18 Asian-Canadian Women you should know

Bringing the “international” back to International Women’s Day

Happy International Women’s Day!

I’ve been pretty vocal in the past about advocating for women in leadership and in particular, enabling them to move into leadership roles and be positive influences for others. In fact, I wrote an article about it last year after I had realized I was the token Asian.

A few weeks ago, I was flipping through a weekly business paper I subscribe to and came across an ad for a women in leadership type of awards gala that celebrated women on their accomplishments, but what struck me was that all of them looked the same — all blonde hair, and white skin.

To be very clear, this is not to diminish the accomplishments of the women being recognized at this gala (because I’ve actually met three of them and they’re all lovely, powerful and inspiring women), but what does it say to our generation and the generation after us when we don’t see people who could be our sisters, cousins, mothers, or more, being celebrated for their accomplishments?

I’m trying not to be “Angry Asian Girl” here, but it literally brought me to tears to see this:

Working on Cold Tea Collective, I’ve become acutely more aware of representation of women of colour in media, business, leadership and more — in particular, Asian women.

I took to Instagram to see if my friends and followers would agree with me in that by 2018, there should be more diversity in women being recognized for their accomplishments — they did. I also asked if they could name some women of colour that should be recognized for their accomplishments and how they help others. Although several people (men and women) agreed with me, only 15% of respondents named a woman of colour they think is kicking ass and should be recognized for it. WHYYY??? It’s not like there aren’t enough of us, but perhaps it’s our definition of what makes someone inspiring. For me, I draw inspiration from women who demonstrate resilience, confidence, accomplishment, creativity, entrepreneurial thinking, and helping others.

We can’t be what we can’t see, so I’ve decided to highlight 18 awesome Asian women who you should follow if you need some “Asian Inspiration” in your life.

#1 — Aarthi Naidu — The Dancing Queen

It’s actually Ms. Naidu to you! Aarthi is a Richmond high school teacher who for over 10 years has supported and enabled young dancers across the city to showcase their talents. Since its inception, the dance competition, aptly named “Footloose,” has awarded scholarships to members of R.C. Palmer Secondary School’s dance team as well as raised money for local charities supporting active lifestyles, Cancer research and mental health support.

#2 — Abby Ma — The Financial Wizard


As if it wasn’t competitive enough to become an accountant in Vancouver, Abby was recently recognized by CPABC (Chartered Professional Accountants of British Columbia) with an “Early Achievement Award” for having distinguished herself early in her CPA career through professional achievement and volunteer service.

What volunteer service, you ask? She’s on the Board of Governors for Scouts Canada, and has given her time to ArtStarts in Schools.

Oh and in her day job, she is the Director of Financial Planning & Analysis, of BCLC, reporting to the CFO and leading a team of 23 people (no bigs).

More than this, she mentors young women personally and professionally — that’s pretty damn awesome in our books.

#3 — Amie Nguyen — The Nautical Ninja


Even if you don’t know her personally, you’ve probably seen her face on the side of bus stops, on billboards, or on the big screen at Canucks games. Yep, she’s that girl that has no fear when it comes to showing pride for her favourite hockey team and putting her money where her mouth is when it comes to creating charity campaigns that empower women to raise funds for prostate Cancer.

She makes waves not only in her community, but also as Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer for Propel HQ, an online marketplace that creates access to affordable private swimming lessons in under-utilized swimming pools. Her company enables instructors to self-employ and collectively create a whole new personal swim instruction industry all while making private swim lessons an affordable and accessible option for families and individuals everywhere.

Oh, and did I mention she’s a badass athlete, rides a motorcycle, has a heart of gold? That’s why she’s awesome and on this list.

#4 — April Yau — The Recovering Perfectionist


With all her hustle and heart, April is a force to be reckoned with. April recently made the move from Vancouver to The Big Apple, where she works for digital marketing company, 6S Marketing, as their Account Services Director. In this role, not only does she help her clients, but also her team in finding their ‘why’ to facilitate and inspire their personal and professional growth.

What’s even more incredible is her journey to get to this point in her life, where she dropped out of Pharmacy school, overcame what she calls “digitally-fueled perfectionism” and self-doubt, and learned to love herself again; and she isn’t afraid to encourage others to do the same.

In her time in Vancouver, April spent her time enabling millennials to connect with one another as Chair of the Company of Young Professionals program with the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade. I’ve sat alongside her at boardroom tables and discussed big ideas to support millennials in the workplace and have on every occasion been inspired by her drive and compassion.

