Romina Soler – Partner PwC
It has been a while since my colleague suggested that I share my experience as an 'inspirational female in the business world'. That's a pretty tall order and I have been dragging my feet ever since. Being inspirational is not a position that you reach - rather it is a state of being that we should all strive for on a daily basis, sometimes unsuccessfully so depending on, for want of a better cliche, the side of bed we get out of in the morning. Being female is, well, the opposite to being male. And being in the business world is more often than not what happens after you finish your education, male or female. Put them all together and one expects more than the sum of the whole - the best that I can do is to share my experience.
I have to admit that I consider being a partner of PwC to be quite a success story, and a position that I am proud of. So what led me here? The competitive factor was pretty much instilled at birth. My brother was a master mind, who preferred an alligator to a sister, and my parents were both achievers in their own right. I was therefore accustomed to being driven and aiming for high standards. From a tender age I strove for independence and later perceived the accountancy profession to be an international passport to freedom (although I had a passion for literary arts while at school, and ran back to sunny social Malta after a bout in London). A couple of interviews later and I chose Coopers&Lybrand to start my career - the charming Alan Camilleri, who interviewed me, was a key influencer - and I never looked back since.
I was lucky enough to enjoy what I did and to not fear hard work, because there was certainly enough of that. I was mostly inspired by the people I worked with and the values that my family ingrained in me to do a good job. I was fortunate because the partners believed in me when I did not. They tolerated my hard headedness and could forget those 'random' days when I was especially highly strung, as there were more than a couple of those thrown into the equation. So to sum it up - I was competitive but not overly ambitious, I had loads of fun along the way, I built strong relationships with the people around me, both internally and externally, I had a strong support system at home and in the workplace, which helped me get up after I fell down, and of course I was blessed to work in a place like PwC where the sky's the limit.
And whoever said it was all work and no play! I balanced the hectic work schedule with my passions outside the office - love, family, our animals, several friends, occasional fitness regimes, a thirst to travel and a penchant for retail therapy, of course! That is not to say that the scales never tipped, or do not sometimes continue to go off balance. Perspective comes with experience (the perfect euphamism for age), and teaches you how to push that weight right back to a position of equilibrium.
You will realise that I have not really focused on the female perspective as my gender was never really an issue (although some men that I worked with may not fully agree.) Of course, you face some quips when you are the only lady in the Board room but you learn to laugh along and use them to your advantage. Honestly speaking, there is so much emphasis on increasing female statistics at the heights of the chain ladders that women's chances in the business world have never been greater.
I am aware that I have steered clear of the utmost beautiful challenge faced by women - that of being a mother. Let alone coupling this incredible feat with the demands of the professional world. I am not a mother and feel obliged to state that this is a personal choice independent of my professional position. Yet, I have witnessed great women in my very own workplace doing an excellent job at both. I recently watched what I believe will become an iconic film representing the 'modern women', featuring Sarah Jessica Parker as a successful investment advisor, at the same time juggling the demands of two young children and coping with the needs of a doting husband. Its called 'I don't know how she does it'. I guess the moral of the story is that she does, with the right amount of passion, lots of love, by not being afraid to fail and with the right level of support from her family and, as importantly, the cooperation of her employer. PwC is committed to its support of women who intend to continue to grow in the office and at home so hopefully together we can make it work.