2022 Karen Steele

Radio Trailblazers are happy to announce Karen Steele, Program Director of 99.9 Virgin Radio in Toronto, as the recipient of the 2022 Rosalie Award.

The Rosalie Award, which recognizes Canadian women who have blazed new trails in radio, will be presented Tuesday, June 7 in the Ballroom at Intercontinental Toronto Centre Hotel as part of CMW’s Radio Active 2022 – The Future of Audio conference.

The Rosalie Award is named in honour of the late Rosalie Trombley, renowned influential Music Director of the Top 40 powerhouse CKLW-AM “The Big 8” (Detroit/Windsor), She was deemed the most powerful lady in pop music and the first-ever recipient of the Rosalie Award in 2005.

“As we celebrate our 17th year of the Rosalie Trombley award, we are thrilled to announce Karen as our recipient for this year. Our selection was made from a stellar group of talented nominees, which even further recognizes the strength and significance women contribute to the success of the broadcast industry in Canada” says Nancy Brown Dacko, Chair of the Radio Trailblazers. “Another highlight of our presentation features Barbara Williams, Executive Vice President CBC who will address the audience as our keynote speaker. Special thanks to Gary Slaight and Barbara Williams for their continued support.”

Karen Steele has programmed three Toronto radio stations over the past 15 years including; MIX 99.9, KiSS 92.5, and 99.9 Virgin Radio. Karen started her Toronto career at the MIX and was the first female PD appointed to MIX 99.9 in 2005. Karen’s love of film led her to Theatrical Marketing as the Director of Publicity and Promotion for Warner Bros Canada in 2009 where she worked on “The Hangover” and “Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince” campaigns.

In the same year, Karen jumped at the opportunity to work at the newly relaunched CHR – KiSS 92.5 and 98.1 CHFI as Promotions Director. In less than a year, Karen became PD of KiSS working with The Roz & Mocha Show and spearheading live events; WHAM BAM, The Haus Party, headlined by Bruno Mars in his first Canadian appearance, and the National GRAMMYs team for radio.

Karen also helped develop the GEN NOW program with Seneca College providing college students with the opportunity to get hands-on experience on-air at KiSS. Under Karen’s leadership KiSS 92.5 won CHR station of the year: 2012, 2013 and 2014. Karen went full circle in Programming going back to the 99.9 frequency with 99.9 Virgin Radio. In 2019 Karen rebuilt an on-air line-up and developed a new morning show with Virgin Mornings; Adam Wylde, TJ & Jax. In less than six months Virgin Radio was ranked #1 Adults 18-34 and the second most listened to station in Canada.

Karen has been honoured with PD of the Year at CMW, awarded the Grand Award at the NY Festivals for celebrating Diversity and Pride with the “Retrosexual Weekend”, and the CAB Award for her work with the 12 Hours of Christmas and Have a Heart for Sick Kids Radiothon in support of the Hospital for Sick Children. Karen’s love of Promotions kicked off her radio career at 97.7 HTZ-FM as “Cruiser Girl” in 1990. Seven years later, she was promoted to PD and the first female PD in Standard Radio’s history.

Karen has worked to help mentor talent within the Bell Talent Development program and created “Empower Hour” – an hour of programming with all female rock star hosts and artists for International Women’s Day. An idea that rolled out Nationally across the Virgin Radio network in 2022.

In 2004, Blair Bartrem walked into Karen’s life at MIX 99.9. Literally, he walked into her office as the new PD of the MIX. In 2007 they married and have been co-creators in their personal and professional lives (when not competing) ever since.

Radio Trailblazers is a collaboration among women who love radio. They are a Canadian volunteer organization that celebrates and supports women in radio through education, inspiration, and mentorship.