Justin Trudeau speaks at Women in Business Awards

SURREY – Had famously sexist radio host Howard Stern been present at Thursday’s Women In Business luncheon at Eaglequest Golf Course to ask award recipients their “favourite position,” a likely answer from any of the successful females would be “CEO.”

And several of them were, including Anita Huberman, CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade, which hosted the event.

Four women took home awards for entrepreneurship to leadership qualities, but everyone left with a little encouragement of women’s strength in doing business after an impassioned keynote speech by Liberal leader Justin Trudeau.

“A new generation of educated, hard working women has joined the workforce,” he told the crowd, which included Tamara Vrooman, CEO of Vancity – the first ever financial institution to allow women a line of credit without being signed off by a man – acting mayor Barbara Steele, and other business professionals and their supporters.

“The Surrey Board of Trade gets it when it comes to small business,” he said, “and the most successful businesses in Surrey are run by women.”

That fact was evident as tables were crowded by business owners and entrepreneurs, most of them female.

Nominees who attended the luncheon celebrating women in business included Diskordanse’s artistic director Nela Hallwas, Leona Winrob of TapSnap, Penny Bradley of Alexandra Neighbourhood House and Nimisha Virani of Nim’s Pharmacy – just to name a few.

And the women who took home the awards? They were well-supported by those in the room.

Angela Herd swept up the entrepreneurship award for The Family Hope Clinic, which provides education and counselling services to children, youth and adults.

Next up was Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Dr. Jane Fee, who got her award in the professional category.

The win for not-for-profit leader went to Coreen Windbiel from the Surrey Association for Community Living, which provides programs and support services for people with developmental disabilities and their families.

Finally, in the corporate/leadership category, was Hanne Madsen with GroYourBiz, a business initiative “that brings a tactical and proven approach” to meeting the needs of women business owners.

As for the future? Trudeau made a point of saying he’ll put the professional success of women in the forefront if elected prime minister.

“We need to reach out [to women],” Trudeau told the Now in a later media event.

“The Liberal party, even though we had an open nomination program, we actually made specific initiatives to encourage women to step up in politics… there’s a tremendous contribution that can be made from women entering the workforce.”

He went on to say that studies have shown that women’s participation on boards make for better decision-making, and that he looks forward to presenting a political platform with a gender balance.

Finally, asked if he was a feminist, he said, “Yes, absolutely. I know there are a lot of different definitions of it, but I believe, fundamentally, in equality for women.”