#5 — Christina Wong — The Answer to Homelessness


Problem: homelessness and poverty. Solution? Christina Wong.

Having left her corporate job, Christina knows that her true calling is to enable the homeless and impoverished through meaningful employment. Christina is the Co-President of Employ to Empower, a social enterprise centered around employment as a realistic, long term and lasting solution to drastically reduce homelessness by integrating low income individuals in the Downtown Eastside (DTES) of Vancouver back into society through dignified jobs at recognized corporations. In doing so, the work of Employ to Empower will result in alleviating the drug and sex market that the homeless often resort to. Employ to Empower recently won the Coast Capital Savings SFU Venture Connections Idea Prize and are working toward securing grants to employ 10 people, supporting the development of entrepreneurial and leadership skills.

#6 — Devon Wong — The Community Organizer


History 101: Upon immigration to North America, Chinese workers were segregated into Chinatowns across North America, riddled with their own challenges as well as opportunities (see our video on Manhattan’s Chinatown and the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory). Today, these “clans”, also known as “family associations” or “benevolent societies,” are run by “elders” (of the older generation like our parents or grandparents’ age) that are now starting to involve more youth involvement in the society’s activities for the longevity of the organization.

Devon is an active volunteer of the Wong’s Benevolent Association of Vancouver. She creates opportunities for intergenerational engagement including hosting events, workshops, and fundraisers for the association, ensuring its longevity as well as enabling future cultural leaders in Vancouver’s Chinatown.

Having lived in Asia and Australia as a television producer, Devon is now back in Vancouver contributing to the advancement of women in the business community as brand and engagement manager at Minerva BC.

Also, not to be biased, but I think she’s a pretty awesome person because she also writes for Cold Tea Collective.

Photo Credit: Anita Cheung

#7 — Elim Chu — The Conscious Stylist


Elim Chu fashion stylist and consultant, pushing us to make mindful clothing choices. She’s got over 24k followers on Instagram showing how she’s reduced, re-used and recycled her clothing to put together timeless outfits and inspire us to do the same through workshops and talks such as her TEDxSFU talk on Mindless to Mindful: The Wardrobe Revolution.

Not only do we love her style, but also her recognition and support of other women. Any given day, you can check out her Instagram stories and posts and learn about other remarkable women we can look up to and how we can not only learn, but practice self-love on the regular. Elim is who you need to follow for style and life inspo.

#8 — Iris Cai — The Career Engineer


Never before have I met such a great observer, listener, and thoughtful conversationalist.

Even as a former marketing manager at a telecommunications company, Iris who knew what her true calling was — helping people. She took it upon herself to become a certified professional coach, and now runs her own consultancy to help people better understand themselves, their career goals, and how to best utilize their skill-sets to reinvent their careers in a meaningful and sustainable way. This of course is all on top of her day job helping MBA students in their career pursuits, hosting fundraisers for causes near and dear to her heart, and mentoring students.

By the way, she plays the cello — now THAT is badass.

#9 — Kym Tantongco — The Content Creator


Always on the lookout for adventure, fun, fitness and food, Kym Tantongco is one of my favourite creative entrepreneurs — not just because she’s been featured on Huffington Post, or quit her stable job to start her own business (that failed and she bounced back from), but because she’s so incredibly humble, honest and lighthearted when it comes to taking on life’s challenges.

Kym is a YouTuber, a public speaker, a fitness junkie, and an avid buy-one-get-one-free deal seeker.

#10 — Lauren Toyota — Our Favourite Foodie


I first met Lauren when I was an intern for a television show called “969” (formerly MTV Canada). She was a producer and host fresh from Toronto, looking to make her big break in Vancouver. Not long after, she went on to work for MuchMusic, MTV Canada and etalk (more on her journey here).

After years on the tube, she took to YouTube and garnered a massive following for her channels Lauren In Real Life and hot for food, a vegan food goldmine. She’s been named “Canada’s Most Influential Vegan” and recently released her first cookbook, Vegan Comfort Classics: 101 Recipes To Feed Your Face. If the title doesn’t show her personality, I don’t know what else would. What I love most about Lauren is that she’s still the same awesome, bubbly, and authentic person on-and-off screen (oh and she’s got wicked style too).

