The WEOC Board is comprised of representatives of seven member organizations that operate under provincial mandates to serve the unique needs of women in all regions of Canada and we continue to work to expand our membership to include organizations in each province. Our organizations provide resources, programs and services to women entrepreneurs coast to coast, including:
* Note: Some services may not be available in all regions
Sandra Altner, MBA, FCMC
CEO – Women’s Enterprise Centre of Manitoba
Chair – WEOC Board of Directors
A seasoned entrepreneur originally from New York, Sandra owned a women’s clothing boutique and a specialty decorations retail store before completing her MBA and starting The Management Exchange, a management consulting firm that was the first in Winnipeg to offer the Self-Employment Program (SEP), The Management Exchange, a consulting organization specializing in strategic planning and market development.
In 2000, Sandra was awarded the Women Business Owners of Manitoba Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Award in the Contribution to Community category. She is a fellow of the Canadian Association of Management Consultants and is past president of the Institute of Certified Management Consultants of Manitoba. Sandra is past president of the Winnipeg Folk Festival and is currently chair of Strategic Planning committee of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. She has been an adjudicator for a number of local and national entrepreneurship awards programs: for RBC; CAFÉ; Winnipeg Spirit (Winnipeg Chamber); and Manitoba Chambers Business Awards. Sandra has acted as a mentor and regularly speaks to groups about building entrepreneurial and leadership capacity in women.
CEO - Newfoundland & Labrador Organization of Women Entrepreneurs (NLOWE)
A seasoned leader, Jennifer brings over 15 years of senior management experience in the non-profit sector to her role of CEO with NLOWE. In her previous executive roles with organizations such as The Canadian Bar Association, the Boys and Girls Club of Canada, and most recently the Association for New Canadians, Jennifer led with a commitment to advocacy and passionately represented the views and values of each community sector.
Throughout her executive career in Newfoundland and Labrador, Jennifer has had the privilege of working with many NL female entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds. In her previous work with the Association for New Canadians for example, she has come to appreciate the many unique skills and abilities that women have and continue to bring to our province.
“After a comprehensive search process, the NLOWE Board of Directors is pleased to welcome Jennifer Bessell as CEO,” said NLOWE Board President, Jeanne Stapleton. “Jennifer has an outstanding track record of building strong stakeholder relationships and we believe that her background and people-first approach to leadership, make her the ideal person to lead NLOWE successfully into the future.”
Reporting to the Board of Directors, and supported by a strong senior management team, the NLOWE CEO will focus on facilitating opportunities to grow the number of successful women-owned businesses in Newfoundland and Labrador through strong strategic partnerships, and the elimination of barriers to women’s success. Through her passionate executive leadership, Jennifer will oversee these priorities while also ensuring the future sustainability of the organization.
Interim CEO - Women’s Enterprise Centre of British Columbia
Jill Earthy is the Interim CEO of Women’s Enterprise Centre (WEC), based in our Vancouver office. WEC is a non-profit organization devoted to helping BC women start, lead and grow their own businesses, providing business loans, skills training, mentoring, advice and resources from our three offices in Kelowna, Vancouver and Victoria.
Jill Earthy is an accomplished entrepreneur who has successfully built and sold two companies. Passionate about empowering women entrepreneurs, she has held several leadership roles in organizations delivering resources, capital and support to business owners throughout her career.
Jill launched a national event staffing company in Toronto in 2001. It grew to service eight Canadian cities before she sold it in 2003. Ever the entrepreneur, she started another business in 2007, called momcafé Network. The idea for this business came through the many conversations she was having with other moms on the topic of life balance and the challenges of juggling a professional career while raising a family.
While working at building momcafé, Jill took on the role of Executive Director for the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs (FWE) in 2007. In 2011, she became the CEO of the organization, and worked towards providing resources to make female entrepreneurs a driving force in the economy. Since then, she has worked with young entrepreneurs in her role as Regional Director of Futurpreneur Canada (2012-2015), and as Chief Growth Officer of FrontFundr from 2015 – 2018, where she worked to democratize access to capital for entrepreneurs while empowering more Canadians to invest. Most recently, she led the Female Funders program to engage more female leaders to invest in early stage companies by providing education and access.
