This past year has been unlike any other in recent history. It was a year that for many, forced the worlds of work and home to collide, with women experiencing the greatest impacts. Women have been tasked to lead at work, in their home and communities, all while facing the continued uncertainty and challenges of the current environment.

International Women's Day is an opportunity to celebrate the women who've made a difference in our lives. This year's theme is #ChooseToChallenge; together we can confront biases, call out inequality, and challenge each other to build a future where everyone is included.

At KPMG in Canada, we are dedicated to creating an inclusive environment where our people feel comfortable bringing their whole self to work everyday. We empower our people to be themselves and respect others – it's core to our values and what we've always believed in.

We're proud to have so many strong female Tax and Legal leaders in our midst. In recognition of International Women's day and Women's History Month, we shine a spotlight on some of the women who are making a difference at work, home and in their communities.

In this episode, Shaira Nanji, Janice Connors, and Asma Hasan, share their personal stories and insights on how they are driving change in the workplace, at home and in their communities.

Sarah Baxter

Sarah Baxter

Senior Manager, Global Mobility Services, Regions East

Leading at home and work

In thinking back over the last year, working full time from home, often with one or both of my kids (6 and 2) in the same space, and my husband working outside the house, it feels disingenuous when people say I’m ‘doing it all’ – as if I have some superpower that has allowed me to juggle all the balls.  Initially it was finding a way to work through tax season with 2 kids who couldn’t understand why mom was always on the phone and couldn’t play with them, and more recently, it was trying to find a way to manage virtual grade one happening on one side of my desk with my client work on the other. 

So many of the balls have fallen or been put down along the way. I never could juggle well!  There has also been clarity and freedom in accepting that I cannot do it all, and it’s ok to let some of the balls fall. For example, the housework can wait, no one can come over anyways, and screen time is high right now, but it won’t be forever.   I also feel like I’ve learned so much more about my kids, and experienced so many fun moments that I wouldn’t have experienced with them if not for this time – including watching my team get to know my kiddos too – that I know I will reflect back on with gratitude.


Deborah MacPherson

Partner and Business Unite Leader, Regions West

Leading in the community

Thirteen years ago, we moved our family from Hamilton, Ontario to Calgary, Alberta. This move was all about me helping to grow KPMG’s Enterprise practice, with a large focus on private companies, business families and owners. This was a great opportunity from a career perspective, but also a chance for my family to live in another part of this great country. A huge consideration at the time, was how to accommodate our then 18-year-old special needs daughter, Alanna. The answer was Special Olympics, an organization that inspires communities to enrich the lives of individuals with intellectual disabilities through sport. For the past 13 years, Alanna has been a Special Olympics athlete, which has been so inspiring to watch given the positive influence this organization is having on her life, physically, mentally and socially.

Alanna’s journey inspired me to become a board member with Special Olympics Alberta for the last 5 years, and more recently I stepped into the role of Board Chair. Our focus during the pandemic has been to stay connected with our athletes and to help them to work on their fitness and social connections when they can’t be with their fellow athletes in person to train and compete.

Deborah MacPherson

Stéphanie Caron

Stéphanie Caron

Senior Manager, Enterprise Tax, Calgary

Leading at work

Living in a world governed by the necessary restrictions of a global pandemic has proven to bring opportunity along with its challenges, never mind joining the firm during these tumultuous times. Without the luxury of in-person contact, I have found that additional forward planning is crucial. Gone are the impromptu encounters over coffee and I have had to diligently schedule virtual interactions with colleagues and clients with greater frequency than ever before. I ensure connections on a personal level with my network to foster existing business/client relationships and express a genuine care and responsibility to those I work with.

This approach is an example of what the remote and virtual work environment has enabled us to do. It provides the opportunity for frequent and timely touchpoints with our team members and clients in situations that would otherwise not have occurred if the necessities to travel to or from a meeting point was required. For me personally, maintaining an active, outdoor lifestyle is crucial to my own physical and mental health and helps me thrive in this environment. This pandemic is a glimpse into how adaptable our industry and society are, and proves the resilience required as a leader to continuously learn, adapt to new ways of working and looking beyond the barriers of change.


Anisia Hurst

Senior Manager, Enterprise Tax, Regions West

Leading at work

The last year has been filled with both emotional and financial ups and downs. It goes without saying that the effect of COVID-19 around the world has been significant. Where “uncertainty” and “unprecedented” quickly became the norm, our clients were anxious for facts to help anchor them.

This “new normal” has created a unique set of challenges with the pressing question for many of our clients being “What does this mean for my livelihood, my business, my money?” When I was asked to participate in the National Tax technical resource group and help spearhead the rollout of our COVID-19 initiatives (TWS, CEWS, CERS) in Regions West, I didn’t hesitate to get involved to help clients navigate this unchartered territory. Our team quickly got to work, assisting staff and clients across the 9 offices in Regions West with payroll and employment related questions allowing clients to take comfort in our expertise and our commitment.

