© "Engloutie", Sara Sottolichio - Photo by Olivier Bousquet
Montréal has no shortage of change-making women accomplishing amazing things and challenging expectations, every day in every industry. Not exhaustive by a long shot, our list names only some of the women making a difference in business, science and technology, arts and culture, gastronomy and beyond in Montréal today.
Entrepreneurship and business
The founder and CEO of BKIND, Marilyne Bouchard went from microbiologist to successful entrepreneur when she developed her Montréal-based eco-friendly cosmetics brand for sensitive skin. With a background in fashion and commerce, CEO and co-founder of BonLook Sophie Boulanger took eyeglasses fashion to the next level online and in retail stores across the country. Founder of Stimulation Déjà Vu, Audrey Bernard combines cognitive science, creativity and emotion to create one-of-a-kind olfactory experiences for individuals as well as for events – including their latest, a three-in-one antibacterial spray with a pleasing scent. CEO and Founder of art-tech startup Acrylic Robotics, Chloë Ryan found a way to scale up her own and other artists’ creations – and make original artwork more accessible – using robotic and AI technologies.
Entrepreneur, activist, author and Librarie Racines bookstore founder Gabriella G. Kinté shines a spotlight on the stories, culture and experiences of Black and other racialized people – she recently expanded with an online boutique. Founder and director of bilingual media platform Lez Spread the Word, Florence Gagnon continues to boost LGBTQ voices in Québec and around the world. Vice President and Partner at URBANIA Média Raphaëlle Huysmans recently launched Urbania France into the French multi-media landscape.
Esther Youte, Stéphanie Jecrois and Carla Beauvais are three of the co-founders (along with Williamson Dulcé) of technology platform Unite Prosper (UP), an initiative of non-profit organization 0rijin Village, equipping entrepreneurs from Black communities with innovative technology solutions. Co-founder and CEO of ready-to-cook meal delivery company Cook It, Judith Fetzer recently grew with the acquisition of MissFresh and Menu Extra. Montreal Canadiens' Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer since 2016, France Margaret Bélanger, the President of the Sports & Entertainment division at Groupe CH, is one of a few women in NHL upper management – she’s also on the new Inclusion Executive Council, developing actions to fight racism and advance inclusion and diversity in hockey and the NHL. The first Black dean at McGill University, Dr. Yolande E. Chan, dean of McGill University’s Desautels Faculty of Management, is focused on bringing more diversity and inclusion to the program in shaping leaders and entrepreneurs of the future.
Medicine, science and technology
Pediatric emergency physician at CHU Sainte-Justine, recipient of the Order of Canada, and long-time epidemic fighter with Médecins sans frontières, of which she was president for six years, Dr. Joanne Liu joined the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response in 2020-21 to evaluate the world’s response to COVID-19. Director of the Division of Gynecologic Oncology and the Women’s Health Research Unit at the MUHC, Dr. Lucy Gilbert was named one of the Top Women of Influence for 2021 for her work in detecting ovarian and endometrial cancers and was named Robert Kinch Chair in Women’s Health at the MUHC in 2022.
Co-leader of the Facebook AI Research (FAIR) Lab and co-director of McGill University’s Reasoning and Learning Lab at McGill University, Joëlle Pineau has received a Governor General's Innovation Award and continues her cutting-edge research as part of Montréal’s AI community. As the first woman CEO of Anges Québec, a leader in the province’s early stage investment ecosystem, Genevieve Tanguay has spent the past year advancing innovators in technology, particularly in the Life Sciences.
Montréal scientist and biomedical engineer Azadeh Dastmalchi is the founder of VitalTracer Ltd. and creator of the new VTLab smartwatch, set to monitor all vital signs and aid in early detection of heart disease and COVID-19 – in 2021 she was one of the top 25 women of INFLUENCE 2021, a Canadian G20 Young Entrepreneur Alliance. Named on Forbes’ 30 under 30: Energy list for 2021, HaiLa Technologies founder Charlotte Savage developed technology that enables battery-free operation of wireless sensors for the Internet of Things. Named one of the 100 entrepreneurs who are changing the world, Sandrine Milante, CEO of ÉcoloPharm, tackles the waste linked to the packaging and overpacking of prescription drugs, giving pharmacists eco-responsible packaging solutions – today the company is one of the largest manufacturers of prescription drug packaging products in the country.
Never Was Average co-founder and Executive Creative Director Joanna Chevalier, otherwise known as Hanna Che, collaborates to create an inclusive space for BIPOC in artistic and creative fields through conversation, art exhibitions and other events – she’s one of people the behind the La vie des Noir.es counts street mural emblazoned on Sainte-Catherine Street in the summer of 2020. Co-founder and director of social enterprise Petites-Mains, Nahid Aboumansour received the Cross for Meritorious Service (Civil Division) in 2020 from the Governor General of Canada for her commitment to the service of immigrant women in Québec. She also became in June 2021 a Knight of the Ordre de Montréal.
