It takes power and influence to make a better world. These Canadian women are leading the charge in our 2nd annual Top 10 Canadian Power Women List
It takes power and influence to make a better world. These Canadian women are leading the charge.
The 10 women on this list all have their own unique personal power—and they know how to wield it. If you don’t like it, it’s your problem, not theirs.
They know that nothing gets done without exercising power of some kind. It can be based on authority, knowledge, skill, talent, money, votes, charisma, charm, empathy—or simple ambition. It takes many forms and can take years to develop—but you know it when you see it.
The women on this list represent many types of power. But they have one thing in common. They are all passionate. They care. That’s the ultimate source of their power.
Their goals reach far beyond themselves. This makes them role models for the rest of us. There is no single path. We must all find our own way. But we can learn from others. We can learn from them.
Manjit Minhas: ENTREPRENEUR, HUMANITARIAN, PHILANTHROPIST
Manjit Minhas, a fixture on CBC’s Dragons’ Den is co-owner of the Minhas Brewery, Distillery and Winery, which is wildly popular and the first successful company to enter the Canadian beer industry in decades. The company sells over 90 brands of beer, spirits, liqueur and wine in five provinces (Ontario and the West), as well as in 47 states south of the border, and in 16 other countries.
She has co-chaired the Calgary United Way and picked up a Canadian Top 40 under 40 Award. She is currently a director of ATB Financial, the 2026 Olympic Bid Corp., telehealth firm askthedoctor.com, and Spiritleaf, a cannabis retailer—all based in Alberta. As well, she’s an in-demand speaker and regular source for media interviews.
“You need to have the guts to start!” she says. “You won’t see overnight success, but you’ll learn. You’ll pivot and figure it out piece by piece. If you don’t start, you can’t find that out.”Manjit Minhas
Bianca Andreescu: TENNIS PRODIGY, MINDFULNESS EXPERT
Bianca Andreescu conquered the tennis scene before the age of 19. Rising to No. 4 in the world, she stole the hearts of tennis fans in 2019 when she defeated Serena Williams at the US Open—one of the four tennis majors. She also won the Canadian Open and at Indian Wells, becoming the highest-ranked Canadian in the history of the Women’s Tennis Association.
A rise like that does not come without hard work, dedication and sacrifice. Her love of the game started at the age of seven in Romania. Seeing her promise, her family decided to move to Toronto, where she became a member of Tennis Canada at age 10.
Andreescu is driven and that shows through her success on and off the court. As well as physical skills, she prioritizes her mental strength and ability to stay focused over a long tournament. She works on her mindset through daily meditations and affirmations to tackle her obstacles before she faces them.
Her power also comes from her will to never give up. Despite an injury and training for her comeback through a pandemic, Andreescu retains her goal of becoming No.1 in the world of tennis. She knows what it takes and is willing to work for it. She is young, driven and on track to surpass her wildest dreams.
Wanda Thomas Bernard: SENATOR, PROFESSOR, HUMAN RIGHTS ADVOCATE
When Senator Dr. Wanda Thomas Bernard was 12, her father was killed in a car accident, leaving her mother to care for 10 children. Today she is a social worker, academic, community activist, and advocate of social change.
In school, she dealt with racism and undiagnosed depression from her father’s death. The experience exposed her to the role that community can play in supporting people during difficult times. At age 15, she started classes at university, but flunked out and had to beg her way back in. This adversity only helped to sharpen her sense of mission.
Dr. Bernard has worked in community mental health and served as a professor and director at the Dalhousie School of Social Work. She was appointed Special Advisor on Diversity and Inclusiveness at Dalhousie, where she is the first African Nova Scotian to be promoted to full professor.
She is a founding member of the Association of Black Social Workers and a former member of the Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women, where she advised ministers on gender violence prevention and health equity. A member of the National Coalition of Advisory Councils on the Status of Women and an expert witness in human rights cases, she received the Order of Nova Scotia and the Order of Canada.
Dr. Rumeet Billan: EDUCATOR AND HUMANITARIAN
Have you ever felt that just as you turn the corner to success, your colleagues seem to turn against you? This is called the Tall Poppy Syndrome. In 2018, Dr. Rumeet Billan launched The Tallest Poppy, a study of the syndrome that occurs when someone is undermined, resented, disliked, or criticized because of their achievements and success.
A survey of 1,500 professionals, mostly women, from across Canada revealed that 87% of respondents were undermined by co-workers for their success. The study revealed the consequences of this syndrome and how it impacts engagement, productivity, and work-life.
