This week, the week of International Women's Day, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce published an extensive, data-driven report about women in business leadership and entrepreneurship. The title of that report: "Barely Breaking Ground."

A few statistics that sum up what the Canadian Chamber of Commerce described as the "slow stride" that we've seen:

  • The share of women managers in Canada is 35.6%, which is above the OECD countries' average of 33.7%, but behind nearly half of all those countries (including the United States);
  • Based on recent trends, Canada would not reach equal representation until 2129;
  • In 2023, women made $0.88 for every $1.00 that men made in the same occupations;
By industry, the sector that saw the highest share of women in any management position was healthcare, at 75%, which was over 10% higher than the next-highest sector of education, social, and community services. The report did not include the real estate sector, but the financial and business services sector came in at 53%, engineering and architecture came in at 25%, and construction and facility operation came in at 16%.

The level above management, the Board of Directors, unfortunately has also not faired any better. Between 2016 and 2020, the share of women that served on boards of Canadian companies improved from 18% to 21%. As of 2022, in British Columbia, the share of women that served on boards was at just 20%.

In light of all of that, STOREYS is highlighting a group of women from all corners of BC's real estate industry, including those who work at development companies, non-profit housing providers, real estate investment companies, brokerages, or in government. Several of the women also serve on boards, many of them also involved in other industry groups, and all of them currently hold senior leadership roles within their respective organizations.

Jill Atkey

Current Position: CEO, BC Non-Profit Housing Association

Bio: The non-profit housing sector is an under-discussed component of the overall housing sector, but it's critical because it accounts for the groups of people and communities who may otherwise be feeling the brunt of housing affordability. Supporting and strengthening those non-profit housing providers is BC's Non-Profit Housing Association, at the helm of which is Jill Atkey.

Atkey originally joined the BCNPHA in 2010 as a Research Director, before moving up to Director of Research and Education, then Managing Director, then finally CEO, which is the role she's held since July 2018. She's also a member of the Board of Directors for Chartered Institute of Housing Canada.

Read Jill's witty housing-centric tweets here: Link.

Christine Bergeron

Current Position: President & CEO, Concert Properties

Bio: Bergeron has spent much of her career in the financial sector, including at Shoreline West Asset Management, a hedge fund she co-founded. In the early 2010s, she joined Vancity, the largest credit union in Canada, and worked her way up from Investment Manager to Director of Community Business, then two different Vice President roles, then Chief Member Services Officer, until ultimately becoming President & CEO.

She remains on the Board of Directors for Aviso Wealth, Chair of the InBC Investment Corporation, is a member of UBC Sauder's Faculty Advisory Board, and officially hopped into the real estate world last year, taking the helm of Concert Properties, one of the largest developers of affordable housing in Canada.

Read our extended interview with Bergeron about her new chapter here: Link.

Lilian Chau

Current Position: CEO, Entre Nous Femmes Housing Society

Bio: One of those aforementioned non-profit housing providers is the Entre Nous Femmes Housing Society, which was founded in 1984 by April English, Leslie Stern, and Mia Cross. The organization's name is French for "amongst us women" and, accordingly, is dedicated to improving the lives of single mothers and their children.

At the helm of the organization is now Lilian Chau, who joined the company exactly two years ago this week. Prior to Entre Nous Femmes, Chau was the Director of Community Real Estate for Brightside Community Homes, another non-profit housing provider. Previous stops in her career also included stints as the Community Investment Portfolio Manager of Impact Real Estate at Vancity (while Christine Bergeron was also at the company) and as a planner for the City of Surrey.

Read Chau's Feb 2022 Entre Nous Femmes introductory letter here: Link.

Suzana Goncalves

Current Position: Partner and EVP of Sales & Marketing, MLA Canada

Bio: MLA Canada is one of British Columbia's most-established real estate sales and marketing firms and Goncalves is the Executive Vice President of Sales & Marketing, which is to say she has one of the most important roles. She has overseen the sale of more than 20,000 homes, and anyone who has had a conversation with her about real estate marketing can tell you she has a real passion for it, with the 20 years of experience and knowledge to match, whether it's regarding big developer launch strategies or the small intricacies within sales centres.

Outside of MLA Canada, Goncalves is also a member of the Women of Urban Development Institute (W-UDI), has served on the UDI Education Committee, as well as the U40 Mentorship Program.

Watch Goncalves' regular presale market update videos here: Link.

Carla Guerrera

Current Position: CEO, Purpose Driven Developments

Bio: The aptly-named Purpose Driven Developments' latest project is an affordable housing project in Vancouver geared towards women that will be owned by Soroptimist International of Vancouver, another organization that's dedicated to bettering the lives of women. Purpose Driven has the unique distinction of being essentially an all-female team and they even focused on hiring women when it came to consultants for this latest project.

