I became a partner in the early 1990s and can remember only a small number of female partners in the accounting profession. In the early years it was a challenge juggling the responsibilities and pressures of my private and working life - coping with the demands of being a parent and a partner. In those days (that makes me sound very old) there wasn’t much job flexibility and there were few practical support systems in place: some people genuinely considered the roles of working mother and partner to be mutually exclusive. It’s a challenging balance to be struck between meeting demands in work and those outside of work and we all have different personal pressures and responsibilities. Having said that, I never felt my gender was an issue in my career and I don’t think I’ve faced challenges from being female per se.
As business leaders, it’s our responsibility to ensure genuine career choices exist for women (and men). I’m sure, as firms continue to evolve and more women choose to stay in the profession - a big trend in the last decade or so – we’ll see a more diverse workplace and see the gender pay gap narrow.
Mentors didn’t exist in my world
I didn’t have a mentor when I became a partner, they just didn’t exist. And there weren’t any female partners. I just did what everyone did - we got on with it, worked hard, and coped and struggled to do the best we could. Looking back it was quite a solitary existence but it didn’t really feel it at the time; it was just how things were.
The environment at RSM (and wider) has changed and is now much smarter. Mentors are commonplace and can be highly effective. I believe we can achieve so much more as individuals, and as a business, if we truly support our people. It’s not rocket science – two minds are always better than one. The key is getting the right fit. I personally benefit from interacting with a small handful of like-minded people that have a similar moral compass and ethos of respect, trust and honesty. It has helped me to change and grow and I’d like to see more of this happening at RSM as it brings rich rewards.
A diverse tapestry can only be a good thing
When I started out, the majority of women ruled themselves out of becoming a partner. Now, it’s a career that is better desired and valued by women. I am sure that this trend will continue over time and the number of female partners will continue to increase at RSM, and across our profession, to parity, as we see more women take on leadership and management roles.
We all have our own perspectives and bring different things to the table - I think I bring something different to RSM’s leadership team (as do my colleagues). Having more women in leadership roles will offer us a more diverse tapestry which can only be good for our business.
Supporting everyone is a clear win win
I’m often asked about how I encourage and progress female team members. The truth is, I seek to encourage all my team regardless of their gender or any other personal characteristic. I see everyone as individuals and try to bring out the best in them. No one person has the same challenges, responsibilities or personality so it’s important to recognise that and support everyone in the right way.
I’d advocate all leadership teams to encourage mentoring and peer to peer collaboration. Promoting a culture and an environment of support will only help us grow as a business.
My final word is don’t underestimate how important this is: supporting and developing everyone is a clear win win. I’m excited to see how RSM, and the industry, continues to better understand, value and develop all of its diverse people in the months and years ahead.
Read RSM International CEO's blog on people,progress and pressing the case for diversity.
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