On Thursday, March 8, people around the world celebrated 2018 International Women’s Day (IWD), which was themed “Press for Progress.” CPA Alberta was proud to honour all of the amazing female CPAs in the profession—trailblazing leaders who have pressed for progress in fields and industries all over the province and country. In celebration of IWD and progress in the profession, we asked CPA Alberta CEO, Rachel Miller, to weigh in on topics such as leadership, positive role models, and challenges in the workplace. She also provided advice for the next generation of female professionals.
Q: What female role models have you had in your life? Why do you consider them role models?
A: I would say my mother. She honestly inspired me to rise to any challenge.
I still remember the day she set out to start her own business. She worked for my father as a receptionist at the medical office he owned with a few other family physicians, and was frustrated with the inefficiencies. She was suggesting changes to him, which he was not open to. He eventually suggested that if she thought she could run an office better then him, she should start her own. And that is exactly what she did.
I believe it was 10 years before she allowed him to move over to her very successful integrated medical clinic, which was one of the first of its kind in Northern Ontario. Her walk-in clinic brought together nurses, dieticians, family physicians, and pharmacists to fully serve the needs of the patients. She, along with my brother at a very young age, created one of the first automated OHIP billing systems. She then gave all this up to follow my father’s dreams out west and to support him. She is a true inspiration.
Q: What makes women great leaders?
A: What makes all individuals great leaders is the desire to lift others to be their best. A true leader provides the tools and resources for others to achieve their goals, and leads by example.
Q: What challenges have you faced in the CPA profession and in business? How did you overcome those challenges?
A: When I joined the profession almost 20 years ago, it was still a very male-dominated industry. I remember starting at my first articling position, and the dress code for women was still a skirt; we were only permitted to wear dress pants on casual Fridays. I think the key for me was not to focus on that and to work even harder to prove that I could be a valuable addition to any team, and that the organizations I worked for could benefit from my skills and expertise.
Q: How do you think the CPA designation prepares women for leadership?
A: The CPA designation provides an amazing foundation for women in leadership. The core competencies along with the enabling skills set women up for success. The CPA profession provides mentors, opportunities, and resources to women who aspire to take on leadership roles.
Q: What advice would you give to young, female professionals entering the profession or business?
A: Be true to yourself. Find opportunities that allow you to work in environments that align with your core values and that allow you to do work you are passionate about.
Don’t focus on the negative. Focus on opportunities and leverage those opportunities.
Take time to give back and mentor other young, female professionals. Always remember that you are a role model—exhibit ethical leadership in everything you do.
Q: Historically, the CPA profession has been male-dominated; however, currently 55% of Alberta CPAs are male and 45% are female. Since joining the profession, what positive changes have you observed regarding gender equality and progress in workplaces and in business?
A: There are more women in leadership roles than ever. Although women are still under-represented, gains are being made. Organizations are recognizing the value of diversity and actively seeking that diversity.
The great thing about the CPA profession is that women can make choices. There are opportunities to work the way you want to. Whether you aspire to be a leader in the c-suite, give back to your community, or focus on your family, there are opportunities to use your skills in ways that help you fulfill your true purpose. And of course, there are many female CPAs there to help along the way!