Embracing Ambition unites twelve exceptional women leaders from across North America with a simple goal: to share their leadership stories as a mentorship resource for the next generation of women leaders. From nonprofit pioneers to corporate strategists and from entrepreneurs to educators, these women represent a diverse cross-section of industries and roles.

This book illuminates potential obstacles that ambitious women might encounter, provides lived experience solutions for them to embrace, and includes reflection questions to spark learning during their own leadership journey. The book marries rigorous academic research with first-person stories that describe in great detail what it actually feels like to lead.

This is a true collaborative book: the authors came together for a weekend of story development and writing. The act of sharing their journeys with each other during the workshops infused each chapter with collective wisdom that speaks to all future women leaders.


The Authors

Carley Schelck

Carley Schelck, the passionate owner and CEO of The Urban Element, infuses her work with a lively spirit and a profound love for the culinary world. Since founding the Ottawa-based boutique culinary experiences and event management company in 2005, Carley has become renowned for her infectious enthusiasm and meticulous attention to detail.

Her zeal for the culinary arts extends into the community, where she champions greater access to food and food education. This dedication birthed Cultivating Cooks, an innovative classroom-based program that equips youth with essential life skills, like growing and cooking their own food. Committed to the principle of lifelong learning, Carley places a strong emphasis on education in both her professional journey and personal growth.

As a teacher in the School of Business at Algonquin College, she guides graduates transitioning into the business world, sharing her experiences and insights. Carley’s entrepreneurial spirit shines through as she navigates the challenges of business with unwavering optimism and a keen eye for opportunity.

Delphine Haslé

Delphine Haslé is an esteemed executive in the charitable sector, distinguished by her CFRE accreditation and fluency in two languages. Her professional journey is marked by a high degree of motivation and skill in developing philanthropic strategies, ranging from annual programs to capital campaigns. Delphine’s extensive experience in operational and financial management is evidenced through her adeptness in C-Suite and boardroom settings.

A consummate fundraiser, Delphine excels as a bridge between donors and institutions, finding her greatest inspiration in this vital connection. Known for her warmth, excellent communication skills, transparency, and passion, she is highly regarded by donors and colleagues alike.

Heather Bach

Heather Bach stands out as a dedicated and passionate executive in healthcare philanthropy. Known for her fierce independence and unwavering commitment to excellence, Heather approaches every challenge with creativity and determination, consistently finding innovative ways to achieve her goals and boost revenue.

Her loyalty extends deeply to her community, family, and anyone eager to delve into the world of philanthropy. Heather’s dedication to giving back is exemplified through her active involvement in volunteerism. She holds significant roles as a board member of several esteemed organizations, including AFP (Association of Fundraising Professionals), AHP (Association for Healthcare Philanthropy), CGAP (Certified Government Auditing Professional), and her local Rotary club.

Heather Nelson, MBA, CFRE

Heather Nelson, MBA, CFRE, is the Founder and President of BridgeRaise, a boutique fundraising consultancy. With her team, Heather specializes in helping non-profits enhance their fundraising efforts by forging corporate partnerships based on aligned values. Under her leadership, BridgeRaise has significantly influenced the nonprofit sector, assisting hundreds of charities in establishing meaningful corporate relationships over the past eight years.

With a career entirely dedicated to the non-profit sector, Heather’s expertise spans program management, marketing, and fundraising. Notably, she was the pioneering fundraiser at Food Banks Canada, where she developed and expanded the corporate partnership program into a multi-million dollar endeavor.

In addition to her professional achievements, Heather is a passionate mentor and educator. She has taught Introduction to Fundraising at Toronto Metropolitan University and is an active member of AFP Golden Horseshoe. Beyond her professional life, Heather enjoys the serenity of nature, spending time with her dog, and embracing the joys of being a hockey mom. She is also an avid LinkedIn user, where she actively engages with the broader community.

