Ann Nui
Deputy Grand Chief, Innu Nation

Mary Ann Nui (pictured above) is quickly proving to be a powerful advocate for Labrador Innu and Indigenous rights, including around commercial and industrial activity. Nui was elected in the summer of 2020, landing more votes than even former Innu Nation Grand Chief Gregory Rich. Her voice was at the forefront in October, in announcing the decision of Innu Nation leadership to launch a $4-billion legal action against Hydro-Québec and Churchill Falls Labrador Corp., seeking compensation for ecological and cultural damage from the Churchill Falls hydro project. She has also publicly challenged provincial politicians on anti-racism efforts. Born in Davis Inlet, her current work reaches into areas including economic development and the continued and tireless push for a finalized, federal land claim. Her election is for a three-year term, giving her runway for her efforts, alongside Grand Chief Etienne Rich and the current board of directors.

Colleen D’Entremont
President, Atlantica Centre for Energy
Co-chair, External Advisory Council, Canadian Centre for Energy Information

All energy, all the time: “Energy literacy has been a huge focus of what I do,” D’Entremont said. That focus on education and understanding is evident in her commitment to mentorship (she takes on a new student or two every year) as well as her outreach to organizations that want to learn about the energy sector. Her work brings together people from different segments of the economy—academia, government, the private sector—to leverage each other’s strengths and expertise. “When people check their differences at the door and are open-minded to working together for the benefit of all, it is amazing how much can get accomplished,” she said. When she isn’t talking energy to people across the region and New England as well as national organizations, D’Entremont makes time to volunteer with local community organizations.

Aldéa Landry
President, Landal Inc.
Vice-president, Diversis Inc.
Member, Board of Trustees, Killam Apartment REIT
Board of Governors, Canadian University of Dubai
Board member, IWK Health Centre
Board member, United Way

Aldéa Landry’s storied career has crossed sectors and industries. She co-founded a law firm, served as a civil servant and elected official (former deputy premier in Frank McKenna’s government), and has been a prolific board member (including, but far from limited to, the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council, Bank of Canada, Canadians Investors Protection Fund and the Security Intelligence Review Committee). The common theme throughout all of those roles—as well as her current work with organization and business development consulting firm Landal Inc. and immigration/diversity organization, Diversis—has been her advocacy for women and education, which she describes as the best social and economic equalizer. A self-described “consummate networker”, Landry thrives on harnessing her contacts to connect people to opportunities, particularly for the young people and immigrant professionals she mentors. “Success is not only what you accomplish, but it’s what you help others accomplish. What goes around comes around.”

Sarah Young
Managing Partner – Atlantic Canada, NATIONAL PR
Founding Partner, Atlantic Women’s Venture Fund/Sandpiper Ventures
Associate, Creative Destruction Lab – Atlantic
Advisor, RE$EARCH MONEY
Member, Young Presidents’ Organization

From her communications work with NATIONAL PR to her investment in women entrepreneurs via the Atlantic Women’s Venture Fund to her mentorship of early-stage technology companies through the Creative Destruction Lab, Sarah Young (above) is a catalyst for economic growth. Her focus is on helping private and public organizations across Canada work through complex issues such as: building resilience, the modern workplace, social license, consumer attitudes, scaling into new markets, investment attraction and women in leadership. As an advisor to RE$EARCH MONEY, she connects and supports Canada’s science, technology and innovation ecosystem. She is equally active on a local level: Young is a director on several boards including the Trans Canada Trail, Develop Nova Scotia, Mount Allison University’s Board of Regents and the YMCA for Greater Halifax/Dartmouth Board of Honourary Trustees.

Denise Allen
President and CEO, Food Processors of Canada
Executive Director – R&D, Breton Air
Vice Chair, Cape Breton University Board of Governors
Guest Lecturer, Goodman School of Business, Brock University

From fish plants to meat processing to baked goods, food manufacturing is an important industry across the four Atlantic provinces—and the region has an impressive spokesperson in Denise Allen (pictured above). A proven leader in government relations, with more than 20 years of executive business experience (including supply chain management, finance, operations, and mergers and acquisitions), she is now the national voice for Canadian owners, investors, and executive leaders of food and beverage processing companies. Allen is a powerful agricultural advocate, promoting a healthy, vibrant, and safe national food production industry. She is also an entrepreneur, investor and active supporter of the advancement of women.

Nicole Johnson-Morrison
President and CEO, EduNova Cooperative Ltd.
Chair, Black Business Initiative Diversity Employment Network
Member, International Women’s Forum Atlantic Chapter
Board member, United Way
Board member, National Congress of Black Canadians

Through her work with EduNova, Nicole Johnson-Morrison (above) works to promote Nova Scotia’s knowledge economy, with a particular focus on retaining international students in the province. Johnson-Morrison’s own international experience positioned her well for this role: she did undergraduate and graduate work at the University of Leicester, and she was recognized for her work advancing Canada’s trade and policy efforts in Latin America and the Carribean as a senior trade commissioner with Global Affairs Canada. In 2012, she won the United Nations Women in Business award.