Like many innovators, Dr. Billan charted her own path. She is president of Jobs in Education, a foundation that connects employers and job-seekers in education, and president of Viewpoint Leadership, which concentrates on programs aimed at personal and professional development.
With a PhD from the University of Toronto, she has contributed to social-impact initiatives such as scholarships, breakfast programs, and sports tournaments in the Americas and Africa. She has also helped to create a teacher’s college in rural Kenya.
“I’m often asked how I stay focused. People joke, and ask ‘Do you get any sleep?’ The truth is, I get about 8 hours of sleep, and when I’m not sleeping, I mind my own business. I don’t engage in gossip, comparison, or tearing others down.”Dr. Rumeet Billan
Ashley Callingbull: ACTIVIST, MODEL, ACTRESS
Ashley Callingbull is an activist, model, actress, and influencer who is known for her title of Mrs. Universe 2015. The 30-year-old takes pride in her Native Cree heritage, but growing up in the Enoch Cree Nation in Alberta brought struggles with poverty and abuse. Still, Callingbull is a survivor.
After escaping hunger and maltreatment to move in with her grandparents, she learned more about her culture and involved herself in the community by volunteering with elders and youth. She inspires indigenous women and youth, encouraging them through struggles she has faced herself.
A professionally trained dancer and actress, Callingbull is the first indigenous Canadian woman to win the Mrs. Universe competition, an international beauty pageant for married contestants. Her success provided her with the voice to invoke changes and draw attention to the harsh realities faced by many indigenous people.
She has travelled globally to hospitals, schools, and youth centres to speak of her life experiences, finding her voice as a motivational speaker and role model at educational institutions, workshops, conferences, and ceremonies. She is an activist for First Nations rights as well as for environmental causes in Canada. She uses platforms such as Instagram and Twitter to share her aspirations, success, and culture with thousands of followers.
“In order to heal you’ll need to let go of the pain. Self love is also a part of the healing process. Remember to be proud of your resilience and love yourself for the strong and beautiful woman you are.”Ashley Callingbull
Mo Hagan: FITNESS EXPERT, ADVOCATE FOR WOMEN’S EMPOWERMENT
“Influencing Positive Change for Women Worldwide” is the personal motto of Maureen (Mo) Hagan, whose career parallels the modern history of fitness education in Canada and beyond. Chief Operating Officer of canfitpro, Canada’s leading fitness education authority, she is the creator of Women Who Influence and a member of the board of directors of the Women in Fitness Association.
She is a fitness instructor and program director, the 2019 Canadian Fitness Industry Leader of the Year, and group fitness instructor with GoodLife Fitness.
In the 1980s, after attending the University of Western Ontario for Physical Health Education, Hagan taught herself how to teach group fitness. While studying physiotherapy, she joined a club that later became part of GoodLife Fitness and began instructing others on how to teach fitness classes and became a licensed physiotherapist. In New Zealand as a backpacker, she found Les Mills courses and on her return became a director to oversee group fitness classes in all GoodLife clubs.
Today, she holds many awards as an educator in fitness, health and women’s empowerment. She has written and appeared in several books that challenge women to become the best versions of themselves, no matter what the circumstances.
“I have been blessed to have many powerful women mentors in my life starting at a very young age. It’s now my turn to pay it forward and help empower women to move forward in pursuit of their own purpose.”Mo Hagan
Patty Hajdu: FEDERAL HEALTH MINISTER, CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGIST
Federal health minister Patty Hajdu has been around. MP for Thunder Bay-Superior North since 2015, she has served as Minister of Status of Women, Minister of Employment, and as Minister of Health since November 2019—just in time to confront the COVID-19 pandemic.
In her new role, she expected to deal with the opioid crisis and a new national pharmacare program. Then the pandemic hit. A natural unifier, she has spent a lot of time explaining the benefits of staying apart, “social distancing,” as its now called.
Her university studies in cultural anthropology have provided a unity to her varied career. The main questions are always the same: how does human society function? How does it adapt to challenge and change? A born communicator, she is respected across the political spectrum as she puts a human face on a challenge with no easy answers.
Hajdu’s own path has not been easy, which contributes to her empathy for those at all levels of the social ladder. She was raised by relatives in Minnesota, moved back to Thunder Bay to be with her mother, and then left home at 16. As a single mother, she raised two sons and obtained degrees from Lakehead University and the University of Victoria. After heading up Thunder Bay’s drug strategy, Hajdu ran Shelter House, a homeless shelter.