Staying current with the evolution of the various COVID-19 relief programs, the everchanging tax legislation and being actively engaged in supporting businesses that have been impacted by COVID-19 has been a whirlwind, but it’s some of the most impactful, meaningful and rewarding work that I have been involved in my career.

Anisia Hurst

Tessa Reah

Tessa Reah

Senior Manager, International Corporate Tax, GVA

Leading at work

The past year has been a huge challenge. Personally, it’s meant juggling the work-from-home/childcare situation, tackling the anxiety of an unknown future, worrying about the health of my immediate and extended family, and greatly missing my family overseas with no idea when I might be able to see them again - the list goes on.

Experiencing my own struggles and knowing that others around me undoubtedly have their own similar, if not more significant struggles, has given me cause to change the way I interact with my colleagues to help support them in a more personal way, beyond my day to day client deliverables. I’ve tried to be sincere in sharing my vulnerable moments with others in the hope that they would be comfortable to do so with me, in a virtual environment where it’s been incredibly difficult to see when colleagues might need help.


Yvonne Chan

Senior Manager, Corporate Tax, GVA

Leading at work and home

Women generally already wear many hats as we are mothers, wives, daughters, sisters, friends, leaders, coaches, emotional supporters, chauffeurs and cooks; and the list goes on.  During the lockdown, I was suddenly also a full-time teacher and an entertainer to my son, who has boundless energy, while also being a fully engaged professional supporting my clients.  There are many times when the many hats that I wear call for my immediate attention. 

Asking myself “Who do I choose to be in this very moment?” has helped me shift my mindset from feeling overwhelmed to being mindful of my core values and fulfil all these challenges with confidence and strength.  To lead through the pandemic, I learned to be compassionate as everyone has a story.  I also learned to ask for help, offer help, be a good listener, make time for friends (virtually), take a walk, and most importantly take care of myself.

Yvonne Chan

Nida Sajid

Nida Sajid

U.S. Tax, Regions East

Leading at home

2020 will forever be known as “the year of Covid” in my household. I am no superhero, like the nurses and frontline workers we will forever be indebted to, but like many others, I simply had to juggle telling other people “they were on mute” during meetings while simultaneously dancing to a kindergarten “Sonic yoga” class with my four year old. I mean, how is this relaxing?  Asynchronous studying, a term that before 2020 was most likely confused with asynchronous swimming, has now become every parent’s nemesis, and I was on board to having a complete rebellion against the education system by mid-February of 2021. Fortunately, a very supportive spouse can be very useful during this time. Unfortunately, mid-2020 my spouse was seriously injured in a freak indoor soccer incident.

By early 2021, my job description had multiplied to manager, mom, wife, teacher, chauffeur, chef/senior manager, personal adviser, nurse, caregiver, insta-shopper, partner, and so much more. Thankfully, my kids are alive and healthy, my spouse is back on his feet (literally), and we have a new home gym and 50 new skills. I have learned that everything is normal, until it’s not. This last year has evolved us and made us more empathetic towards one another. It has made us realize that we can only do so much and that has to be enough, so why not take that and move forward - with new hope. I sure will.


Alexandra Hale

Senior Manager, Corporate Tax, GVA

Leading at work

Engaging virtually is generally unnatural, and as an introvert I find video calls to be particularly exhausting given the extra effort required to interpret non-verbal cues. It’s difficult to know when someone is done talking, and your often faced with frequent interruptions. Large group video calls are intimidating, and small talk is exceedingly difficult given that most of us don’t have a lot of news to share while stuck at home. Despite these challenges, connecting virtually is the only option available to us right now so we have no choice but to make the most of it. I was inspired by Shawn Achor’s talk at our September firm-wide town hall last year about his book The Happiness Advantage, which looks at seven principles, as a forum for a guided positive conversation.

I met with a small group of junior team members, who were experiencing similar challenges in connecting virtually to discuss how we can apply Shawn’s principles in our personal and professional lives and in our interactions with each other at work. It was such a great way to connect in a meaningful way and a productive way to brainstorm ideas to improve the way we work together. We had so much fun that we ended up meeting three times to continue the conversation and are now looking forward to coming up with new topics for our next conversation.

