The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is “Women in Leadership: Achieving an Equal Future in a COVID-19 World.” With gender equity and equality in the spotlight and the accomplishments of women driving conversations around the globe, the University of Guelph is celebrating eight women who have recently stepped into vital leadership roles at the University.
Dr. Charlotte Yates, president and vice-chancellor
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Dr. Charlotte Yates became president and vice-chancellor of U of G. As the University’s first woman president, she has led the campus in adapting to COVID-19, including the shift to technologically mediated course delivery, innovations that encourage students to thrive and strategies to solve the budget challenges facing the University.
“This is why we are here, doing what we do – to face difficult challenges head-on, improve life, learn and grow,” said Yates.
“I believe we are stronger for all the challenges we have faced – a stronger team and a stronger institution. When we work together in collaboration, we build each other up.”
Yates has advocated for equality and equity, particularly for women, and members of Black, Indigenous and people of colour communities. She co-chairs the president’s anti-racism advisory committee with internationally acclaimed author Lawrence Hill and has supported the development of U of G’s Indigenization strategy and the GenEQ project on campus.
“Women and all those who identify as women have come a long way, here at the University and around the world, but there is so much more that needs to change before we realize our full potential as trailblazers and as leaders,” she said.
Yates arrived at U of G in 2015 to become provost and vice-president (academic), coming from McMaster University where she had been dean of social sciences for seven years. Her research is focused on the Canadian automotive industry, labour markets and employment, and women, work and family.
Shauneen Bruder, Board of Governors chair
Shauneen Bruder, BA ’80, has chaired the Board of Governors since 2019. She is the first woman in the role.
Speaking of gender equity and equality that year, she said: “We have come a long way since I was a student in the 1970s and a young woman starting my career. But there is more work to be done to ensure that we fully embrace diversity and inclusion.”
As an undergrad at U of G, Bruder discovered the importance of teamwork, critical thinking and applied, collaborative learning.
She completed an MBA at Queen’s University, where she was top of her class. In 2016, she was inducted into Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women Hall of Fame.
Dr. Gwen Chapman, interim provost and vice-president (academic)
Last summer, Dr. Gwen Chapman moved from her role as dean of U of G’s College of Social and Applied Human Sciences (CSAHS) to become interim provost and vice-president (academic) of the University.
“International Women’s Day is an opportunity to highlight the impact of women’s work and to celebrate women’s achievements, locally, nationally, and globally,” she said. “It is also a time to publicly acknowledge the work that still needs to be done to ensure that women are afforded equal opportunities and that their contributions are equitably celebrated and rewarded.”
That’s especially important for women who experience multiple systemic inequities because of race, disability, poverty, or sexual and gender identity, Chapman added. Referring to U of G’s GenEQ initiative and IWD activities, she said, “I am so proud of the work that is being done at the University of Guelph to identify and implement strategies to enhance equity and inclusion for all.”
As dean of CSAHS, Chapman emphasized interdisciplinary and strengthened the college’s international reputation.
Her research connects urban and rural sociology, qualitative social research, and nutrition and dietetics. She wrote the book Acquired Tastes: Why Families Eat the Way They Do.
Sharmilla Rasheed, vice-president (finance and operations)
Sharmilla Rasheed became U of G’s vice-president (finance and operations) in December 2020, partway through the COVID-19 pandemic.
She says unprecedented times pose challenges but also offer opportunities for universities.
“I believe that universities have an integral role in collaborating with health care, government and industry to ensure that we have a better world for our children and us. And I want to be part of this,” said Rasheed, who is a chartered professional accountant.
Her portfolio spans financial services, human resources, physical resources, campus police, fire prevention and parking services, hospitality services investment management and the real estate division.
Earlier, she held administrative leadership roles at St. Joseph’s Health Centre in Guelph and St. Joseph’s Lifecare in Brantford, Ont.
Associate Vice Presidents
Indira Naidoo-Harris, associate vice-president (diversity and human rights)
Indira Naidoo-Harris joined U of G as associate vice-president (diversity and human rights) in 2019. Here, she helps to foster a culture of belonging for everyone by leading discussion, policy and educational efforts about inclusivity, equity and accessibility.
A standing committee member on the President’s Advisory Committee on Anti-Racism, Naidoo-Harris worked to develop the university’s anti-racism action plan. “Diversity and human rights are essential for true scholarship, collaboration and learning to happen,” she said. “Working together, we aim to build a campus community where every member belongs and is able to learn, live and work in an environment free of racism and discrimination.”
Before coming to U of G, Naidoo-Harris was an Ontario Liberal MPP and served as minister of education, minister responsible for early years and childcare, associate minister of finance, and Ontario’s first minister of the status of women. Before entering politics, Naidoo-Harris was an award-winning national journalist.
As the first official voice for women in the province, Naidoo-Harris led the Women’s Economic Empowerment Strategy and the Strategy for Gender-Based Violence and worked on anti-human trafficking legislation.
“International Women’s Day is an important reminder of how far we’ve come and how far we still need to go,” she said. “The full and equal participation of women in the political, social, economic and academic landscape is a central pillar to democracy and justice. No society can achieve its full potential when half the population is denied the opportunity to achieve theirs.
“As we gather to celebrate the remarkable women-identifying individuals in our community, let’s all #ChooseToChallenge gender bias and inequality and help build a more equitable and inclusive community for everyone.”
These eight leaders are among numerous women at U of G whose contributions help to shape the University’s academic and research environment and culture.
Dr. Samantha Brennan, dean, College of Arts
Dr. Samantha Brennan became dean of U of G’s College of Arts in early 2018.
Like other women leaders on campus, Brennan embraces collaboration and champions the vital role of the arts in sparking important conversations about culture and ideas.
