Board of Directors
Joanna Kerr is President and CEO of Tides Canada, a leading national charity that enables community-led transformation advancing environmental, social, and economic justice in Canada. Joanna led Greenpeace Canada as Executive Director, working to stop climate change and protect precious biodiversity while supporting Indigenous rights. She served as the first female Chief Executive of ActionAid International working in 50 countries with the most marginalized communities to tackle inequality. She also led the Association for Women’s Rights in Development, transforming it into one of the most significant global feminist conveners and influencers on funding for gender equality.
Joanna has held senior positions with Oxfam Canada—where she spearheaded its women and climate campaign—and the North-South Institute, where she was researching, writing and influencing international policy and processes for women’s rights and empowerment as a Senior Researcher throughout the 1990s. Some of her publications include The Future of Women’s Rights (Zed Press co-edited with Ellen Sprenger) Ours by Right: Women’s Rights are Human Rights (Zed Press) and Demanding Dignity: Women confronting Economic Reforms in Africa (North South Institute co-edited with Dzodzi Tsikata).
Joanna has served on numerous boards including Gender at Work, The Nobel Women’s Initiative, the Society for International Development and CIVICUS. Joanna Kerr holds a BA from the University of Toronto and an MA in Gender and Development from the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK. A Canadian, she has lived in Tanzania, Ghana, South Africa, Germany and the UK and has worked across Africa, Latin America, Europe and Asia.
Currently, a Senior Director with the Government of Canada, Maxine Ifill has held executive level positions in the Federal Public Service since 2006. Maxine has ten years of private sector business marketing experience, managing quarterly marketing campaigns with Bell Canada and conducting national customer research studies with Canada Post. She is a former co-chair of the Black History Ottawa committee and a former board member of the Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre. Maxine holds an MBA in marketing and international business from McGill University as well as a Bachelor of Science with Honours in Biochemistry from the University of Ottawa.
Mebrat is an Eritrean, born in Ethiopia and raised in Montreal. She is a mother, community developer, teacher, and singer known for her passion, enthusiasm, and energy. As executive director of WISH and co-chair of Living in Community, Mebrat supports women and initiatives related to the health and safety of women engaged in street-based sex work. She has worked in social justice, and non-profit management and community development for over twenty years. Mebrat has worked closely with women and women-serving organizations as a Programs Officer with Status of Women Canada; and served as executive director of PeerNetBC. In a volunteer capacity, Mebrat sits on the Boards of Pivot Legal Society and MATCH International Women’s Fund; serves on the City of Vancouver’s Black History Month Planning Committee, and also volunteers with the Vancouver Youth Choir. She lives in East Van, doing as much singing, adventuring and plotting with her son…much to their cat’s chagrin.
Susan Lewis has been dedicated to the United Way movement since 1974 when she began working as a Campaign Manager at United Way of Winnipeg, ultimately assuming the role of President in 1985. Susan retired in November 2014 after over four decades of dedicated service to her community. As a CEO, she challenged the status quo and in the mid-1990s launched a transformational change process that led to a new vision and a new operating model and restructured every functional area of United Way of Winnipeg. In 2006, Susan led the formation of the Winnipeg Poverty Reduction Council which included leadership from all sectors working together to address in real and measurable ways some of Winnipeg’s toughest issues. Susan has served on many boards and advisory councils and continues to do so in her retirement.