SOURCE: The Canadian Press
Angela Liddon: FROM EATING DISORDER TO HEALTHY FOOD EXPERT
Angela Liddon is the author of the award-winning Oh She Glows, a vegan food blog of more than 500 healthy recipes. All are plant-based and many are gluten-free and allergy-friendly. The blog began as an outlet where she could write about her recovery from an eating disorder and her personal journey to health
With a Master’s degree in social psychology, Liddon began her career as a full-time researcher. Blogging began as a hobby and a release. She found something she was truly passionate about.
In 2009 she left her research career and opened Glo Bakery, which produced her popular snack, Glo Bars. After being approached by an editor from a major publishing house, she decided to close the shop to pursue her dream of creating her own cookbook. Published in 2014, The Oh She Glows Cookbook features 100 recipes and became a New York Times bestseller.
In 2016 her second cookbook was released and a third book is in the works for 2020.
From struggling with an eating disorder to publishing her own cookbook, Liddon taught herself the skill of cooking. Her main goal is to share the impact and transformation food can make in our lives.
Heather Moyse: SPEAKER, AUTHOR, ATHLETE
Heather Moyse lives by her motto “Believe in the possibilities.” A speaker, author, humanitarian, and athlete, she inspires audiences with her life stories and sense of mission. Her new book, Redefining Realistic, is an invitation to believe in your own possibilities.
A multi-sport national athlete (bobsleigh, rugby, cycling), she is a 4-time Olympian and 2-time Olympic gold medalist. But she didn’t grow up dreaming of going to the Olympics. She didn’t start lifting weights until age 27, when she was faced with the challenge of learning a new sport (bobsleigh) and competing in the Olympics five months later.
From the small Prince Edward Island town of Summerside, Moyse has been described as Canada’s best ever all-round female athlete. She is involved in many charitable organizations, including Right To Play, Camp Triumph, the Boys and Girls Club, and Special Olympics.
In Trinidad and Tobago early in her career, she coached women’s rugby and worked with Disabled People’s International. She summited the highest mountain in Antarctica to raise awareness of PTSD and raise money to help veterans of the Canadian Armed Forces. She received the inaugural Randy Starkman Olympian Humanitarian Award, the Queen’s Jubilee Medal, and the Order of PEI.
“Part of what helped me work through many of the challenges I faced as an athlete was becoming aware of my ‘Root Why’—the underlying reason for doing what I was doing. This helps you to withstand and endure more en route to pursuing a goal.”Heather Moyse
Dr. Theresa Tam: VOICE OF SCIENCE
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, has become a high-profile representative of government as the voice of evolving policies to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Criticized for the government’s slow adoption of new policies and for her connection with WHO, Dr. Tam has remained consistent as the voice of reason at a time when there have been no quick and easy answers.
As the federal government’s lead health professional, Dr. Tam provides advice to the Minister of Health and the President of the Public Health Agency of Canada.
A physician with expertise in immunization, infectious disease, emergency preparedness and global health security, she studied in the U.K and Canada. She is a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, author of many peer-reviewed journal publications in public health, and a graduate of the Canadian Field Epidemiology Program.
During her career in public health, Dr. Tam has provided leadership on ways to improve communicable disease surveillance, enhance immunization programs, and strengthen health emergency management and laboratory biosafety and biosecurity. She played a leadership role in Canada’s response to public health emergencies including severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), pandemic influenza H1N1 and Ebola.
Dr. Tam has served as an international expert on World Health Organization committees and has participated in international missions related to SARS, pandemic influenza and polio eradication.
As the CPHO, she champions the reduction of health disparities in Canada in six areas: cannabis, opioids, and alcohol; eliminating tuberculosis; healthy children; sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections; anti-microbial resistance; and healthy built environments (including availability of active transportation and accessibility to healthy foods).
Not one to bring her private life into the spotlight, she has used many running metaphors over the years, leading Canadian Running magazine to conclude she is an avid distance runner.
“There are similarities between managing an outbreak and a long distance run. You need to pace yourself, be aware and continue to adapt. It is also more important now than ever to be supportive, kind and compassionate to yourself and to each other.”Dr. Theresa Tam
More Inspiration: Why not check out our 5th annual Top 100 Health Care Influencers in Canada for 2020?
Authors: Alexa Hurst is a staff writer for HUM@Nmedia, Optimyz Magazine’s parent brand. The article and process was also edited by David Holt, Editor-in-Chief of HUM@Nmedia, Jessica Clerke, digital editor and designed by our designer, Denise Swan, technical support Jason Chen.