Alumnae named among Canada’s Most Powerful

Eleven Western alumnae have been named recipients of the 2019 Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award, the Women’s Executive Network recently announced.

The list, launched in 2003, is intended to shine a spotlight on the accomplishments of professional women across Canada, recognize talented leaders and inspire others to push the boundaries of what’s possible.

Since then, the Women’s Executive Network has celebrated the accomplishments of more than 1,000 women through the awards. Each year, four Top 100 Celebrations take place across the country in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and Montreal.

Western alumnae winners this year include:


Jan Hux, MSc’87, BSc’79
President and Chief Executive Officer
Diabetes Canada

BIO: Dr. Jan Hux is an accomplished strategic leader who brings exceptional insight into the Canadian diabetes epidemic. Trained as a general internist and health services researcher, she is recognized as a leader in diabetes epidemiology. In her role at Diabetes Canada, she provides strong executive leadership as the organization sharpens its focus on delivering population impact through investments in prevention, diabetes management and research.

SUCCESS IS: About ‘how’ rather than ‘what.’ Did I do my best with the opportunities before me? Did I operate with integrity and generosity?

ADVICE I WOULD GIVE MY YOUNGER SELF: Be selective about the voices you allow to define you. Listening to the nay-sayers will prevent you from accomplishing your best.

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Gillian Riley, BA’89 (Political Science)
President and Chief Executive Officer
Tangerine Bank

BIO: Gillian Riley has been a force in the Canadian banking industry for over two decades. She is currently at the leading edge of digital banking in Canada as the President and CEO of Tangerine, where she drives the bank’s strategic direction to provide Canadians with simple and innovative banking. Gillian has held several senior leadership positions across Scotiabank and pioneered the Scotiabank Women Initiative (SWI), which helps advance women-led businesses through access to capital.

EARLY, LASTING ADVICE: Being involved in competitive sport from a young age shaped my competitive nature while instilling teamwork and the ability to lose gracefully.

ADVICE I WOULD GIVE MY YOUNGER SELF: Be more open to feedback and have the confidence to receive it well.

POWER SONG: Stronger by Kelly Clarkson.

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Sarah Richardson, BA’93 (Visual Arts)
Designer, TV Host, Author, entrepreneur
Sarah Richardson Designs

BIO: A sought-after designer of residential and commercial spaces, textiles, wallpaper, rugs and furniture, Sarah Richardson is the award-winning founder of Sarah Richardson Design. She has hosted, co-produced and co-created eight hit HGTV series seen in more than 100 countries and can also be found on her rapidly growing YouTube channel. Her first two books, Sarah Style and At Home Sarah Style achieved bestseller status and she is currently working on two more.

EARLY, LASTING LESSON: When I worked alone, I was solely responsible for every decision and idea. Despite not always being 100 per cent certain that my idea was the right idea, I had no choice. I was forced to trust my gut, follow my instincts and see how it turned out. I quickly learned this was a gift.

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Melissa Kargiannakis, MHIS’15, BHSc’12
Founder and Chief Executive Officer

BIO: Melissa Kargiannakis has won awards from the Queen of England and leads one of the Top 20 Most Innovative Companies in Canada. She has raised venture capital funding from Silicon Valley for her AI startup that takes complex jargon and replaces it with clear, everyday language. Melissa exemplifies tenacity, grit and impressive intellectual horsepower with just the right combination of zest and charm. Her life mission is to rebalance power in society. Her impactful purpose is inspired by her mom, Carolyn, who single-handedly raised Melissa and her siblings.

ON BEING DESCRIBED AS POWERFUL: It feels accurate; validation for everything I’ve overcome to get here and foreshadowing all that’s next.

SUCCESS IS: Being happy. Having the freedom to live the life I’ve designed and created for myself.

POWER SONG: Soulmate by Lizzo.

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Melanie Debassige, BA’00
Executive Director
Ontario First Nations Technical Service Corporation

BIO: Melanie Debassige is the first woman appointed to Executive Director in the 25-year history of her organization. She has been appointed to a number of boards and is a certified corporate director, which complements her Master’s in Business Administration. Melanie has been recognized by the Canadian Board Diversity Council (CBDC) in the Diversity 50 and recently became Strategic Advisor, Indigenous, to the Energy Board of Canada.

EARLY, LASTING LESSON: When I was a teenager, my father told me a story about being the 26th person. In his story he faced many obstacles and the 25 people in front of him chose not to stand up to the racism facing Indigenous people. When it was his turn, he took a stand and reported the incident as an infringement on his human rights. The moral of the story to me was to be that 26th person. Take a stand with integrity and stand by your beliefs.

