How does gender equality – or a lack of it – show up in your world? If you’re a women aspiring to an executive role in business, the fact that in Canada men continue to hold over 90% of C-level executive roles could cause you to wonder what meaningful progress has been made towards equality.
International Women’s Day (IWD), celebrated annually on March 8, is an opportunity to remind ourselves that collectively, we can supplant bias, discrimination, and stereotypes with diversity, equitability, and inclusivity. The day is also an occasion to celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women.
To mark IWD, we connected with CPA leaders who have been honoured through CPABC’s Member Recognition Program to get their perspective on equity, diversity, and inclusion, career advancement, leadership, and overcoming bias.
Lenora Lee, FCPA, FCA
Partner, KPMG Canada, Victoria
What does a commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion look like to you? I'm gratified by the commitment to advancing diversity and inclusion that has occurred during my career and look forward to the continued progress in this area. I'm honoured to be the first female partner in my local office, and I'm forever grateful to the partners at that time for their support. Since becoming a partner, I've dedicated my time to support the advancement of women, diversity, and inclusion in our profession.
During my time as a CPA, I've supported many peer networks, events, education, and connections to encourage colleagues to embrace who they are and to bring their authentic self to work. Diversity in people makes discussions richer, recommendations more innovative, and teams stronger. Today, I'm so proud that over half of the partners in my local office are female, and we're continuing to focus on all aspects of equity, diversity and inclusion, and mental health as a foundation of our business.
Jane Long-Haggerty, CPA, CA
Principal, Long-Haggerty Robertson LLP, Penticton
Early Achievement Award, 2021
How do you define effective leadership? An effective leader is somebody who stands up for what's right for other people and shows others that it's okay to do the same for themselves. In today's workforce, we still have struggles, whether it's personal sacrifice, racism, or sexism; so people have to be able to trust that their leader has their back if they are struggling with something.
To build that trust, I think a leader needs to have a little bit of vulnerability and show that they have gone through something too. For example, one thing that I went through earlier in my career was the sacrifice of working 80 to 120 hours a week, as employer expectations were high and it still felt like I wasn’t doing enough. I did that for about 16 years and it negatively affected my health. So I have been open about this with my team. By showing others people that you have your challenges but are working through them, overcoming them, and standing up to them – you can help others do the same.
Neelam Sahota, FCPA, FCGA
CEO, DIVERSEcity Community Resources Society, Surrey
What expertise do CPAs need to lead, beyond their financial acumen? Creating connections between stakeholders is essential. This includes developing skills to coach, mentor and lead. This is far different than merely supervising, it means having an inspirational mindset – the ability to convey the larger pictures so others are inspired to do their best.
There is a saying that you are only as good as your team so developing skills to ensure you have a high performing team is crucial, especially in an increasingly interconnected world. The ability to see points of connection and proactively reach out to have a holistic approach to leadership will ensure that your career opportunities will be abundant.
Han Shu, CPA, CA
CFO & COO, D3 Security, Vancouver
Distinguished Service Award, 2019
What skills have helped you to succeed in your leadership roles? One is adaptability. Since change is the new normal in today’s world, I take on any changes with a positive attitude and tailored strategies to adapt, while looking for opportunities within the situation. Another is tenacity. I’m always determined to go above and beyond expectations – with any hat I’ve worn, I’ve always given 120% of my focus and work ethic. With any sticky challenge, I confront it with focus and a non-stop search for a strategy to solve it.
Shelley Brown, FCPA, FCA
Retired Partner, Deloitte, Saskatoon
Lifetime Achievement Award, 2018
How can we achieve equality? Canada has the opportunity to become one of the strongest economies in the world if we take advantage of our diversity. The most common challenge that we have today in creating an inclusive and diverse work environment is the unconscious bias that we all have. Most people recognize that an inclusive workplace is the desired state but it is often difficult to get past the unconscious bias. We all have certain beliefs about certain stereotypes that we have grown up with that we don’t recognize as being a bias. The first step is recognizing it.
CPABC applauds all of our members who have contributed to efforts that promote gender equality in the workplace. Happy International Women’s Day!
Leah Giesbrecht is a communications specialist for CPABC.