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Own Your Flexibility: Supporting Women, Parents, and all Professionals in the Workplace and Beyond

As Women’s History Month comes to a close, we’d like to keep the conversations going about women’s history, supporting women in the workplace, and the experiences of women in the accounting industry. At The Bonadio Group (TBG), we strive to offer all our team members the flexibility and support necessary for success, both professionally and personally. This commitment is particularly crucial for women in our industry, who have traditionally faced unique obstacles and challenges not encountered by their male peers.

At a recent Women’s Partner Panel hosted by our DE&I Alliance Committee, five of our female Partners discussed what’s it’s like being a woman in accounting, what they’ve experienced in their journey to becoming a Partner, and their advice for other women in the field. We’re pleased to celebrate their varied career paths and the fulfillment they’ve found through having the flexibility to work and live in the way that’s best for them.

One-Size-Fits-One – Not One-Size-Fits-All

Several years ago, professionals couldn’t control when or where they worked. It was expected that they’d punch the clock in the office from nine to five, Monday to Friday. Panelists Leisha Gardner, Partner, and Kristen Clark, Chief Risk Officer, remember when they would get “side eyed” for taking time out of the office to get something done or enjoy time away.

In today’s environment, there’s more control over work schedules and less restrictions. At TBG, we encourage our People to take advantage of our flexible work model and get their work done when and where makes the most sense for them. The key to being successful with this flexibility is communicating with your colleagues about when you’re available and what support you need. Kristen emphasizes the importance of finding your voice to confidently inform your team about your work schedule. “Give yourself permission to own your flexibility. If you feel good about how you’re working, that’s all that matters.”

This applies both to parents and those who do not have children. Panelist Kait Bloss, Partner, shared that there are set times of the day that she has to drop her daughter off at daycare and pick her back up afterward. These guidelines regulate her available hours for servicing her clients and teammates – “working full time doesn’t mean sacrificing time with my daughter,” says Kait. Of course, this can be easier said than done. Another panelist, Cheryl Prout, Partner, recommends talking with those around you that can encourage, coach, and mentor you while challenges are happening – not after the fact. “My career fits into my personal life, not the other way around. TBG is supportive of that, but it’s our job to have a voice and be secure to ask for the accommodations and support we need,” Cheryl adds.

Our professionals who aren’t parents are also afforded the same level of flexibility and trust. Karen Webber, Partner and panelist, reflects on times that others have made well-intentioned but misguided jokes about her coming into the office late as someone without children. “We have to be aware of the assumptions we make. If you’re a professional who doesn’t have children, give yourself permission to draw boundaries and do the things you’re blocking out your calendar for.” We never know what responsibilities people have outside of work, whether it’s taking care of a family member, managing a household, or community involvement. As a firm, we understand and respect that these various obligations make life both full and busy, and it’s our job to let people be people, not just accountants.

Meeting People Where They’re At – Not Up or Out

Flexibility isn’t just a matter of day-to-day schedules; it also applies to each professional’s unique career path. There are so many major life events when starting a career, such as becoming a CPA, getting married, going for promotions at work, and having children. There’s no one “right” order of these important moments and achievements to follow.

Especially when getting CPA certified, the right time to study and test is different for each professional. For some, the months directly following college graduation are the perfect time to take the exams. For others, it makes sense to wait a few or even several years to begin preparing. Leisha reminisces on her own journey and says that “everyone has a different career path. If you need time to study, we’ve got your back, and then you’ll provide that support for someone else someday too.”

Karen became a CPA at 27, and Leisha earned her certification at the age of 35. Kristen and Kait had children after becoming Partners, while Cheryl became a mother earlier in her career. For each of these women, becoming a Partner was right for their career journeys, but being a Partner isn’t for everyone. We support each member of our firm in achieving their personal and professional aspirations on their own timeline.

Approach Asking for Help with Gratitude – Not Regret

No matter how much planning we do, sometimes life happens and derails our schedules. In these cases, our People rely on one another for support with servicing clients and meeting deadlines.

If you’re in the position to ask a teammate for support, Kait recommends simply saying ‘thank you,’ rather than ‘I’m sorry.’ “Approaching situations this way empowers you and makes others feel positive about supporting you when you need it,” she adds. Kristen agrees with this mindset, sharing that she had her son two months earlier than planned. At the end of the day, the work got done, her clients were serviced, and the firm was still there for her when she got back with no judgment.

On the flip side, when we’re accommodating others who ask for support, it’s essential to remember that we’re all on the same team – it’s not “us versus them.” Every member of our firm is working toward the same goals and rowing in the same direction. We readily lend our support to our colleagues knowing that they would do the same for us in return.

We’d like to extend a big thank you to Kait Bloss, Kristen Clark, Leisha Gardner, Cheryl Prout, and Karen Webber for being part of our Women’s Partner Panel and sharing their experiences and wisdom with our firm members. We’d also like to thank our Administrative Manager, Alexandra Hart, for moderating the discussion, as well as Molly Haggerty, Learning & Development Specialist, and Dahron Wells, Learning & Development Program Coordinator, for coordinating this amazing event.

If you’d like to learn more about our ongoing commitment to supporting women, click here. If you’re interested in what a career at Bonadio could like for you, reach out to us today or check out available openings here.