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10 Canadian Women CEOs to Admire as We Enter the Post-Girlboss Era

Joanna Griffiths in a yellow jacket
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When American entrepreneur Sophia Amoruso first used the term “girlboss” in 2014, it unintentionally sparked a wave of faux female empowerment. But what was initially a well-intentioned rallying cry for female empowerment in the workplace, has ultimately proven to be just another means of oppression. The unfortunate reality is, “girlboss” is doing the opposite of what it intends.

To start, using the word “girl” diminishes any chance of us holding the same kind of authority as men in the workplace. Nobody would describe a male CEO as a “boy-in-charge.” While companies may still print the seemingly harmless phrase on t-shirts and glittery notebooks, the behind-the-scenes reality is that women are still largely missing from major leadership positions across the nation. Only 4 per cent of companies in Canada have female CEOs. However, we still have hope for change thanks to this list of female CEOs making their mark.

See also: Dear white women, we need to do better in the workplace for 2022.

Heather holding an armful of books
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Heather Reisman, CEO of Indigo

Heather Reisman is the founder, chair and CEO of Canada’s largest bookselling and lifestyle store. She’s also the co-founder of the eReading company Kobo. She’s one of the nation’s most-recognized advocates for literacy and reading, and her key to success is that she never wings it: “My management style is one part discipline and one part intuition,” she says.

Related: 3 reasons why empathy is the most important leadership quality in 2021.

Nancy Southern, CEO of ATCO Ltd and Canadian Utilities

ATCO Ltd is an Alberta-based corporation that offers gas, electric and infrastructure solutions. The company is home to more than 5,000 employees and has $20 billion in assets. Nancy Southern is also a board member of the Business Council of Canada. In addition to running a company, she advocates for the rights of Indigenous peoples and women in business.

Related: 10 top-searched jobs in Canada, ranked by salary.


Shahrzad Rafati, Founder and CEO of BroadbandTV Corp. on stage talking about TV in a digital age during the second day of the 2015 Web Summit on November 4, 2015 in Dublin, Ireland.
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Shahrzad Rafati, CEO of BroadbandTV Corp

BBTV is a media-tech company founded by Shahrzad Rafati. She moved to Vancouver from Iran at 17 with no computer skills and spoke little English. In terms of unique viewers, BBTV is the second-largest video property company worldwide, following Google. Back in 2018, Rafati was selected by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to represent Canada in the G20 Business Women Leaders Task Force.

Related: 20 Canadian companies that offer more than just a good salary.

Ratana Stephens, CEO of Nature’s Path Food

Ratana Stephens moved from India to Canada and founded Nature’s Path Food with her husband Arran back in 1985. The breakfast and snack brand has become North America’s biggest organic-certified company. She has been named one of Canada’s 100 most powerful women by Women’s Executive Network. Stephen’s also won the YWCA Women of Distinction Award for her impact on business and sustainability.

Related: 10 signs you actually have a good manager.

Christina Jennings (Chairman & CEO, Shaftesbury) attends the Canadian Film Centre 2015 Gala And Auction
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Christina Jennings, CEO of Shaftesbury Films

Christina Jennings is one of media’s most accomplished producers and the founder of Shaftesbury Films. The company is known for producing popular TV series like Murdoch Mysteries and acclaimed films such as Long Life, Happiness and Prosperity, starring Canadian gem Sandra Oh. Jennings also made Maclean’s list of Canada’s Most Powerful People. She’s also a member of the Order of Canada.

Related: 10 things you should negotiate before you start a job.

Mandy Rennehan, CEO of Freshco

Mandy Rennehan is the founder and CEO of Freshco, not the grocery store, but a retail management business serving clients like The Gap and Nike. Rennehan’s company was also awarded Business of the Year by Canada’s LGBTQ+ Chamber of Commerce.

Related: Why getting a mentor will make your career this year.


Creative BC CEO Prem Gill attends the Opening Night Gala Red Carpet during the 36th Annual Vancouver International Film Festival
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Prem Gill, CEO of Creative BC

Creative BC focuses on uniting the provinces diverse film, music, and publishing industries. Prem Gill has successfully developed programs like STORYHIVE and TELUS’Optik community channel since becoming CEO. She’s even a member of The Bell Fund, working to support other Canadian media projects.

Related: Forget ‘how are you’ — this is how successful people do small talk.

Caroline Riseboro, CEO of Plan International Canada

Plan International Canada is the leading NGO in the country and advocates for the rights of children and equality for girls, and Caroline Riseboro was CEO from 2016 to 2020. She is the youngest person to run a major Canadian charity. She’s passionate about gender equality and was recognized as Canada’s Most Powerful Woman in 2017.

Related: 11 lies people tell in interviews (but really shouldn’t).

Joanna Griffiths with knixwear
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Joanna Griffiths, CEO Of Knix

Joanne Griffiths founded Knix Wear, one of the fastest-growing companies in Canada for underwear and loungewear. Her company holds the record for the most funded women’s project with over a million in presales. Griffiths is passionate about mentoring young female entrepreneurs and facilitated the Life After Birth Project which showcases intimate photographs of people’s postpartum journeys.

Related: Who is the richest woman of 2021?

Emmie Leung, CEO of Emterra Group

For more than 40 years, Emmie Leung has led her company to improve the waste and recycling industry. Her company is worth over millions, with more than 30 locations across the nation. She’s also been recognized as one of Canada’s Most Powerful Women.

You may also like: 5 pro-tips to get your life together in your 20s.

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