Skip to main content

As the leader of the global accountancy profession, IFAC is strongly committed to supporting Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. We believe that a diverse and inclusive workplace, where professional accountants can bring their authentic selves, contributes to a culture of trust and integrity which supports IFAC’s ability to deliver on its public interest mandate, thereby increasing its relevance into the future.

In celebration of Pride Month, Elena Churikova, IFAC Senior Manager, spoke with a trailblazing figure in the global accounting community, Margrét Pétursdóttir. Margrét is a Partner at KPMG Iceland and a member of the IFAC Board. In many parts of the world, LGBTQIA+ individuals still face discrimination and lack legal protections in the workplace. Our goal is to raise awareness and contribute to a more globally inclusive profession where LGBTQIA+ individuals can be their authentic selves and thrive.

With a distinguished career spanning over two decades, including leadership roles at EY Iceland and her recent appointment as a Partner at KPMG Iceland, Margrét brings a wealth of experience and expertise to the table. This interview aims to highlight her career achievements, her commitment to diversity and inclusion, as well as her insights into the challenges and opportunities within the accounting profession and her vision for a more inclusive future.


Elena: Pride Month serves as a reminder of the ongoing struggle for equality and acceptance. Could you please describe your experience as a LGBTQIA+ person serving on the IFAC Board?  

Margrét: IFAC is a great organization that puts a lot of emphasis on diversity and inclusion. The IFAC Board includes the President, 22 Board members, and their Technical Advisors, all coming from diverse backgrounds and experiences across the globe, so it is hard to think of a more diverse group of people. This diversity has allowed me to better understand differences in communications between various cultures and refined my ability to leverage our collective expertise effectively. 

The IFAC Board has always supported me, as a LGBTQIA+ person. I've experienced nothing but respect from both my fellow Board members and the IFAC staff. I have felt comfortable bringing my wife to social events and talking freely to my fellow Board members about being married to a person of the same gender. When I think about it, the fact that my identity was not an issue shows IFAC’s commitment to human rights and inclusiveness, because in a perfect world, it should not matter!

Elena: Did you face any challenges in your career as an LGBTQIA+ person and if yes, how did you overcome them?

Margrét: Fortunately, I have never faced any challenges in my career as an LGBTQIA+ individual. On the other hand, I faced personal challenges and fears with coming out late in life, which I had to overcome. But it turned out that these fears were totally unnecessary. No one had any issues with my identity other than me, neither my family, friends, nor my work colleagues.

I am privileged to live in Iceland, a country at the forefront of equality for LGBTQIA+ individuals. However, I am aware that not everyone is so lucky and that many individuals live in countries where human rights for LGBTQIA+ people are not protected.

As a profession, we have a significant role to play in the fight for human rights and equality. It is our responsibility to leverage our collective voice in the most effective manner possible. Given the global nature of accounting firms and their operations across borders, we have a unique ability to influence change in communities worldwide. By continuing to actively engage in DE&I discussions, especially in regions where progress lags behind, we can foster understanding and promote inclusiveness on a global scale.

Elena: You have been a Partner of two Big-4 firms, and the President of the Icelandic Federation. What skills and experiences helped you to become the successful leader you are today?

Margrét: Reflecting on my career, I realize that my journey was not driven by a specific plan, set of goals, or personal ambitions. Ólafur Jóhann Ólafsson, a world-known businessman and author, once said that he never set goals; his only goal was to do his best every day no matter what the task was. I guess I´m a little bit like that. Doing my best every day is a goal in itself.

I started working part-time at the age of twelve, which would be illegal today, but trying different jobs taught me a lot. I learned that irrespective of what the job entails, there is always something you can learn and something you can add to make it better. Also, working from a young age helped me develop the stamina needed to push through difficult work situations later in life. I learned that one step at a time will get you to the finish line.

Another skill, or rather part of who I am, is my desire to always look for improvements. What can I do differently to achieve better success, or have the same success with less effort? I just think that it is more fun to improve things instead of accepting the status quo.

Another thing that worked well for me is saying yes when new opportunities come along. By accepting new challenges, I am giving myself and the people around me the opportunity to gain new experiences and grow.

This brings me to the next important factor in my success which is teamwork. I am very fortunate to have spent the last 25 years with large accounting firms, surrounded by highly talented people. I firmly believe that a good team can accomplish far more than any individual, and I find the collaborative process very satisfying and crucial for the personal development of everyone on the team.

