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Guelph honours its Women of Distinction (14 photos)

Gala event sees 56 women nominated in 11 categories at 21st annual YMCA-YWCA of Guelph Women of Distinction Awards

Women have come so far, but there are still many challenges.

That was one of the messages delivered by honourary chair Dr. Julia Christensen Hughes Thursday night at the 21st annual YMCA-YWCA of Guelph Women Of Distinction Gala.

The event, a fundraiser for the Y's Teenage Parent Program (TAPPs), saw a total of 56 women in 11 different categories honoured at the River Run Centre.

There were 11 winners, two lifetime achievement awards and the Turning Point award handed out.

"As we come together to recognize the incredible women in our community ... I think it's important that we spend a moment putting their achievements in context, reflecting on women's roles and women's struggles, where we have collectively been and where we aspire to go," said Christensen Hughes, Dean of the University of Guelph's College of Business and Economics.

She pointed out many areas of progress made by women, from roles in sport and government to business and everyday life, she discussed areas still in need of progress.

"Clearly we have taught our daughters well," Christensen Hughes said.

"But we also hears struggle of profound struggle," she said.

Missing Aboriginal women, stories of human trafficking, deplorable living conditions in First Nations communities, sexual assault and the shortcomings of Canada's justice system, misdiagnosis of women's health issues and pay disparity, where the gap between men and women remains at around 30 per cent.

"Organizations still do not respond favourably when women step outside historic gender roles," Christensen Hughes said.

She urged the women in attendance Thursday to support one another in striving for change and chasing their goals.

"With Mothers Day just around the corner, I think it is fitting that we reflect on all that women do in their communities and in their families, paving the way for the next generation.

"Significant change does not take place without a struggle. It takes determined, visionary individuals," she said. "But I know how much it means when people encourage our efforts, believe in us and help pave the way."

Last night's winners were:

Arts and Culture: Judith Yan, artistic director and principal conductor for the Guelph Symphony Orchestra.

Business and Entrepreneurs: Tania Framst, vice-president operations Lucky Iron Fish.

Education and Training: Dr. Karen Landman, associate professor of design and planning at the University of Guelph.

Health, Wellness and Recreation: Helen Fishburn, acting executive director of the Canadian Mental Health Association Waterloo-Wellington-Dufferin.

Information Technology: Sharon Bennett, IT author and public speaker.

Public Sector: Rosemarie Coombs, executive director of Michael House Pregnancy Care Centre.

Science and Research: Dr. Robin Milhausen, sexuality researcher and professor at the University of Guelph.

Trades and Labour: Sascha Bosse, machine apprentice at Linamar.

Voluntary Community Services: Kimberly Rogers, volunteer with Hope House, Willow Road Community and Habitat For Humanity.

Young Women (16-19): Mariah Olczak, Bishop Macdonell student.

Young Women (20-24): Julia Romagnoli, University of Guelph agriculture student and advocate.

Lifetime Achievement Trades and Labour: Jessica Steinhauser, Kachelofen heating system artisan.

Lifetime Achievement Health, Wellness and Recreation: Marianne Walker, President and CEO Guelph General Hospital.

Turning Point Award: Megan Johnston, Conestoga College student and single mom.