2019 Catalyst Canada Honours Emerging Leader Champion
Chief of Staff, Audit Public Practice, Deloitte
As the Chief of Staff for the Audit Public Practice at Deloitte, Michael Cherny has been a positive inspiration and driving force for a more caring and thoughtful corporate culture. His dedication to creating inclusive environments, both within Deloitte and in Canadian society, has been at the forefront of his career.
Michael has a true passion for people and is continuously looking for better ways to engage and communicate across all levels and practices within Deloitte. He doesn’t shy away from tough conversations; he instead finds ways to facilitate constructive dialogues about difficult topics. His innate ability to communicate inclusively and effectively is enhanced by his calm nature, which allows him to easily navigate potentially charged discussions. As Treasurer of Pride Toronto from 2015 to 2018, for example, Michael successfully managed difficult conversations with various stakeholders in the event, showing them respect and actively listening to their concerns.
Michael brought the phrase “Your difference is the difference” to Deloitte. It is now used widely across the firm, setting a tone of inclusion and encouraging employees to celebrate and respect one other. He has a talent for finding common threads that connect people across differences. He proactively handles issues in innovative ways, in turn providing others at Deloitte with tools that enable them to be creative in how they work and develop talent.
How He Made Change
Michael has led several initiatives that highlight both the work of marginalized groups and Deloitte’s inclusive culture. An example is the partnership he created between Deloitte and the Nia Centre for the Arts, a Toronto-based organization whose mission is to support and showcase art from across the African diaspora. Michael campaigned to have works of art from the Nia Centre prominently displayed in Deloitte’s Toronto office for both staff and clients to enjoy. This project followed a series of conversations that Michael led around intersecting identities, inclusion, and the desire to share different perspectives through art.
When Michael joined Deloitte in 2011, he became a member of the organization’s Pride Employee Resource Group, an ERG that he now leads. Michael always looks for ways to put inclusive values into action and goes for maximum positive impact. To celebrate Pride Month in June 2018, he spearheaded a campaign to have the Toronto and Montreal Deloitte office buildings display large Pride rainbows in their windows.
Michael has been a Champion in several other ways. He has been the driving force behind conversations around transgender individuals and transitioning, and he helped create new Gender Transitioning Guidelines for Deloitte. As a result of his work, three transgender employees received robust HR support through their transitions and others currently in the process of transitioning are also being supported. Michael’s work on the Gender Transitioning Guidelines has also had an impact outside of Deloitte—other leading organizations are now using it as a model to develop their own guidelines, implement inclusive workplace policies, and educate staff members.
As Michael’s role at Deloitte expanded to have a national focus, he has been able to have a larger role in supporting and advising the firm’s leadership team on practical and systematic ways to improve the talent experience. He has promoted a more intentional focus on advancing women and other underrepresented groups, and his work has created more open and active dialogue within leadership around advancing diverse talent. Michael’s respectful communication style enables him to lead discussions with individuals across all levels of the firm effectively, challenging assumptions without creating conflict.
Michael has been making an impact in the community beyond Deloitte by equipping corporate and nonprofit leaders across Canada with the tools necessary to meet the needs of underrepresented groups at their firms. He has worked with Chartered Professional Accountants of Ontario, encouraging conversations and engaging its members at the Toronto Pride Parade. He has also fostered an alliance between Deloitte and RBC to find innovative ways to ally through the sponsorship of national nonprofits. He has been a vocal advocate for boardroom diversity among Canada’s nonprofits, and he ensures that Deloitte considers a nonprofit organization’s board diversity as criteria for collaborating with them.
Inclusive Leadership: Empowerment, Accountability, Courage, and Humility
Michael has used his personal journey and lived experiences as a transgender man to support the creation of inclusive workplaces accepting of all individuals. He courageously shared his personal transition story publicly in 2018 via LinkedIn where he posted “today is my first day living my truth.” He made the decision to publish his own story to highlight the importance of being a role model in corporate society and to provide an opportunity for others to see themselves reflected in the organization and its leaders. His courage has contributed to a positive movement toward a more inclusive environment at Deloitte and beyond.
Michael is generous with his time and frequently supports Deloitte teams and leaders by providing tools and training aimed at creating a more inclusive workplace. He empowers those around him to live their true selves while continuing to seek opportunities to learn and discover something new. He has been highly effective at fostering a psychologically safe environment where people feel comfortable providing input and know that their unique opinions will be heard. He puts his values into action and has proven over and over that one person can make a lasting, positive impact in a large corporation.
About Michael Cherny
Michael is the Chief of Staff to the Audit Public Practice at Deloitte, where he leads small- and large-scale initiatives that encourage innovation and drive operational excellence. He joined Deloitte as a summer student in 2011, and his influence and impact grew from there. In 2015, Michael took a voluntary leave of absence from Deloitte to create change for the better by strategically supporting the Ten Oaks Project, a nonprofit based in Ottawa. He returned to Deloitte in 2016 with an increased commitment to advance inclusion within the company. He has been featured in various media outlets, including IN magazine, The New York Times, and the Toronto Star. He was recently profiled by CPA Canada as an accountant who “thinks unconventionally” and was featured in the organization’s national campaign for the profession.
In addition to his work with Deloitte, Michael currently serves on the board of The 519, a nonprofit organization committed to the health, happiness, and full participation of LGBTQ communities, and supports Chartered Professional Accountants of Ontario’s involvement with Pride Toronto. He previously served on multiple nonprofit boards and volunteered with Pride Toronto, Start Proud, and the Ten Oaks Project.