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Balancing career and motherhood while building an inclusive workplace at PwC Canada

May 05, 2021

Jessica Paul is a senior manager with PwC Canada’s assurance practice in Montréal. More than just an auditor or accountant, she sees herself as a trusted business adviser. “I’m passionate about my clients and always try to bring value to the relationship,” she explains.

Although she’s been with the firm since 2010, the last year and a half have brought momentous changes in her life. Just before the start of the pandemic, she became a mother, and then, while still on maternity leave, she joined the firm’s new Indigenous Inclusion Network.

Jessica Paul

Balancing her urban and Indigenous roots

Jessica is a member of the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation, situated in the Outaouais region in the province of Québec. She was born and raised in a Montréal suburb, but she spent most of her summers in her community with her aunts and kokom (Algonquin word for grandmother) learning about traditional food, culture, crafts, stories and language. She defines herself by her community’s values: respect for elders and the importance of family, friendship and caring for one another—values she continues to apply every day.

Education was always a priority for Jessica. She admired her father for leaving his family after high school to continue his studies in Montréal. Living in an urban area, she felt fortunate to have access to good schools without having to leave home. Inspired by her father, she began considering business school and discovered accounting. “I’d always been interested in anything related to numbers, strategy or analytics, and accounting brought all those passions together,” she says.

Coaching and mentoring at PwC Canada

Jessica studied accounting at HEC Montréal, where she was involved in the students’ association and in academic competitions. During a recruitment event, she met Mario Longpré, a partner in PwC Canada’s assurance practice.

She was immediately drawn to the firm’s values and culture. After meeting several people from the firm, Jessica knew PwC Canada was where she wanted to pursue her career. She began with an internship in 2008 and was hired full-time after graduating in 2010.

Ten years later, Jessica believes it’s the firm’s mentoring structure and coaching that have empowered her to develop her career. “From day one, you have someone who cares about you and your progression at the firm,” she notes. “Through talking about my interests, opportunities have opened for me.”

Women in Leadership program

One such discussion led her mentor to nominate Jessica for PwC Canada’s Women in Leadership (WiL) program. WiL is an intensive, six-month program that brings together women from across and outside the firm and at different stages in their careers to provide them with unique personal and professional development opportunities.

“The program allowed me to connect with women with diverse experiences and ask all the questions I wanted,” says Jessica. “It also confirmed that I want to stay and grow at the firm.” She and the women from her cohort continue to support each other today, and this is something Jessica deeply values.

Being a new mother

This support took on new meaning when her son was born. “It’s invaluable to have a group of women who support you and understand your reality, whether you’re talking about your career progression or caring for a baby and balancing work and home life.”

In fact, all of her colleagues have been tremendously supportive. “When I was pregnant, I was reassured that I’d be keeping my clients, and that there was a plan for me to come back to them.” This support continued when she returned to work. “Everyone knows that when your child starts daycare, they get sick all the time,” she says. “The partners and my clients were very understanding. I really appreciate the flexibility at PwC Canada, being able to manage my schedule so I can create that work/life balance.”

Indigenous Inclusion Network

While on maternity leave, Jessica posted on social media about Orange Shirt Day. Her coach saw the post and invited her to join the firm’s newly formed Indigenous Inclusion Network. She was also invited by PwC Canada’s inclusion and diversity team to do the land acknowledgement at the national town hall. Jessica was thrilled.

For a long time, Jessica hadn’t talked about her Indigenous identity in her professional capacity because she had fears about being treated differently. Yet with recent events and PwC Canada as a whole becoming even more intentional in the actions it’s taking to focus on racialized communities, inclusion and diversity, she felt the timing was right. She’s now a proud member of the Indigenous Inclusion Network’s executive committee, which meets monthly and has several projects in development.

PwC Canada’s Indigenous Inclusion Network aims to provide an environment in which members and allies can celebrate Indigenous culture and also promote respectful relationships among Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. One of the group’s goals is to help build a more inclusive and diverse work environment. Part of what Jessica brings to the group is a passion for attracting Indigenous talent and making sure the right opportunities are offered to the right people.

As she looks to the future, she’s excited about the possibility of working with the group to explore how the firm can strengthen relationships with Indigenous communities and businesses.

Having a voice

Jessica feels that being part of the Indigenous Inclusion Network gives her a voice. “We have direct access to the leadership team,” she says. “We’re involved in discussions about what we can do at PwC Canada to make things better, and we’re consulted on projects and decisions. I feel that my input is truly valued.”

As she progresses in her career, and as she watches her son grow, helping to build an inclusive environment has become more important to her than ever. “I want to make a difference and give back to my community,” she explains. And she plans to emulate her father by making sure her son learns about their culture, traditions and values.