President and vice-chancellor Charlotte Yates
Dr. Charlotte Yates, president and vice-chancellor

University of Guelph president and vice-chancellor Dr. Charlotte Yates has been named among this year’s YMCA of Three Rivers Women of Distinction.

She is among six local women to be recognized at a virtual event on March 8.

“Women of Distinction is an extraordinary event that brings to the forefront the remarkable and valuable contributions women make to the local community and beyond,” said Yates, who joined the University in 2015 as provost and vice president (academic) and became president in early 2020. “I am deeply honoured to be among this year’s honourees.”

Throughout her academic career, Yates has consistently championed the rights of women, Indigenous peoples and other equity-seeking groups. She says academic and research excellence can be achieved only when all individuals and groups are treated equitably, respectfully and fairly.

Before joining U of G, Yates was dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at McMaster University from 2008 to 2015, where she was also a faculty member in labour studies and political science. Her exceptional interdisciplinary research career spans the Canadian automotive industry, labour markets and employment, and women, work and family.

Jodi Petitpas, manager of development with YMCA of Three Rivers — a unification of three regional YMCAs (Cambridge and Kitchener-Waterloo, Guelph and Stratford-Perth) — said Yates’s move into the role of interim president as the pandemic began was noteworthy.

Under her leadership, the University successfully adapted its programming in challenging times, said Petitpas.

“As the first female president at U of G, International Women’s Day seemed like the ideal time to honour Dr. Yates for her experience, knowledge and leadership,” Petitpas said.

“While many from U of G have been honoured in the past for their academic work and research, we felt that President Yates was the best candidate for 2020, as she stepped into a traditionally male-dominated role at a critical time when action and leadership were needed. For these reasons, we truly feel she embodies all that is a Woman of Distinction.”

The event, TD International Women’s Day Guelph-Wellington, along with Women of Distinction, featured guest speaker Kate Beirness, a Canadian sportscaster and television host.

Funds from this year’s event will go toward the Safe Sisters drop-in program for girls, the TAPPS program for pregnant and parenting teens, and the Encore exercise program for women who have had breast cancer.

Other 2021 honourees with U of G connections are:

  • U of G grad Kween, leader of Guelph BLM Protest, and executive director and community engagement coordinator of the Guelph Black Heritage Society
  • Dr. Anne-Marie Zajdlik, family physician, regional HIV specialist and holder of an honorary doctorate from the University of Guelph.

“This has been a year of transition for so many, and women in our community have shown up in the most incredible ways,” said Petitpas. “We felt it was important to celebrate the strides made in the past year by women who have continued to show up and make an impact on our community. We’re very excited to have found a way to do this virtually.”