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Calgary’s Decision-Making Women


The true impact of the pandemic, the lockdowns, the scrambling, the work reconfigurations and the layoffs on Calgary business may never be known or calculated. Significant is an accurate understatement. As the crippling fog lifts, one business fact seems evident. “It has become clear that the pandemic has disproportionately impacted women – we are in the first ever she-cession due to primarily higher job losses for women and more and more women opting to leave the work force to assume caretaking responsibilities,” notes Heather Culbert, board chair of Axis Connects, the Calgary non-profit established to connect, collaborate, champion and provide career development resources for women and the CIWB Awards, and vice-chair of Export Development Canada (EDC).

She adds the disheartening fact that “women’s employment has fallen to a level not seen in the last two decades. In our province, a recent report from the Business Council of Alberta shows that young women have not fully rejoined the labour force, and while data is showing improvement, it is still quite precarious. This results in huge economic and social implications for women. Axis Connects knows we have our work cut out for us, but we’re more committed now than ever to elevate women and diverse professionals in decision-making roles through meaningful action.”

Getting ready for the April 27, 2022 presentation of the Calgary Influential Women in Business (CIWB) Awards (with presenting sponsors the National Bank of Canada and TransAlta Corp) she underscores that some things never change. Momentum. Resilience. And opportunity.

“Numerous studies point to the kind of impact that professional development and informal networks have on the success of an individual’s career. Yet women tend to lack access to these opportunities which are necessary to promote them to leadership roles,” she says. “Women need access to professional development training, outside of what their companies may offer, access to informal networks, especially of like-minded women, and access to curated tools and resources to accelerate their career transitions and advancement.”

Culbert cites findings that, in Canada, women make up almost half of entry level roles, but the numbers drop to a quarter of women in executive positions, and only 15 per cent in CEO roles.

“Building the talent pipeline remains critical for increasing the number of women in leadership roles and it’s a vital reason why Axis Connects provides key tools, mentors and resources to support women in the mid to senior level of their careers.”

The annual CIWB Awards are inspiring recognition of the drive, success and business leadership of five Calgary women (and one male champion) in Calgary’s business decision-making roles. Although nominations are closed and the 2022 CIWB awards will be presented at the gala on April 27, 2022 (tickets and info available at, the six inspiring recipients are:

  • TD Bank Group Lifetime Achievement Award: Dawn Farrell, Independent Director and Chancellor at Mount Royal University and recently retired CEO and President of TransAlta Corporation
  • RBC Large Enterprise Award: Jana Mosley, President, ENMAX Power
  • TC Energy Small/Medium Enterprise Award: Eleanor Chiu, Chief Financial Officer, The Trico Group/Trico Homes
  • Nutrien Professional Services Award: Cheryl Sandercock, Managing Director, BMO Capital Markets
  • PwC Canada Social Enterprise Award: Kim Ruse, CEO, Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter
  • CIBC Male Champion Award: Jim Dewald, Dean and Professor, Haskayne School of Business at the University of Calgary

“Profiling the CIWB (Award) recipients creates awareness about the high quality of Calgary’s female leadership and inspires others to come forward and be recognized, so we can celebrate our leaders and the diversity of Calgary workplaces,” Culbert says with enthusiasm.