• Emily Mathison

The Women We Admire

This story is written by Humaira Ahmed, Emily Mathison and Shelley Voyer - team Herstory. The last few weeks have been filled with hope and excitement as US Vice President Elect, Kamala Harris, shows women everywhere the possibilities and opportunities we can strive for. Keeping that momentum alive, this week in Herstory., we are highlighting three Canadian women our team admires. 

Humaira admires: Alison Twiner

Alison Twiner is an Advisor at Relentless Venture Fund, Vice Chair at Heart and Stroke Foundation and Advisor/Investor to early stage-tech companies. She has built and led high performing sales, marketing and client solutions teams that drive growth in a changing digital and mobile world. I met Alison Twiner in March, 2019 at a Female Founders and Funders event in Vancouver. She was one of the panelists sharing her insights as an angel investor. When the host, Jill Earthy, former Head of Female Funders, introduced Alison, I knew I had to somehow connect with her. Her intro went something like this:  “Alison Twiner has recently left Facebook where she was Group Director, Global Marketing Solutions and worked at Google prior to that in a similar capacity. Alison has now ventured out into the world of angel investing and she is looking to invest in digital health tech companies.” That was pure music to my ears. As someone who was still in very early stages of building my own platform Locelle, all I could think of was how amazing it would be to have Alison as my mentor and advisor. I reached out to Alison via LinkedIn the following week to connect, and to my surprise, I heard back immediately — within an hour of my request. We set up an intro call and I remember having my first conversation with her at a coffee shop in Victoria, BC. As I excitedly shared my vision with her, I could feel the enthusiasm she had for what I was building. Having sensed that, I immediately asked her to be my mentor and without a single ounce of hesitation, she said yes. We would meet every month and she was patient in learning more about Locelle and gave her candid feedback on how to progress. Not only that, she started to champion our brand at every event, shared with me insights about what angel investors look for, how we can form strategic partnerships and most importantly, made time for me whenever I needed a sounding board in challenging times, and God knows that would be a lot of times. One of the biggest things Alison has done for me and many other entrepreneurs, is her ability to listen and provide feedback and insights that are helpful! She not only listens with curiosity, but helps steer in the direction that aligns with my values. She silently supports people she believes in and makes time. This world truly needs more Alisons who listen, support and champion people building great technology that has the opportunity to make the world a better place.

Relentless Venture Fund:

Heart and Stroke Foundation: 

Alison's LinkedIn:

Emily admires: Maayan Ziv

Maayan Ziv, from Toronto, Ontario, is the founder and CEO of AccessNow, a mobile app that crowdsources accessibility information for locations around the world. Maayan herself lives with Muscular Dystrophy and is passionate about improving accessibility and equality for people with disabilities. I don't know Maayan personally, but I admire her approach to advocacy and solving accessibility issues. She's addressing this inequity in a way that encourages others not affected by lack of accessibility to get on board and support those who do. Watch her Vice interview here, you'll see what I mean.  Maayan founded AccessNow during her Master’s program after she planned to go for a drink with some classmates, but needed to know if the bar was accessible. She was frustrated that this information wasn’t readily available online, “there are apps for everything, you can literally search how much the beer is going to be that night [...], find out anything about that place, but you can’t find out if it’s accessible.” AccessNow uses crowdsourcing to collect and share accessibility information through their interactive AccessNow Map. So far, they have accessibility pins in 34 countries, and their mission is to map every city across the world. You can also go on a MapMission to join in.  While Maayan advises the Government of Canada on disability and inclusion issues, she believes change happens more quickly through community collaboration, rather than waiting for larger institutions to (literally) remove barriers. I admire the humour she brings to disability issues, and I think it will spark better conversations and create a more inclusive world.  Maayan has received the Women’s Executive Network’s Top 100 Award celebrating rising stars, the City of Toronto Access Award, Startup Canada’s National Resilient Entrepreneur of the Year Award, the Governor General Innovation Award, and many, many more. Maayan is an entrepreneur, activist and trailblazer to keep your eyes on. 

Watch Maayan’s interview with Vice:

AccessNow website and app download:

Maayan’s LinkedIn:

Shelley admires: Shannon Byrne Susko

I have so many women I admire in my life — really every woman to me is an inspiration. I feel women are the glue holding us all together. So to pick just one woman is hard. I admire both Humaira and Emily who give so much to Herstory. I also have a bestie, Suzanne Williams, an accomplished child rights and family lawyer who gives me the best advice — how do some people just boil down a problem to its essence? I admire Arlene Dickinson, who I once exchanged emails with and now follow on my very limited social media accounts. She seems like a lovely person, but I don’t know her.

In my work with W Venture, I’ve met Shannon Byrne Susko and I find her to be a remarkable person. Shannon is the CEO coach and advisor at Metronome United, which provides business growth coaching for CEOs. She gave her time to W Venture to help emerging women-led startups advance, and I think it’s fair to say, she loved it. There’s something about women lifting up other women that just brings out the best in all of us. I appreciate Shannon’s time and interest in really digging in to help each entrepreneur do her best to find a path forward. She is authentic and generous with her talents and time, a similar quality I see from Arlene Dickinson (as I lurk). 

Maybe it's my skeptical nature, but I’m surprised when an uber-successful person takes the time to listen and reply. Shannon has seen much success, she’s sold two startups for gazillions — one was a significant acquisition in BC at the time — written two books, and won more awards than I can list. It's fair to say she’s set a few mile markers in her career. But what I admire most is she appreciates what it’s like to be a woman leading a start-up, swinging for the fences, and the enormous juggle that entails. The compromises each of us will have to make to get there — family and work are not the best of friends. But it’s these ladies, Kamala included, that show us a path forward, perhaps even a better one than we could have imagined. 

Shannon’s LinkedIn:

Metronome United website:

Are there any women you admire that we should learn about? We would love to hear from you - and possibly share herstory.

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Until next week.

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