Each year, the world celebrates International Women’s Month, as a form of appreciation for women’s efforts, their endeavours to create a balance between their careers, raising children and handling challenges. This month is a reminder of how much women’s empowerment is essential for any society to rise. The world now understands that the authority of women is not limited; today women can work side-by-side with men in any field as an equal. Noting that Gender Equality is one of the SDGs that the UN is seeking to achieve before 2030, in an attempt to highlight that the ecosphere, needs all genders to work hand in hand for a better world.
Acknowledging some of the women icons that have changed society, these three female entrepreneurs immigrated to Canada at a young age to start their lives. These three women have inspiring stories that may inspire other girls, affect women’s lives, and enhance the future of entrepreneurship in Canada.
Shahrzad Rafati is an Iranian woman who immigrated to Canada in her teenage years, she studied computer science at the University of British Columbia. In 2005, when media organizations were uncommon institutions, no one knew about them. Shahrzad took the initiative to establish her organization Broadband TV Corp, a digital media and technology company that drives monetization for content creators. Currently, the BBTV organization evolved to be the fifth-largest network on YouTube. She has also built a quadruple bottom-line business that measures success not only on financial performance, but also on human, social, and environmental KPIs in order to build an incredibly successful company. BBTV has a zero-pay gap between male-identifying and female-identifying employees. Shahrzad also led BBTV through its initial public offering on the TSX, which was one of the Top 10 Tech TSX listings of all time and the largest on the TSX with a sole female founder and CEO at the helm. Shahrzad is a member in Bjarke Ingels Group, an architecture firm, as well as the Vice-Chair of the board at Invest in Canada. She has also been a board member of the Vancouver Economic Commission, and the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs.
In September 2018, Shahrzad Rafati was appointed by Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau to represent Canada at the G20 Summit and advise global leaders on issues of women’s economic empowerment. She won the Canadian Innovation Awards for the Entrepreneur department and other awards such as Canada’s Most Powerful Women Award in the Arts & Communications category and Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Award.
Faten Alshazly is an Egyptian woman who immigrated to Canada in her teenage years; She earned her BSc in Computer Science back in 1999.
Faten is the founder and the Chief Creative Officer of WeUsThem, an international creative agency that offers a wide variety of advertising services ranging from broadcast, digital and print media to the design, development and strategic management of online social platforms. WeUsThem services are provided to global clients such as Canadian Space Agency, the Government of Canada and the Kempinski Group.
Faten supports women throughout their journeys by enhancing women’s careers and mentoring mid-senior executives across the country, as she helps them to pave new paths for young professionals and seasoned leaders alike. Alshazly provides support to women through work placements, mentorships, and career advice, she offers her assistance through a variety of networks such as the Women’s Executive Network, Women in STEM, Women in Technology, and Women’s Employment Outreach. In order to help women globally, she spoke at various international public forums such as the World Youth Forum to speak about Women’s roles in Leadership circles.
Alshazly took initiatives to help women around the world, currently, she serves on the boards of Efficiency One, the Halifax Chamber of Commerce and the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia, she was also the former director of the Canadian Cancer Society and a Governor in Council at NSCAD University.
Faten is known as the woman of inspiration, influence, excellence and the diva of color. She is one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women as well as amongst Atlantic Canada’s Top 25 Most Powerful Women in Business.
Ana Maria Zúñiga
Ana Maria Zúñiga is a Pakistani Woman who immigrated to Canada in the late 90s. She has a great passion for languages, which lead her to study translation in English, French and Spanish. In addition to her fluency in several languages, she also reads and understands spoken Portuguese. She is a Certified Translator and a member of the Society of Translators and Interpreters of British Columbia, the Canadian Translators, Terminologists and Interpreters Council and the American Translators Association.
Ana dreamt of a world that can communicate however their different mother tongues. In 2001, she established her business AZ World, an international translation agency that manages global businesses functioning in numerous languages and expanding internationally into non-English speaking markets. In 2007, AZ Company started to focus on the mining industry and related fields such as engineering, environment and software. AZ World company has transformed from a small company ruled by a freelance translator to one of the top best 5 companies in British Columbia that has over 200 freelance translators in different places around the world.
Besides running a successful business, Ana Maria supports the community through volunteer work. Her prior volunteer experience includes three years as a Spanish instructor at a senior centre in North Vancouver and ten years as a volunteer coordinator with Sinfonia Orchestra of the North Shore, a non-profit professional orchestra in North Vancouver that supports music education. In addition to her philanthropic contributions to the orchestra, she has also provided free translations to the Archdiocese of Vancouver, the British Columbia Boys Choir, and the Pacific Spirit Children’s Choir. In 2015, Ana Maria received the Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Award and took the title of Business Person for 2015 by the North Vancouver Chamber of Commerce.
Achieving gender equality is a priority to build better societies, an aware generation and an adequate world. Our responsibility is to break the bias, females do not have to wait for the opportunity, they have to create it as well as they need to find the demanded support to play their role in a virtuous way. Females need respect to think out loud without being afraid of criticism on their gender not for their thoughts as well as they need the security to feel free to move and explore the world.