It isn’t every day that the roster of Canadian businesswomen who met at Toronto’s Lee Restaurant one recent evening find themselves in the same room. But there beauty legend Lise Watier, hotelier Christiane Germain, financier Barbara Stewart and private-club founder Mary Aitken were, sipping wine and sampling chef Susur Lee’s acclaimed Asian-fusion fare.
The women, among the country’s most successful (not to mention stylish) entrepreneurs, had gathered to anoint one of their own: the next Canadian winner of the Veuve Clicquot Business Woman Award. Launched by the venerable champagne maker in 1972, the BWAs were created to champion women in business around the world. The company, a subsidiary of Louis Vuitton Möet Hennessy, has some experience in the subject: In the 1700s, a young widow by the name of Barbe Nicole Ponsardin, the eponymous veuve Clicquot, took control of her husband’s champagne business when he died, becoming one of the first women ever to lead a company of men.
As ambitious as she was visionary, Madame Clicquot revolutionized the wine industry with a series of innovations. By 1810, she had produced the first vintage wine in Champagne’s history. In 1818, she used red wines to create the region’s first rosé.
Every year, the Business Women Awards inspired by Ponsardin are handed out in a number of regions worldwide. Both Watier and Germain are past recipients from Canada, Watier having won in the 1980s and Germain getting hers two years ago. At the Lee event, Watier, Germaine, Stewart and Aitken met to choose this year’s winner from a shortlist they assembled.
The proceedings were moderated by a fifth jury member, The Globe and Mail’s Deirdre Kelly. Globe Style is a media sponsor of this year’s awards.
By the end of the night, a winner was picked, although who it is will be kept mum until this fall. In October, a gala dinner will be held in Toronto to hand out the prize. The winner will be made public at that time.