Alexandra Hale

Ebony Verbonac

Ebony Verbonac

Partner, Enterprise Tax, Regions West

Leading at home

As a mother of three young children, I have experienced how the pandemic can push a family unit to its limits. During lockdown, I had to watch helplessly as my entire family coped in a world that seemed scary and dangerous. As a Tax partner, I had to watch my team adapt to a business landscape that was changing by the second. The biggest lesson I have taken from this past year is understanding that as a leader, both at home and in my career, that I can empower those close to me by confessing and sharing my vulnerable moments. When my team sees the reality of my limitations, they understand that we are all in this. I have the same motto at the office and at home, “together we are stronger.” Working together means admitting you need help and trusting people enough to know they will give you what you need, and of course paying it forward when they need a little help in return.


Gowri Krishnasamy

Specialist, TIP, Regions East

Leading at home

I’ve always had a close relationship with my Mother-in-law, and recently we received a call from India to inform us that she passed away due to a short illness. We originally planned to go to India to visit her last Christmas break, however, we had to drop the idea due to travel restrictions. We couldn’t go to India for her funeral either, due to visa requirements. Instead, we had to watch her funeral service through FaceTime from across the country, followed by a small prayer in our home and a quiet walk together as a family. Even though we didn’t get a chance to gather or mourn together with family and friends in India, I know that I am fortunate as I had a chance to talk to her in the days leading up to her passing to tell her how much we all loved her. During these emotional times, my colleagues and family were a constant support and I kept myself occupied by focusing on my job, helping my son with school, and taking short breaks for walks and preparing meals for the family. Through this experience I learned that even though we remain cut off from some of our loved ones longer than we ever imagined, we have the support of our friends. Let us keep it in mind, that this too shall pass, and everything will be back to normal soon.

Gowri Krishnasamy

Maureen Mogambi

Maureen Mogambi

Senior Manager, Transfer Pricing, GVA

Leading at work

During the pandemic, one of the partners in our team resigned, which created a new opportunity for me to step up in developing our new Economic Services business line. This created a new layer of challenges for me, as I had to step out of my comfort zone in many ways over the past eight months. From developing a business plan to handling difficult calls with clients when issues arose on some projects, to presenting at the GVA Townhall. So far, this experience has taught me a few things – we’re a great bunch here at KPMG, I’ve been very supported by partners and colleagues in developing this new business, and a little bit of discomfort is worth it, because I’ve learned the greatest lessons of my career so far.


Amanda Spence

Partner, Corporate Tax, Calgary

Leading at home

For most of my career at KPMG, I have had small children at home. I've always wanted to show my team by example, that you can successfully navigate a demanding professional career, and be the parent you want to be. In my opinion, the key to this has always been to be flexible. The pandemic has only amplified this. People are juggling more than ever, particularly parents. Many parents have gone months without childcare or have decided not to do afterschool care, as to not introduce another group to their “bubble.”. All of this while trying to continue to be productive at work, many times taking on even more responsibility to manage the variety of new challenges that the pandemic has created. This has required teams to be more flexible than ever. The pandemic has taught me to lead by starting with empathy. It is ok that things aren’t always perfect. The second thing the pandemic has taught me, is that being positive is a choice. We really are all in this together, so let’s act like it.

Amanda Spence

Tanzeela Ayub

Tanzeela Ayub

Partner, Global Mobility Services, GTA

Leading at work

I started my professional journey when I qualified for Pakistan’s Civil Services (CSS), a highly competitive process with a qualification ratio of less than 2%. I was the first woman Assistant Commissioner of Income Tax in my home province, Balochistan. From there, I lived and worked in Pakistan, the US and Canada and became a mother to three lovely kids. My most recent milestone is becoming a partner at KPMG in Canada during the middle of a pandemic. Starting a leadership role at a new firm, building client relationships and forging strong connections with the team are challenging aspects on their own. The pandemic made it harder, and yet it taught me once again that we can thrive in the face of adversity if we persevere and build a culture of care as we have done at KPMG. While I wait to meet my colleagues and clients in person, technology has allowed me to stay connected, build connections with my clients and lead my team.

As a woman, a visible minority and an immigrant from a small town in Pakistan, my story is no different than of many other women around the world. Every step by each of us collectively paves way for another woman to move even further, and overcome the barriers. I want to lead by example and do my share to achieve gender equality, empowerment for women and an inclusive world. I choose to challenge because I owe it to my daughters and son, and to this world.


Ana Colomba

Manager, TIP, Regions East

Leading at work

One of my favourite things about working at KPMG has always been the ability to interact with different colleagues and clients on a daily basis. These kinds of interactions were my main source of energy and motivation to show up every day with a smile on my face. When COVID hit and we started working from home, that was suddenly taken away.

I decided I wanted to do something to make up for it. I started sending daily e-mails to my team, sharing productivity tips, self-care advice or even funny memes. I also challenged myself and the team to think of new and different ways in which we could come together virtually. Throughout the year we’ve had a cooking class, multiple game nights, a virtual Halloween costume party, a non-denominational ugly sweater competition and many more fun events.

