YWCA Hamilton: Voices

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2012 Women of Distinction Awards

Thursday May 10, 2012 – Last night Hamilton celebrated the 36th annual YWCA Women of Distinction awards. With over 700 guests in attendance, we recognized the achievements of 60 local women nominated to the awards for making outstanding achievements in our community. “By celebrating women, we provide an opportunity to tell the stories that will mentor future generations of women. And my dream would be that many of the women we celebrate tonight will be the future leaders who are sitting at decision-making tables,” said YWCA CEO Denise Doyle. Ten women were honoured at the awards. A panel of 24 judges had the difficult task of selecting the women being recognized for making a difference in our community. YWCA Hamilton would like to recognize  the important contributions made by all 60 women – your vision, creativity and initiative can be felt throughout Hamilton.

The 2012 Women of Distinction Recipients

Lifetime Achievement Award – Krista Warnke

Krista Warnke is a feminist educator, facilitator and community activist. A life-long Hamiltonian, she worked for SACHA and its predecessor, first as a 13-year volunteer and then as the Public Education Coordinator for over 19 years. For many, she was the public face and voice of SACHA. Krista is exceptionally talented, dedicated and principled. She also understands that personal relationships and integrity are the foundation of advocacy work. She has worked with numerous organizations and community groups creating awareness, confronting misconceptions about sexual assault and challenging cultural influences that contribute to the occurrence and tolerance of violence against women and children. Krista’s lifetime of work and actions demonstrably inspire women to dream more, learn more, do more and become more.

Community Development and Social Inclusion Award – Loretta Hill-Finamore

Loretta Hill-Finamore devotes endless hours advocating for and supporting women, children, youth and seniors. She is motivated by her deep spiritual conviction that we are all one in the web of life. Loretta works to empower others because she believes that social inclusion and the acceptance of diversity are key to wholesome humanity. As director of Good Shepherd Youth Services, she dreams of building a continuum of support that will break the cycle of poverty and homelessness among young people, freeing them for a meaningful adulthood. Her outreach toward the broader community demonstrates that her enthusiastic desire to serve is not limited to Good Shepherd Services. This giving woman is indeed a woman of distinction.

Arts & Culture Award – Lorna Zaremba

Lorna Zaremba is a $20-million woman, having raised in excess of that amount in campaigns she has managed for arts and non-profit organizations in the region. Lorna is a committed citizen of the arts through her personal and professional involvement with the Art Gallery of Hamilton, The Rose Theatre in Brampton, Deaf Culture Canada, The Print Studio, Haldimand Art Works, Hamilton Arts Council, Niagara Region Children’s Safety Village and, of course, Theatre Aquarius where she serves as the General Manager and administrative leader of one of Hamilton’s pillar arts organizations. Lorna’s vision is to ensure that Theatre Aquarius plays a role in the transformation of the new Hamilton, and to demonstrate that art can live and even thrive within the heart of an industrial city and a working-class community. She seeks to share the transformative power of art as a powerful agent for change with as many members of our community as possible.

Politics and Public Affairs –  Mary Koziol

Mary Koziol has made a lasting impact on the McMaster University and Hamilton communities. In 2010, she was elected President of the McMaster Student Union, the first woman to do so in 22 years. She pioneered many initiatives related to sustainability and student engagement. Mary is committed to building the relationship between the university and Hamilton. She is a tireless community volunteer and has developed a new service-learning course at McMaster, which she will co-teach next year. As an advocate of women’s issues, Mary has been a “birth companion” and a co-ordinator of the inaugural Leadership Summit for Women at McMaster. She is an inspiration for all women and undoubtedly one of Canada’s upcoming leaders.