Janet Donovan

Janet Donovan, the President and CEO of Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania, is a retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral with a distinguished career spanning over three decades. Her executive experience is rich in strategy development, talent management, and collaboration, making her a formidable leader in her field. Janet’s background includes extensive professional development and executive training in areas such as strategic planning, communication, innovation, coalition-building, finance, cybersecurity, risk management, and ethics.

Holding a law degree from Case Western Reserve University and a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish from The College of Wooster, her educational journey is as impressive as her professional one. Janet has witnessed the transformative power of Girl Scouts in shaping young women’s lives. She is a firm believer in the unique opportunities Girl Scouting offers, preparing the next generation of confident and capable leaders.

Jenny Mitchell, CFRE, CEC, DMA

Jenny Mitchell, a dynamic speaker, executive coach, podcaster, and professional fundraiser, is driven by a passion for inspiring excellence in others. Her podcast, “Underdog Leadership,” focuses on empowering individuals to ascend professionally and personally. Jenny’s influence extends to hundreds of CEOs, executive directors, and board members across Canada, assisting them in raising millions for charitable causes. Her client list includes notable organizations like the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, the University of Ottawa, and Queen’s University.

Jenny completed her Executive Coaching Training at Royal Roads University with a clear purpose: to enable ambitious and compassionate women leaders to embrace and own their unique leadership styles. Her personal mission is to engage in meaningful conversations that empower others to fully utilize their seat at the table.

Through her company, Chavender, Jenny is committed to nurturing the next generation of leaders through executive and group coaching, mastermind programs, and talent development initiatives. Recently, she has expanded her expertise to for-profit corporations and is a certified Enneagram iEQ9 Practitioner, enhancing her ability to conduct team workshops and professional growth sessions.

Justine Hendricks

Justine Hendricks, President and Chief Executive Officer of Farm Credit Canada, brings a wealth of experience and strategic insight to her role. Prior to joining FCC, Justine spent 17 years with Export Development Canada and 7 years with the Royal Bank of Canada, honing her expertise in financial services, organizational transformation, risk management, and the development of innovative financial products.

Justine’s career has been dedicated to supporting Canadian businesses, especially in the agriculture and agri-food sectors. In 2021, she made history as EDC’s first Chief Corporate Sustainability Officer, championing Environmental, Social, and Governance principles and integrating sustainable business practices into every line of business at EDC.

Justine holds an MBA from the University of Ottawa, a Bachelor of Arts in Urban Studies from Carleton University, and a Certified Financial Planner designation. She passionately supports youth innovation and leadership as a member and Chair of the Digital Opportunity Trust and has held significant roles with the Forum for Young Canadians. Her leadership and contributions have been recognized with numerous awards and accolades.

Additionally, Justine is a devoted supporter of her alma mater, contributing to diversity and inclusion initiatives and serving on the university’s board and advisory board for the Telfer Business School.

Meghan Rehbein, Ed.D.

Dr. Meghan Rehbein serves with distinction as the eleventh Dean of Douglass, a position she has held since July 2022. Her journey with Douglass began in 2018, initially as Associate Dean for Strategic Initiatives, where she focused on fostering collaborative opportunities, particularly in communications and sustainability. Prior to her current role, Meghan played a pivotal role in successfully concluding the Power of 100 Years Campaign for Douglass and has served as Vice President for Institutional Advancement at Georgian Court University.

Her academic credentials are impressive, holding a bachelor’s degree from Hampshire College, a master’s degree from Sacred Heart University, and an Ed.D. from Stockton University. With over two decades of experience in nonprofit leadership, higher education, and health and human services organizations, Meghan brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise. Her research delves into the intersection of gender and leadership development in the nonprofit sector.

Mojdeh Cox

Mojdeh Cox is a dynamic leader known for uniting people to tackle complex issues through meaningful dialogue and actionable strategies. Over the past decade and a half, she has excelled in coaching leaders, businesses, and organizations across various sectors, guiding them to reimagine their work with an emphasis on equity and social justice.

