“In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.”  Sheryl Sandberg  

Prior to white women receiving the right to vote across Canada in 1922, the “Persons Case” in 1929, and Indigenous women’s right to vote in 1960, women were silenced by governments that oppressed them because of their gender and race.

However, what emerged out of this dark history of marginalized peoples came trailblazers who paved the way for female-identifying leaders today.

Group of women

From an Oscar-winning Indigenous composer to the first female to play professional men’s hockey, women have flourished within multiple industries and proven the importance of having female-identifying leaders in our society.

Although we have many standout female-identifying leaders, the success of these women should be our norm.

IGNITE has teamed up with the Future Design School to bring you The Leadership Journey: Student Leadership Workshop. This workshop aims to supports leaders by strengthening the skills you have and provide tools to help you develop professionally. Become the leader you want to see in the world!

Before you get started at The Leadership Journey workshop, take notes from these 8 female Canadian leaders who used their skills, education, and voice to pave the way for future changemakers:


1. Jennie Trout

Jennie Trout on Canada Post stamp
via biographi.ca

Jennie Trout was the first Canadian woman to practice medicine. Trout opened her own practice, the Therapeutic and Electrical Institute, in Toronto. It was here that Trout ran a free dispensary to provide therapeutic healthcare to the poor. After her retirement in 1882, Trout was influential in the creation of Queen’s University’s medical program for women.

Within her 80 years of life, Jennie Trout established a future for women within the medical field. To commemorate her accomplishments, Trout was featured on a 1991 Canada Post stamp.


2. Viola Desmond

Viola Desmond
via pc.gc.ca

Viola Desmond was a Black Nova Scotian, civil rights activist, and businesswoman. Although forbidden from studying in Halifax to be a beautician, Desmond travelled to New York to study and returned to Halifax following her graduation to open her own salon.

In 1946, Desmond called out racial segregation at a movie theatre, refusing to leave a “whites-only” area. Her voice and act of civil disobedience spearheaded the modern civil rights movement in Canada. In 2018, Viola Desmond was announced as the first non-royal woman to be featured on the $10 bill to honour her achievements and legacy.


3. Buffy Sainte-Marie

Buffy Saint-Marie
via wikipedia.ca

Buffy Sainte-Marie is an accomplished Indigenous Canadian-American advocating on Indigenous peoples’ issues. Sainte-Marie is a singer-songwriter, self-taught musician, composer, visual artist, educator, pacifist, and social activist.

In 1996, Sainte-Marie founded her own non-profit, Nihewan Foundation for American Indian Education. Their mission is to improve “the education of and about Native American people and cultures.”

In 1983, Sainte-Marie became the first Indigenous person to win an Oscar. That year, she also went on to win the Academy Award for Best Original Song and a Golden Globe for Best Original Song.


4. Hayley Wickenheiser

Hayley Wickenheiser with Canadian flag after winner medal at Olympics
via nhl.com

Hayley Wickenheiser is the first female to play full-time men’s hockey in a position other than goalie. Following her 1998 Olympic silver medal win, Wickenheiser set off to Finland where she played men’s hockey and captured two goals and 11 assists.

Over her 23 years playing for Team Canada, Wickenheiser finished up with four Olympic gold medals and seven world champion titles.

This former hockey player is now the assistant director of player development for the Toronto Maple Leafs. On top of this responsibility, Wickenheiser is finishing up a degree in general medicine at the University of Calgary. In 2019, Hayley Wickenheiser was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame for her achievements in hockey.

5. Julie Berman

Julie Berman
via cbc.ca

Julie Berman was a vocal trans-rights activist within the Toronto LGBTQ2S+ community. Over the course of three decades, Berman volunteered her time with The 519, an LGBTQ2S+ community centre and non-profit. On top of her volunteer hours and advocacy efforts, Berman helped organized and spoke at Toronto’s “Trans Day of Remembrance.”

Devastatingly, Berman was murdered this past December. Mayor of Toronto, John Tory, spoke on the tragedy quoted as saying, “every single day, people face violence and hatred because they are transgender.”

Julie Berman was and will remain a trailblazer in activism.


6. Sandra Oh

Sandra Oh
via engadget.com

Best known for her character, Cristina Yang, on Grey’s Anatomy, Oh has been a successful alumn of the National Theatre School of Canada. On top of being both an Emmy and Golden Globe award-winning actor and producer, Oh has been outspoken on advocating for diversity and inclusion in casting. In 2019, Oh was the first person of Asian descent to co-host the Golden Globes.

You can find Sandra Oh’s star on Canada’s Walk of Fame commemorating her achievements in acting. In 2013, she received the key to the City of Ottawa. Oh was the recipient for the Governor General’s, National Arts Centre Award in 2019.


7. Jean Augustine

Jean Augustine
via thecanadianencyclopedia.ca

Jean Augustine became the first Black Canadian woman to be elected to the Parliament of Canada. She was the catalyst behind legislation to recognize February as Black History Month in Canada. Augustine also championed legislation to protect low-income individuals including single mothers and was responsible for the Famous Five statue, which is the only statue that features women on Parliament Hill.

Augustine has received many prestigious awards and titles such as the Order of Canada, Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal, and Commander of the Order of the British Empire. Jean Augustine’s legacy is remembered for her work as a politician, educator, and advocate for social justice.


8. Lilly Singh, a.k.a. IISuperwomanII

Lilly Singh
via entrepreneur.com

With over 14 million subscribers on her YouTube channel, Toronto’s own Lilly Singh has used her platform to speak up on gender equality, LGBTQ2S+ rights, children’s rights, and even led a campaign called “GirlLove” to end girl-on-girl bullying.

Now as both the executive producer and host of her own late-night talk show, A Little Late with Lilly Singh, Singh is the only openly bisexual and person of Indian descent hosting on a late-night talk show featured on an American major broadcast network.

In 2019, Forbes named Singh one of the 40 most powerful people in comedy.

Ready to lead? Join IGNITE on March 3 for The Leadership Journey: Student Leadership Workshop.

Follow IGNITE on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter for all things student life.