Dr. Carol Liao has a strong message for women scholars everywhere

Carol Liao_New Photo.jpg

Photo credit: Marie-Michèle Moran

Posted 2021-03-08

Dr. Carol Liao is a Distinguished Scholar at UBC Sauder School of Business. A member of the New York State Bar Association. A sustainability and diversity champion. A teacher. A mother, and much more. Today, she can proudly add a new title to her name: recipient of Business in Vancouver’s Influential Women in Business Award. The award honours influential leaders who contribute their time and expertise to the broader B.C. business community as board members, advisors, donors and mentors.

Dr. Carol Liao has worked in academia and outside of it—to influence climate action legislation and root for greater equity within corporate boardrooms and society at large. 

"It's an honour to be recognized for my work," says Dr. Liao. "Receiving this award on International Women’s Day makes me a bit emotional." 

This year's campaign theme for the International Women's Day is #ChooseToChallenge. Women and men across the globe are encouraged to participate in a shared commitment to 'choose to challenge' and call out inequality. 

For Dr. Liao, the award is more than a personal win—it's an opportunity to amplify the campaign's message and put the spotlight on racialized and Indigenous women who are significantly underrepresented in the business sector. 

"For those of us who have broken through some barriers, it's an opportunity to use our voices to challenge the gendered and racial inequities built into our institutions and their impacts on our planet," says Dr. Liao.  

"If winning this award means that message gets carried a bit further, then I am grateful."

Finding a scholarly voice at UBC Sauder

Dr. Liao's association with UBC Sauder began in 2017 when, as an Associate Professor at the Peter A. Allard School of Law at UBC, she became the inaugural Distinguished Scholar at the business school’s Peter P. Dhillon Centre for Business Ethics.

Dr. Liao says this cross-faculty designation and the opportunity to work at the Dhillon Centre has been a transformative experience. 

"The Dhillon Centre gave me the platform to find my own scholarly voice in business after years of practising corporate law in New York. The Centre hosts events on cutting-edge topics in the field of ethical and responsible business and it has been a joy to be able to contribute to the dialogue in this very dynamic space."

She also credits the teamwork and collaborations fostered at the Dhillon Centre, particularly with Christie Stephenson and Kate White, Executive Director and Academic Director at the Dhillon Centre respectively. 

Dr. Liao takes her scholarly work and legal expertise into the classrooms as a guest lecturer for courses taught in the Bachelor of Commerce and Master of Business Administration programs at UBC Sauder. 

"It's one of my favourite things as a Distinguished Scholar,” she says. “Connecting with UBC Sauder students is wonderful—I learn so much from them in return."

Inspiring future women scholars to affect change

Dr. Liao says her academic role comes with an obligation to relentlessly engage in public discourse. "I don’t write articles or op-eds for no one to read. I do it because I have something to say, and I want what I say to make a difference for the betterment of society."

Within her scholarship, an area of focus is climate change. In addition to climate change being an existential threat, Dr. Liao is concerned with how it disproportionately impacts people along gendered and racial lines. She would like to see more robust, diverse and inclusive leadership at the corporate level.

Dr. Liao is optimistic that the next generation of women scholars, especially those at UBC Sauder, will channel their lived experiences into becoming agents of change.

"While environmental and social crises have defined much of their lives, studies also show that younger generations have a stronger connection with environmental and social issues. I am so proud of the next generation of young women rising in the ranks during this critical juncture in our corporate history.”

According to Dr. Liao, these young voices need to be amplified if we are to have any chance at fighting climate change. And while previous generations may have belatedly advised young women to 'speak up', Dr. Liao wants to go a step further.

"My message to the young women scholars at UBC Sauder is: take care of one another, be brave, and get unapologetically loud."

Learn more about Business in Vancouver’s 2021 Influential Women in Business Awards here.