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Women in Risk Advisory: Leigh Jardine takes a walk in the private sector

Deloitte continues its series honoring Women in Risk Advisory with a conversation with Leigh Jardine, manager at Deloitte Canada.
“If you asked me a couple of years ago what a Manager in Risk Advisory at Deloitte does, I would tell you that I had absolutely no idea.”

For Leigh, moving to Canada was an opportunity to continue pursuing her passions for government and public sector, human rights, and social justice. “I knew this was something I wanted to pursue, and I wanted to challenge myself. In the course of meeting people in a new city, I met some people from Deloitte and got to hear from them about the work that they do and demystifying the consulting experience.”

Recognizing while she understood what Deloitte’s different businesses did, Leigh reflects that, “I don’t think I truly understood the breadth of what we could work on until I started working on these projects and having exposure to the range of different problems that we could help organizations to solve.”

Joining Deloitte with a background in policy and government, there was some uncertainty about how she would fit into the private sector, “I’m deeply invested in the ability for government to make a profound impact on people’s lives and I wasn’t sure how that would resonate in the private sector context.”

During her time at Deloitte, Leigh has been fortunate to work on a variety of projects, underpinned by her passion for solving complex problems and advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion. This variety and flexibility she experienced has been a core part of her experience, “Part of the benefit of this organization has been that I’ve been able to choose my own adventure within risk.” 

Leigh describes her focus within Deloitte as two-part: signature issues and challenges facing government and the public sector, and diversity equity and inclusion (DE&I), “the ability to solve complex challenges and issues that were timely and relevant and had a genuine and profound impact on people’s lives is really appealing to me.”

These challenges included navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic started shortly after Leigh joined Deloitte Risk Advisory in 2019, and it came fraught with challenges for organizations trying to cope with the shutdowns, masking requirements, and other disruptions.

“There were a lot of challenges we had to respond to quickly. For example: How do organizations keep functioning when people are working from home? How do they deal with supply chain disruptions? How are people supposed to return to work?” she says. It was about how to respond effectively during a time of tremendous change. 

For Leigh, this period was marked with career growth, advancing from Senior Consultant to Manager in 18 months. During this time, she worked on a range of different engagements, as well as diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) issues. This not only played into her professional expertise; it also hit on her personal passions.

In this space, language plays an incredibly important role. For Leigh, DE&I is the furthest thing from a ‘trend’, “I don’t like to speak about DE&I as being a ‘trend’, I worry that kind of language has the capacity to diminish the decades and hundreds of years of advocacy that have been done by different groups and organization to advance equity and rights for people.”

In the context of her client work, “It’s less so about the ‘trend’ of DE&I, and rather there’s been a greater corporate recognition of the long-standing actions and advocacy that has led us to this place. This didn’t just happen. These things don’t just happen. It’s a case of people who have fought, and in many instances, died, trying to bring equal rights to people.”She recognizes this is a space where not everyone feels comfortable, “A lot of people think when you are dealing with DE&I they think it’s about a ‘special sauce’. It’s about learning, understanding, and trying to lead with empathy, and trying to provide an environment for the people you work with so they feel safe, and can be their authentic selves”. She maintains that “in the DE&I space – there’s no such thing as a perfect advocate. There’s no such thing as perfection in this space or being done or complete, there’s always more that we can be doing.” 

For her clients, in recent years there has been a greater focus placed on DE&I, noting “there has been a greater responsibility and being a responsible corporate citizen is more than what it was potentially conceptualized as before.”

Leading inclusion initiatives

In addition to her client-facing role, Leigh is one of the co-chairs of Deloitte’s Pride Employee Resource Group (ERG). ERGs are “a safe space for people who are members of a community or allies to be together and share stories”. They are also a mechanism for learning, training, and development for Deloitte internally. 

As part of her activities as co-chair of the Pride ERG, she marched with the Deloitte team in the Pride Toronto parade to show support for the LGBTQ+ community. The Toronto Pride Month celebration attracts more than 1.7 million attendees, and its parade is one of the largest of its type in the world. However, this is just one event that her group focuses on.

For Leigh, being able to hear from practitioners about their lived experience is an essential part of the work the Pride ERG does, “A quote that really resonated with me this year was ‘we want to focus on stories and not statistics’. While statistics are important to understand magnitude, understanding hearing from our practitioners about the impact homophobic or transphobic comments have carries a different weight. For example, at one of our panels, one of practitioners spoke about how they their partner were brought to tears when they heard about Deloitte’s new gender-affirming benefits.”

As for Leigh, being a woman in risk, “I have never seen myself differentiated for being a woman in risk. It has been beneficial, and my perspective has been valued and not tokenized, which is very important for me.” 

Her focus is on making the experience she has enjoyed, one that is felt by others, “I’m incredibly privileged that I can see examples of leadership within my organization and for me to follow and be coached by. How can we make that a common experience? I have tremendous privilege, for me, it’s about saying ‘how can we make sure that my incredible experience as a woman in risk is able to be a common experience and one that other people have?’”

“What’s been important has been other women in risk and leaders,” she says. “They have always provided me with outstanding counselling, coaching, and guidance.”

Sounds a lot like what she does for her clients.

View Deloitte’s Women in Risk Advisory Series.