6 Women Who Rock honoured with awards recognizing contributions and community impact

A police officer breaking down barriers, an immigrant working to make Canada more welcoming for newcomers and a student finding new ways to address gender-based violence are among the 2021 Women Who Rock.

Awards share women's 'remarkable' stories, says founder

The sixth annual Woman Who Rock awards were handed out on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021. (Supplied by Women Who Rock)

A police officer breaking down barriers, an immigrant working to make Canada more welcoming for newcomers and a student finding new ways to address gender-based violence are among the 2021 Women Who Rock.

The sixth annual Women Who Rock Awards were handed out on Sunday.

The awards recognize the contributions women make to Canada and honour local women making a "lasting impact in the community or their field of endeavour," according to the organization's website.

"Women's History Month seems to pass in our community with little or no recognition," wrote Evelyn Myrie, the founder of the program, in an email.

The awards are one way to celebrate women and the various ways they're making their communities stronger, she said.

"These stories of women's remarkable contributions to our community and society ought to be shared."

Thirty-two women were nominated. The following six took home awards.

Treena MacSween

Supt. Treena MacSween. (Supplied by Women Who Rock)

Treena MacSween is a superintendent with Hamilton police, the first Black woman to hold that role and one of only four women to reach that level within the service, according to the award organization.

She's set up mentorship programs for other female officers to remove barriers and help them grow, but her work isn't limited to the department, raising funds for the Special Olympics and breast cancer research.

"As a senior female in a male dominated profession, she faces barriers every day," read a portion of the letter written by her nominator. "She does so with humility, grace, and integrity. She is absolutely a Woman Who Rocks!"

Shilpa Tiwari

Shilpa Tiwari. (©2020 Michael Cooper)

Shilpa Tiwari grew up in Stoney Creek, but her career as an executive has taken her around the works, from Africa and Asia to North and Latin America.

Along the way, she's led initiatives pushing for sustainability and diversity and inclusion at several organizations.

She's the founder of Her Climb, a podcast aimed at increasing the number of women of colour in executive and senior roles in corporations across North America.

Sandy Biback

Sandy Biback. (DonnaSantos@copyright2017)

Sandy Biback is a teacher and mentor with decades of experience.

In 2017, she founded Meeting Professionals Against Human Trafficking, a group  of conference and event planners who share information and knowledge about the human trafficking that takes place on hotel properties.

"This initiative saves lives," reads her profile shared by the Women Who Rock Awards. Its mission: to raise awareness about human trafficking as sexual exploitation."

Maddie Brockbank

Maddie Brockbank. (Supplied by Women Who Rock)

Maddie Brockbank is a PhD student at McMaster University's School of Social Work who specializes in men's violence prevention.

She began her studies in 2015 and, in the years that followed, built up community connections and led numerous projects seeking to address gender-based violence and to make classrooms safer for marginalized students.

The awards organization described Brockbank as an "untiring force of volunteerism, activism, innovative research and practice," noting she's won scholarships, awards and was named a "Hamilton Hero" by the Ticats in 2018.

Gabriela Covaci

Gabriela Covaci. (Supplied by Women Who Rock)

Gabriela Covaci came to Canada from Romania in 2003. Since that time, she's worked to make the transition to Canada easier for newcomer families.

Her work includes founding a non-for-profit dedicated to helping multicultural families with children born in Canada and coordinating a project marking the 100th year of International Women's Day.

"Gabriela continues to be a champion of the downtrodden, indefatigable volunteer whose motto of 'never give up' holds true and showing the way of how a committed citizen can actively make a positive difference in their community," reads her award description.

Tracey Taylor-O'Reilly

Tracey Taylor-O'Reilly. (Banko Media Inc. 2015)

Tracey Taylor-O'Reilly had been director of McMaster's Centre for Continuing Education for 15 years and is the founding chief executive of York University's School of Continuing Studies.

Through that work she has reimagined the role of universities and the way they can serve adult learners to meet their growing needs and the changing demands of the workforce.

Taylor-O'Reilly's efforts didn't stop during the pandemic, where she helped set up an emergency benefit relief program and an emergency bursary for York students struggling because of COVID-19's impact.