Female leaders in accounting: Joanne Magee

CPA Joanne Magee shares the path she took to become a leader in her field.

  • Title: Associate Professor of Income Tax Law and Director, School of Public Policy and Administration
  • Place of employment: York University, Toronto
  • Number of company employees: 4700 faculty
  • University: 1977, Bachelor of Science, McMaster University
    1979, MBA University of Toronto
    2002, Master of Laws, York University
  • Designation year: 1981, Ernst & Young, Toronto
  • Fellow designation year: 1997, Ontario

In January 2011, associate professor Joanne Magee will begin a six month sabbatical.

There is some travelling planned but it’s not going to be a “put your feet up at the beach” kind of break for the director, School of Public Policy and Administration at Toronto’s York University. She will still run her three tax clinics with students in March and has several writing projects up her sleeve.

Building up to her time off has been hectic for the associate professor of Income Tax Law. She whips out a long list of achievements for the past year, including winning a department teaching award, updating two books on income tax law and publishing an article.

That is in addition to director duties, which include everything from academic, budgetary and personnel matters to research, delegating, motivating others and integrating with students and staff.

“I was taught that it is important to pitch in and be involved in my community, whether it was in my work or home life,” she says about taking charge, and credits her parents as being excellent role models and her husband as being her greatest supporter.

“My first leadership roles were in volunteer work in the community and at York. I proved myself there, and learned valuable lessons.”

Since 1998, she has been active on more than 30 volunteer boards and committees, including the CICA, the ICAO, the Canadian Tax Foundation and the Financial Planning Standards Council.

Judging from Magee’s aggressive path through university, then into the accounting profession and on to get her Master of Laws in 2002, there were many innate leadership characteristics already there to be honed.

Two years after graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree from Hamilton’s McMaster University in 1977, she had an M.B.A. from the University of Toronto.

She was a staff accountant and manager at Toronto’s Clarkson Gordon — now Ernst & Young (EY) — from 1979 until 1986, conquering the UFE in 1981. After a couple of years with a real estate developer and property manager, she joined Shimmerman Penn Becker as a manager in 1988.

By January 1991, she was at York University as an assistant professor. There, she could exercise and develop the leadership skills that would be recognized by appointments, including associate dean from 1999 to 2001, and from 2003 to 2007.

During that time, she also received her fellow designation in 1997, and her CFP a year later.

“1992 was a seminal year,” she says. “I gave birth to our fourth child, and for three months, we had three children under three years old.”

She worked full-time as the only faculty member in her department teaching tax; approved all tax assignments, exams and grades; was treasurer of several organizations; taught at the ICAO SOA and marked UFE exams; went to meetings of the Women & Tax working group of the Ontario Fair Tax Commission; and was the Hallowe’en Unicef box co-ordinator at her children’s school.

Now, three of those children are business students; the eldest is an analyst at RBC Capital Markets.

After her sabbatical, Magee will be back in the classroom at York. “I will be teaching fourth year courses in Canadian personal and corporate tax,” she says. Five years down the road, she plans to still be teaching and writing. “I enjoy working with the students,” she says. “They come first.”

Magee likes to follow Steven Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People from his bestselling book, first published in 1989.

  1. Be proactive.
  2. Begin with the end in mind.
  3. Put first things first.
  4. Think win/win.
  5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
  6. Synergize.
  7. Sharpen the saw.

Update 2013:

True to her plan, Magee is teaching fourth-year courses at York University in personal and corporate tax after her sabbatical, and she has expanded the number of tax clinics she runs with student volunteers.

In 2011, she received the Fellow of FPSC™ distinction, which formally recognizes individuals who have helped advance the Financial Planning Standard’s Council’s vision of helping Canadians improve their lives by engaging in financial planning. Last year, she was appointed to the Tax Education Committee.