In summary, by consistently speaking up, saying “yes” to new opportunities, and building strong teams, I have been fortunate to earn the trust of my colleagues and be entrusted with various leadership roles. This approach has allowed me to contribute significantly to the organizations I've been part of and build environments where teamwork, innovation, and work-life balance thrive.

Elena: Do you feel that the accountancy profession has seen progress in terms of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) since your career began?

Margrét: Yes, there has been progress, but very slow. Historically dominated by men, the profession is experiencing a change in the right direction, at least in my region. In Iceland, about 15% of professional accountants in 2000 were women, compared to 30% now. There are challenges that stem from achieving a balance between work demands and personal life. This struggle often results in the loss of valuable talent, particularly among women who are unwilling to compromise family time for their careers. As a profession, it's crucial that we prioritize creating workplaces that facilitate successful work-life balance to remain attractive to all individuals, especially young female professionals.

Regarding other aspects of diversity, the major audit firms are at the forefront in implementing DE&I policies and the message is sinking in. The tone at the top is clear, but there are still challenges with accepting that every individual has the right to be who they are and respected.

Elena: Based on your experience, could you please share your thoughts on the opportunities that the profession represents for the younger generation, including for LGBTQIA+ individuals?

Margrét: The accountancy profession offers a wealth of opportunities for young individuals. Big firms operate in most countries, offering global career choices and transfers. Additionally, there are different career paths one can take within the firms, allowing you to explore and discover your passion and transition between the roles based on your interests. To me, it is hard to think of a profession that offers as much diversity in a carrier paths!

Moreover, the profession is increasingly playing an important role in the sustainability journey, providing a meaningful purpose for individuals to engage in this critical journey.

As mentioned earlier, big firms are placing greater emphasis on DE&I, which should be appealing to LGBTQIA+ individuals, fostering an environment where all talents are valued and appreciated.

However, the significant challenge facing the profession is the workload. It's of huge importance that the profession finds ways to develop an environment that supports work-life balance. We are making an effort and need to continue to do so. One of the big opportunities in that area might be an effective use of AI, and we need to be sure not to let that opportunity bypass us.

Elena:  As a role model for LGBTQIA+ professionals aspiring to succeed in their careers, what advice would you give to young LGBTQIA+ individuals entering the profession, who may be hesitant to bring their authentic selves to work or pursue leadership opportunities, due to fear of discrimination and prejudice?

Margrét: It is hard for me to give advice on this issue to young people in general because some live in countries where there are more challenges and obstacles than in others. The only advice that I can give is to be true to yourself, be courageous, be professional, and earn the respect of your peers. Know your own true worth and don't let anyone talk you down because of your identity.

Margrét Pétursdóttir

Margrét Pétursdóttir joined the IFAC Board in November 2018, nominated by the Nordic Federation of Public Accountants (NRF).

Ms. Pétursdóttir has recently taken the role of a Partner at KPMG Iceland, after her 22-year long career at the EY in Iceland.  She was the assurance leader at EY Iceland and a former EY board member. During her career she has been in charge of auditing in various sectors, including finance, asset management, service, manufacturing, and retail. She has conducted internal quality reviews within EY at various locations and has been a quality reviewer for the public oversight committee in Iceland.

Ms. Pétursdóttir is a past president and board member of the Icelandic institute of Public Accountants (Félag löggiltra endurskoðenda, or FLE). She has also served on the FLE Education Committee for four years. Ms. Pétursdóttir has been appointed to roles as official investigator and expert witness for the courts. She has also taught IFRS accounting at the University of Iceland.

Elena Churikova

Elena Churikova is the Senior Manager, Governance at IFAC. She supports the work of IFAC’s Nominating Committee and supported the independent search committees for the chairs of the IAASB and IESBA. She is also one of the leaders of IFAC’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion initiatives focusing on sourcing and promoting greater diversity among IFAC’s wide volunteer base.

Prior to joining IFAC, Ms. Churikova led the Compliance Division at the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency in Springfield, IL. Before moving to the US, Ms. Churikova held several different positions within governance and education, leading international non-profit organizations in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, including project-based work for World Bank and Save the Children.

Ms. Churikova has a Bachelor’s in Management from the Kyrgyz Russian Slavic University and an MBA from the University of Illinois Springfield.