Finding Her People: Jane Peverett’s Journey From McMaster to the Boardroom

May 15, 2024 | Hamilton, ON
Contributed by Scott Koblyk

Jane Peverett ’80 discovered the path that would take her to chief executive roles with two different utilities because she found “her people” not once, but twice at key moments in her life. 

Jane chose McMaster University for her undergraduate degree because it had a good reputation and was just close enough to her Oakville home. “I commuted for a week before I realized I was missing one of the most important aspects of going to university which was campus life,” she recalled. That realization would lead her to Bates Residence for the final three years of her undergraduate career – including one year of living with shag carpet. Another change of plan would set her on the path to her award-winning career. 

Jane enrolled at McMaster to study urban geography, but she felt more at home in her elective commerce classes.

“When I walked into the business classes,” she said, “I thought, ‘Oh, these are my people.’”
She became a full-time commerce student in her second year on the way to what she called “a fantastic four years” that culminated with her Bachelor of Commerce. She continued directly into the MBA program at Queen’s University because, “I just enjoyed school so much, I wasn’t ready to be finished.” 

Jane completed her MBA at a time when newly minted business graduates were in high demand. She had interviews with banks, accounting firms and energy companies. Once again, she knew immediately where she belonged. “I walked into the energy company interviews and I thought, ‘I like this vibe.’ It was just a cultural thing. It was the way I like to talk, the energy, the pace, that works for me,” she said. That launched what would become a quarter-century career in the energy sector, primarily in utilities. First with Union Gas and then with British Columbia Transmission Corporation, Jane followed a similar path to become chief executive officer. 

As a Certified Management Accountant and a fellow of the Society of Management Accountants, Jane brought an exceptional level of financial acumen to her work in the distinctive environment of regulated utilities. “I went up the finance/accounting side of the organization. It’s a very common career path in the utilities,” said Jane who twice made the step up from CFO to CEO. “Regulated industry is something that you get to understand at a molecular level. As the finance person, as the person who understands the costs, you understand the company well enough to become CEO.”  

Leading a utility – two separate times – presented Jane with the challenge of frequently balancing competing priorities. She observed, “Utilities are interesting because you are making 50-year investments, so it’s big infrastructure, long-term investments, very capital intensive. But you also have hundreds of thousands, in some cases millions of customers, so it’s an interesting blend of retail and infrastructure.” Utilities are also both ubiquitous and, ideally, invisibly reliable. “We never wanted anyone to think about the natural gas utility. They just needed to know their gas was going to be there all the time.” Now, the big issues facing almost all utilities are maintaining that invisible reliability; ensuring the safety of employees, customers and communities and, more recently, energy transition.

“Everybody in the utility business is focused on the transition from carbon-based fuels to non-carbon-based fuels. How do we get there? How fast can we get there? What is the future? Can we afford it? Can we get there without disrupting the energy supply as we move from one fuel to another? This is what all utilities are thinking about.”

While Jane was still serving as a utility CEO, she began accepting appointments to corporate boards of directors, beginning with EnCana (as the company was then known). It didn’t take long for more directorships to follow including with companies like Northwest Natural Gas Company (now NW Natural) and CIBC. Now a professional director, Jane has served or currently serves on the boards of companies including Suncor, Canadian Pacific Kansas City Limited, Capital Power Corporation, AEGIS Insurance Services, Postmedia, Hydro One Inc. and the BC Ferries Authority. She is also the chair of the CSA Group (formerly the Canadian Standards Association). Roles like these make Jane one of the most influential corporate directors in Canada. Even as her board service brings her to different types of companies in different sectors, she sees a director’s role as building on a nearly universal foundation. “The key focus of the board work is: Have you got the right CEO? Have you got the right strategy? Are you managing the affairs of the organization in total such that you avoid the things that result in negative headlines?” 

With this diverse legacy of corporate leadership, Jane was a logical, but to her, surprising choice for the DeGroote School of Business’s Wayne C. Fox Distinguished Alumni Award.

“One of the nicest things about the award is it had me think back to my time at McMaster,” she said, “to some of the people I knew and some of the time that I spent there and that’s been really lovely.”


Jane Peverett (BCom ’80) is the 26th recipient of the 2024 Wayne C. Fox Distinguished Alumni Award.

The award was presented for the first time in 2000 to its namesake, Wayne C. Fox, and in the years since has continued to recognize exceptional alumni of the DeGroote School of Business.

Jane will be honoured at the Evening of Accolades celebration on June 17 at the Park Hyatt Toronto. For more information on the award, the event, and ticket availability, please visit the DeGroote events page. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Comment Policy

We generally welcome discussion on our blog posts. However, we reserve the right to edit or delete comments in certain situations:

  • Comments which include unrelated or suspicious links or messages (spam).
  • Comments which are off topic.
  • Comments which attack or threaten individuals or a group of people.
  • Comments which include profanity or messages that would generally be considered offensive or inappropriate by the McMaster community.

This site is moderated by the DeGroote Marketing and Communications team. If you have any questions please email Katie Almas.