Nova Scotia

Former IWK CEO in expense scandal made top powerful women list

Tracy Kitch stepped down in August before an audit found she expensed $47K in personal charges.

Tracy Kitch stepped down in August before audit found she expensed $47K in personal charges

Former IWK CEO Tracy Kitch made the list for Canada's Most Powerful Women, an award created by the Women's Executive Network. (Career Women Interaction)

The Women's Executive Network removed Tracy Kitch from its top powerful women list. Read the updated story here. 

The former CEO of the IWK Health Centre has made the list of Canada's Most Powerful Women, an award created by the Women's Executive Network.

The network is an international organization that says it's dedicated to the advancement and recognition of women in management, executive, professional and board roles.

A spokesperson for the organization confirmed Tracy Kitch made the top 100 list before she was being investigated for charging personal expenses to the IWK Health Centre, a women and children's hospital in Halifax.

"In this case, the nominee was nominated, part of the judging process and ultimately selected as an award winner prior to the outstanding investigation and her subsequent resignation," said Sherri Stevens, CEO of PhaseNyne, the parent company of the Women's Executive Network, in an email.

Not on the list

As of Tuesday evening, Sarah Fournier — who works for a public relations firm representing Women's Executive Network — confirmed Kitch is still a winner. But when the full list of recipients was released Wednesday morning, Kitch's name was not included.

"We hope this news does not cast a negative light on the remarkable women we are celebrating this year," the Women's Executive Network later wrote on Twitter Tuesday evening.

Kitch will not be attending the awards gala in Toronto scheduled for Thursday, the Women's Executive Network confirmed.

Expense scandal

Kitch stepped down from her post as chief executive officer in late August — one week before an independent audit found she expensed about $47,000 in personal charges to the IWK for things like air travel, hotel costs, data overages and car rentals.

The revelations about expense practices at the IWK Health Centre led to Tracy Kitch's resignation. (Shaina Luck/CBC)

Some of Kitch's expenses had been repaid by the time she resigned, but the hospital board had asked that the outstanding balance be repaid by the end of September.

Nova Scotia's auditor general has since announced his office will examine the IWK's books and practices, and the hospital's board has referred the matter of Kitch's expenses to Halifax Regional Police.

In October, the IWK confirmed Kitch had repaid the remaining $9,720.39 in outstanding personal expenses

Calls to rescind

Since news broke that Kitch would be receiving the award, there were swift calls on social media for the Women's Executive Network to rescind it.

Calls on Twitter to the Women's Executive Network to rescind Tracy Kitch's award

'It should be taken away'

Debby Carreau, CEO and founder of InspiredHR, was inducted into the Women's Executive Network's hall of fame in 2016 after making the top 100 list four years in a row.

She said she thinks Kitch's award should be rescinded, saying the controversy is taking away from the other recipients' achievements.

Debby Carreau, CEO and founder InspiredHR, was inducted in the Women's Executive Network's hall of fame in 2016 after making the top 100 list four years in a row. (CBC)

"I just liken it to the Olympic Games or any other awards out there where if a person achieves something — when they're in the public eye — if they're no longer worthy of it, it should be taken away," said Carreau.

"If there's enough information that this person is truly not a role model and should not be up there representing us as one of the country's most powerful women, they should feel comfortable to say we're going to pass on the award for this year and leave it at that."

How Kitch made the list

Stevens said nominees are chosen through an independent judging process based on the role they held between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31 of the prior year.

While all nominees are "judged and vetted based on a detailed rubric," Kitch made the cut because she was selected before her investigation and subsequent resignation.

The top 100 awards are meant to pay tribute to the "outstanding women across Canada who have advocated for diversity in the workforce" and "who serve as an inspiration for the next generation of leaders," Fournier wrote in the initial news release about the announcement.

Kitch was a recipient of the award in 2016 in the PwC public sector leaders category for her work at the IWK.

Halifax winners

Four women from Halifax made the most powerful list in the following categories:

  • Kelly Williamson, Lt.-Cmdr. with the Canadian Armed Forces, public affairs, Maritime Forces, Atlantic - BMO Arts & Communications.
  • Laurel Broten, president and CEO at Nova Scotia Business Inc. - CIBC Trailblazers & Trendsetters.
  • Ulrike Bahr-Gedalia, president and CEO at Digital Nova Scotia - RBC Champions.
  • Maike van Niekerk, founder and CEO of Katrin's Karepackage - Telus Future Leaders.

About the Author

Anjuli Patil


Anjuli Patil is a reporter and occasional video journalist with CBC Nova Scotia's digital team.

With files from Raffy Boudjikanian