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5 Black women to be honoured at Top 25 Women of Influence Awards in Toronto

The organization's Lifetime Achievement Award recipient is Senator Dr. Wanda Thomas Bernard, a highly regarded social worker, educator, researcher, community activist, and advocate for social change.

5 Black women to be honoured at Top 25 Women of Influence Awards in Toronto
Senator Dr. Wanda Thomas Bernard will be honoured with a lifetime achievement award from Women of Influence+, an organization that promotes gender equity. TWITTER PHOTO 

Women of Influence+, an organization that promotes gender equity, has announced its honourees for its annual Top 25 Women of Influence Awards, which will be held in Toronto April 4.

Four Black women were among those selected. Meanwhile, its Lifetime Achievement Award recipient is Senator Dr. Wanda Thomas Bernard — a highly regarded social worker, educator, researcher, community activist, and advocate for social change.

Bernard is the first African Nova Scotian to hold a tenure-track position at Dalhousie University and its first full-time Black professor. Furthermore, she is a recipient of the Order of Nova Scotia and the Order of Canada.

“We are thrilled to be honouring and celebrating the remarkable work of this year's recipients,” Dr. Rumeet Billan, CEO of Women of Influence+, said in a statement. “Each woman on this year's list has made their mark in the past year, whether by spearheading initiatives for the greater good, achieving inspiring feats on a global scale, or utilizing their influence to effect tangible change.

“Our list includes women from all walks of life who have dedicated their work to breaking boundaries, setting new standards, and rewriting the narrative of what is possible. We are excited to shine a spotlight on their achievements and know that their stories will inspire others and future generations.”

Elvalyn Brown, Black Ontario Public Service Employees (BOPSers) Network


Brown founded a forum that provides public service employees with information, methods for problem-solving, the promotion of best practices, and the formulation of policy, and is one of Ontario's brightest stars, according to a statement.

After encountering a toxic work environment, a lack of career advancement, and punishment by management who tried to stunt her growth, Brown helped create the Black Ontario Public Service Employees (BOPSers) Network — not just for herself, but for other Black Ontario Public Service employees.

In 2022, Brown helped establish a Black Equity Branch. Her efforts have helped tackle anti-racism, diversity, and accessibility, and she has significantly contributed to the BOPS' recognition as one of Canada's Top 25 Diversity Employers.

Natalie Evans Harris, co-founder and head of strategic initiatives of BrightHive


After spending 16 years at the National Security Agency leading an analytics development centre, and 18 months with the Obama administration as a senior policy advisor to the U.S. chief technology officer, Evans Harris founded BrightHive.

The company is a data trust platform that delivers data collection, governance, and integration products to social services providers, allowing for better access to and usability of social sector data.

In 2022, Evans Harris became the executive director of the Black Wealth Data Center (BWDC). The platform and comprehensive repository that addresses Black wealth data and its inaccessibility.

As part of her role, she leads the company's efforts to centralize information and build a network of leaders, organizations, and scholars who are empowered to raise the standard on the collection, quality, and accessibility of reliable racial wealth equity data, according to a statement.

Paulette Senior, president and CEO of the Canadian Women’s Foundation


With a strong background in social services, Paulette Senior has worked and provided support in some of Toronto’s most underserved neighbourhoods.

Senior has served as CEO of the Young Women’s Christian Association of Canada (YWCA) Canada for 10 years before joining the Canadian Women’s Foundation as CEO in 2016, a statement reads.

Throughout 2022, as CWF CEO, Paulette secured more than $50 million in visionary grants for gender justice to help grassroots organizations combat gender-based domestic violence.

Additionally, Paulette was appointed as a member of the Supreme Court Independent Advisory Board, which resulted in Michelle O’Bonsawin being appointed as the first Indigenous Justice to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Haben Girma, human rights lawyer


Haben Girma is the first deafblind person to graduate from Harvard Law School. Named by President Obama named as a White House Champion of Change, Girma advocates for people with different abilities.

In her memoir, “Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law”, she shares stories from her childhood and young adulthood and why she advocates fiercely for one of the largest historically underrepresented groups in the world.

She received the Helen Keller Achievement Award, a spot on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list, and TIME100 Talks. Moreover, she has been recognized for her consulting and public speaking work on accessibility, diversity, and leadership.