She studies moral and political philosophy and feminist ethics. She is past president of the Canadian Philosophical Association and a co-founder of the journal Feminist Philosophy Quarterly. Brennan is an active blogger at Fit Is a Feminist Issue.
“International Women’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate the gains we have made towards a world which realizes the values of gender justice,” she said. “But it’s also a call to not neglect the important struggles remaining.
“We’ve certainly seen this year the ways in which people have been impacted differentially by the pandemic. Let’s make sure we put equality front and centre in the future of our visions for our post-COVID world.”
Dr. Gerarda Darlington, interim dean, College of Engineering and Physical Sciences
Dr. Gerarda Darlington was appointed interim dean of the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences in summer 2020.
Writing recently on the future of STEM education, she said CEPS inspires meaningful change and advancement in the world: “Many of the great global challenges and opportunities facing our society – ethics in artificial intelligence, emerging diseases, climate change and more – require the expertise taught within our college.”
An advocate for improved student learning, she helped create the CEPS education research centre and U of G’s Library Science Commons.
A statistics professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Darlington has received several teaching and mentorship awards. Named as a YMCA-YWCA Woman of Distinction, she has conducted research with groups including the Guelph Family Health Study.
“International Women’s Day provides an important opportunity to celebrate women leaders and reflect on their deeply impactful contributions to the world, particularly at U of G with so many accomplished women faculty and staff, current students and graduates,” she said.
Dr. Lysa Porth, dean, Gordon S. Lang School of Business and Economics
These are important and exciting times for business education at U of G, said Dr. Lysa Porth, named as dean of the Gordon S. Lang School of Business and Economics in fall 2020.
She points to recent extraordinary gifts from Kim and Stu Lang, and from John Wood, namesake of the school’s John F. Wood Centre for Business and Student Enterprise, that enable the school to pursue its vision of business as a force for good.
“International Women’s Day is a chance for all of us to recognize the importance of equality and equity,” said Porth. “Although we have seen significant progress, especially within business, there is still a significant need for us to champion the resilience and leadership of women. I am proud of the work that Lang and the University of Guelph have done to improve this important cause.”
On March 10, the Lang School will co-host the HeForShe at U of G event celebrating gender equality initiatives of students and local businesses.
Other women who are helping lead the University forward include:
Laurie Arnott, assistant vice-president (faculty and academic staff relations)
Laurie Arnott’s experience as an attorney, in human rights and equity, and in faculty relations and university labour issues has proven to be a tremendous asset in her role. In addition to 14 years at U of G, she also was the director of faculty relations at Western University and was legal counsel for employment and human rights at the University of Waterloo. She also taught in the human rights theory and practice certificate program at Osgoode Hall Law School.
Jessica Bowes, assistant vice-president (research innovation and knowledge mobilization)
Jessica Bowes began in this inaugural role in February 2021. A U of G graduate (M.Sc. ’07), she heads the University’s work in knowledge mobilization and commercialization, new venture creation, industry liaison and R&D partnerships, including technology transfer. Previously, she worked at Bioenterprise; was director-at-large for BioTalent Canada; and was a member of the Industry Advisory Committee for the Canadian Wine and Food Institute.
Dr. Carrie Chassels, vice-provost (student affairs)
Dr. Carrie Chassels joined U of G as vice-provost (student affairs) in 2018. During COVID-19, she oversaw initiatives by Student Wellness and Student Life to provide health and wellness programs to engage and support students. In 2020, Maclean’s ranked the University of Guelph as Canada’s top comprehensive university for overall student satisfaction, including top marks for extracurricular activities and residence living.
Dr. Cate Dewey, associate vice-president (academic)
Named associate vice-president (academic) in 2018, Dr. Cate Dewey oversees content, administration and delivery of all undergraduate programs at U of G and its Ridgetown Campus and at the University of Guelph-Humber. A three-time U of G grad and a faculty member in the Ontario Veterinary College since 1995, she chaired the Department of Population Medicine, where she helped redesign the DVM program and led development of the master of public health program.
Dr. Bev Hale, associate vice-president research (agri-food partnership)
A long-time environmental sciences professor, Dr. Bev Hale became associate vice-president research (agri-food partnership) in 2018. She guides U of G’s extensive, world-class agri-food research enterprise and sustains its partnership with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs that provides millions of dollars to support University research and innovation.
Martha Harley, associate vice-president (human resources)
Martha Harley, associate vice-president (human resources), joined U of G in 2005. Under her leadership, the University was named Canada’s top employer among higher education institutions and one of the country’s best employers overall in the 2021 Forbes magazine ranking. “U of G has long been committed to creating a supportive workplace. To see employees speaking highly of their experience here and to be recognized on such a prestigious list is an honour,” she said.
Karina McInnis, associate vice-president (research services)
As U of G’s associate vice-president (research services), Karina McInnis oversees a research enterprise worth more than $150 million a year that ranges from fundamental discovery to turning those discoveries into innovations with global impact. A professional engineer and long-time research administrator, she joined U of G in 2018. In her role, she manages research grants and contracts, oversight and compliance, and various public- and private-sector partnerships. Under her leadership, U of G has strengthened its reputation for research excellence and innovation.
Dr. Karen Menard, associate vice-president (institutional research and planning)
Dr. Karen Menard joined U of G as associate vice-president (institutional research and planning) in 2016. She oversees compilation and presentation of high-level data and statistical information that aids in planning and decision-making across the University. She brought an extensive background in public sector and university administration, planning and analysis from positions at Trillium Health Partners, the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research and McMaster University.
Several of these women leaders will take part in a GenEQ International Women’s Day speakers panel on March 9. Supported by senior leadership, GenEQ is an initiative to advance the status of women at U of G.