2010 Economic Economic

Hélène Desmarais is the Founder, Chair of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of the Centre d’entreprises et d’innovation de Montréal (CEIM). In this capacity, she has been contributing since 1996 to the start-up and development of companies in a number of industries, such as information technology, multimedia and industrial and life sciences technologies. With the creation of the CEIM, she put in place the first technology incubator of its sort, and it is still the largest in operation today.

Ms. Desmarais is a graduate of the École des hautes études commerciales de Montréal (HEC Montréal). She also pursued studies at the École des sciences politiques de Paris, after which she went to London where she took art history courses at Christie’s. She then studied history of architecture at the New York School of Design. The time she spent in some of the world’s greatest cities left her highly motivated to contribute to the influence of Montréal, Quebec and Canada.

After years of helping develop and build the reputation of HEC Montréal, in 2003 she became the institution’s first female chairperson, making her the first woman in the world to chair the board of directors of an internationally-renowned school of administration.

In addition to her long-standing involvement on the board of directors of the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal, Ms. Desmarais is a director on a number of other boards in a variety of sectors including culture, entrepreneurship, health services and public policy. She created the Société de développement économique Ville-Marie and the Société d’investissement jeunesse and chairs the boards of these non-profit organizations.

In 2002, Hélène Desmarais received the Golden Jubilee Medal in recognition of her outstanding contribution to the country. In 2007, she received the Order of Merit from the Université de Montréal. In 2009, the Université Lumière Lyon 2 awarded her an honorary doctorate; the same year, she also received an honorary doctorate from St. Francis Xavier University and the Medal of Honour from the Université de Montréal’s Faculty of Medicine. In 2010, Ms. Desmarais was awarded the Order of Canada and was inducted into the Club des Entrepreneurs of the Conseil du patronat du Québec.