This is Part 2 of building a more inclusive world for women and BIPOC with Fiona Macfarlane. If you haven’t heard Part 1 yet, go back and listen to it. That is the episode right before this because you’d need that for context.
The coronavirus pandemic has exposed serious problems with the ways we have constructed our societies and economies on the backs of women’s unpaid labor. There is an opportunity to rebuild better, with women’s rights at the center, to prioritize care for people and the planet, and to energize progress on gender equality, for the benefit of all.
This week’s episode is all about how to create a more equal world for women and BIPOC. I discussed extensively with Fiona Macfarlane how she rose to the top of her career despite the challenges she faced on her path.
Raised as a child in South Africa – at that time, a deeply divided and profoundly unequal society – immigrating to Canada afforded her the privilege to not only have a fulfilling career but to advocate for a level playing field for all.
Her 36-year career at Ernst & Young has seen her progress from the Tax practice in Cape Town, to her most recent dual roles of Managing Partner of EY British Columbia and Canada’s Chief Inclusiveness Officer; where she advocated nationally for diversity and inclusion to be on the Board and CEO agenda as a critical business and talent issue.
Along the way, she harnessed her love of business and entrepreneurial spirit leading the EY Americas and EY Canada Tax practices. Under her stewardship, EY’s Canada Tax practice saw a rate of growth that exceeded the industry’s at a time when sector growth was constrained by a serious lack of talent. Seeing the power of successful business to drive the economy, create jobs and ultimately increase the standard of living of Canadians, Fiona has made the growth of the business a critical priority in each of her roles – not just in times of economic growth, but also through downturns.
Fiona is absolutely driven to reap the rich rewards of an inclusive culture – diversity of thought, creativity, innovation, and productivity. When Fiona was appointed Managing Partner of the Canada Tax Practice (with 850 tax professionals) in 2005, she was the first woman among the Big Four accounting firms to have held such a position. She worked tirelessly ever since to mentor and develop women and other excluded groups. To that end, she served on the advisory board of the President’s Group, an organization devoted to ensuring employment for people with disabilities, and served on the board of the Immigrant Employment Council of British Columbia which works to ensure labor participation of immigrants.
She is insatiably curious and particularly fascinated by the impact of evolving cultural and social trends. Due in no small part to her broad and eclectic range of interests, she is credited with having an ability to view evidence through an unconventional lens; to see patterns, and to connect disparate dots to find opportunities that might otherwise be overlooked. She passionately leverages this skill in her work and in support of her community by serving as Chair of Shawnigan Lake School, Canada’s largest boarding school. She is also the Vice-Chair of the British Columbia Chapter of the Institute of Corporate Directors.
Previously, Fiona was a director of the Aboriginal Business Investment Council and the International Women’s Forum, Canada. She recently retired from the Executive and Board of Governors of the University of British Columbia where she served as Chair of the Employee Relations Committee. She served on the executive and Board of Governors of the BC Business Council and was also a member of the BC Ministry of Finance’s Expert Panel on Business Taxation.
Fiona is recognized as one of the foremost experts and thought leaders on how to build a culture of inclusion in the workplace. She’s proud to have been named as one of the Women of Influence’s Canadian Diversity Champions and inducted into the Hall of Fame of WXN Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women. For her contributions to the CPA profession, she was awarded an honorary CA. She is in demand as a speaker on leadership, future skills, inclusiveness, and diversity. She relishes using humor and storytelling to touch hearts and change minds.
Fiona has a BA LLB and B.Com (Hons) University of Cape Town, South Africa and LLM from Cambridge University in the UK, and executive education from Harvard University. She holds the ICD.D qualification from the Institute of Corporate Directors.
This is one episode you should not miss and share with everyone you love.
Thanks so much for joining me again this week. Have some feedback you’d like to share? Leave a note in the comment section below!
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Special thanks to Fiona Macfarlane for joining us this week. Until next time!