Occupation: Founder and CEO, the Canadian Women’s Chamber of Commerce, a nationally incorporated not-for-profit membership organization that advocates on behalf of women-identified and non-binary founders, entrepreneurs and business owners.
Assets and liabilities: We rent an apartment in Etobicoke, Ont., and plan to buy a house, although we have no set timeline. We have RRSPs and TFSAs, invested fairly conservatively in ETFs at a bank, and we have some credit card debt.
I can’t imagine: Retiring. My father — a doctor and cardiovascular researcher — only recently retired at 72. I definitely take after him; I like to keep busy.
Bringing mental health skills to the accounting world
I came to accounting a bit by accident. I had a background in mental health, and I loved it, but it wasn’t a sustainable career for me. I thought I would go into human resources and to do that I had to take an introductory accounting course, which I thought would be extremely boring. But I fell in love with it, and pursued it.
When I became an accountant, my mental health training — rapport building, communications — really helped me and set me apart from my peers and colleagues. Wherever I worked, there were issues around getting other departments to give us the information we needed from them. I was able to act as an effective liaison to other departments by communicating with them as to why we needed the information, what we were using it for, and how it benefited them to provide it. I really loved learning how other parts of the business worked, and that knowledge helped me work with them more effectively.
Advocating for systemic change
When I realized that Canada did not have a Women’s Chamber of Commerce, I knew that was a gap that needed to be filled. We need systemic change in the business world: we can’t just keep coming up with accommodations and workarounds to make the best of a system set up for a very, very different workforce and time.
The chamber advocates for those kinds of systemic, lasting changes. For example, women tend to have less access to capital, so we are advocating for a program, similar to the federal Home Buyers’ Plan, that would allow people to withdraw from an RRSP for unforeseen expenses — like starting up a business, consolidating debt, or having a child — without losing that contribution room.
A no-brainer policy is universal childcare: if we really want women to have time to be successful entrepreneurs, which increases GDP, we need to provide childcare. These kinds of changes benefit not only women, but the entire economy.
The value of a not-for-profit salary?
Like most entrepreneurs, I took a big pay cut when I left the corporate for the not-for-profit world. There are serious issues in not-for-profit compensation: we expect not-for-profits to achieve amazing results in programming and outcomes for beneficiaries, but the public wants to see low administration and overhead costs. It doesn’t make sense from a business perspective.
Up close and personal
I am a chartered professional accountant and a chartered general accountant by training. In 2016, I’d had enough of the frustrations that come with being a woman in the corporate world — the old boys club, the gender divide when it came to women being promoted to management positions, comments like the one from the director who told me he would never hire a woman in a permanent position because we all just get pregnant and leave — and I left to found my own accounting business, working primarily with women starting or running their own businesses. I found that the same forces that pushed women out of traditional employment followed them into the entrepreneurial world: not being taken seriously, lack of access to capital, lack of access to large contracts. For example, despite my experience and the fact that I had proof of cash flow and income, I was denied a loan when I started my own business. Based on those experiences, I founded the Canadian Women’s Chamber of Commerce in 2017.