Fiona Kirkpatrick-Parsons
National Advisor, Deloitte Indigenous
Chair, North American Indigenous Games

As the kā-nīkānīt (national advisor) for Deloitte Indigenous, Fiona Kirkpatrick-Parsons (above) leads the firm’s national Indigenous strategy and champions the company’s Reconciliation Action Plan—a first-of-its-kind program now inspiring other companies. “The concept of reconciliation at the firm is one that began here in the Atlantic region, from an idea I put forward to our leadership in 2017 and, I’m proud to say, sparked a movement at the firm that has grown national in scale,” said Kirkpatrick-Parsons, a member of the Lac La Ronge First Nation. In addition to her work with Deloitte, she is the chair of the next North American Indigenous Games, which will be rescheduled post-pandemic, and a bid evaluation committee member with the Canada Games Council—roles that bring together her passions for Indigenous culture and active living. She is also a volunteer with the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia and has held a variety of other volunteer and leadership roles in her communities in the past.

Michelle Simms
President and CEO, Genesis Group Inc.
Advisory Board, MUN Centre for Entrepreneurship
Steering Committee, Ocean Startup Project
Director, Centres of Excellence of Next Generation Networks

Genesis is Newfoundland and Labrador’s leading innovation incubator. Michelle Simms (above) has held many roles in her 18 years with the organization and she says each role brought some unique and impactful experiences. She says one of the most exciting days in the office was when the Genesis team was able to raise $200,000 in 48 hours to launch a micro fund which would see each new Genesis company receiving $20,000 to grow their business. In 2018, she partnered with the Big Raise to organize a 100-person, all-female, charity poker event to support programming for Women in Tech. In one night, they raised more than $40,000. Since taking over as CEO, she has devoted time and attention to making the technology sector more diverse and inclusive. Genesis now has a Women in Tech and an immigrant entrepreneur program.

Cassandra Dorrington
President, Canadian Aboriginal and Minority Supplier Council
Co-founder, Vale & Associates
Order in Council appointee, Dalhousie University
Member, Dalhousie University Executive Committee
Chair, Dalhousie University Finance, Audit, Investment and Risk Committee

As president of the Canadian Aboriginal and Minority Supplier Council, Cassandra Dorrington (pictured above) works to advance the economic empowerment of Indigenous people and people of colour across the country by increasing their access, as business owners, to the supply chain. Dorrington co-founded Vale & Associates with her sister Cynthia Dorrington, and as president she grew the company into a leading provider of HR and consulting services for medium-sized companies in the private, public, and not-for-profit sectors. She is also involved in the Nova Scotia community and beyond, serving as the past chair for the Black Business Enterprise and past chair of Black Business Initiative, past board member of Atlantic Chamber of Commerce, board member of Elevate International as well as sitting on multiple federal government audit committees.

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Martha Casey
CEO, Volta
Board member, Halifax Chamber of Commerce
Advisory Board, Acadia Institute of Data Analytics
Advisory Council, Black Business Consulting’s Diversity Employment Network

At Volta, a leading innovation hub in Atlantic Canada, Martha Casey (above) plays a key role in amplifying the region’s efforts to grow its tech and innovation sector, support entrepreneurship, and both attract and retain talent from across Canada and beyond. She is particularly focused on increasing access and inclusion for traditionally under-represented groups in tech. Volta—which Casey first joined as COO in 2018—was a natural progression for her. Her previous job had been as chief of staff and executive director in the president’s office at Dalhousie University. During that time, she was project manager for Nova Scotia’s participation in the MIT Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program. Prior to that, she worked for two terms in New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration.

Melanie Nadeau
CEO, Centre for Ocean Ventures and Entrepreneurship (COVE)

Melanie Nadeau (above) is an internationally recognized thought-leader in the ocean sector who has worked with the International Energy Agency, the United Nations Environment Programme and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. She was hand-selected by the delegates of 30+ countries to chair the IEC industry standards for marine technologies and co-led global conformity assessment for renewable energy. But it’s her expertise in the commercialization of emerging technologies and developing business strategies that is her most valuable asset at the Centre for Ocean Ventures and Entrepreneurship. COVE is a collaborative facility on the Halifax Harbour for applied innovation and commercialization in the ocean sector. As an award-winning businesswoman and trailblazer whose interest in ocean developments dates back to her time with the Canadian navy, Nadeau helps COVE clients gain market confidence, drive investments, deliver profits and achieve operational success.

