As we celebrate International Women’s Day, join us to honour seven alumni who have inspired, empowered and changed lives. Read on to meet women from Waterloo who are making headlines and inspiring the next generation of female leaders.

Helping stroke victims regrow parts of their brains

Kiara To Kiara Bruggeman (BASc ’12, BSc ’13), science is magic. She and her team at Australian National University are creating materials that tell stem cells to act like brain cells, which helps replace damaged tissue for stroke victims.

With her colourful, bright hair and stripey leggings, Kiara doesn’t look like a typical scientist or academic. Instead, she encourages her students to find and follow “what makes them enthusiastic” and shows us the importance of staying true to yourself. She’s also part of government initiatives to heighten visibility of women in STEM.

Giving women a platform to speak about ‘baby blues’ through tutus

Sarah and her daughter When Sarah Cheng (BAFM ’08, MAcc ’09) entered the Dragons’ Den, she was accompanied with her five-year-old daughter and was eight months pregnant. Her pitch? Funding for her apparel company, Bluish, which gives women a platform to share their stories of new motherhood and postpartum depression without fear or judgement. Sarah ended up winning the competition and used this funding to accelerate her company, which she launched while on maternity leave with her first child.

Empowering Indigenous businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic

TabathaIt’s no secret that Canadian businesses have lost revenue during the pandemic, and Aboriginal businesses have been hit especially hard. Besides, many Indigenous communities are remote, lack clean water, face housing shortages and inadequate health-care and run a higher risk of COVID-19 outbreaks.

Tabatha Bull (BASc ’00), who is Anishinaabe and a member of Nipissing First Nation, is on a mission to empower these Indigenous communities. As the CEO of Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB), they provide tools, networking and programs that can grow the Indigenous economy. As well, they helped dispense medical supplies and personal protective equipment for Aboriginal businesses to operate safely.  In March, she and five other national Indigenous economic organizations requested Prime Minister Trudeau to allocate funding for Aboriginal businesses. This led to the federal government providing $306 million in funding for Aboriginal business and ended up supporting 6,000 businesses.

You’re smarter than you think you are. Go find a good podcast or something about Imposter Syndrome and show yourself that you have it so you can get past it. Women tend to think that they’re not worthy of doing something more often than men

Dr. Jeanette Boudrea, Assistant Professor, University of Dalhousie 

Breaking the cycle for women in Uganda

Anna of SheCycleEven though menstruation is a natural and human function, many women worldwide lack access to adequate facilities and resources and face cultural stigma. In fact, if a girl in Uganda miss school because of her period, it can hinder her education and lead to health consequences.  Anna Kuepfer (BSc ’20) co-founded SheCycle, a sustainable company that creates infection-free, antimicrobial reusable menstrual pads. Inspired by a volunteer trip to Uganda, Anna co-founded this company with Leah Wouda (BES ’20) and Abigail Loewen, a Laurier student. In 2019 they have won the World’s Challenge grand prize of $30,000 and plan to collaborate with schools and locals in Uganda to execute their goals of menstrual health for all.

Fighting climate change through friendship

Dominique Souris (BES ’16, MA ’18) and Ana González Guerrero (BES ’15) co-founded the Youth Climate LabYouth Climate Lab (YCL), an organization that inspires youth to act in climate policy and climate entrepreneurship in more than 80 countries. Dominique was involved with the United Nations and Ana came from a grassroots background. The pair came together over drinks at a campus club. Working together, they brought very different knowledge and experiences to the organization, which worked to their advantage.

Teaching women to be unapologetic about their accomplishments

Dr. Jeanette BoudreauDr. Jeanette Boudreau (BSC '05) is an Assistant Professor at the University of Dalhousie for Departments of Microbiology & Immunology and Pathology. Not only does she teach more than 150 pupils but she mentors eight students under her research. Her main piece of advice for young women in STEM? “You’re smarter than you think you are. Go find a good podcast or something about Imposter Syndrome and show yourself that you have it so you can get past it. Women tend to think that they’re not worthy of doing something more often than men”. She wants to teach women "to be unapologetic about their accomplishments” while making breakthroughs in immunology.

Started university at 14 and is now transforming global health

Ebele Mogo Ebele Mogo (BSc ’09) started university at 14, which is impressive and also daunting to do at such a young age. Combined with leaving her home country Nigeria and encountering a completely new culture and country, Mogo underwent a lot of challenges. However, she overcame them and is now a public health researcher at the University of Cambridge. She’s also the co-founder of Engage Africa Foundation, a non-profit organization that fights non-communicable diseases in Africa, including heart disease and diabetes. As of now, Engage Africa Foundation has translated COVID-19 health information into 19 African languages.