Paying it forward, a sense of mission, and doing a good service is key to success

Alum, Pamela Steer(MAcc '94, FCPA, CFA) reflects on receiving Alumni Achievement Award

by Patty Mah

Image of Pamela Steer

In a year defined by the global pandemic, it is more important than ever to recognize and acknowledge those who have positively impacted our businesses and communities. Being named in 2020 as the School of Accounting and Finance’s (SAF) Alumni Achievement Award recipient, alum Pamela Steer (MAcc ’94, FCPA, FCA, CFA) is honoured by the recognition and will be using it as a way to benefit future students of SAF and the University.

“What it means for me to win is the responsibility to do more for the School and the University that has given me so much. It’s important to pay it forward, to continue to mentor students and to continuously improve programming as education evolves.” – Pamela Steer

Steer’s career to date has been focused on transformation, an arena in which she thrives. As CFO and Chief Corporate Strategy Officer of Payments Canada, Steer implemented programs and strategies to improve transparency and modernize the organization’s vision within a changing global context. Prior to Payments Canada, Steer led the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) through the biggest corporate turnaround in Canadian history. Her work in transforming WSIB was recognized nationally by being named Canada’s CFO of the Year in 2019. Navigating WSIB, nine years ahead of schedule, from a $14B deficit back to fully funded status is definitely deserving of the CFO of the Year title. Always humble, Steer deflects the spotlight to note that the achievement was much more rewarding “to have an organization like WSIB that is seen as a part of the public sector recognized for what it can accomplish is amazing for that community and for the work that’s done by public servants every day.”

Using a pay-it-forward strategy, Steer hopes to positively influence change to create and open more opportunities for women and BIPOC candidates in executive-level and C-suite roles. “We all know people who are deserving and they just need their time in the spotlight. They need their opportunity and we need to provide it.” This is happening in real-time and changing the landscape of boardroom tables. The upside of the pandemic has “democratized a lot of boardrooms and executive tables,” notes Steer who attributes virtual meetings as one way of leveling the presence of all attendees at meetings to create more democratic and balanced discussions.


Starting early, volunteering and trying new things are the biggest pro tips Steer wants to communicate to empower female and BIPOC students to build their leadership experiences as they aspire toward executive-level roles. “Go out and try. What’s the worst that can happen? You learn from failures, you learn from success, and if you don’t try, you won’t know.” Co-op is another recommendation that every SAF and Waterloo student should be leveraging as a “safe opportunity to try different careers, different industries, different types of positions or roles to gain a better idea of what might satisfy you, and the culture that might fit you best when you graduate.” Co-op can be a direct pathway to a graduate’s first full-time role in their desired field, but it comes with a bit of risk-taking and willingness to try and explore to find the right fit.

Having recently left her role at Payments Canada, Steer is using the hiatus from the 9-to-5 routine to consider where she wants to place her focus next. Steer’s strong sense of service and passion for governance is keeping her busy at the moment with board roles on the SAF Advisory Council, the Toronto Investment Board and most recently the Michael Garron Hospital. “Whatever I do, it has to have a couple of elements attached: transformation, a learning element, and a sense of purpose.”

2020 SAF Alumni Award Winner - Transcript

2019 CFO of the Year - Transcript

Women in C-Suite Roles - Transcript

Future Plans - Transcript

Tips & Advice for Female Professionals - Transcript

Final Thoughts - Transcript