Mojdeh’s achievements are varied and significant. For example, she has organized the largest equity-based lobby on Parliament Hill for Indigenous rights with the Canadian Labour Congress and facilitated the co-creation of the Community Diversity and Inclusion Strategy for the City of London. Her engaging and relatable communication style makes her a sought-after speaker, writer, and media commentator on both national and international issues.

Her concept of Radical Accountability, developed during her tenure as a nonprofit President and CEO, has gained national recognition and become a part of the leadership and governance lexicon in the nonprofit sector. Mojdeh is also an award-winning consultant and convener. She founded Cox & Co., a full-scale, values-based consulting firm dedicated to building better institutions and thriving communities. Cox & Co specializes in ethical governance, organizational audits, and professional learning and development for leaders and their teams.

Olinda Casimiro

Olinda Casimiro stands at the forefront of the cultural sector as the Executive Director of the Art Gallery of Northumberland in Cobourg, Ontario. With a remarkable 25 years of experience, she is a strategic thinker and a leader who is deeply inspired by the creative spirit of artists. Olinda’s dedication to engaging communities through art has made a significant impact, particularly in presenting and interpreting artistic works that connect deeply with the public.

Her tenure has been marked by successfully raising funds for new programming and cultural initiatives in Cobourg and Northumberland County. Olinda’s belief in the power of collaborative and diverse creative environments has driven substantial changes in the industry. Beyond her professional endeavors, Olinda is deeply rooted in community service, actively volunteering her time. An advocate for simplicity, she identifies as an aspiring minimalist, showcasing a keen interest in modern art. Alongside her role at the Art Gallery, Olinda imparts her wealth of knowledge as a professor at Durham College in Oshawa, contributing to the development of the next generation of leaders. Through her multifaceted engagement, Olinda Casimiro continues to weave a rich tapestry of creativity, community, and cultural enrichment.

Onome Ako

Onome Ako, CEO of Action Against Hunger Canada, is a trailblazing leader in the global fight against hunger and malnutrition. Her career is distinguished by a deep commitment to community-led solutions for ensuring the fundamental human right to food. Onome’s impactful work spans over 20 countries, where she has collaborated with prestigious organizations like Amref Health Africa and World Vision Canada.

Educationally, she holds a B.A. in English from Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria, an M.A. in International Affairs and Diplomacy from Ahmadu Bello University, Nigeria, and an M.Sc. in Management of NGOs and Social Policy from the London School of Economics. As Chair of the Board of Directors of the Canadian Partnership for Women and Children’s Health (CanWaCH) and a member of the Centennial College International Development program’s advisory committee, Onome exemplifies leadership that transcends borders.

Her recognition as one of 2021 Canada’s Most Powerful Women and the recipient of World Vision Canada’s “Voice of the Children” Award in 2022, and winner of the RBC Women of Influence social change award underscores her influence and authority.

Sherry Schaefer, MHS

Sherry Schaefer has dedicated her career to geriatric care, specializing in senior health and wellness, event planning, and fund development. Over the past decade, she has become a pivotal figure in mentoring professionals within the healthcare and fund development sectors. Her pursuit of a Masters in Health Administration, with a focus on leadership and team-building strategies, has deepened her expertise in mentorship and team development.

Sherry’s advancement in the healthcare sector can be attributed to her expertise in negotiation, leveraging, and focused networking. These skills have been instrumental in leading highly productive and effective teams and achieving remarkable organizational outcomes. Her leadership style is characterized by her remarkable ability to motivate her teams toward shared goals.

An established speaker, presenter, and host, Sherry excels in engaging audiences at educational institutes, major fundraisers, virtual sessions, and national conferences. Her ability to integrate powerful storytelling into her presentations enables her to connect deeply with audiences, inspiring change and action.

Sherry is a co-coach at Chavender, where she continues to share her insights and experience in mentorship.