Influential Women in Business Awards celebrate 20 years of recognizing first-rate leadership

Judges put spotlight on women who have demonstrated exceptional business skills and have helped their communities

The diversity of business in Vancouver is nowhere better reflected than in this year’s Influential Women in Business (IWIB) Awards.

This year, the IWIB Awards celebrate their 20th anniversary of recognizing outstanding businesswomen in private or public-sector companies throughout the province. As always, the number and high calibre of nominees for the awards were impressive.

 “This is my first year of judging.… What struck me was the amazing number of nominees; I wasn’t expecting so many,” said Kirsten Sutton, vice-president and managing director of SAP Labs Canada and a previous IWIB winner.

“There was everybody from founding CEOs to heads of human resources, partners in different types of firms to creative directors and marketing…. I was really encouraged that this city has some amazing women in it.”

As a chef turned technical writer turned vice-president, Sutton’s experience has taught her that no matter where you start out, persistence and hard work can carry you anywhere you want to go. Yet IWIB and the judges tasked with selecting award winners have come to know that, while success is important, what a nominee has done with that success is paramount.

IWIB judges hold nominees to specific criteria that not only rank their achievements, success and influence, but also take into account how the nominees have effected change in their communities.

The judges are expected to choose business leaders who take an active role in community involvement, including professional mentorship programs and advocacy that help guide the leaders of tomorrow.

“While your professional achievements are extremely impressive and your ability to have an impact in our city is phenomenal … what is that materializing that into?” Sutton said.

In addition to the five winners who will be honoured March 8 at the IWIB Awards luncheon at the Fairmont Waterfront in Vancouver, one woman will take home the Michelle Pockey Leadership Award (see story below).

Choosing the winners from an always impressive field of nominees can be tricky business.

“I have been a judge in past years, including last year, and the candidates for the BIV Influential Women in Business Awards are always strong,” said Cybele Negris, co-founder and CEO of “To whittle down the list to just five winners plus one Lifetime Achievement Award is quite a task.”

Negris, who received an IWIB Award in 2010, firmly believes in the importance of self-improvement, particularly through community participation.

While women in business leadership roles have been helping to close the gender gap across the country, much remains to be accomplished.

“I would like to see the day when we would be having one award ceremony and we don’t need to put a spotlight specifically on women – it will just be whoever is best at it – but today, we still need to encourage, nurture, mentor and support women of all backgrounds and diversities,” said IWIB judge Karimah Es Sabar, CEO and partner at Quark Venture Inc. and a 2016 IWIB Award recipient.

According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2018, the average distance completed to gender parity is 68%, meaning there is still a 32% average gender gap that remains to be closed.

Iceland is the most gender-equal country, with 85% of its overall gender gap closed. Norway is next at 83.5%, followed by Sweden and Finland, both at 82.2%. North America reaches roughly 72.5% gender parity.

“Women are part of the new economy creating new kinds of businesses and jobs and opportunities – the gig economy, the tech economy, the innovation-driven economy – and so they are very much part of the new world,” Es Sabar said. “We are seeing these kinds of new businesses coming into the pipeline, and when you are looking at [IWIB] candidates, you are looking at new kinds of businesses creating opportunity.” •

Join us to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Influential Women in Business Awards March 8 at the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel. For ticketing and full event information, visit