Gina Singh describes her role with BC Women’s Hospital & Health Centre Foundation as “meant to be” – but the path that led to it began with not one but two harrowing experiences.
Before becoming chief financial and operating officer of the foundation in 2016, Singh had spent about two decades cultivating her accounting and finance credentials at KPMG and with consulting positions in the U.K. and Canada.
But her career faced some turbulence earlier in the decade after enduring a “horrible, horrible” first pregnancy.
She gave birth to a son, now eight. Her second pregnancy four years later was also difficult.
It resulted in trips to BC Women’s Hospital every two weeks to ensure her daughter, now four years old, remained healthy throughout the pregnancy.
“They made me feel comfortable and not as stressed as I probably should have been,” Singh said. “And I always knew I had the best doctors here. I knew I was in good hands. I appreciated having the kids so much more because of what I went through.”
By 2013 she ended up taking an extended break from full-time work to focus on raising her children.
However, within a few years Singh found herself “itching to get back” to the labour force.
“I knew I couldn’t at that point and time go back to full-on 50-, 60-hour workweeks,” she said.
That’s when a former KPMG colleague called her out of the blue and alerted her of the BC Women’s Hospital and Health Centre Foundation’s need for some financial expertise.
Singh, who had been volunteering at Family Services of Greater Vancouver during the preceding years, arrived just as the former CEO was retiring.
So she dipped her toes into the foundation by working on a consulting basis the first few months, testing the waters as it was going through leadership changes at the top level.
Singh and new CEO Genesa Greening soon realized it was a good fit, and Singh joined the foundation full time just a few years after relying on the hospital during her trying pregnancies.
Since then, the foundation’s revenue has swelled while Singh has been giving the finance department an overhaul.
Day to day, she’s charged with determining which financial plans are feasible, when money is coming in and whether the foundation is spending too much or if they can find ways to make cuts.
Singh, who has a doctorate in finance, must also ensure financial governance is in place, and review new partnership agreements and contracts.
“Gina is amongst the most ethical, meticulous and principled leaders [with whom] I have ever had the pleasure of working, and she takes the corporate responsibilities associated with her profession extremely seriously,” Greening said in a statement.
“Gina’s corporate background added immense value to our organization, and her applied discipline allowed us to move beyond operating like a small charity to become an organization that is truly capable of moving the needle on women’s health on a scale that was unimaginable not too long ago.”
If one wanted proof this was a career path destined for Singh, her high school yearbook features a curiously prescient message.
“I said I wanted to own ‘ Worldwide Chartered Accounting firm’ at that time, so it was kind of funny,” she recalled.
But back then, Singh’s first job was mowing lawns for the parks in her hometown of Fernie, where her father worked as a foreman for the municipal government.
Meanwhile, a friend’s father was an accountant, and Singh said that’s when she began to fall in love with the career.
After high school, she departed Fernie, to study in Kelowna before making her way to Simon Fraser University to earn her bachelor of business administration.
From there, KPMG recruited her to do her articling, and she later became the firm’s senior manager of audit practice in Vancouver.
Nowadays, to take her mind off the rigours of finance, she volunteers at her child’s school in Richmond.
“I’m the head fundraiser, which is totally opposite of what I do here,” she said, adding there was no treasurer position available for which she could volunteer.
“[It’s] quite interesting. Everything from pub nights, movie nights, Mother’s Day events.”
She’s also in the midst of absorbing a book, called Girl, Wash Your Face, given to her during the holidays by Greening.
“That one is about women who try to do everything and feeling that they’re never good enough,” Singh said.
“So just taking a step back and realizing your accomplishments, and that you can actually achieve being with your family and also working, which I think is also extremely important. And given that I won this award as well, I think it’s proven that I can do that.” •
Business in Vancouver and the Chartered Professional Accountants of British Columbia will honour the province’s top CFOs at the BC CFO Awards gala dinner, being held June 6 at the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel. For more information or to register, go to biv.com/bc-cfo-awards.