A distinguished business woman, former CEO of food business les Aliments Wong Wing, and named to the Ordre National du Québec, Pauline Wong continues to work for representation and equality for the Montréal Chinese community and promote intercultural connection in Montréal’s Chinatown and beyond. Named among the 25 Women of Influence of 2021, anti-racism activist Nelly Bassily is the Director of Youth Initiatives and International Relations at DAWN Canada (Disabled Women’s Network Canada), where she works to improve accessibility for young women with disabilities and Deaf young women.
Architecture and design
Co-founder of innovative design market SOUK, Azamit turned the 17th edition virtual in 2020 with the help of e-commerce solution Lightspeed, giving Québec creators an international spotlight online, and relaunched SOUK on the mezzanine of Place Ville Marie in 2021. The founding architect of Appareil Architecture, a multidisciplinary architecture and design agency, Kim Pariseau leads her team in drawing on Nordic aesthetics – in 2020 they received the Award Relève en architecture from the Ordre des architectes du Québec and in 2022 received the Rethinking the Future Architecture First Award | Women in Construction Award (Built).
As co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of award-winning bilingual magazine BESIDE, Eliane Cadieux aims to “bridge the gap between humans and nature” through authentic images and meaningful storytelling of real life experiences in the outdoors. Editor and Director of esse art magazine, the longest-running fine arts magazine in print in Québec, Sylvette Babin heralds the diversity of today’s arts in print, in conversation with the Québec and international community, and as an active artist herself.
Art, film and literature
Multidisciplinary artist Meky Ottawa creates video, illustration and installation art specific to Indigenous worlds, such as the profound mural in homage to filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin – see it at the corner of Atwater and Lincoln downtown. As co-founder of Théâtre de la Sentinelle and an actor herself, Tatiana Zinga Botao is focused on equity, giving racialized people leading roles in meaningful productions, and promoting diversity in Québec through representation and inclusion. Actor Nahéma Ricci starred in Sophie Deraspe’s 2020 Oscar-nominee Antigone and won the l’Iris de la Révélation de l’année award and Canadian Screen Award for her leading roll – she went on to star in Deraspe’s television series Bête Noire in 2021 and Motel Paradis in 2022.
As Principal and Creative Director of graphic design firm House9, Farah Khan emphasizes collaboration and inclusivity with artists, researchers, non-profit organizations and cultural institutions, including on the House9 Art&Humanity Podcast. Celebrated comedian, singer, producer and writer Tranna Wintour wrapped up three seasons of her thought-provoking pop-culture CBC podcast Chosen Family, named by Apple Canada one the Best Podcasts – since then she’s successfully launched her stand-up comedy into both the English and French-speaking worlds. Montréal-based artist Monique Régimbald-Zeiber, whose perspective-shifting works on “invisibilized” history are shown at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal and the Galerie de l’UQAM in Montréal, won a 2022 Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts.
Writer and academic Robyn Maynard is the in-demand author of influential book Policing Black Lives and regular commentator on racial issues in the province – she co-authored her most recent book, the acclaimed Rehearsals for Living, with renowned Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg scholar, writer and artist Leanne Betasamosake Simpson. Antiguan-Québecoise poet, author and spoken-word artist Tawhida Tanya Evanson has performed at literary and arts festivals around the world and her novel Book of Wings (Véhicule Press) won the 2022 New Contribution Literary Priz and Blue Metropolis/Conseil des arts de Montreal New Contribution Literary Prize 2023, and was on the 2022 CBC Canada Reads Longlist. Iranian-Canadian writer and actor Baharan Baniahmadi won the 2022 Quebec Writers Federation Paragraphe Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction for her novel Prophetess, an allegorical interrogation of trauma, women's rights and religious tradition.The 2019 awardee of the Writers’ Trust Fellowship for being a “leading light among Canadian writers,” Heather O’Neill has featured in an interactive museum exhibition on literature and makes astute book recommendations with her daughter – her most recent novel, When We Lost Our Heads, was nominated for the 2022 Grand Prix du livre de Montréal. Innu slam poet, actress, visual artist and aboriginal and environmental rights activist Natasha Kanapé Fontaine has published three critically acclaimed collections of poetry and performs worldwide.
Musician Béatrice Martin, aka Cœur de pirate, acquired Dare to Care Records in 2021 and rebranded it as Bravo Musique, with an emphasis on inclusivity and respect for artists and their work. Creator of Montréal vogue-ball mainstay House of Barbara, singer-songwriter, performance artist and activist Elle Barbara creates music and community with a message of queer, Black, trans inclusivity. Inuit artist Elisapie Isaac connects with her heritage in an entrancing folk music of the North, sung in Inuktitut, English and French, including on her latest release in conjunction with National Indigenous Peoples Day.