Turning Point – Lucene Charles

Lucene Charles is very community minded and has been providing ongoing voluntary assistance to organizations in her community throughout her time in Canada. She has volunteered with the Juravinski Hospital, the Canadian Cancer Society, the Immigrant Women’s Centre and St. Paul’s Anglican Church. She is also a sitting member on the Hamilton’s Omen Abuse Working Group (WAWG) Survivors Advisory Committee. Her success in becoming an active participant in her community was recognized by the Ontario Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration at which she was the guest speaker in April 20011 and was featured on the Hamilton Health sciences Volunteer Website and Newsletter. Ontario Works also recognized her as a “success story” and had her as a guest speaker at a Town Hall meeting in June 2011. She participated as a volunteer in the recent Spring Consultation of the Canadian Council of Refugees. She has also been a strong supporter of her children’s schools, serving as Treasurer of the Parents Council of Strathcona Elementary and Ryerson Middle School.

Trailblazer – Cheryl Jensen

Cheryl Jenson serves as Vice President Academic at Mohawk College. She has provided exemplary leadership on major projects, including the development of Canada’s first Bachelor of Technology program with McMaster University, the launch of the award winning Hydro One – college consortium, the transformation of Mohawk’s skilled trades’ campus, and the creation of formal educational pathways with the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board. She is currently leading the development of Mohawk’s first academic plan, the adoption of blended learning and the launch of a project aimed at increasing postsecondary participation rates in high-need neighborhoods. Her community involvement includes serving on the boards of the Industry Education Council of Hamilton, the Hamilton Community Foundation, Skills Canada Ontario and the Burlington Economic Development Corporation.

Volunteerism – Jan Lukas

Often seen with a camera in her hand, Jan Lukas has been volunteering for over 50 years. She is a retired high school guidance counsellor/teacher and a community activist in the areas of social justice, new Canadians, youth and women’s Issues. No matter what the issue, no matter how difficult the debate, you can always count on Jan to connect people to the issues. Few are the people whose natural inclination is to bring individuals and communities together for a common good. The ripple effect of all of her thousands of hours of volunteering cannot be accurately measured. Numerous awards such as the Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario Medal for Good Citizenship, Ancaster Citizen of the Year, Paul Harris fellowship and many others are a testament to her volunteer efforts. Organizations she has been involved with include CAVEAT, IEC, United Way, HCCI, HMAC, Grandmothers of Steel, 25 in 5, SAC, ACC, Ancaster Food Drive, Elect More Women, to name a few.

Education and Mentorship – Marni Flaherty

Marni Flaherty has fashioned a remarkable career and a lasting legacy for the families and children of Hamilton. Marni is known locally, provincially and nationally for her commitment to early learning and childcare. She is a recipient of the Ontario Premiers Award for her work in the social services sector. She is an active participant in numerous community initiative designed to improve the lives of children, including: board member of the Canadians Child Care Federation, Catholic Children’s Aid Society, United Way of Burlington and Greater Hamilton, President of the Home Child Care Association Ontario, member of the McMaster Children’s Hospital Family Advisory Committee, member of the Best Start Network and co-chair of the Parent and Family Engagement Committee. She lives in Hamilton with her husband and three children.

Health and Active Living – Patricia Jordan

Patricia Jordan is an exceptional role model for good health and active living. She provides women of all ages with the understanding of healthy and active living. With her visionary leadership, Patricia operates the school cafeteria which is entirely run by students through the Food and Nutrition courses. Prior to the current Ontario legislation that limits foods deemed unhealthy, Patricia was proactive and incorporated the recommendations into the curriculum and menu food items months before such measures were mandated. She has become a leader in the area of school cafeteria food delivery and has provided needed skills and knowledge that will foster a healthy lifestyle, including keeping active and fit. She is an exemplary educator, Red Seal chef, coach, mentor and advisor, and an authentic champion of positive and healthy lifestyles for all, but especially for women. An extraordinary woman, she is a Woman of Distinction.

Young Women of Distinction – Jeanette Eby

Jeanette Eby moved to Hamilton from Waterloo at the age of 17, and since then has made many notable contributions to her adopted city, inspiring those around her with energy and enthusiasm. Now 24, her commitment to her community and living her values are demonstrated by her professional and volunteer work in the downtown Beasley Neighbourhood. Through volunteer work downtown as an undergraduate, Jeanette became involved with the Beasley Neighbourhood Association, Freeway Coffee House, Good Shepherd and the McMaster Discovery program, a non-credit university course run by McMaster and offered for free in downtown Hamilton. Now a resident, she continues to demonstrate leadership, maturity and compassion through building and sustaining her involvement in Beasley.

