Congratulations to the 2018 Women of Distinction Award winners

March 13, 2018 at 4:10PM until April 6, 2018 at 4:10PM

Congratulations to the 2018 Women of Distinction Winners

On March 8, the YWCA Hamilton Women of Distinction Awards were given out at the Hamilton Convention Centre by Carmen's. Here are the winners of the 42nd annual awards. Congratulations to all who were nominated. 

YWCA Hamilton's Women of Distinction Awards recognize outstanding women and organizations who are committed to the development of other women and to the overall improvement of the community. The Women of Distinction Awards are nationally recognized as one of the most prestigious awards for women. YWCAs across Canada join in the celebration each year, honouring the remarkable achievements of women.
The Women of Distinction Awards is also the biggest fundraiser for YWCA Hamilton, supporting our essential programs and services. 
Thank you to everyone who joined us on March 8 at the Hamilton Convention Centre by Carmen's. Together we recognized the following women.



Chelsea Mackinnon
Young Woman of Distinction

Chelsea Mackinnon is a passionate advocate for the role of music in health care. She is committed to reducing isolation and loneliness in seniors through her research, education, employment, and volunteerism. She believes that intergenerational music interactions between youth and seniors not only improves the life of seniors, but also creates more cohesive, respectful, and collaborative communities. This level of commitment is enacted daily with enthusiasm, care, and genuine concern. She’s the total package: intelligent, competent, compassionate, and considerate. She’s solution-oriented, dedicated to evidence-based approaches to establishing the role of music in health care, and mature beyond her years. Chelsea is the ideal balance of think-listen-talk-act, a rare and winning combination that’s needed for innovative leadership in our community.



Marlaise Dawson
Arts | Culture | Design

Marlaise Dawson is a vibrant, enthusiastic community builder and artist advocate. She was raised in the Netherlands and made Hamilton her home in 1974. With a background in international business administration and former government positions, she and her husband became trailblazers in the Hamilton art scene in 1995 when they purchased the historic Hamilton Bridge & Tank building and repurposed into artist studios and The Gallery on the Bay, featuring local and regional artists. As a leader, she has collaborated, mentored and celebrated numerous local, Canadian, and internationally recognized artists of visual art, literature, poetry, music, film, theatre, and local art schools. In film, she has produced one feature, four shorts, and theatrical productions featured in the Hamilton Fringe Festival.


Erin Dunham

Business Leadership | Entrepreneurship

Erin Dunham was born in, lives in, and bleeds Hamilton. As an undergraduate, Erin studied English and writing at Western University before returning to Hamilton for her MBA at McMaster University. Erin’s passion for creative writing survived her business schooling, and she has two published novels. As the CEO of The Other Bird, Erin is one half of the creative team behind a group of restaurants designed to enthrall the taste buds of diners seeking interesting culinary experiences. The Other Bird’s restaurants include Rapscallion Rogue Eatery, Two Black Sheep, Black Sheep Snack Bar, The Mule, Burro Tacos, and the Arlington Hotel. Erin has two Bernese mountain dogs named Sampson and Bruce. She is a painter who loves to sit back with a big fat red wine and a cigar.


Grace Mater
Community Leadership

Throughout her years of public service, Grace Mater has been committed to collaborative approaches that enhance the lives of children and families in Hamilton. Through her leadership of the Best Start Initiative, Hamilton created a community-based planning approach that was recognized as best practice provincially. Grace led investment strategies that saw innovative approaches such as service provider networks and mobile child development services. She led child care expansion and modernization across Hamilton that dramatically reduced wait times for children needing financial assistance for childcare. Grace led the creation of the Children and Youth Charter of Rights which was recognized by the United Nations. Grace demonstrates how we work together to make Hamilton the best place to raise a child.


Dr. Kimberley Dej
Education| Mentorship 

Dr. Kimberley Dej is an associate professor in the School of Interdisciplinary Science at McMaster University. She is a consummate teacher, innovator, leader and science “whisperer” to many students and colleagues. Dr. Dej is genuine, collaborative, generous with her time, and willing to listen to students and colleagues alike. She exudes humility and a genuine love and passion for all things science. Dr. Dej is an outstanding teacher and mentor who ignites curiosity and passion in her students, and encourages them to chart their own career path while pursuing their dreams in STEM and STEAM fields. Dr. Dej’s passion for science inspires girls and young women in our community to achieve their full potential in fields predominantly dominated by men.



Jill Wiwcharuk

Dr. Jill Wiwcharuk has a long history of working with marginalized populations both in Canada and abroad. Before her career in medicine, Jill spent time working with children of leprosy sufferers in India and homeless individuals in Holland. She is currently the lead physician of the Shelter Health Network where she focuses on homelessness, poverty, addictions, and mental health. Jill also works at a local methadone clinic and as an ER physician in the Brantford General Hospital.




Alectra Utilities
Outstanding Workplace

Alectra Utilities is shaping the future of energy as we know it. Our mission is to be the energy ally that our customers expect us to be. We are equipped to discover the possibilities of energy conservation and new technologies for enhancing the quality of life of our customers, nearly one million families and businesses across the Greater Golden Horseshoe area. Alectra Utilities was created through the merger of four progressive and innovative electricity distributors, each with histories steeped in pioneering firsts, groundbreaking achievements, and memorable milestones, who came together for a common goal — to be a single trusted ally in the rapidly changing world of energy.



Kathy Lerette
Science | Technology | Trades

Kathy Lerette is the Senior Vice President of Business Transformation at Alectra Utilities, created through the merger of Enersource, Horizon Utilities, PowerStream, and Brampton Hydro. She is responsible for the successful delivery of Alectra’s integration plans and organizational effectiveness. A certified engineering technologist, Kathy has led engineering, operations and construction divisions. She has been a champion of continuous improvement and initiatives that drive increased levels of performance throughout her 35-year electricity industry career. Kathy currently serves as the Vice-Chair of the Electricity Human Resources Canada Board and is representing the Ontario Association of Certified Engineering Technicians and Technologists on a three-year project to address barriers that contribute to the under representation of women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).



Anju Joshi
Lifetime Achievement

Anju Joshi is a remarkable educator and mentor whose breadth and depth of contributions over the past 33 years have helped to make Hamilton a more caring and inclusive community. Anju is an associate professor at McMaster University in the department of Health, Aging, and Society. She is a leader in the fields of gerontology, case management, resilience, diversity, equity, and inclusion. Her teaching extends beyond McMaster students to community members and health and social service professionals. Anju supports others to develop personal wellness and resilience by teaching yoga and meditation. She has served as a founding director of the Hamilton Council on Aging and is a board member of the Hamilton Community Foundation. Anju is a dynamic role model for her students and citizens in our community.