Félix-award-winning pianist and composer Alexandra Strélinski has become one of the foremost stars in modern classical music with her minimalist and cinematic compositions. Inspired by soul and jazz music icons of the ‘40s to ‘60s, Dominique Fils-Aimé won the 2020 Félix award for Jazz Album of the Year and the JUNO award for Vocal Jazz Album of the Year for her album Stay Tuned! and her 2021 album Three Little Words was shortlisted for the 2021 Polaris Music Prize. Transcendent and versatile Montréal electronic music producer Ouri joined the Polaris shortlist in 2022 for her album Frame of a Fauna.
The principal of the Tastet food and restaurant website, Élise Tastet encourages discovery of all things food-related in and around Montréal, featuring over 1,000 restaurants as well as profiles of chefs, recipes and best-of lists. Many a Montrealer knows who Dyan Solomon is: the famed chef and co-owner of restaurants Olive + Gourmando, Foxy and Un Po' di Più launched Olive + Gourmando: The Cookbook in 2019 and it’s inspired home chefs since. Mandy Wolfe and Rebecca Wolfe, the sisters behind Mandy’s restaurants, inspired more salads, soups and breakfast creations with their accessible new cookbook More Mandy’s in 2022.
A collective of Montréal women from diverse backgrounds and careers, culinary enterprise Les Filles Fattoush provides an avenue for Syrian women refugees to tackle social, cultural and economic obstacles by harnessing their culinary talents. Dan Yu makes Plaza St-Hubert a destination for dumplings, sharing the comforting flavours of her mothers’ northern Chinese recipes at La Maison de Mademoiselle Dumpling. Named among Canada’s 100 Best, Director of Beverage & Education at Groupe Barroco, Kate Boushel teaches her teams how to incorporate sustainability and diversity into their restaurants – a mixologist herself, she’s also on the Québec team for Speed Rack, a national female-focused bartending competition that raises money for breast cancer research. Joanna Chery taps into her Greek-Haitian-Montrealer heritage at cozy Phyllo Bar Mélina, bringing the flavours of traditional homemade Mediterranean phyllo pastries to Montréal’s Mile End.
Visual artist and designer Gabrielle Laïla Tittley’s colourful boutique Pony (also her artist name) on Plaza St-Hubert features unique pop-culture-inspired clothing, prints, whimsical masks and more that encourage levity and self-care And Marie-Ève Lecavalier won the Festival d'Hyères prize and now the 2022 CAFA Womenswear Designer of the Year Award for her nostalgic, psychedelic ‘60s-and-‘70s-inspired women’s wear – the recent collections on her LECAVALIER label are wonderfully dreamy and wild. Designer Sofia Sokoloff is the founder of ethical Montréal fashion label Sokoloff Lingerie, made “consciously made with love by women” for all bodies and style preferences, from delicate to bold.
Designed in Montréal with a philosophy of longevity, unique detail and stylish simplicity, designer Marie-Eve Emond’s Betina Lou womenswear and Marmier menswear are made to stand the test of time. Entrepreneur Sophie Boyer transformed high-quality (if ‘90s-style) Québec coat company Audvik into a premium brand with a modern, trendy edge complete with innovative, eco-friendly fabrics. Co-founders of Maguire shoe boutique, Myriam Belzile-Maguire and Romy Belzile-Maguire make high-quality fashion footwear fair and accessible, working directly with manufacturers and selling directly to consumers. Under her label Noémiah, Noémie Vaillancourt designs playful and exquisite dresses, jumpsuits, lingerie and accessories handmade in Montréal with independent workshops and environmentally conscious practices and fabrics.
Designer Naomie Caron gets us ready for summer in ethical, long-lasting Selfish Swimwear made from premium recycled fibres. Inspired by high-quality minimalist design creations, designer Madeleine Beaulieu launched luxury leather goods brand Partoem in Montréal. Hats are wearable art in the hands of Samantha-Tara Mainville, the founder of Heirloom Hats – her designs were included Montreal Museum of Fine Arts exhibition Thierry Mugler: Couturissime. Clean lines, classic silhouettes and femininity are the signature of Eliza Faulkner dresses and essentials, sourced from quality fabrics woven locally or from reputable mills, with all manufacturing done in Montréal.
Youthful brand Esser was founded by Marie-Christine Fortier on a foundation of authenticity and accessibility, with a commitment to ethical and sustainable products. Entrepreneur, curator and content creator Josiane Konaté launched online boutique Maison Petite & Bold, offering vibrant ethnic goods made in Africa.