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We’ve Come A Long Way Baby – But We Still Have A Long Way To Go!

May 8, 2012 – It’s the day before YWCA Hamilton’s Women of Distinction Awards – a tradition that began in Hamilton in 1975. This year 60 outstanding women have been nominated, each of whom have made important contributions to our community. After all this time, you may wonder why do we still feel the need to loudly proclaim the achievements of women?

Because We’re Not There Yet.

A quick search of women in today’s news reveals that we still have a long way to go. The Toronto Star today reports that women mechanics face Mad Men moments at work. “I’ve had colleagues say they want to have sex with me,” said mechanic Jennifer Ferrari. Mechanic Tara Parsons is just thankful that a women’s change room has finally been built.

Also in today’s paper is developments in the Missing Women’s Inquiry – an inquiry that family members lobbied a decade for and which continues to exclude many women’s and aboriginal advocacy groups from the review process. According to Canadian government statistics, young Indigenous women are five times more likely than other same age women to die as the result of violence. For weeks the Inquiry has been hearing testimonies about police being indifferent, insensitive and brushing off families members who tried to report their loved ones missing. As noted by the 1991 Manitoba Justice Inquiry, racist and sexist stereotypes put women at increased risk.

As evident by the Missing Women’s Inquiry, women continue to be labeled by the same dangerous stereotypes that existed 20 years later. In recognizing the important contributions made by women we work to break down age old stereotypes and begin to depict women in a strong, positive light.

Because We Need Role Models.

Another compelling reason for making women leaders visible and recognized in our community is to give young women the positive role models they need to see possibilities for themselves. Women and girls continue to be sexualized by pop culture and portrayed in the media as victims rather than leaders. Researchers have identified a phenomena called “The Role Model Effect”.  When women leaders are represented in local government, research shows that girls automatically begin to set higher goals for themselves and the gender gap in teen education goals disappears. Women of Distinction Awards identifies positive female leaders in our community for young women to look up too.

Because We Need Inspiration

You cannot be what you in yourself cannot see. Research shows that when women see confidence, leadership and achievement in other women, they envision themselves with those qualities and begin to believe that success is attainable.  In celebrating the achievements of all 60 Women of Distinction nominees,  we share their powerful stories inspiring other women to  succeed.

Because We Do Succeed

Since adding female mechanics to the crew, manager Quaison Parris says foul language has decreased and veteran mechanic Manny Neves says the atmosphere is friendlier (Toronto Star). This finding is not unique to the auto shop. A vast body of research shows that when women attain leadership positions they implement fresh perspectives and much needed change that ripples through the workplace.

In finance, women are challenging age-old thinking that has led to many of today’s economic troubles.  Investors like Halla Tomasdottir are applying feminine values to financial services – making investments based not just on profits, but social and environmental benefits. As a result, counties are finding financial sustainability.

In business, women bring much desired leadership skills as we move away from a manufacturing-based economy that once favored the size and strength of men to a service and information based economy that favors traditional female skills such as strong communications, empathy and teamwork.

In politics, studies show women make legislatures more productive and decrease corruption, fewer closed door meetings take place, more public consultation occurs, governments become more responsive to equity-seeking groups, and there is greater priority given to social policy and gender issues.

Because There Is A Long Way To Go

For all the reasons stated above, we continue to hold Women of Distinction Awards and celebrate the important contributions made by women in the Hamilton community because we still have a long way to go….


Women mechanics face Mad Men moments at work, May 8, 2012, Toronto Starhttp://www.thestar.com/news/article/1174650–column-women-mechanics-face-mad-men-moments-at-work-porter?bn=1

Peer Leadership – Power of Role Models: http://guide.womenwin.org/operations/peer-leadership/the-power-of-role-models

Missing Women Inquiry: ‘Improvement and change’ in place, said police. The Province (May 8, 2012):http://www.theprovince.com/news/Missing+Women+Inquiry+Improvement+change+place+said+police/6582065/story.html