MRO Magazine

AWIM 2024: Celebrating Women in Canadian Manufacturing

Advance Women in Manufacturing 2024 virtual event recently took place, shedding light on the significant contributions and challenges faced by women in the Canadian manufacturing sector.

April 2, 2024 | By Maryam Farag

Organized by Annex Business Media’s manufacturing brands, the event brought together industry leaders, professionals, and advocates to recognize the invaluable contributions of women in the manufacturing sector.

Inspirational success stories of women excelling in various roles within the manufacturing industry were showcased, including the story of the keynote speaker, Anika Sawni, founder and chief brand officer of Grüvi.

“No matter your role, how you got there, there’s always going to be moments where we are challenged, where we are pushed to our limits, and ultimately, we become more resilient because of it,” said Sawni.

Drawing from her own experiences as a leader, Sawni shared insights and examples about how she learned to stand up to fear and embrace vulnerability to help navigate the challenges of building the award-winning company Gruvi, a line of craft brewed alcohol-free beers and wines.


“Every day I’m learning to grow and build that muscle of resiliency,” said Sawni. “The key to unlocking embracing vulnerability is the secret weapon to really move through fears and hardships.”

Another presentation took place, focused on igniting opportunities through skill building and mentorship, by Mary Fuke, program manager at CWB Welding Foundation. Fuke discussed the CWB Foundation’s Women of Steel initiative and how women across Canada have broken barriers and sought fulfilling and engaging careers in industry.

“We’ve been doing our Women of Steel program since approximately 2019, started out as 30-hour workshops where women would come in and learn about welding, learn about the careers and then actually try out welding, because one of the most scariest things is definitely striking that first arc, getting to play with fire in the shop, so we wanted to make it more relaxing and more comfortable,” said Fuke.

These stories told by Sawni and Fuke served to inspire attendees and highlight the diverse career paths available in manufacturing.

An “Inspiring inclusion” panel of accomplished women leaders took place, featuring Hang Tran, innovation technical product manager at ATS Corporation; Sarab Hans, president at Hans Dairy; and Anne-Marie Pham, CEO at Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion.

The panel discussed challenges faced by women in the Canadian manufacturing sector, as well as practical approaches and solutions.

“One of the biggest challenges is that we don’t have enough representation of women at the leadership table to be able to actually implement systemic change,” said Pham. “Minister MacLaren said women still only get paid 88 cents on the dollar for what men get paid, so we still don’t have equal pay for equal work right now and that applies to the manufacturing sector.”

Panellists explored different strategies and effective workplace policies such as mentorship programs, leadership development initiatives and creating a supportive ecosystem throughout.

“If you don’t have an initiative saying, ‘I want to bring more women’, it is not something that’s discriminatory, it’s something that’s necessary,” said Hans. “Because sometimes women don’t even see themselves in those positions. If I’m in heavy manufacturing, when I put my request for an open position out there, women may not apply, so having that initiative to say ‘listen, I can bring you in here, maybe this is something that suits you’, I think it’s necessary to allow women to explore different fields that they previously were excluded from.”

Interactive workshops and skill-building sessions focused on topics such as leadership development, negotiation strategies, and technical skills enhancement. These sessions provided practical tools and resources for women to thrive and succeed in their careers, including a workshop on “Unlocking high performance”, guided by Lauren Ritchie, high performance coach, career coach, and recruiter.

Ritchie explored the individual and collective elements required for sustained growth, engagement, and performance by exploring the pillars of high performance. According to Ritchie, rooted in the world’s largest study, these six pillars— psychology, physiology, productivity, persuasion, presence, and purpose are the key areas influencing sustained success.

She engaged the audience through live polls and exercises, to “know how to master six key areas in their life known as the pillars of high performance,” said Ritchie. “The study showed no correlation between performance and gender, age, race, religion, it merely showed that people who are able to achieve above standard norms in their life and their career excel in these six areas.”

Another panel discussion on amplifying voices and empowering communication took place, featuring Jenny Bourdeau, VP of supply chain at CertainTeed Canada; Mariela Castano-Kunst, SVP and COO at Kunst Solutions; and Sarah Mackinnon, co-CEO and CFO at Delta-Q Technologies.

“As a company looking to promote diversity, it is so important as leaders within that company to provide those opportunities,” said Mackinnon. “We look for opportunities to bring the women of Delta-Q together to provide mentorship and coaching, and to the men as well of course. I think if we want to create this diverse culture – bring more women into the workplace – we as Leaders absolutely need to drive that as well and provide those opportunities to employees and make it a priority.”

This session explored mentorship and advocacy, shedding light on the ways in which women can proactively champion their own voices and cultivate strong alliances to foster career advancement. Speakers shared self-advocacy strategies and discussed how to build a network of supportive allies.

“At CertainTeed, we very recently launched this campaign that we call ‘empowered’ and it’s because we didn’t have a lot of examples of women throughout the company,” said Bourdeau. “This allowed us to showcase different career progression, and that allows us and anyone from an employee on the shop floor to a leadership level to showcase the amazing job that women are doing within the company and some of the non-traditional career paths that they’re taking.”

Advance Women in Manufacturing 2024 succeeded in showcasing the remarkable achievements and resilience of women in the industry. Through insightful discussions, inspirational talks, and collaborative networking, the event reinforced the importance of gender diversity and inclusion in driving innovation, growth, and sustainability within Canadian manufacturing. As attendees departed, they carried with them a renewed sense of empowerment and determination to create a more equitable and inclusive future for all.

To view the on-demand sessions, please visit


Stories continue below

Print this page