Marissa Wesely is the Chief Executive Officer of Win-Win Strategies, a non-profit social enterprise that connects the power of business with the deep assets of women’s organizations to empower women globally. Win-Win Strategies grew out of the Win-Win Coalition, a global network of companies, women’s organizations, and foundations, for which Marissa acted as Coordinator until assuming her current role. Marissa has served as an Advisor to the “Path to Empowerment” series hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Corporate Citizenship Center, and was a 2014 Fellow at Harvard’s Advanced Leadership Initiative and a Global Fellow at the Wilson Center, affiliated with the Center’s Global Women’s Leadership Initiative. Marissa is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and, until her 9-year term ends in November 2018, the Board of Directors of Global Fund for Women. Marissa speaks and writes regularly on issues of women’s empowerment and rights, including as the author of the 2015 cover story in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, “Empowering Women at the Grassroots.” Prior to 2014, Marissa was a partner in the global law firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP and was regularly recognized as a leading lawyer in banking and finance. As a long-standing advocate for women in diverse settings, Marissa has received many awards, including the ABA’s 2014 Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award. Marissa received her B.A. from Williams College, magna cum laude, and her J.D. from Harvard Law School, cum laude. Marissa lives in New York City with her husband, and has one daughter who is the Cartoon Editor of The New Yorker.
Sharon Avery is President & CEO of Toronto Foundation, one of Canada’s leading community foundations and a Toronto city-building institution.
Ms. Avery has built a 21-year career as a high energy fundraiser and passionate communicator. Prior to joining the Foundation in September, 2016, she served for eight years as Chief Development Officer at UNICEF Canada where she more than doubled its investment in children, transforming the organization on the international stage.
Prior to UNICEF Sharon Avery held senior roles at SickKids Foundation, Save the Children Canada and Tim Horton Children's Foundation
Sharon is known for her entrepreneurial spirit, critical thinking and collaborative leadership. She is a dynamic public speaker on a mission to bring philanthropy to the task of building a more resilient Toronto.
Chris Eaton is the Executive Director of World University Service of Canada (WUSC), a non-profit global development agency that aims to improve education, economic, and empowerment opportunities for youth - with a particular focus on refugees and women. Chris began his professional career over 30 years ago as a WUSC volunteer in Lesotho, where he worked on small business development issues. Since then, Chris has worked in Canada and internationally for a number of organizations, supporting a variety of education, employment, market development and governance initiatives. Chris has Bachelors (1989) and Masters (1991) Degrees from the University of Toronto, in International Development Studies and Political Science, respectively.
Ilse Treurnicht’s career spans scientific research, health and cleantech firms, venture and impact capital, and public policy. From 2005-2017 she served as CEO of MaRS in Toronto, a leading urban innovation hub.
Ilse was chair of the Canadian Task Force on Social Finance (2010). She was a member of Canada’s Advisory Council on Economic Growth and is on the Advisory Committee on Open Banking. She is executive chair of Triphase Accelerator Corporation (a cancer drug development firm), and chair of the Public Policy Forum. She holds a doctorate in chemistry from Oxford University, which she attended as a Rhodes Scholar.
Maria Cavalcanti is President and CEO of Pro Mujer. She joined Pro Mujer in 2016, bringing over 25 years of professional experience advancing women and working with a wide range of business and non-profit organizations across Latin America, the United States, Western Europe, and India. Maria leads the organization in sustainable growth by developing an extended, large-scale service and products platform to empower women throughout the region. She also oversees all of Pro Mujer’s operations in Latin America. Before joining Pro Mujer, Maria co-founded and became managing partner of FIRST Impact Investing, a private equity fund in Brazil. Prior to FIRST, she served as Chief Strategy Officer for Fundación Avina, where she spearheaded strategy and operational initiatives across the organization, spanning 15 countries. Earlier in her career, Maria worked at Dell Inc. where she was closely involved in the company’s expansion into Latin America. She also previously served as a management consultant with A. T. Kearney and TPI. Maria is recognized as a leading speaker on impact investing and financial inclusion in Latin America. She has authored multiple trade and academic articles and has served on international boards, including the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs, PYME Capital Fund, and FUNDES. In 2017, she was appointed Co-chair of Partnership for Responsible Financial Inclusion (formerly MCWG). Maria holds an MBA from the University of Texas in Austin, a Master of Science in Information Science from Columbia University in New York, and a Bachelor of Arts from Universidade Federal do Ceará in Brazil. She is based in New York City.