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Bridging the Diversity Gap

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

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Five panelilists participating at a virtual panel discussion
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The Empire Club of Canada Presents:
Bridging the Diversity Gap

A collaboration between CivicAction and Empire Club of Canada

Despite being one of the most diverse regions in the world, leadership tables across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) lack racial diversity.

Join us for a conversation where our panel of established leaders will share their own leadership journeys and offer perspective on how to deepen inclusion for Indigenous, Black, and racialized leaders. You’ll also have the chance to learn about CivicAction’s new initiative — BoardShift — that addresses this lack of representation by preparing and matching rising racialized leaders with non-profit, charitable, and public board opportunities.

The content presented is free of charge but please note that the Empire Club of Canada retains copyright. Neither the speeches themselves nor any part of their content may be used for any purpose other than personal interest or research without the explicit permission of the Empire Club of Canada.

Views and Opinions Expressed Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the speakers or panelists are those of the speakers or panelists and do not necessarily reflect or represent the official views and opinions, policy or position held by The Empire Club of Canada.

headshot of The Honourable Ratna Omidvar

The Honourable Ratna Omidvar

Senator for Ontario, The Senate of Canada

Ratna Omidvar is an internationally recognized voice on migration, diversity and inclusion. In April 2016, Ms. Omidvar was appointed to the Senate of Canada as an independent Senator representing Ontario. As a member of the Senate’s Independent Senators Group she holds a leadership position as Liaison. Senator Omidvar also served as Deputy Chair of the Special Senate Committee on the Charitable Sector.

Senator Omidvar has over 30 years of experience working in the charitable sector at senior levels of management as well as serving as a board director and a volunteer. For over 16 years she transformed a small, private foundation – Maytree – into a champion for anti-poverty, diversity and inclusion and immigrant and refugee policy issues. Senator Omidvar has served as a board director and advisor on over 30 charitable boards including public agencies, boards and commissions.

Currently, Senator Omidvar is a Director at the Samara Centre for Democracy, a Councillor on the World Refugee Council, and Chair Emerita for the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council.
Previously at Ryerson University, Senator Omidvar was a Distinguished Visiting Professor and founded the Global Diversity Exchange.

Senator Omidvar was appointed to the Order of Ontario in 2005 and became a Member of the Order of Canada in 2011, with both honours recognizing her advocacy work on behalf of immigrants and devotion to reducing inequality in Canada. She is the co-editor of Five Good Ideas: Practical Strategies for Non-Profit Success (2011).

headshot of Yulena Wan

Yulena Wan

Director, Finance & Operations, Hamilton Community Foundation

Yulena Wan was born, raised, and continues to live in Hamilton, Ontario. She is a Chartered Professional Accountant and works as Director of Finance and Operations at the Hamilton Community Foundation, a leader in philanthropy working to create a vibrant and inclusive city. In addition to HCF’s granting and community leadership, the foundation has established itself as a national leader in the impact investing, social finance, and responsible investing spaces. After many years active on various Boards of Directors, Yulena currently is Treasurer on the Boards of YWCA Canada and SHARE (Shareholder Association for Research & Education). Her involvement with CivicAction began as a DiverseCity Fellow in 2018 and, since then, has also been involved in the ELN, CivicMatch, and BoardShift initiatives.

headshot of Leslie Woo

Leslie Woo

CEO, CivicAction

Leslie Woo CRE® is a respected city leader with over 25 years of experience building sustainable communities and shaping urban development in Canada’s fastest-growing urban region, greater Toronto. Leslie assumed the role of CEO at CivicAction in 2020. CivicAction is a premier civic engagement organization that convenes established and rising leaders from all sectors, backgrounds and experiences, CivicAction catalyzes actions and impactful solutions to address pressing challenges in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area and beyond.

Before joining CivicAction, Leslie was Chief Planning and Development the Greater Golden Horseshoe regional transit authority, Metrolinx, for over a decade. Leslie is a tri-sector athlete with experience in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors as well she is a seasoned urban planner, architect and tireless community activator. She holds Board positions at Womens College Hospital, Yee Hong Centre for Geriatric Care, Waterfront Toronto and the Urban Land Institute’s Curtis Infrastructure Global Advisory Board.

An accomplished leader, Leslie was named a Senior Fellow at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy in 2022, Bisnow’s 2019 Toronto Power Women in Commercial Real Estate, one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women in 2017 by WXN, Spacing Toronto’s Transit Changemaker in 2016 and Canada’s Women’s Infrastructure Network’s 2015 Outstanding Leader. Founder of, Leslie uses her voice and platform to amplify and celebrate other women city builders.

headshot of Daniele Zanotti

Daniele Zanotti

President & CEO, United Way Greater Toronto

With his 20+ years of experience in the public and non-profit sectors, Daniele Zanotti’s work is guided by one core value — to work in and with community across all sectors to fight local poverty. Under his leadership since 2016, United Way Greater Toronto is now the largest United Way in the world and largest funder of social services in the GTA outside of government. Daniele holds a Master of Social Work from the University of Toronto and sits on advisory committees and boards across the region.