I was invited by CPA Ontario to sit on a panel at the prestigious Economic Club of Canada to Launch CPA’s historic Diversity Day on March 28, 2017. The event was moderated by Steve Paikin from TVO. I accepted without hesitation as it is events such as these that motivates me to do these professional community outreach engagements. To whom much is given I believe much is expected and each of us, as Black Female Professionals, has a responsibility to become visible in order to allow those who are new to the profession (or those who are considering the profession) to see persons who look like them out there on the different stages making our contributions and as such become encouraged. Every opportunity that presents itself is one that allows us to pay it forward for those who are to come.
We have a responsibility as well to speak up about the issues that face us as a community and as a group. At this event I made a point about the ‘proverbial glass ceiling’ where immigrants (especially those who look like us) are not expected to earn more than $75,000 per year. (See video clips attached below with soundbites). This took courage, however a little courage cannot hurt! Other points were made such as the fact that many immigrants even today go as far as to change their names to reflect Eurocentric names in order to get called for an interview. The discussions must continue and BFAN members should get involved in those discussions wherever possible to share their viewpoints so that we can make a difference.
“We have a responsibility as well to speak up about the issues that face us as a community and as a group”
My advice to BFAN Members is not to shy away from these opportunities thinking that you are not bold enough to make your voices be heard. Once you break the ice by doing the first event the others will keep getting easier and easier. Seek out these opportunities therefore and present yourselves boldly for the tasks.
Another way that you can get involved is through networking as there are also many opportunities that will come up via networking. Become visible and engaged in your own networks such as BFAN! Practice at home before going abroad.
“Practice at home before going abroad.”
BFAN is a safe space to practice many of the skills needed on the wider more public stage. Rather than shy away from helping with the meeting agenda or writing articles for the newsletter why not embrace the discomfort and rise to the challenge? It is a perfect space to hone your public speaking skills both written and verbal. No one grows from a position of comfort, you have to get uncomfortable in order to experience growth.
No one grows from a position of comfort, you have to get uncomfortable in order to experience growth.
You can get involved by volunteering with your local professional bodies such as CPA Ontario as well as other Community Services agencies or groups for eg BBPA [Black Business Professional association], ACCS [African Canadian Community Service], JCA [Jamaica Canadian Association] etc and volunteer to sit on panels and speak at events as the need arises. Get involved and become visible and opportunities will present themselves.
“Get involved and become visible and opportunities will present themselves.”
Attend as much networking events as you are able to and get to know persons. Be prepared with enough business cards to hand out and do follow up after those events by sending a LinkedIn message or email to those persons you met so that you will remain in their memory. Whenever you are handing out your cards be prepared with your 30 seconds ‘Elevator Pitch’ to let people know who you are and what it is you do! Ensure that your value proposition is covered (i.e. what do you have to offer?)
This will also open you up to other opportunities professionally, as persons will get to know you and refer you for jobs, be it one off projects on the side or 9-5 jobs for those who might be looking around for a change of job or role.
Since I started to get involved and become engaged I have not been able to take on all the various opportunities that have become open to me! So I can tell you that it will definitely be worth your while – believe me.
“Every opportunity that presents itself is one that allows us to pay it forward for those who are to come.”
Sharon Barnes-Simmonds CPA-CGA; MBA; FCCA is Director of Accounting at TIFF