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In 1984, Janet Austin, CEO of Metro Vancouver’s YWCA, recalls a speaker asking the audience at a conference, “How do you know when you’ve truly made it as a successful business woman?” The speaker then pulled out a tube of lipstick and applied it meticulously to her pouting lips. She continued, “When you can apply your lipstick perfectly without a mirror.” As the crowd roared with laughter, Austin remembers staring blankly, dumbfounded. Was this really how a woman’s worth was measured?Today, Janet Austin and her team at the YWCA are proud to shine the spotlight on Metro Vancouver’s female entrepreneurs, leaders and innovators who are making a difference in our province and around the world, through the announcement of the 2018 YWCA Women of Distinction Awards nominees.On March 7, the eve of International Women’s Day, 65 of Metro Vancouver’s most intriguing and inspiring business women gathered together at a private event with their closest family and friends to officially celebrate their nominations. With emcee Fiona Forbes at the mic, the honorees were each announced by name. But instead of quietly waiting for their names to be called, the nominees cheered each other on—some held hands and shared hugs. There wasn’t a competitive chill in the air, instead, the room was filled with cheerful camaraderie—the sense of unity empowering and contagious.A tear-jerking video of two struggling single mothers who have found help and hope through the programs offered by the YWCA reminded onlookers of the importance of lifting each other up, supporting one another, and pushing through personal and professional struggles to find inner success—whatever success may mean to each individual. Through uplifting words shared by both Austin, and a speaker from event sponsor Scotiabank, the theme of the night became quickly apparent: if you want it, you can make it happen.
The YWCA Women of Distinction Awards not only honour extraordinary women leaders, but also raises much-needed funds for YWCA programs and services that improve the lives of thousands of people each year across Metro Vancouver. The awards also recognize businesses and organizations that support the wellness and diverse needs of their employees.
Since 1984, the YWCA Women of Distinction Awards have honoured more than 300 recipients, and 1,750 nominees across Metro Vancouver. This year’s winners will be announced and honoured at a gala held on June 7 at the JW Marriott Parq hotel. For a full list of this year’s nominees, visit ywcavan.org.