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Influential Women in Business Awards: Joy MacPhail

Lifetime Achievement Award winner: Chair, Insurance Corp. of British Columbia; co-owner, OutTV
Joy MacPhail, a former deputy premier and B.C. finance minister, is a co-owner of OutTV | Rob Kruyt

BIV is proud to recognize six B.C. leaders as 2021 Influential Women in Business Award recipients.

A Q&A with honouree Joy MacPhail follows.

What career highlight are you most proud of?

It’s not an easy choice but what first came to mind was the creation of Translink in the late 1990s, an initiative Vancouver city councillor George Puil and I led. I was the minister responsible for public transit throughout B.C., and he was chair of the Greater Vancouver Regional District [now Metro Vancouver]. Transit-users in the Lower Mainland thought it was outrageous that their bus and SkyTrain services were run by people in Victoria, so George and I set out to find a solution. We created the very first all-inclusive, regional transportation authority in North America. It remains today responsible for all roads, transit, bridges and highways in Metro Vancouver. It’s not perfect, but it is getting better every year.

Your toughest challenge as a woman in business?

My answer may date me (but I am getting the Lifetime Achievement Award): child care! My son was three when I was first elected, and there was no child care at the legislature, yet we sometimes had all-night sittings. I am still racked with guilt 20-plus years later about the times I had to lead the debate on a piece of legislation while Jack joined a poker game with other MLAs – he was nine. Achieving affordable and accessible child care is still my passion as an activist.

Greatest advice ever received?

From my mother: before making any decision, listen to all sides of the issue. Don’t just talk to those who reinforce your own point of view.

What do you wish you knew when you were first starting out?

My answer is not exactly about when I was starting out, but I wish I had known the depth of challenges – and joy – in private entrepreneurship when I was minister of finance. My husband and I bought the LGBTQ+ network OutTV in 2006-07, after I retired from politics. Every month over the next several years I would have an ‘Aha!’ moment when I realized that the experience I was gaining through running our business would have helped me immensely as a legislator.

What does it take to be a leader in 2021?

Embrace inclusivity. Strive for equality. Be patient. Mentor. Surround yourself with people who will challenge you to do better – and delegate to them. Follow up. Know the balance between taking risk and being risk-averse. Always calibrate both.

At the end of every month, think carefully about who your successor could be and ask yourself if you are doing enough to support that person. Give back to your community.

What is your best habit?

My family and friends are the most important to me of all things in my life. I work hard at keeping them all close to me.

A book you would recommend?

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson.

One surprising or improbable fact about yourself?

I have been giving public speeches for more than 30 years, and yet before so, so, so many events, my stomach twists into knots, and I question my sanity! •

A video of this year's virtual awards gala can be viewed at starting March 8.