Shining a light on female leaders: Lauren Jackson (Deloitte)

05 September 2022 7 min. read
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Lauren Jackson is a partner at Deloitte and leader of the firm’s National Security & Justice practice in Canada. In discussion with Cat Callen from RDW, Jackson reflects on her career growth, her passion to empower women and people from minority backgrounds, and what she believes are some of the top topics for executives over the next years.

Lauren, tell us about yourself.

I am a Toronto-born, Greater Toronto Area raised kid who grew up enjoying school, playing outside and engaged in competitive sports and hobbies including soccer, hockey and dance – the latter for the better part of 12 years, shaping me in many ways.

Through a series of decisions that can probably be best captured through a mix of following your passion and timing-meets-opportunity, I have found myself in a challenging career that energizes me by the social and community impact the work can have in our justice system and for Canadians, while having some fun along the way.

Lauren Jackson, Deloitte

Who and what inspired you to work in the justice area?

This may not have the most obvious story. Working in the justice area does not run in my family, nor did I have a particular encounter that turned my attention to the space. However, over the 13 years that I have been focused on this sector I have had countless interactions that keep me inspired and engaged to remain in the space. I stumbled into a political science course in first year university, fell in love and thought I would head to law school.

A few beats and years of study later, I was intrigued and immersed in studies related to international relations and diplomacy. I undertook a specialized Master’s degree in Intelligence & Strategic studies, and found myself aligning to and following leaders that have exuded a passion, knowledge and commitment to this sector, as well as to their people.

I have been very lucky to work for some great leaders who amplified and created space for me to lean in to exciting projects supporting first responder and justice agencies  improve their way of operating.

What project in your career has made the biggest impact?

Part of what gets me out of bed every day and working as I do is that I aspire to, both directly and in the practice I am building, make an impact that matters.

Many projects have influenced me in my career to date, in so many ways: some have made me develop or strengthen skill sets, others have pushed me so far out of my comfort zone I could barely see the zone anymore, others have challenged me at my core about how I manage my time, prioritize and preserve my health (including mental health), and that of my teams’, and almost all have been a reminder of why I love working within the justice sector as much as I do.

To highlight one, it was early in my career. I was a Senior Consultant, part of a team working with a police service on the early days of a modernization journey. It was my first policing engagement, the work was broad, complex and scrutinized, and some of what I was being asked to do was relatively new to me.

Little did I know that this would be the start of an over three-year relationship with the client that would contribute to the way police services were delivered, and at a place close to home. I was also promoted in this time, navigating a new role and perception of myself with the client and my team. I was in positions and “at the table” with senior executives daily, showing up to contribute my perspective on the way forward.

In the same breath, it was equal parts rewarding to see the progress and challenging to embrace my comfort with my own discomfort, and the accelerated growth that provided. It has also left me with a richness of lessons learned as my career has progressed regarding how I show up in situations that, while different, bring me back to that very same feeling.

How do you create an inclusive environment in the workplace?

I am convinced of one thing, that there is not ‘one answer’ to this question or a ‘right way’ to do this. I have had the privilege and benefit of working across a few organizations and with different leaders. I work every day to lead those on my team with integrity and a principle of inclusivity.

What I believe is common amongst those who do this well, is their mindset – one that leads with curiosity and inquisition, as opposed to presumption and prescription. This may seem like a ‘no brainer’, but established orthodoxies and biases influence even those with the best of intentions daily. Being inquisitive allows for space and the opportunity for others to respond, fill and shape it, and it also supports a  graciousness in the stumbles that we can learn from.

From the simplest of language (i.e., parental leave versus a maternity or paternity leave) to the most formal of policies (i.e., gender affirming health benefits), curiosity cultivates dialogue and creates space for all.

What do you think organisations can do to support the LGBT+ community better?

Years ago, I wouldn’t have gone near this question, but also years ago I was not ‘out’, and not out at work. That decision changed my life, in every way for the better. I am now a proud wife, mother and partner at a firm whose values and both authentic and transparent approach to inclusivity is in part, but one reason I chose to return.

When asked, I have also shared with others that my story is one of privilege and largely queer joy, and a commitment I made to myself is to, at a minimum, be visible.

It has been a thrill to see, even in the last five to ten years, organizations step up during Pride month. In Toronto the Financial District becomes a quilt of rainbows – from banners and windows to painted sidewalks, lit up stairwells and events galore. This is fantastic!

While more can be done to continue to be true corporate allies to the LGBTQIA+ community, the phrase “queer all year” is one that resonates. It’s my view that some organizations do or are at risk of “rainbow washing” themselves, with some of the world’s largest corporations sponsoring the brightest of rainbow ads while simultaneously funding groups lobbying for non-inclusive legislation and policies around the world.

It would be great to see more transparency and accountability, within and of organizations, to challenge the optical versus intrinsic nature of ‘the rainbow’ in what and all they do.

What do you think are the most critical topics that companies are going to have to address over the next 5 years?

Being I have spent most of my career in client service, I may take a somewhat different lens to this, thinking about what will impact organizations but also how we operate as a society. I’ll highlight three things: equity, the ‘metaverse disruptor’ and values.

In a world of accelerated technological advancement, where human organs can be grown in weeks from a stem cell, and where exponential technologies from artificial intelligence, to quantum computing, digital twins and the metaverse are disrupting the world as we know it, organizations will need to put front and centre a focus on equity.

While the Covid-19 Pandemic has spearheaded a global recognition of the growing disparity between countries and populations within our countries, if we do not prioritize equity at the core of these advancements, we will design a more divided future at a pace not before seen and the pressures and costs that come with that – labour market challenges, increased vulnerability for many, impacts to crime and criminality, access to technology and services.

The world continues to shrink, but also now replicate and curate “new worlds” as digital twins and the metaverse become more common place. Organizations will need to navigate everything from corporate policies and talent considerations related to the metaverse (think social media practices but in the metaverse), to others fundamentally needing to re-engineer or evolve their business to support the extrapolation of the social contract in a ‘new world’.

For instance, and this is part of the conversations we are having now in the justice sector, what does it mean to police the metaverse, and review and adjudicate matters that result from occurrences therein?

Lastly, and tying back to some earlier points in our conversation, there is the topic of values or ‘brand authenticity’. Organizations have had to grapple with talent attraction and retention in a manner not before seen as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. We all recognize this has fundamentally shifted the expectation of many as it relates to work and the workplace.

Increasingly, talent is making decisions based on their values and the expectation that their workplace aligns, reflects or accommodates them. The corporate social responsibility of organizations, not in the causes they give back to but in the values they subscribe to and live by (their “brand authenticity”) I think will become an even more obvious and powerful influencer in the tides of talent and how organizations need to evolve and adapt to meet them.