Jill recently completed 8 years on the Board of Directors of WEC BC, serving as Board Chair for the past 3 years. She currently serves on the Board of the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs and on the national Board of Sustainable Development Technology Canada. She is an active mentor to entrepreneurs, and Judge for many awards programs including the EY Entrepreneur of the Year and BC Business Magazine Women of the year.
She is Co-founder of the WEB Alliance of Women’s Business Networks. Jill is a 2019 BIV Influential Women in Business Honouree. In 2018, she was bestowed with a Wendy McDonald Diversity Award, presented by the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, in the “Community Catalyst” category and was named one of Canada’s Top 100™ Women by Women’s Executive Network (WXN). She was also given the 2018 HSBC Community Contributor of the Year award from the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion (CCDI) for her work on the WE FOR SHE movement, along with her co-chair, Lois Nahirney.
Jill possesses an MBA with a focus on entrepreneurship along with a psychology degree. She lives in Vancouver with her husband and two daughters.
Founder and CEO – PARO Centre for Women's Enterprise
PARO was founded in 1995, with Rosalind Lockyer at the helm, with goals to create a program to help women realize entrepreneurial success on their terms. PARO began as a women’s community loan fund; today, as a multi-faceted women-centred business development program, it is known “as the largest and strongest women’s peer lending network in North America” and supports 150+ Circles across Ontario.
The essence and the originality of PARO demonstrate how Rosalind involves the members of the organization. A true grassroots organization, members are elected to the board of directors annually, and collectively work with Rosalind, as primary innovators and decision-makers for the organization. Under her leadership, PARO has received significant recognition for its contribution to women entrepreneurs. In 2002, PARO received the Soroptimist of Americas Eastern Canada Award for Advancing the Status of Women, and in 2004, the Chamber of Commerce Award for Business Excellence-Not- For- Profit. In 2014, PARO received the Donner Canadian Foundation Award for Excellence in the Education Category. This award recognizes PARO and Rosalind as “one of seven best–run service agencies in the country… .ranked in ten key performance areas including management and governance, use of staff and volunteers, innovation, program costs and outcome monitoring.” Quoting the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) on Ethical Leadership, “Effective approaches to instilling ethics and integrity . . . are key elements to ensuring sound corporate governance and management control.”
Seven years at university earned Rosalind a Psychology Degree and certified teaching credentials. However, it was the 20 years of working as a teacher, entrepreneur, community developer that left Rosalind blatantly aware of systemic women’s issues, and provided the skills, experience, passion, and determination to work for positive change and gender equality locally, provincially, and nationally. For these efforts, Rosalind received the prestigious Influential Women of Northern Ontario Award-Public Sector 2005 from Northern Ontario Business, recognizing her leadership in building PARO Centre for Women’s Enterprise into the dynamic women’s enterprise organization that it is today. More recently, Rosalind was called “one of the most remarkable social entrepreneurs in the world” by the Office of Social Enterprise, MEDEI, Ontario government, and received the International Award for “Women of the Decade in Community Leadership”, from the Women’s Economic Forum 2018 in New Delhi, India.
CEO – Alberta Women Entrepreneurs
Incoming Board Chair - WEOC Board of Directors
Marcela has explored the world of business through a globally focused business undergraduate degree, designation as a Certified International Trade Professional and more than twenty years of global experience developing and implementing business strategies. A career highlight has been taking on leadership roles at Alberta Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) to support AWE’s goal to build stronger communities and economies through women’s participation in entrepreneurship.
Marcela believes strongly in continuous learning and contributing to the community. In addition to serving as Vice-Chair of the Women’s Enterprise Organizations of Canada, she volunteers her time on the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors, University of Alberta Professional Development for Graduate Students Advisory Board, the Women’s Entrepreneurship Day Organization Canada Board of Directors and the Edmonton Region Innovation Network Steering Committee. In 2019 Marcela was appointed as Edmonton Regional Ambassador for the UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day Organization.
