Ascend honours exemplary individuals for their leadership in the community

Ascend honours exemplary individuals for their leadership in the community

Toronto, ON – Ascend, a leading non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing the presence and influence of Pan-Asian business leaders, is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2023 Ascend Leadership Awards. The annual Ascend Leadership Awards recognize and celebrate the achievements of outstanding Pan-Asian leaders who have demonstrated exceptional leadership, vision, and commitment to their communities here in Canada.

“We are thrilled to honour these exceptional individuals for their remarkable leadership, unwavering commitment to mentorship, and contributions to advancing diversity and inclusion,” said Alexander Peh, President and Chair of the Board, Ascend Canada. “Their dedication to empowering others, breaking down barriers and creating more inclusive communities embodies the spirit of the Ascend Leadership Awards.”

The awards will be presented at a special gala reception in Toronto taking place on May 18th.  This premier event brings together Ascend’s sponsors, leaders and advocates to celebrate excellence in leadership and diversity.

2023 Ascend Leadership Awards Recipients

Social Impact Award: Dr Sumantra Monty Ghosh

Sponsored by RBC, this award recognizes a Pan-Asian individual committed to providing impactful and creative solutions to persisting societal challenges. Dr Ghosh, an Internist and Addiction Specialist based in Edmonton and Calgary, is committed to helping vulnerable populations with his work at various community-based non-profit organizations like The Alex and The Calgary Drop-In Centers. His commitment to those living with substance use, experiencing homelessness or other vulnerabilities has led him to develop unique programs that meet their needs while also furthering policy initiatives at a provincial level.

Student of the Year: Mandi Jin

Sponsored by Sun Life, this award is presented to a Pan-Asian student who has made a difference in the community and their school through their impact, leadership and commitment to learning and development. Jin is an 11th grade student at West Island College in Calgary, who serves as the chair of the Calgary Mayor’s Youth Council, where she initiates social projects to benefit the youth community. Under her leadership, the council distributed over 35,000 feminine products to combat period poverty and this year they are collaborating with the government to implement Naloxone kits into Calgary Transit to address the opioid crisis. Additionally, Jin co-founded Bright Youth Journey, an organization that hosts concerts and annual Christmas card fundraiser to alleviate loneliness among seniors affected by COVID-19.

Executive of the Year: Faisal Kazi

Sponsored by TD, this award recognizes an individual who has delivered business results for their organization, demonstrated leadership and is at the forefront of innovation. As the President and CEO of Siemens Canada, Kazi is responsible for spearheading overall strategic management and leading all activities in Canada. He also serves as a board member of several Canadian affiliates and business associations.

Mentor of the Year: Rebecca Pang

Sponsored by Electronic Arts, this award recognizes an individual whose guidance has significantly contributed to several Pan-Asian individuals’ quality of life and professional development. Pang serves as Vice President of Treasury Solutions at RBC, leading a team of specialists supporting Canadian businesses. In addition to her impressive professional achievements, Pang is highly involved in the community and serves on the Toronto Zoo and Yee Hong Foundation boards. She is also an Advisor for the Ted Rogers Leadership Centre and the Honorary Advisor for the Chinese Cultural Center of Great Toronto.

Inclusion Champion of the Year: Dr Mohamad Sawwaf

Sponsored by CIBC, this new award honours a person who has advanced inclusion in their organization and community by removing barriers and demonstrating extraordinary commitment and leadership by creating effective solutions or ideas to spark change meaningfully. Sawwaf is an expert in Islamic finance in Canada and the Founder and CEO of Manzil, the only Islamic FinTech that manufactures and distributes Halal financial solutions, including mortgages and investment funds. While regularly consulting with the United Arab Emirates government on industry practices, he also teaches corporate and Islamic finance throughout business schools in Toronto.

Woman of Distinction: Natasha Walji

Sponsored by Manulife, this award celebrates a woman who has helped advance the careers of other Pan-Asian women through leadership, sponsorship and by making a significant contribution to the community. As Google Canada’s Managing Director for Customer Solutions, Walji helps small and medium businesses grow and thrive. For over 20 years, she has been actively involved with community service initiatives involving disaster relief, poverty alleviation and public health. She also co-founded an organization aiding children living with disabilities. In addition to her professional accomplishments and community leadership, she is recognized as one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women.

About Ascend

Ascend is a non-profit organization with a mission to enhance the presence and influence of Pan-Asian leaders across Canada. Ascend provides its members with access to professional development, networking, and leadership opportunities and partners with companies to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. To learn more, visit