Purpose Driven Developments was founded by Carla Guerrera in 2011 and has led over $1B in mixed-use real estate developments across Canada. Prior to founding the company, Guerrera also had stints at Darwin Properties, Stantec, Wesgroup Properties, and the CMHC. She's also currently serving as a member of the Board of Directors for both the BC Pavilion Corporation and the Thames Estuary Growth Board, which is guiding the largest growth opportunity in the United Kingdom, with Guerrera being the first international Board member they recruited.

Read our extended interview with Guerrera about her company and their latest project in Vancouver here: Link.

Left to right: Jill Atkey, Christine Bergeron, Lilian Chau, Suzana Goncalves, and Carla Guerrera.Left to right: Jill Atkey, Christine Bergeron, Lilian Chau, Suzana Goncalves, and Carla Guerrera.

Lisa Helps

Current Position: Executive Lead, Project Origination and Process Innovation, BC Builds

Bio: Lisa Helps is perhaps the person that's most recognizable to British Columbians, as she served eight years as the Mayor of Victoria, during which she created the Mayor’s Housing Affordability Task Force. She was the second woman elected as Mayor of Victoria (and was succeeded by the third woman elected as Mayor of Victoria, Marianne Alto), but opted not to run again in 2022.

Since then, he has stepped off of the public stage, but remains deeply involved in housing. In January 2023, she was appointed as a special advisor to Premier David Eby with a focus on developing the then-upcoming BC Builds initiative, eventually transitioning to her current role of Executive Lead of BC Builds. The public-facing politicians get most of the media coverage (the Province declined to make Helps available for an interview), but Helps undoubtedly played an invaluable role in establishing BC Builds.

Read more about Lisa's work at her aptly-named Lisa Helps Cities website here: Link.

Meghan Henselwood

Current Position: Managing Director, Transactions, Manulife Investment Management

Bio: Meghan is currently responsible for acquisition activity across all property types in Western Canada on behalf of Manulife Investment Management's general account and third-party clients. Previously, she served as the Director of Acquisitions at Lotus Capital Corporation, where she oversaw evaluation, negotiation, and contracts — among other things — on investment transactions across Canada. Prior to that, she was a Financial Analyst at CRE brokerage Cushman & Wakefield.

Outside of Manulife, Meghan was recently named the 2024 Chair for CREW Vancouver, the non-profit association of women in the commercial real estate industry. She's been volunteering with CREW Vancouver for four years now and helped create the CREW Leadership Awards.

Hear from Meghan at next week's AMA event that CREW Vancouver is hosting: Link.

Katie Maslechko

Current Position: CEO, Rental Protection Fund

Bio: After spending many years in the private sector with Beedie, beginning as a Development Manager before moving up to Senior Development Manager and then ultimately Director of Development, Katie entered the public sphere last year after she was named the CEO of the newly-created Rental Protection Fund, the provincial government's initiative focused on preserving existing affordable rental housing stock.

Elsewhere, she has also served as a Development Manager at New York-based Civic Builders, a non-profit lender and developer, and also chairs the Urban Land Institute's Public-Private Partnership Product Council, after previously chairing the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Reconciliation committee.

Read our extended interview with Katie about the launch of the Rental Protection Fund here: Link.

Jessica Toppazzini

Current Position: Managing Director, Avison Young Vancouver

Bio: Jessica Toppazzini made history last year when she was named as Managing Director of commercial real estate brokerage Avison Young's Vancouver office, becoming the international company's first female Managing Director in Canada.

She joined Avison Young in January 2022 as a Senior Vice President of the Valuation & Advisory Services team, after spending most of the earlier part of her career in the world of appraisals, at Garnett Wilson Realty Advisors, where she became a Commercial Real Estate Appraiser and then later a Partner at the firm. She's also previously served in several roles with CREW Vancouver and was the 2023 AIC National Conference Chair for the Appraisal Institute of Canada.

Read our interview with Jessica about how she landed in appraisals here: Link.

Wendy Waters

Current Position: Vice President, Research Services & Strategy, GWL Realty Advisors

Bio: If you work in the real estate industry here in British Columbia and you've attended any kind of industry event, there's a pretty decent chance that Wendy Waters will be on the panel, and for good reason. Wendy has been on the research team at GWL Realty Advisors for nearly two decades, starting as a Manager of Analysis and Research Services, before moving up to Senior Director of Portfolio Analysis & Research Services, until ultimately becoming Vice President of Research Services & Strategy in 2019.

Wendy, who has a Ph.D. in History (specializing in 20th century economic development), is also currently a member of the Board of Directors at the Urban Development Institute, where she previously served on the Rental Housing Committee, and also serves on the Steering Committee for the Urban Land Institute, serving as the conduit between the broader ULI organization and the BC chapter.

View Wendy's insightful infographics about commercial real estate and housing development here: Link.

Left to right: Lisa Helps, Meghan Henselwood, Katie Maslechko, Jessica Toppazzini, and Wendy Waters.Left to right: Lisa Helps, Meghan Henselwood, Katie Maslechko, Jessica Toppazzini, and Wendy Waters.