President and CEO – Réseau des Femmes d’affaires du Québec
President and CEO of Réseau des Femmes d’affaires du Québec since June 2010, Ruth Vachon aspires to lead women managers and business owners towards excellence. Through innovative projects in economic development, entrepreneurship and feminine leadership, she intends to bring together some 2000 members for the Network’s 35th anniversary in 2016. A native from the Saguenay region, Ruth has been an active entrepreneur for more than 30 years. She founded and managed two companies for which she won the “Prix Femina” in 1988 and 1991. A seasoned manager, she became a management consultant in 2003, specializing in business reorganization and expansion. Because of her strong networking skills, Ruth knows how to establish trusted relationships and generate meaningful encounters between individuals in order to increase business opportunities.
Femme de terrain et de vision, Ruth Vachon est la présidente‐directrice générale du Réseau des Femmes d’affaires du Québec. Cumulant plus de 30 ans d’expérience en entrepreneuriat, elle soutient que la prospérité se conjugue également au féminin. Elle sillonne le monde pour donner des conférences et piloter des missions commerciales pour les femmes d’affaires tant au Canada, aux États-Unis, en Europe qu’en Afrique. D’un dynamisme remarquable, elle convainc bon nombre de grandes entreprises et de multinationales à s’investir auprès des femmes entrepreneures.
En 2019, elle crée le RFAQ+ : une communauté virtuelle dotée d’une intelligence artificielle permettant aux entreprises à propriété féminine d’offrir leurs produits et services aux grandes entreprises nationales et internationales qui ont choisi d’intégrer la diversité à leur pratique d’approvisionnement.
Depuis 2019, elle est membre du Groupe consultatif de l’initiative « WE Empower » de l’organisation ONU Femmes et du « Portail de connaissances pour les femmes en entrepreneuriat », de l’Université Ryerson. Engagée pour l’équité en affaires, elle est récipiendaire de nombreuses distinctions :
• TOP 100 femmes les plus influentes au Canada – Women’s Executive Network (WXN) (2018)
• Nomination aux Mercuriades de la Fédération des chambres de commerce du Québec dans la catégorie « Leadership Femme d’exception » (2018)
• « Personnalité de la diversité 2019 » par l’agence de presse Médiamosaïque
• Cinq honneurs accordés par WEConnect International (2014 à 2016), dont la femme la plus engagée dans l’initiative de l’inclusion des femmes dans les chaînes d’approvisionnement de grandes entreprises.
Depuis 39 ans, la raison d’être du Réseau des Femmes d’affaires du Québec est d’offrir aux femmes les moyens de leurs aspirations. Pour ce faire, il met en place des stratégies concrètes qui inspirent, connectent et propulsent les femmes vers de nouveaux sommets, afin de développer l’économie au féminin et de créer plus de richesse, tant humaine qu’économique.
Prabha MItchell, (Hon.) CGA, M.S.W
CEO - Women Entrepreneurs of Saskatchewan
Chief Executive Officer of WESK, formerly Women Entrepreneurs of Saskatchewan Inc., Prabha is passionate about driving change to close the Gender Entrepreneurship Gap and the resulting Gender Economic Gap.
Through her advocacy efforts, Prabha served as the first President of the Leaders Council of the Paul J. Hill and the Kenneth Levene Schools of Business at the University of Regina and currently serves as a member of the Paul Hill Advisory Board, University of Regina.
A supporter of entrepreneurship, Prabha serves as a Judge for some of the community’s Business Awards and was also a Prairie Regional Judge for the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Prairie Award. As an active member of Board of Directors for the Saskatchewan Housing Authority, Saskatchewan Polytechnic, and the Women’s Enterprise Organizations of Canada (WEOC), Prabha continues to be engaged in the community to influence strategic change.
With a Masters of Social Work in Community Development, Policy and Planning, and an honorary CPA conferred by the Board of Governors of the Certified General Accountants. Prabha has had a diverse career spanning 20 years. Previously, Prabha was the CEO of the Certified General Accountants (CGA) Association of Saskatchewan and had served in that capacity for seven plus years. Prabha was a key player in leading the organization through the Unification of the Accounting Profession, bringing together the three accounting bodies namely, Certified General Accountants, Certified Management Accountants and the Chartered Accountants as Chartered Professional Accountants (CPA).