Before the age of 30, I was focused on raising my three children. That was what I saw as my option in life. At the age of 29, I returned to school to complete my high school certificate and then went on to do a six-year part-time course in commerce, whilst raising my three children on my own and working to fund my education and family. In 1989, I sent my CV to 12 accounting firms in Australia and got rejected, because I didn’t fit the typical model, by all apart from one: Coopers & Lybrand, where I started to work as a junior consultant in the actuarial and superannuation practice. My role involved working with both assurance and tax.
Women traditionally don’t seek out leadership roles – they wait to be asked. It comes as a surprise to us that men spend time asking for roles. Men and women are different; that is just a fact. It’s not easy for established leaders to understand how to benefit from diversity, so it’s difficult for them to promote differences. In general people are attracted to similarities.
I don’t think we should try to artificially increase our female partner numbers specifically through lateral recruitment. When we deliberately target women as on a quota basis, we don’t necessarily end up with the best result. I would strongly caution against elevating women for the sake of numbers. It’s a question of talent.
My advice to other women is to be very clear about what it is you want. Set yourself clear goals, don’t complain about everything and don’t debate feminism. Behave like an equal, whilst playing to your strengths, define what you want and ask for it. You have to help yourself and the firm will help you. It’s an issue of choice.