Lessons on Leadership

with Martha Piper, Indira Samarasekera and Joy Johnson

What does it take to break the glass ceiling? While women have earned more representation in higher education as students and faculty, there is still a distinct lack of women in leadership roles. Martha Piper and Indira Samarasekera were both the first female presidents of their respective universities and, so far, the only female presidents at each school. Now, they are sharing their collective learnings with their book Nerve: Lessons on Leadership from Two Women Who Went First. The book will be launched with a conversation and Q&A hosted by current SFU president Joy Johnson, where they will discuss the book’s themes and their personal experiences as leaders in education.

This event will be livestreamed for online audiences from SFU Harbour Centre in downtown Vancouver. There are also a limited number of tickets to attend in person, as per current indoor event capacity restrictions under B.C.'s Public Health Act. The in-person event includes an optional pre-event reception and post-event book signing.


  • 5:30–6:00 p.m.: Pre-event reception (in person)
  • 6:00–7:00 p.m.: Livestreamed conversation and Q&A (in person and online)
  • 7:00–7:30 p.m.: Post-event reception and book signing (in person)

About Nerve

Martha Piper and Indira Samarasekera had vastly different career paths on their way to becoming the first female presidents of two of Canada’s largest and most respected research universities and directors of some of the nation’s largest market cap companies. What they had in common was their gender, their willingness to take risks when leadership opportunities presented themselves, and a work ethic second to none. It was not always easy, pretty or fair, but it was always the result of choosing to answer the call to lead. A call that, in the authors’ view, too many women still turn away from.

In Nerve: Lessons on Leadership from Two Women Who Went First, Piper and Samarasekera share their personal and professional stories, offering guidance for leaders of every age and at every stage of their career.


Friday, October 15, 2021

6:00 p.m. (Pacific Time)


SFU Harbour Centre
Room #1400 (Joseph and Rosalie Segal Centre)
515 West Hastings Street
Vancouver, B.C.
V6B 5K3 

In-person tickets are available on a strictly limited basis, as per current indoor event capacity restrictions put in place by B.C.’s Provincial Health Officer under B.C.'s Public Health Act.

The event will also be livestreamed. A link and password to access the livestream will be emailed to all livestream registrants via Eventbrite shortly before the event.

COVID-19 safety protocols

For the safety of all staff, volunteers and attendees, in-person attendees must present their BC Vaccine Card and a piece of valid government ID for entry.

Masks must be worn at all times, except when eating or drinking, which must be done while sitting in your seat.


As this event is free, and free events routinely have a high number of no-shows, it is our policy to overbook. As seating capacity is strictly limited, we will be admitting in-person attendees on a first-come, first-served basis.



Martha Piper

President Emeritus, University of British Columbia


Martha Piper served as the first woman president of the University of British Columbia and has been a director of the Bank of Montreal, Shoppers Drug Mart and TransAlta Corporation. An Officer of the Order of Canada, she was born in Lorain, Ohio, and lives with her husband, William Piper, in Vancouver, British Columbia.


Indira Samarasekera

President Emeritus, University of Alberta


Indira Samarasekera served as the first woman president of the University of Alberta, is a director of Magna International, TC Energy and Stelco, and has served as a director of the Bank of Nova Scotia. An Officer of the Order of Canada, she was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka, and lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.


Joy Johnson

President, Simon Fraser University


Dr. Joy Johnson, SFU’s 10th president and vice-chancellor, is passionate about SFU’s academic and research mission. As president, Joy is committed to enhancing student learning experiences, working towards reconciliation, and advancing equity, diversity and inclusion across SFU. Prior to her appointment as president, Joy served as SFU’s vice-president, research and international from 2014 to 2020. She currently leads SFU’s equity, diversity and inclusion initiative.


Chepximiya Siyam’  Chief Janice George


Chepximiya Siyam’  Chief Janice George is an accomplished weaver and teacher from the Squamish Nation. Along with SkwetsimeltxWillard "Buddy" Joseph, she co-founded L’hen Awtxw Weaving House to share the teachings and practice of traditional Coast Salish wool weaving. George graduated from Capilano University (North Vancouver B.C.) and the Institute of American Indian Arts (Santa Fe, N.M., U.S.A.). She feels her education at these schools helped her excel as a teacher, adding to her most important traditional teachings. She is a hereditary chief, trained museum curator and educator. George also co-organized the 1st Canada Northwest Coast Weavers Gathering, with other Squamish Nation weavers. George is from a prominent Squamish family and has numerous ceremonial and cultural responsibilities in her community.

Watch the Recording

In the news

Accessibility, technology and privacy


Closed captioning in English will be available at this event for both online and in-person audiences.

The event will be recorded, and a link to the captioned video recording will be emailed to all registrants after the event.

If you have any questions about accessibility for this event, please contact psqevent@sfu.ca.

Technology requirements

Online attendees will need a computer (laptop or desktop), tablet or smartphone, with speakers or headphones. A microphone and/or a webcam are recommended if you would like to fully participate in the interactive portions of this event.

We recommend that you use a computer for the best experience of this event. Some interactivity and accessibility features are not available when using a smartphone or tablet.

Protecting your privacy

This event will be recorded, but only the speakers will be visible in the published recording. The recording will be shared with all registrants and published on SFU Public Square’s website, YouTube and social media channels.

To ensure that we are using online event technology in a privacy-conscious way, we are following best practices for this online event series:

  • We will only circulate the event link to those who are registered for the event
  • We will password-protect the event
  • We will enable end-to-end encryption
  • We will not use attention tracking

To protect your own privacy:

  • We remind you that whatever you say during the event is public, so please do not share sensitive information about yourself or others, and do not say anything you do not wish to enter the public domain.

To protect the privacy of others:

  • Please do not record or photograph yourself, other participants, or the hosts during the event, unless permission is requested and given.

If you have any questions about this event’s accessibility, technology requirements or privacy, please connect with us at psqevent@sfu.ca.

Community guidelines

Our community guidelines are intended to ensure the safety of all guest speakers and event participants, and to foster honest, socially accountable dialogue at our events, both online and in-person. Thank you for respecting these guidelines!

  • Above all, there will be zero tolerance for those who promote violence or discrimination against others on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, or disability. Anyone who incites harm towards other participants (whether through chat, video, audio or otherwise) will be removed at the discretion of our technical team and moderator.
  • Don’t assume pronouns/gender/knowledge based on someone’s name or appearance. Please refer to people using the usernames and/or pronouns they provide.
  • Take space, make space: share your perspective, and make space for other voices to be heard too. Recognize that we are all here to learn.
  • Practice self-care in whatever way you need to. If you need to get up or take a break, please do so.