Although virtually, we’ve probably spent more quality time with some of our team members than we ever imagine, and I can’t wait for us to reunite in person, I am proud of the fact that we’ve been able to stay united and support each other during these challenging times.

Ana Colomba

Shaira Nanji

Shaira Nanji

Partner, KPMG Law, Calgary

Leading at home

This past year has undoubtedly redefined what it means to be a working parent. For childcare, my partner and I adjusted by tag teaming childcare duties and taking shifts. As a mother of an energetic toddler, I learned to pace myself and redefine success. Some days, success was working at the kitchen counter and giving my son ice cream for breakfast so I could chair a conference call. Although we struggled, I recognize I have significant privilege and a strong support system. The entire experience has taught me to be grateful, take the pressure off and realize that it's okay if some days are messier than others.


Jenny Mark

Senior Manager, Corporate Tax, GVA

Leading at home and work

Living through this historical COVID time has highlighted and emphasized the various roles that I am fortunate enough to have - as a mother, wife, daughter, friend and everything else in-between. Naturally, I work well under pressure, but COVID has truly put that all to the test. I've learned to stay focused and, most importantly be resilient. I was determined to not give up, as I homeschooled two children on my own, prepared lunches after back to back conference calls and worked to meet various deadlines.

To keep my team connected, I organized various virtual socials, with the most memorable one being our Acts of Kindness challenge before Christmas. What inspires me to stay positive and to spread kindness day-to-day are the people that surround me, the desire to be a good role model and to create a positive environment for everyone. I am extremely thankful to have the support at work and home which enables me to thrive personally and professionally.

Jenny Mark

Kasandra Cote

Kasandra Côté

Partner, Enterprise Tax, Quebec

Leading at home and work

The past few months have been challenging for all of us. Personally, 2019-2020 was my first year as a Tax partner. The first few months in my role were not what I was expecting, in fact, they were better! It allowed me time to build my confidence mostly as a mother and as a partner. We all needed to adapt and reposition our mindset. This challenge showed us that we are stronger than we think. Being in our own bubbles made me realize the importance of connections with others. My personal goal during this period was to take the time that I did not have before to invest more in my family, friendships, and most of all, my kids. The relationships with our clients have also evolved. It was a privilege to be by their side during those challenging times.


Asma Hasan

Senior Manager, iDi, GTA

Leading at work

I am a strong and independent Muslim woman and the proud mom of a beautiful 6-year-old little girl with autism. My personal experiences and my passion for wanting to promote an inclusive culture in the workplace led me to co-leading two fabulous people networks at KPMG, the Salam Network and the Special Family & Friends Network. During the past year both my networks have grown bigger, stronger, and more resilient by coming together as a community in facing the different challenges that COVID-19 has brought upon us all. From this, I have learned that "individually we are one drop and together we are an ocean." Through my networks, I continue to advocate for inclusion and diversity during this crisis in the hopes of making the world a better place for my daughter.

Asma Hasan

Janice Connors

Janice Connors

Senior Manager, U.S. Tax, Regions East

Leading in the community

I take pride in being an active member of my community. Currently, I sit as an active director with the St. John's Board of Trade and the St. John's Kiwanis Music Festival Association. Additionally, I chair the Board of Directors for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Newfoundland and President of the Kiwanis Club of St. John's.

When the pandemic hit in early 2020, most Kiwanis clubs across Newfoundland and Labrador didn't know how they were going to operate without having in person lunch meetings, and to this day, not many have resumed any meetings or projects. However, under my leadership, I am proud to say that our St. John's club did not slow down. Given the age group of our club ranges from 42-95 (me being the youngest), I was wary at first. Would the older generation adapt to using new technology so we could easily move our semi-monthly in person meetings to a video format?

I quickly came to realize that it didn't matter the age of our members, their commitment to our club and to our community meant they were going to try their hardest to make this work. And now for the past year, I have been hosting our meetings via Zoom where we have been able to continue to discuss club business and continue with some of our fundraising projects, that provide financial support to local programs such as the Boys and Girls Club, the REAL program, Single Parents Association of NL, and Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Although our new club logo for the past year has become, "You're on mute!" I am proud to call myself, President of the Kiwanis Club of St. John's as we continue to serve the youth of our community.


Sarah Tkachuk

Partner, Enterprise Tax, Regions West

Leading in the community

The past year has caused us all to change and evolve.  In my role as the Chair of the Regina & District Chamber of Commerce I have witnessed some amazing stories of entrepreneurs in our community that have grown stronger during this time.  One thing that we have learned is that with challenge comes opportunity.  As we move into 2021, having dealt with some of the most challenging times that we could have imagined, I am very hopeful, because we have supported each other, and changed and grown.

Sarah Tkachuck