International Women’s Day (IWD) is a global day honouring the accomplishments of women – including social, economic, cultural, and political successes. For IWD, Treehouse wants to spotlight some amazing female entrepreneurs who serve the family healthcare space. Our team had the opportunity to talk with these women and understand what motivated them to pursue their careers in family care. We spoke with a speech-language pathologist, a therapist, a midwife, two doulas, and a fertility specialist.
Melissa Gagnon is the owner of Empower Communication Services and a registered Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP). She has been working as an SLP for ten years following the completion of her undergraduate program in Health Science at the University of Western Ontario and her Masters in Speech-Language Pathology at the University of Toronto. In 2015, she was the winner of the Milton Readers Choice awards for best Speech-Language Pathologist. In 2017, she helped start an Autism centre, which now services clients from the GTA and beyond. She works closely with an interprofessional team made up of Behavioural Therapists, Occupational Therapists, and Early Childhood Educators, to help families create goals and treatment plans. Her business, Empower Communication Services, was nominated in 2021 in the Welland Reader's Choice Awards as one of the top providers of Speech-Language Pathology services in the Niagara region. Melissa’s passion for empowering parents drove her to create a variety of resources that families could access. Recognizing that many families do not have access to information that helps them seek out needed support, she responded by developing online workshops to educate parents in the areas of speech, language, literacy, and help them learn research-based language strategies. On top of all of this amazing work, she continues to train and support families and other Speech-Language Pathologists in the field.
Rekha Chagarlamudi runs her own business as a child and family therapist in the Ottawa area. She is a Registered Social Worker with a Masters in Social Work (MSW) from McGill University. Rekha specializes in individual therapy for women, couples, and children as well as parenting support. Practicing for more than fifteen years has led to a strong collaborative relationship with local education, health and legal professionals. Rekha provides clinical supervision to practicing therapists and career support to aspiring students through the Carleton University Mentorship Program. Rekha is passionate about supporting women and their families to achieve improved awareness and create positive change in their lives.
Khadija Boulaftaliis a Registered Midwife who practices at Ottawa South Midwives, who catches babies at home, The Ottawa Birth and Wellness Centre, and The Ottawa Hospital - Civic Campus. Khadija was born and raised in Morocco, where her love for midwifery began. In 1994, she earned a Bachelor of Science degree and immediately entered the Midwifery Program at The National Institute of Health Careers. Khadija graduated after three years and began to pursue her passion. She has worked in a variety of settings, from remote areas of Morocco to traditional hospital environments. After moving to Canada, she completed the International Midwifery Pre-registration Program (IMPP) program at Ryerson University. In 2012, she began her exciting new journey practicing in the Ottawa area, providing services in English, French, and Arabic. Many of the families Khadija supports are from marginalized communities: women of colour, Syrian refugees, low-income families, and survivors of domestic violence. Khadija knows that having a provider who understands their language, culture, and customs means the world to these families. After almost 25 years as a midwife, her love and devotion for midwifery are still absolute. She ended by telling us, “It is the source of my strength and my greatest joy.”
Amie Scharfe & Jennifer Cameron, owners of National Capital Doulas (NCD), are active supporters in the family healthcare space. Amie has over a decade of experience as a birth and postpartum doula, holds a Bachelor’s degree with a major in Psychology and is currently training to be a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner/Acupuncturist. She approaches doula support for all families equally, giving them the dignity, respect, understanding, and acceptance they deserve. Jennifer became a birth doula in 2017 while training to be a Holistic Nutritionist and a Holistic Reproductive Health Practitioner. Jennifer uses her background in Women and Gender Studies to guide her doula work.
National Capital Doulas has been providing support to birthing families in the Ottawa-Gatineau region since 2015. They call themselves “modern doulas for the modern family” and provide professional, inclusive services to support families from all backgrounds, including racialized and LBGTQIA2+ community members, as they transition into parenthood. Families from marginalized communities can face obstacles when birthing in a medical system that was designed for white, cis-gendered, heterosexual couples. Being supported by a doula can help to break down those barriers in the birth and the postpartum space for these families. Amie and Jennifer’s goal is to provide a boutique doula experience with extraordinary services to serve all families.
Leia Swanberg is a mother to five, a two-time gestational surrogate, and a six-time egg donor. She created Canadian Fertility Consulting and Egg Helpers in 2007 after her second surrogacy journey, with the intention of creating a more rewarding experience for surrogates, egg donors and intended parents. During her surrogacy and donation experiences, Leia was thrilled to be involved in helping families, but during the process, she felt that she was lacking support and resources, stating that she often felt on her own. Instead of dwelling on the issue and thinking about what could have been, Leia took action. She decided that if surrogacy was to be successful in Canada, it had to be done in a way where the surrogate feels completely supported in a comprehensive and holistic way, both during the pregnancy and in the postpartum period. Using her background in business development and management, she turned her personal passion for alternative family building into a full-time business: Canadian Fertility Consulting. Leia works tirelessly to ensure that industry professionals respect, care for, and support her clients, stating, “It is an honour to go through the surrogacy process with them, and it’s something we truly appreciate and never take for granted.”
It was truly an honour to have been able to sit down and talk with each of these women about their passions and experience. We wanted to shine a spotlight on these particular women, but there are so many contributions to the family healthcare space, providing incredible services, supporting families, and running busy businesses. All of the women deserve to be recognized - not just on International Women’s Day, but every day.
Share this article with your favourite woman in business and show your support for IWD!