#11 — Linda Dong — The YouTuber Next Door


My friend’s 50-year old co-worker watches her videos at work and laughs to no end. She’s the girl next door, on your computer, and saying the things you say in your head; she’s Linda Dong, otherwise known as LeendaDProductions. Despite having over 1 million subscribers on YouTube, getting reposted by 9gag, this girl is one of the most down to earth people you will ever meet. She writes, directs, produces and edits her own videos until four in the morning and still finds time to have coffee with you. More than that, she pours her heart into her productions, telling honest and vulnerable stories of her experiences, all while casting other awesome Asians in her videos, making her videos all that more relatable.

#12 — Marie Hui — The Voice of Vancity


O’Canada! If you’ve ever been to a Whitecaps or Canucks game, chances are, you’ve sang along with Marie Hui. With a vocal range for days, Marie is our favourite anthem singer and lady hustler. She’s carried the torch, beared the flag, and sang her heart out for our city’s teams in Vancouver as well as across the border on the field with the Seattle Seahawks. Having left her job in real estate marketing to pursue a career in singing, she is the epitome of inspirational cool.

#13 — Rachel Ho — Leader of the Pride


It takes a strong woman to do whatever she sets her mind to; it takes a whole other type of woman to be a leader for others, and that’s exactly what Rachel Ho does. Rachel is the national leader for Pride@SAP Canada. She lead the inception, implementation and growth of diversity and inclusion initiatives relating to the LGBT community, at a company that employs over 2500 employees across Canada. She has created a safe space for the LGBT community and supporters in her workplace, advising and working alongside the company’s leaders and her colleagues.

#14 — Saschie MacLean — The Queen Bey


“A diva is the female version of a hustler,” as Queen Bey would say — and Saschie exemplifies this through and through. Saschie is the Co-Founder of RSVP33, a series of dance classes anyone can sign up for across Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto, providing a range of classes featuring solely Beyonce music, to girls night out jams, to throwback jams.

What started as a personal escape after the death of her younger sister in 2014, Saschie has since been recognized for creating this platform for fun and fitness by BC Business Magazine’s 30 Under 30. Through RSVP33, Saschie has been an inspiration to so many for healing, self-love and accountability to one’s goals.

#15 — Sonia Sidhu — Your Morning Routine


Boisterous, fun, and real — Sonia Sidhu is just what you need to get your morning (and your hustle) going. Since 2011, Sonia has been one of BC’s favourite morning radio show personalities. In such a highly competitive industry, what she has been able to accomplish in such a short period of time is remarkable, and to top it off, she’s firmly believes in mentoring and supporting others. Case in point: I slid into her DMs and asked her for advice on how to work in radio, she replied, and took the time to meet with me to give me the downlow on the industry).

#16 — Stephanie Cho – The Exception to your Mom’s rules


As if it’s not hard enough to be a working actor, Stephanie Cho is on stage and on screen, supporting local producers and directors (including Linda Dong), all while sequencing genomes in a lab for her day job (yes, she’s also a scientist). AHA! See, Mom! You can go to school, be smart, and be an actor — and that’s the best part. She booked her first speaking role in a national commercial for Playdoh when she was 6. Since then, she has performed in numerous projects both on stage and on camera. In the last year, she’s been in dozens of projects and has even landed gigs as a hand model (yes, really). I’d say that deserves a high-five. Puns aside, Stephanie is a great role model when it comes to knowing what you’re good at, how you can contribute, and how not to give up on your dreams.

#17 — Tania Yan — The Glam Gal


A former science student, turned marketer, turned online jewelry boutique owner, Tania Yan, like all of us, knows that it’s not always so glamorous working for yourself (even if you’re in the business of jewelry). Her obsession with accessories led her to start olive + piper, an online boutique that does more than sell pretty things — it sells confidence, self-worth, and inspiration. Starting out in her 500 square foot apartment, Tania has recently moved her olive + piper operations into an office space and continues to package her orders from time to time.

#18 — YOU!!

Whether you’re Asian or not, if you read through all of the amazing ladies on this list, that means you’re a supporter of Asian representation and the celebration of their accomplishments and contributions, and for that, I thank you.

Call to Action

Whether it be online, in the boardroom, at a party, or other, I encourage you to do what you can to ensure diversity and inclusion of a variety of voices and opinions; hold people and organizations accountable for representation of a multitude of perspectives.

Share this article with your friends who are in need of some inspiration, or simply share with someone who inspires you.

Happy International Women’s Day.

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