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Discussing business priorities with Madeleine Chenette

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Madeleine ChenetteChenette joins Accenture from KPMG Canada, where she led the strategy service line for the past four years. She has more than 22 years of consulting experience with clients across a wide range of industries, including retail, consumer goods, communication, transport, finance and the public sector. Chenette has served as the chair of the board of SECOR Group, an international strategy and management consulting firm, and as a board member of Transat A.T. Inc., an integrated tour operator.

Chenette was named to the list of Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 in 2012 by the Women’s Executive Network, and was recognized by the Association of Quebec Women in Finance in 2011 and 2013. A certified corporate director, Chenette holds a Master of Science and Administration (M.Sc.) degree from École des Hautes Études Commerciales.

 


How does it feel to be named for the second year in a row in the Women’s Executive Network 2018 Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 list?

I am grateful to be in such great company with these women. It feels energizing and it gives me the strength to inspire my team in Montreal to reach new heights.


For over 25 years, you have been encouraging women entrepreneurs in Canada. What inspired you to go into this line of business? 

I am naturally a very curious person. And it’s that curiosity that has led me to always question, inquire and discover in order to create and innovate. I took my career learnings and my willingness to be a leader and challenge the status quo into business consulting.

Some would consider me as a women pioneer and leader in the field of business consulting in Canada, and this has led me to dedicate myself to many causes to benefit women and women leadership in Quebec and across Canada.


Women have made a lot of progress in the last decade when it comes to entrepreneurship. Do you believe that they still need the same support that they needed 25 years ago?

Yes, women’s roles are still fragile worldwide. I believe that women here have more support today than they did 25 years ago. I also believe that diversity is essential for innovation and economic growth. We have very talented people in our society but women remain smart, strong forces to be reckoned with in the sidelines. We need to support, teach and mentor one another to lift each other up to new heights.

There are still many differences in the roles played by men and women. Until women are half-and-half at the top, we won’t prosper. And there are still huge gaps at work and at home. I say to women to sell their talents. Present yourself so everyone understands what you have to offer. It could all disappear, so keep showing the way forward.

In doing my part, I consistently challenge Accenture leaders to break down barriers and support women. What makes me proud is that Accenture aims to achieve a gender-balanced workforce, with 50% women and 50% men, by 2025. That fills me with pride because the advancement of women should absolutely be a business priority.


What would you say is the biggest challenge that women entrepreneurs face today compared to 20 years ago?

The challenges are many. Women entrepreneurs are taken more seriously than before, but there is still room for improvement. Most often, we have to defy social expectations and deal with limited access to funding. Work-life balance can be a big struggle for women and men alike. The difference is that women are increasingly sharing ‘life’ responsibilities with men and that is a really good thing. Let’s hope that the next 20 years sees a more equal responsibility sharing in that regard.


You also have several years of experience in helping clients come up with innovative ideas and succeed in the business world. How do you go about helping business owners become more innovative?

I am deeply connected to the artificial intelligence ecosystem in Quebec and have built strong strategic relationships with the Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms (MILA, Université de Montréal), the Institute for Data Valorisation (IVADO) and the AI super-cluster in Montreal. I also played a significant leadership role in supporting the Conseil Consutltatif de l’Économie et de l’Innovation led by the Chair of Investissemement Québec and sponsored by the Minister of Economy, Science and Innovation. This gives me a thorough understanding of the industry’s possibilities.

There is more than one way to solve a problem and being connected to a diverse ecosystem of stakeholders provides us with multiple points of view and solution possibilities.


In your opinion, does innovation play a crucial part in the success of a business?

Of course, in the ever-evolving global scale, any business that does not innovate gambles getting left behind and natural selection could ultimately threaten their viability.

Also, to deliver better innovation you need diversity of opinion. And to achieve the full potential of diversity and to obtain results that will benefit the whole business, you have to bring everyone together to think and work with a global mindset – pay attention to everyone’s unique perspectives and skills that are on the table.


Accenture provides professional services to business owners to help them innovate and succeed. Can you talk about some of the services and programs that Accenture provides to help SMEs?

