International Women’s Day: Celebrating Montréal women making a difference

Robyn Fadden

Robyn Fadden is a Montréal-based writer and editor who searches out city secrets, new bands, life-changing art and things to do with her perpetually active kid. Robyn has covered major events for HOUR, MUTEK, ARTINFO, CKUT 90.3FM and more.

This article was updated on May 7, 2024.

Every day we see women innovating in social, economic, cultural and political spheres around the world and right here at home in Montréal. This International Women’s Day, March 8, we’ll be celebrating their achievements and raising awareness about women's equality.

 

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 BKINDMarilyne 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 co-founder of BonLook Sophie Boulanger took eyeglasses fashion to the next level online and in retail stores across the country. She’s now CEO at 1VALET.

Founder of Stimulation Déjà VuAudrey Bernard combines cognitive science, creativity and emotion to create one-of-a-kind olfactory experiences for individuals as well as for events — including a three-in-one antibacterial spray with a pleasing scent. 

CEO and founder of art-tech startup Acrylic RoboticsChloë 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 on various platforms — including an impressive online boutique. 

Founder and director of bilingual media platform Lez Spread the WordFlorence Gagnon continues to boost LGBTQ+ voices in Québec and around the world. 

Executive vice president and partner at URBANIA Média Raphaëlle Huysmans spread the brand’s reach into the French multi-media landscape by launching Urbania France.

Esther YouteStéphanie 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 ItJudith Fetzer grew the business with the acquisition of MissFresh and Menu Extra, before dedicating her time to YPO.

France Margaret Bélanger was the Montréal Canadiens’ executive vice president and chief commercial officer for nearly 5 years. The now President of the Sports & Entertainment division at Groupe CH remains one of a few women in NHL upper management. As part of the Inclusion Executive Council, she helps develop actions to fight racism and advance inclusion and diversity in hockey and the NHL. 

The first Black dean at McGill UniversityDr. 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 

Dr. Joanne Liu is a pediatric emergency physician at CHU Sainte-Justine, recipient of the Order of Canada and long-time epidemic fighter with Doctors Without Borders, of which she was president for six years. 

Director of Gynecologic Oncology and the Women’s Health Research Unit at the MUHC, Dr. Lucy Gilbert was named one of a Top Women of Influence for her work in detecting ovarian and endometrial cancers.

Former leader of the Meta AI Research Lab and co-director of McGill University’s Reasoning and Learning Lab, 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, Geneviève Tanguay continually advances 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 viruses. 

Named on Forbes’ 30 under 30: Energy list a couple of years ago, HaiLa Technologies founder Charlotte Savage developed technology that enables battery-free operation of wireless sensors for the Internet of Things.

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.

 

Community

Co-founder and director of social enterprise Petites-Mains, Nahid Aboumansour is a Knight of the Ordre de Montréal and a recipient of the Cross for Meritorious Service (Civil Division) from the Governor General of Canada for her commitment to the service of immigrant women in Québec. 

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.

Pauline Wong is a distinguished business woman, former CEO of food business les Aliments Wong Wing, and was named to the Ordre National du Québec. She 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 hearing impairments.

 

Architecture and design 

As co-founder of award-winning bilingual magazine BESIDEEliane Cadieux aimed to “bridge the gap between humans and nature” through authentic images and meaningful storytelling of real-life experiences in the outdoors. She now runs her own creative agency.

The founding architect of Appareil Architecture, a multidisciplinary architecture and design agency, Kim Pariseau leads her team in drawing on Nordic aesthetics — receiving the Award Relève en architecture from the Ordre des architectes du Québec and the Rethinking the Future Architecture First Award | Women in Construction Award (Built) in the process.

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 Oscar-nominee Antigone and won the Iris de la Révélation de l’année award and Canadian Screen Award for her leading roll — before going on to star in Deraspe’s television series Bête Noire and Motel Paradis.

As principal and creative director of graphic design firm House9Farah 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 her thought-provoking pop-culture CBC podcast Chosen Family, named by Apple Canada one the Best Podcasts, before successfully launching 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 has been shown at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal and the Galerie de l’UQÀM in Montréal, is a recipient of the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts.

Writer and academic Robyn Maynard penned the influential book Policing Black Lives and a regular commentator on racial issues in the province — she also co-authored the acclaimed Rehearsals for Living with renowned scholar, writer and artist Leanne Betasamosake Simpson

Antiguan-Québécoise 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 numerous accolades including a New Contribution Literary Prize and a spot on the CBC Canada Reads Longlist.

Iranian-Canadian writer and actor Baharan Baniahmadi won a Quebec Writers Federation Paragraphe Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction for her novel Prophetess, an allegorical interrogation of trauma, women's rights and religious tradition. 

An 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 2024 novel, The Capital of Dreams, is a stunning dark fairytale. 

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.

 

Music 

Musician Béatrice Martin, aka Cœur de pirateacquired Dare to Care Records 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 a Félix award for Jazz Album of the Year, a JUNO award for Vocal Jazz Album of the Year for her album Stay Tuned! and was shortlisted for the Polaris Music Prize for her album Three Little Words

Transcendent and versatile Montréal electronic music producer Ouri joined the Polaris shortlist for her album Frame of a Fauna.

 

Gastronomy

Dyan Solomon is a famed chef and co-owner of restaurants Olive + Gourmando, Foxy and Un Po’ di Più. She has inspired many a home chef with Olive + Gourmando: The Cookbook

The founder and CEO 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. 

Mandy Wolfe and Rebecca Wolfe, the sisters behind Mandy’s restaurants, inspire more salads, soups and breakfast creations with their accessible cookbooks.

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 Saint-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, Partner and Director of Beverage & Education at Groupe BarrocoKate Boushel teaches her teams how to incorporate sustainability and diversity into their restaurants — a mixologist herself, she was 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-Montréaler heritage at cozy Phyllo Bar Mélina, bringing the flavours of traditional homemade Mediterranean phyllo pastries to Montréal’s Mile End.

 

Fashion

Visual artist and designer Gabrielle Laïla Tittley’s colourful boutique Pony (also her artist name) on Plaza Saint-Hubert features unique pop-culture-inspired clothing, prints and more that encourage levity and self-care. 

Marie-Ève Lecavalier won the Festival d’Hyères prize and a CAFA Womenswear Designer of the Year Award for her nostalgic, psychedelic ‘60s and ‘70s inspired women’s wear — her LECAVALIER label is wonderfully dreamy and wild. 

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 NoémiahNoémie 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 in the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts exhibition Thierry Mugler: Couturissime

Clean lines, classic silhouettes and femininity are the signature of Eliza Faulkner’s 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.

Robyn Fadden

Robyn Fadden is a Montréal-based writer and editor who searches out city secrets, new bands, life-changing art and things to do with her perpetually active kid. Robyn has covered major events for HOUR, MUTEK, ARTINFO, CKUT 90.3FM and more.

Enjoy the best of Montréal

The Tourisme Montréal newsletter gives you the inside scoop on everything happening in the city.

Moments nearby