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Justine Janssen, BA’09 (Business Administration)
Senior Vice-President, Strategic Initiatives

BIO: Justine Janssen leads Ceridian’s most critical growth and strategic programs. She helped scale Ceridian’s flagship software, Dayforce, from a tech startup, through a merger with Ceridian, into a leading global human capital management platform. Her efforts have included product and program launches, and leading culture change and business simplification to turn Ceridian into a high-growth tech company. Justine recently managed Ceridian’s 2018 IPO, which marked the largest technology IPO ever in Canada. She was named one of Canada’s Top 40 Under 40 in 2019.

EARLY, LASTING LESSON: You alone decide how you show up and experience life. You choose whether each challenge before you is adversity or opportunity.

ADVICE I WOULD GIVE MY YOUNGER SELF: Fear is a huge roadblock for people, but confidence can be built like a muscle. Practise doing little things that are uncomfortable so that you can build confidence to take on bigger, scarier risks.

Hélène Timpano, HBA/BESc’05
Senior Vice-President, Operations
Kinross Gold Corporation

BIO: Hélène Timpano is a high-energy mining executive with a track record of advancing complex projects. Hélène oversees the following global functions: maintenance, supply chain, HR operations, continuous improvement & innovation and strategic planning. Known for her ability to win over anyone and everyone, she has played a central role in many company-wide transformations. Hélène holds three degrees including an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management.

EARLY, LASTING LESSON: On a class trip to a mini-putt course, I accidentally clubbed my classmate in the head when it was time for me to take my shot (thankfully she was OK). Lesson learned: Don’t get so mired in the details that you lose the big picture.

SUCCESS IS: Needs to be lasting. It means changing things for the better and seeing that change stick, even once you turn your attention to other things.

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Jodi Kovitz, BA’00 (Business Administartion)
Founder and Chief Executive Officer

BIO: Jodi Kovitz leads a global movement and organization founded to advance the participation and leadership of all women in tech. Featured in ForbesWomen, Jodi was recognized as an Adweek Brand Star in Toronto in 2018, a 2017 Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award winner and one of Canada’s 25 Women of Influence in 2018. Jodi sits on several tech company advisory boards, the board of directors of Toronto Global and the SickKids’ Hospital Capital Campaign Cabinet raising $1.3 billion to transform paediatric health.

ADVICE I WOULD GIVE MY YOUNGER SELF: Dream it. Plan it. Go get it. Passion is Queen. Fear is a feeling that emanates from thoughts. You can change those thoughts. There are no failures, only lessons. Perfect is the enemy of good. This is a line I live by. It is what has given me the confidence to ‘try’ things. To put ideas out that I am not sure are right, unapologetically. And then to improve and execute like mad.

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Melanie Teed Murch, BA’95 (English)
Chief Executive Officer, ONroute
Nominated as President, Toys R Us Canada

BIO: Melanie Teed-Murch has more than 23 years’ experience in Canadian mass specialty retail. She was recently best known for her journey leading Toys R Us Canada to steady ground as a new Canadian owned company. As ONroute’s new CEO, Melanie has been tasked with building a team focused on infrastructure, customer needs and commercial initiatives to accelerate growth. She sits on the board of the Retail Council of Canada and the Jays Care Foundation and believes in the power of giving back.

EARLY, LASTING LESSON: Walk your own path and stay true to yourself. Make every moment count and leave your mark on people you meet.

ON BEING DESCRIBED AS POWERFUL: I strive every day to be someone who cares about others and sets an agenda to be an agent of change. I want to inspire my team to act and make a difference in people’s lives, to see more, be more, do more and achieve more.

Leagh Turner, BA’95 (English)

BIO: Leagh Turner is an established global technology executive with a proven ability to drive growth by building high-performing teams focused on delivering meaningful value to customers. As President of Ceridian, Leagh is responsible for increasing revenue worldwide while overseeing the company’s go-to-market strategy and field efforts. Previously, Leagh was Global COO at SAP. She is a motivating public speaker and mentor to emerging leaders and a board member of Plan International Canada. She is passionate about volunteering both at home and abroad.

ON BEING DESCRIBED AS POWERFUL: ‘Powerful’ is an interesting word. I’ve always placed more stock in roles than titles, because what you do within the role matters far more than the titles. I’m choosing to see it as a sign of what I can do for others and less about what I’ve accomplished.

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Carrie Baker, BA’99 (FIMS)
Chief Communications Officer
Canada Goose

BIO: A dynamic communications strategist with a passion for creative storytelling and solving key business issues, Carrie Baker serves as Chief of Staff to the President and CEO, leading strategic cross-functional projects, and Chief Communications Officer, where she directs global internal and external communications and government relations, and oversees corporate citizenship and global security. She was instrumental in managing the communications strategy for Canada Goose throughout its IPO process in 2017, bringing the brand’s story to life for investors and consumers alike.

SUCCESS IS: The freedom to do things differently, authentically, with people you love and have fun with, who respect you for who you really are.

ADVICE I WOULD GIVE MY YOUNGER SELF: Don’t be afraid to be rejected – early and often. Have an opinion and voice it. Do one thing more.