We provide a broad range of services and solutions in strategy, consulting, digital, technology and operations. Accenture works at the intersection of business and technology, with specialized skills across more than 40 industries and all business functions, to help clients improve their performance and create sustainable value for stakeholders. Our professional services skillset ranges from cybersecurity to artificial intelligence to banking and financial services expertise.


What advice can you give to small business owners who are looking for innovative ways to grow their business?

Beyond innovation, purpose and relevance are now playing a greater role in the success of a business and are becoming key success factors: customers are more and more embracing products and services that have value and relevance to their lives, as well as organizations that are taking an ethical or political stance. Read more at Fjord Trends 2019.


What would you say is the biggest challenge that SME owners face when trying to be innovative?

SMEs will need to leverage the market power and scale of larger, established enterprises if they are to be truly successful. For their part, large companies are feeling pressure to innovate and become more entrepreneurial, yet find their culture and structures getting in the way. These two kinds of organizations – entrepreneurs/startups and large enterprises – need to combine their respective, distinctive capabilities and collaborate in new ways in the digital era. If you’d like to know more, Accenture’s report Harnessing the Power of Entrepreneurs to Open innovation touches upon this.


Can you talk about some of the accomplishments that Accenture has had on Canadian businesses over the years?

Accenture in Canada started operations in 1989. For nearly 30 years, our Canadian clients have relied on Accenture’s global expertise and experience and our ability to apply new technology and new methodologies to deliver bottom line, innovative results. We are best known for our commitment to helping leading businesses and governments with their most complex challenges – from business strategy through to design, build and operation of core business technology. Accenture offers end-to-end services, unlike any other organization.

Canadians frequently interact with our clients who have hired Accenture to deliver high performance across all financial services, all levels of government, and all industry groups including natural resources, utilities, retail, consumer goods and manufacturing.

In Canada, we work with a significant share of the TSX 60.


Accenture is aiming to achieve a gender-balanced workforce by 2025. How are they working towards achieving that goal?

Accenture has taken a number of steps to attract, retain, advance and sponsor women on its path to achieving a gender-balanced workforce, namely our Getting to Equal commitment, which includes:

  • Sponsoring the company’s most senior women to advance in P&L roles.  Since its inception six years ago, approximately 80% of the women in the global executive leadership program have been promoted or have significantly expanded their areas of responsibility.
  • Delivering on a commitment to transparency. The company has set and published clear, measurable targets to grow its number of women, and has published its workforce demographics in many countries including the U.S., Canada, South Africa, Japan, India and ASEAN countries.
  • Launching initiatives that provide women with in-demand skills. For example, the company’s Women in Technology program helps fast-track the careers of high-performing women toward the position of Technical Architect, a high-demand and short-supply role.
  • Collaborating across business and government to further gender equality in the workplace, with commitments that include the White House Equal Pay Pledge, Paradigm for Parity, and Catalyst CEO Champions for Change.

We embrace diversity as a source of creativity and competitive advantage. Our ultimate goal is to create a truly human environment where people have a real sense of belonging, where they can show up every day, be who they are and be their best, both professionally and personally.


On a more personal note, what would you say is your biggest accomplishment aside from being named twice in a row as Women’s Executive Network 2018 Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 list?

My family is my biggest joy and accomplishment. As the youngest of eight children, I know what it means to need to speak up a little louder and take my place with a bit more purpose. As a parent, I also understand that it’s ever more challenging for today’s youth to pinpoint what they want to do professionally. My passion in the workplace is one thing. But I strive to teach my children to try their best in achieving their dreams – whatever they may one day be. It’s hard for any working mother to know if we’re succeeding at parenting, but at the end of the day what really matters to me is that they are proud of me. And I hope that my work ethic is setting a good example for them to follow.

To successfully manage a demanding career while also surpassing expectations at home is not always a given, but I would venture to say that my life is very fulfilling on both fronts.

 

About Accenture: Accenture is a leading global professional services company, providing a broad range of services and solutions in strategy, consulting, digital, technology and operations. Combining unmatched experience and specialized skills across more than 40 industries and all business functions – underpinned by the world’s largest delivery network – Accenture works at the intersection of business and technology to help clients improve their performance and create sustainable value for their stakeholders. With approximately 459,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries, Accenture drives innovation to improve the way the world works and lives. Visit us at www.accenture.com.

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