Cathy Bennett
CEO, Bennett Group of Companies
Chair, TaskForcce NL
Director, Propel ICT
Associate Fellow, Creative Destruction Lab – Atlantic
Director, NL Chapter, Institute of Corporate Directors
Founder/partner, Sandpiper Ventures

There’s a solid argument for the notion that Cathy Bennett (above) has almost as much influence on the economy and growth of Newfoundland and Labrador as a private citizen as she did when she was the province’s Minister of Finance (2015-17). She still serves her province, just in an unelected capacity. Last year, for instance, when the COVID-19 pandemic reached Canada, Bennett stepped up to chair TaskForceNL, a not-for-profit social enterprise set up to support the province’s healthcare industry with equipment and supply procurement. When she’s not procuring local sources of PPE, Bennett can be found… pretty much everywhere. From encouraging the adoption of innovative technologies to founding a women’s venture capital fund, to kickstarting a 3,400-member strong Women Supporting Women Facebook group to being a board member for Kraken Robotics, BDC, SheEO, Women’s Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub and Memorial University’s Engineering Faculty, where there’s a need—there’s Cathy.

Mary Shortall
President, Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour

Mary Shortall’s work at the helm of an organization representing the interests of union members and workers in the province, touches every sector of the Newfoundland and Labrador economy. With more than two dozen affiliated unions and 70,000 workers represented by the Federation, Shortall frequently advocates for government transparency, public sector jobs and wages, and access to public services. Her decision to leave Premier Andrew Furey’s economic recovery team placed the effort at the center of this winter’s provincial election. It also pushed labour issues into the forefront of the Newfoundland and Labrador political conversation as the province deals with the ongoing economic effects of the pandemic and the oil-and-gas industry slowdown.

Jenene Wooldridge
Executive Director, L’nuey
Member, Premier’s Council for Recovery and Growth
Owner, Segewa’t Consulting
Director, Aboriginal Financial Officers Association of Canada

As executive director of L’nuey, which focuses on the protection of the constitutionally entrenched rights of the Mi’kmaq of Prince Edward Island, Jenene Wooldridge (above) plays a primary role in negotiations between the Mi’kmaq and the provincial government. That role has been instrumental in affirming existing treaties and will continue to be integral to L’nuey’s ongoing development of their governance process for future consultation and negotiation. Wooldridge, a member of the Abegweit First Nation, has participated as a member of numerous Indigenous boards and initiatives, both regionally and nationally, and has led numerous comprehensive planning exercises, helping First Nation communities set a strategic path to a healthy, successful future. She is passionate about her community and committed to advancing the interests of the Mi’kmaq and all Islanders.

Kendra MacDonald
CEO, Canada’s Ocean Supercluster
Board member, Canadian Chamber of Commerce

Canada’s Ocean Super-cluster is a national ocean cluster that has been built from the ground-up under Kendra MacDonald’s leadership. Since she joined the organization as its founding CEO just over two years ago, the supercluster has grown to include 350 members across the country and has staff working in six cities across Atlantic Canada. To date, they have made almost $200 million in project commitments that are effectively shaping how ocean business is done in Canada. MacDonald and her team are increasing collaboration across ocean sectors, building strong partnerships and positioning Canada as a leader in the global ocean economy. Based in St. John’s, she has national and international work experience and speaks often on innovation, disruptive tech, and the future of the ocean business.

Charlene Johnson
CEO, Noia
Co-chair, Petroleum Industry Human Resources Committee
Director, Janeway Children’s Hospital Foundation
Advisory Board Member, Husky Centre for Excellence in Sales and Supply Chain Management, MUN Faculty of Business
Member, St. John’s International Airport Authority Airport Air Access Committee

A former member of N.L.’s House of Assembly (2003-14), Charlene Johnson (above) was the youngest woman elected to the House and the first woman to give birth while serving as an MHA. Her time in office also saw her holding powerful cabinet posts including Finance and Business, Innovation and Rural Development. She is no less impressive in her current leadership role with the largest offshore oil and gas industry association in Canada. At Noia, Johnson heads advocacy and business development initiatives for her 500-plus members. This includes working to maximize local service and supply sector involvement in offshore developments, building working relationships with all levels of government and Indigenous leaders, and promoting the industry locally, nationally, and internationally. She also collaborates with other industry associations like TechNL and Newfoundland and Labrador’s Environmental Industries Association to foster growth and support carbon emission reduction efforts within the province’s offshore oil and gas industry.

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Faten Alshazly
Founder and CCO, WeUSThem
Board member, EfficiencyOne
Board member, Halifax Chamber of Commerce
Board member, Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia

WeUsThem, Faten Alshazly’s full-service ad agency, works with clients across the country and around the world. Under her creative direction, the agency has won multiple global award wins from the Webbys, Advertising Age, and Hermes—all firsts in eastern Canada. Her advocacy efforts are equally impressive. From championing women’s causes to mentoring mid-senior executive women, Alshazly is helping chart paths for young professionals and seasoned leaders alike. Through work placements, mentorship and career advice, she supports women through their journeys from school to careers to entrepreneurship. She is an active member of the Women’s Executive Network, Women in STEM, Women in Technology and the Women’s Employment Outreach. Between March and May of 2020, she met with over 300 organizations, providing free consultations to help manage the COVID crisis. Alshazly has addressed various international forums such as the World Youth Forum to speak about women’s roles in leadership circles.

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