Anita Layton from the Faculty of Mathematics has been named among the top 100 powerful women in Canada in the annual rankings released by the Women’s Executive Network (WXN).
Layton is the Canada 150 Research Chair in mathematical biology and medicine, associate dean of research and international in the Faculty of Mathematics, professor of applied mathematics, computer science, pharmacy and biology and the chair of the university’s research equity, diversity and inclusion council.
WXN rankings are widely seen as a measure of exceptional impact for leadership in business, public administration and government, research, the arts and community advocacy. Past winners include the novelist Margaret Atwood, Canada’s first woman astronaut Roberta Bondar and former governor general Michaëlle Jean.
“It’s a real honour to be named among such company,” Layton said. “It’s also something that means I can do more for the community, for other women and for other under-represented groups as well. I look forward to knowing more people in Canada doing similar work and having a network that I can tap into. Being able to connect to a bigger network with people who have similar goals, I think it would magnify each of our abilities to do good.”
Although the WXN rankings designate the most powerful women in Canada, the organization takes a somewhat unconventional approach to defining power. Whereas other rankings may understand power to be a measure of wealth, status or physical strength, WXN sees power as grounded in compassion, giving, humility and the promotion of collective wellbeing.
“I really like how the organization frames itself and its objectives,” said Layton. “It’s about empowering others. One thing I love about my work at Waterloo, and part of why I think WXN picked me here, is the goal of my work in the mathematics office of research. The dean supported me with resources that I could use to help others. That’s the kind of thing I want to do, to help other researchers and to promote their careers.”
As part of its mandate, WXN sets out to support equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in senior leadership throughout professional and public life in Canada. The organization also hosts professional development workshops and produces research on women in the workforce, EDI and women in leadership in Canadian companies.
Layton has been dedicated to supporting women and girls in STEM fields for years. She is a mainstay in the Women in Math Committee and the Women in Computer Science Committee at Waterloo. She was also recently elected a fellow of the Association for Women in Mathematics. In her administrative roles in the Faculty of Mathematics, she has taken on work to further EDI initiatives, including a recent push for more diversity in faculty and staff positions.
“The dean and the faculty and all the departments are working hard to hire more diverse faculty members,” she said. “I’m so happy to be supporting that work. We very recently even created a new position for a Faculty of Mathematics equity officer. It’s not an easy thing, but I know everyone really has their heart in it and I’m optimistic about where we go from here.”
Layton was among five Waterloo women named as winners in the 2021 WXN list. Other winners include former dean of engineering Pearl Sullivan, who received a special in memoriam award; swimming coach Jacqueline Beckford-Henriques from Waterloo Athletics; Suzanne Kearns, the director of the newly launched Waterloo Institute for Sustainable Aeronautics (WISA); and Carolyn Ren, a professor of mechanical and mechatronics engineering and the director of the Waterloo Microfluidics Laboratory.