From my small perch in Toronto, Canada, everyday I am navigating a way forward to own the change needed to transform our cities and towns into places of beauty, fairness and harmony.  In my day job I head the planning for one of North America’s most aggressive multi-billion dollar city building ventures through public transit expansion. I practice public policy making, urban and regional planning and transit oriented development, in an industry where women are under-represented. Just to be clear, this is a venture to expose how much women around the world are a fundamental part of building a hopeful future.


 That’s ME !

NEW! A recent Leslie Woo profile by the Urban Land Institute

Yes I know I look – I look Asian but it’s a ruse. I am really Canadian. I didn’t start that way, I was born in Trinidad, a small loud Caribbean island famous for the steel pan, calypso, VS Naipaul and carnival (as in, bacchanal).

After high school I was transplanted to a bitterly cold cornfield, also known as the University of Waterloo School of Architecture in Canada. Nothing like depriving a person of every familiar point of reference, to instill a strong and enduring desire to find roots, a sense of place and personal relationships. I think in some countries this might be construed as a form of torture – sensory deprivation of all things familiar – even the weather. In my case it resulted in an overwhelming desire to belong and an insatiable desire to make sense of remote and distant ideas, people and projects.

This coupled with my formal training as an architect (creating beautiful buildings), planner (creating beautiful cities) and starting a young family in Toronto (creating beautiful people), led me to an overwhelming passion for the intense energy of cities and a career journey searching for a fair, beautiful and harmonious home, neighbourhood, city, country and now globe.

I have worked in professional architectural private practice, in  urban planning leadership roles in the public sector, and in  environmental non-government advocacy. I dabble in academia. I have been a political aide and a local community activist. I currently lead the transportation planning for Canada’s largest growing urban region and I advise on urban public policy internationally, and of course, sundry other jobs as assigned.

Today I live in the same house I raised my kids, along with my Jack Russell Terrier, my eclectic iPod collection and neighbours who, like me, have been on the same street for over twenty-two years. That’s roots and a long way from my first landing here in Canada.

I recently discovered bike touring this summer after I completed a 620 km ride on the northshore of Lake Erie. I also try to fill my life with music and art. I sometimes feel like one of many unsung heroines.  As a cathartic act of recompense, I offer this site to sing the praises of women changing the world through awesome city building.

View Leslie Woo's profile on LinkedIn