YWCA Toronto Announces Inspiring Slate of Women of Distinction

Recipients challenge barriers and boost equity for women and girls

TORONTO, March 8, 2018 - YWCA Toronto celebrates International Women's Day by announcing the 2018 Women of Distinction and recognizing the impact of their achievements on the lives of girls and women in this city and beyond.

“We are celebrating the achievements of women who have shown an unwavering commitment to helping other women and girls,” said YWCA Toronto CEO Heather McGregor. "Advancing women’s equity is not for the faint of heart. It requires the kind of resolve, passion, and intelligence exemplified by the Women of Distinction announced today."

YWCA Toronto’s 2018 Women of Distinction Awards, hosted by Nana aba Duncan, the host of Fresh Air on CBC Radio One, will be held Thursday, May 24 at the Fairmont Royal York in downtown Toronto. As Canada’s largest multi-service women's organization, YWCA Toronto helps women escape violence, move out of poverty, and access safe and affordable housing. We work tenaciously to break down barriers that prevent women and girls from achieving equality.

Award recipients are available for interviews via YWCA Toronto. YWCA Toronto’s 2018 Women of Distinction recipients:

TOYO AJIBOLADE (Young Woman of Distinction)
Toyo Ajibolade is a trailblazer. An inspirational student, role model, mentor and coach, Toyo founded Lady Ballers Camp for young girls facing financial barriers to playing basketball. Toyo transformed her personal struggles into an initiative that lifts up countless other young women, especially those from disadvantaged and racialized communities. Recently in 2017, Toyo was given the Citizen’s MVP award for community service by the Toronto Raptors. Toyo is committed to creating change in her communities and improving the lives of others.

ZANANA AKANDE (Public Service)
Zanana Akande is a pioneering activist who has dedicated her life and career to social justice. Originally trained as an educator, she was the first Black woman to be elected to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, and the first Black woman to serve as a cabinet minister in Canada where she was instrumental in shaping public policies fundamental to the lives of marginalized women. After leaving politics, Zanana served as president of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations, the Canadian Alliance of Black Educators, and the Toronto Child Abuse Centre. Zanana continues to advocate for women’s equity and lends her energies and wisdom to various social justice initiatives.

PAT ARMSTRONG (Health and Education)
Dr. Pat Armstrong is an accomplished sociologist, researcher, advocate, and instructor with a formidable career spanning almost 50 years. She is a Distinguished Research Professor in Sociology at York University and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. Her seminal work, The Double Ghetto: Canadian Women and Their Segregated Work set the standard for understanding the systemic discrimination women face in the labour market. She continues to apply a strong gender lens to the examination of Canada’s health care system.

JULIA DEANS (Business)
Julia Deans has safeguarded the aspirations of women entrepreneurs in Canada and ensured their futures are bright. As the CEO of Futurpreneur, Julia has supported countless women entrepreneurs as they launched and grew successful businesses. Julia’s passion is connecting people to the resources and opportunities they need to succeed. In May, she will take this passion into her new role as inaugural CEO of the Canadian Children’s Literacy Foundation, a new organization aiming to make Canadian children the most literate in the world. Julia serves as a powerful role model for women in business.

LYNN FACTOR (President’s Award)
Lynn Factor is a tireless child welfare activist and a generous philanthropist. As a social worker, she has devoted over 35 years to improving the lives of vulnerable children and youth. Her unwavering commitment to child welfare has only been surpassed by her philanthropic contributions to social work education. Lynn and her husband, Sheldon Inwentash’s philanthropic contributions to social work education have been marked with unparalleled generosity. The University of Toronto’s Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work bears their name – a fitting testimony to a woman who has devoted her career to improving the lives of vulnerable children and youth.

Margaret Hancock’s work is guided by her core beliefs of equity, inclusion, and justice. Her prolific career as the first woman appointed Warden of Hart House at the University of Toronto, the Executive Director of Family Service Toronto, and Oxfam Canada’s Board Chair are a testament to her unwavering commitment to supporting women and girls, both at home and abroad. By creating solidarity between social justice networks, Margaret’s exceptional leadership has opened many doors for women.

MARCIE PONTE (Community Builder)
Marcie Ponte is a strong immigrant activist and community builder. She has served as the Executive Director of the Working Women Community Centre for almost two decades where she leads programs and initiatives to advance the interests of working immigrant women. Marcie was instrumental in seeing to fruition the Rosina Shopkeeper’s Project, a community initiative intended to honour the legacy of Rosina Peluso, and facilitating the publication of Making this City: Women Who Made a Difference, a history of immigrant women spanning three decades in Toronto.

MILICA RADISIC (Health Sciences)
Dr. Milica Radisic is an international leader in the field of cardiovascular tissue engineering and a brilliant model for young women aspiring to advance in the health sciences and engineering. Her innovative research has the potential to revolutionize treatment for people suffering from myocardial infraction and congestive heart failure. Milica advocates for gender equity in her work and mentors young women to pursue careers in science. Her strong voice for women has brought changes to the gender podium at the Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine Society (TERMIS).

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Marika Motiwalla
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Jasmine Ramze Rezaee
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