Since the theme of International Women’s Day this year is Be Bold for Change, we’ve made a list of 5 Canadian women who are boldly stepping into their power to improve the lives of women and girls in Canada, and around the world.
Chakameh Shafii, CEO & Co-founder, TranQool
After experiencing crippling anxiety as a new University of Toronto engineering graduate, Chakameh Shafii turned to cognitive behavioural therapy ― and that’s what made all of the difference. Although she initially had no psychological or mental health training, Shafii eventually quit her job to co-found TranQool, a platform for secure online video therapy sessions.
When Shafii recommended therapy to her friends, they said it was either too expensive or inconvenient. TranQool aims to remove those barriers, making quality mental health counselling accessible and affordable for those in rural areas, lower income patients, and even new mothers, many of whom experience postpartum depression yet are unable to leave the home for therapy sessions. On TranQool, users can select their counsellor, and book a private, secure session for just $80 per 45 minute session, half of what the average Toronto session would cost. And while currently only available to Ontario residents, Shafii reports good traction on university campuses, populations known for high levels of stress and anxiety.
We also can’t help but be excited about what this type of remote-counselling service could mean for new mothers, many of whom experience postpartum depression yet are unable to leave the home for therapy sessions.
Vicki Saunders, SheEO
An award-winning mentor and serial entrepreneur, Vicki Saunders is now changing the landscape of venture capital, making it possible for women-led startups to access the funding they need. In 2015 she founded SheEO, a venture designed to transform the way we invest in female entrepreneurs. How it works: a thousand female ‘Activators’ per region commit to an $1100 annual fee, 90% of which is loaned out to local women-led ventures. The loan is paid back over five years, and reinvested perpetually. By 2020 their goal is to have one million women globally supporting 10,000 female entrepreneurs with a $1 billion perpetual loan fund.
Vicki is also a former Women of Influence evening series speaker, one of the many ways she has shown commitment to providing quality, engaged mentorship for aspiring female entrepreneurs.
Louise Green, Big Fit Girl
Vancouver-based entrepreneur Louise Green believes in encouraging women of any size to realize their athletic potential. In 2008, Green founded Body Exchange, a revolutionary fitness program dedicated to the plus-size community. She has since coached over a thousand women to unleash their inner athlete and find peace with their bodies.
As a trainer, speaker, and writer (her new book, Big Fit Girl, comes out this year) Green lends her perspective and expertise in plus-sized fitness to media, professionals and brands with the mission of expanding their understanding of health and wellness and fostering more inclusive messaging. Green’s excellence in leadership and contribution to changing the way we view health and fitness was recognized by the Body Confidence Canada Awards, when she was named the 2016 recipient for Women’s Health and Wellness.
Miki Agrawal, CEO, Thinx
Few people today can call themselves a former investment banker, professional soccer player, and serial entrepreneur. Meet Miki Agrawal, one Canadian woman who can. Miki is currently the CEO, co-founder, and acting CMO and Chief Creative Officer behind Thinx, a microfiber, moisture-wicking line of underwear designed for menstruating women.
At the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, Agrawal saw up close the struggle women in developing countries face when it comes to personal hygiene. Yet, it’s a subject that very few people are willing to talk about, leading to a lack of innovation and progress. The exposure instilled in her a drive to help women reach their full potential by removing the potential economic and practical barriers that come with menstruation. The underwear is designed to replace feminine hygiene products, a potentially $15 billion market that’s experienced very little disruption in the past century. It is often unaffordable to women in developing nations, a fact Thinx stays mindful of ― a portion of sales go to supplying women with reusable menstrual pads in Uganda. Since launching Thinx in 2014, the company has seen a 3,000% revenue increase year over year, and was named in Time Magazine’s “25 Best Inventions of 2015.”
Jessica Ching, Co-Founder & Chief Executive Officer, Eve Medical, Eve Kit
Eve Medical is a medical device company focused on designing innovative products aimed at the specific healthcare needs of women. Their goal? To remove many of the healthcare barriers that prevent low-income, remote, and newly arrived Canadian women from getting the preventative and diagnostic testing they need.
Jessica Ching, co-founder and CEO of the tech start-up and an industrial designer by training, helped create Eve Kit, a hand-held device that allows women to perform their own Pap and STI tests in the comfort and convenience of their home. “What I wanted to do as a designer was to make that process as simple, easy and intuitive as possible,” says Ching, “So that women wouldn’t feel intimidated by this medical procedure, and it [would be] almost impossible to collect the wrong sample.” By engaging women in their own health, and by creating meaningful partnerships with healthcare providers, Ching hopes that this simple and effective solution will help make screening better, more accessible, and ultimately improve the health outcomes of Canadian women.