Women in Business: 5 Canadian CEOs We Love

In corporate Canada, the corner office is still largely a mans world. Roughly 3% of publicly listed Canadian companies are lead by a female CEO. Unfortunately, female representation on company boards could use some improvement as well.

With only 3.5% of Canadian companies having a female board member, it’s clear that many women executives face challenges reaching the top of the corporate ladder. It’s important to talk about where we are, so we can get to where we want to be, and achieve gender-diversity targets across corporate sectors.

Here’s is a list of Canadian women CEOs who are rethinking and innovating every-day products and services, making them more inclusive for all human needs. In tandem, by breaking long-held and outdated norms, they’re making a significant social impact on the lives of both women and men.

This International Women’s Day, join Ownr and let’s celebrate five Canadian women entrepreneurs. In no particular order:

#1. Joanna Griffiths, Founder, CEO at Knixwear

Joanna Griffiths - Founder/CEO at Knixwear

Joanna Griffiths truly embodies all things  entrepreneurship. In 2013, she invented an absorbent and scent-resistant underwear for women to deal with “little leaks” and sold it via a crowdfunding.

Today, Knixwear is one of Canada’s fastest growing retail companies, it sells a product every 10 seconds, and has become a body-positive movement vs. just a brand.

“I had no background in apparel. I had never owned my own company before. I was probably the least qualified person on the planet to start a business. What I did have, was this serious, serious passion for women, to change the way women felt about themselves and felt about their bodies”

– Joanna Griffiths, Founder and CEO, Knixwear, in an interview to fashionista.com

Apart from a product line that serves a need that was never met, Knixwear’s growth is driven by the social conversations that it encourages. Griffiths has intentionally used Knixwear’s marketing to showcase her customers, and their diverse body-types. Its online community has become a safe space for women to share their insecurities, talk about fertility issues, motherhood, body image and more.

Going forward, this CEO’s goal is to reinvent the $12 billion lingerie market and become a household name.

“I’ve learned that it’s a marathon, not a race, and that has helped.” 

— Joanna Griffiths, Founder and CEO, Knixwear to fashionista.com

#2. Manjit Minhas, Co-Founder and CEO, Minhas Breweries, Distilleries and Wineries

Manjit Minhas - Co-Founder/CEO of Minhas Breweries, Distilleries & Wineries
Photo via Wikipedia

Manjit Minhas traditionally introduces herself as a mother, beer baroness, entrepreneur, and a dragon. The popular host of CBC’s Dragon’s Den started her spirits and beer business with her brother at age 19. Armed with a great business plan and $10,000, she took on big beer and introduced the Minhas brand of affordable and high quality beer in Alberta.

Twenty years later, they boast of 90 brands of beer, spirits, liqueurs and wine across North America, Europe, Asia and South America. They have the 9th largest craft brewery in the USA, and in Minhas’ own words, “there is a lot more to conquer.

Minhas believes that negotiation is an extremely important skill that all entrepreneurs must cultivate.

“Negotiation has definitely made me successful. I start from a place knowing that everything is negotiable. You don’t get what you deserve in life. You get what you negotiate.”

Manjit Minhas, CEO and Founder Minhas Breweries, via My Business Magazine and Canada’s Podcast.

#3. Devon Fiddler, Owner and Chief Changemaker of SheNative Goods Inc.

Devon Fiddler - Owner of SheNative Goods Inc.
Photo via Medium

An indigenous woman, Devon Fiddler started SheNative Goods Inc, a fashion brand of handbags, apparel and accessories. Fiddler started her career as a business guide to First Nations entrepreneurs looking to start their business. Her experience motivated her passion of entrepreneurship, and how it serves as a support system for local First Nations communities.

Committed to her mission, Fiddler calls herself the Chief Changemaker of SheNative Goods, and focuses on hiring indigenous women. Its designs convey the cultural teachings of First Nations along with their symbols, and inspirational quotes like “She believed she could so she did” and “SheWarrior”, that’ve always motivated Fiddler.

“I think often times indigenous people are left out of larger incubators and accelerators, so we don’t feel connected or safe in those types of environments. You don’t see a lot of other indigenous entrepreneurs. This calls for really pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.”

Devon Fiddler, founder of SheNative Goods Inc, via StartUp Toronto interview.

#4. Traci Costa, Founder and CEO, Peekaboo Beans

Traci Costa - Founder/CEO of Peekaboo Beans
Photo via Pinterest

Watching her daughter at play made Traci Costa notice the lack of functionality and comfort in children’s clothing. She founded Peekaboo Beans, a children’s apparel brand that uses high quality fabrics, which are ethically produced to design versatile and durable play-wear for growing children.

The proudly Canadian brand has also been sported by the children of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Sophie Grégoire Trudeau at the 2017 Canada day celebrations.

Apart from promoting the importance of outdoor play in children’s lives, Costa also takes pride in the social impact of her business. With its direct-selling model, Peekaboo Beans has over 1,500 independent social influencers that include stay-at-home moms and women who sell to support their families with extra income.

“Our culture is driven significantly by women, with an almost all female staff and board of directors. We are providing a new entrepreneurial opportunity for the educated, millennial mother to build a business on her terms, and never miss the moments that matter in her life, as well as contributing to the household income.”

Traci Costa, CEO of Peekaboo Beans, via Venture Cap News interview

#5. Natasha Koifman, President and Founder, NKPR

Natasha Koifman - President/Founder of NKPR
Photo via @natashankpr

With offices in Toronto and New York, Natasha Koifman is a powerhouse public relations boss at her company NKPR, one of the most sought after agencies in the region. Representing the biggest brands in the market, Koifman is passionate about leading with integrity and transparency for lasting success.

“Your job is what you do every day, but it’s how you do it, how you affect others, how you help others grow, is ultimately what’s really important – what people will remember,” she told Forbes in a recent interview.

Becoming a mother at 18, Koifman realized early in life the importance of work-life integration.

“Balance doesn’t actually exist and I think that’s why people feel like they’re constantly failing at it. It is more about ‘integration’, which means the choices that you’re making are based on what’s a priority for you at that time. It’s not about making a decision between being a mother and being someone at the office.”

Natasha Koifman, President and Founder of NKPR, via Forbes interview

Koifman’s recent avatar is that of an angel investor at AN8, an investment company she has co-founded with her husband to support “entrepreneurs bringing disruptive ideas to the market.” At AN8, Koifman wants to shake up the status quo and help female entrepreneurs in particular, with funding, mentorship, and more.

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Women mean business. You too should feel empowered to bring your ideas to life just like these amazing Canadian female CEOs.