In celebration of International Women's Day, we want to highlight, with the most passion and appreciation, the women of Crowe MacKay and the hurdles they've overcome in life, academia, and in 'climbing the ladder.' We want to celebrate their victories, and support them and their aspirations.
The following highlights just a few of the dedicated women within our firm, who continually raise the bar, and raise their voice for change.
The Women of Crowe MacKay
We are grateful for the women of Crowe MacKay, and their determination in forging their paths in the accounting sector. They've persevered and are the female role models we need. We are proud to have them as leaders within our firm inspiring the next generation.
As they've built their careers they highlight some of their greatest accomplishments:
For Candace Surrette, our Director of Quality some of her best moments have been helping clients solve complex problems, but her biggest achievement? Being promoted to the role of Director of Quality at the age of 36.
Our Calgary Partner, Christine Hemskerk is grateful for all the opportunities and challenges she has endured in becoming a partner at Crowe MacKay LLP, as well as being a part of Crowe MacKay's Women's Initiative Committee.
Nupur Rishi, Director of Global Mobility Services, believes it is the vast experiences she's had throughout her career to be her biggest accomplishments. She's worked in three countries with people from all over the world. This, in addition to exceptional mentorship, has given her the tools she holds today, allowing her to become a member of the Global Mobility Services Steering Committee, working on global strategies to grow the Crowe Global Network.
Edmonton Partner, Rochelle Mitchell, boasts over becoming a female partner in our Edmonton office. She says "like everyone who sets a goal, I've worked hard to get here, it gives me an immense feeling of accomplishment." Additionally, she's the only female partner in our Edmonton office, becoming a role model for female students and CFE graduates.
Ashley Jensen, a Manager in our Calgary office, earned her CA (now CPA) designation in 2014 and was then promoted to a management position within Crowe MacKay in 2016. This was a career milestone and one she is very proud of. Additionally, Ashley is one of two managers specialized in audit and assurance in the Calgary office, and is a leader in mentoring, training, and recruiting students working towards their CPA designation.
Climbing the Ladder
In today's time, barriers to entry for women in the workforce are real. The terms unequal pay, underrepresentation, and societal constraints are constantly being used. For some, these words may be overused, cliche, and ring with little meaning - but the women of Crowe MacKay are here to tell how real the barriers are for women in the industry
For Candace, university held no limits; however, she did find barriers when advancing her career after receiving her CPA. Through numerous articles and research on women in the Finance and Accounting sector, Candace has become very aware of the imbalance in the industry. Nupur Rishi, the Director of Crowe MacKay's Global Mobility Services, echoes Candace's struggles, commenting on how she encounters unconscious bias, which noticeably limits advancement to herself and other women.
Nupur and Candace also touch on gender pay gap and how the disparity in rewards for the same work between male and female colleagues is very real. There's no denying this a problem most women encounter during the course of their career. As women continue to ask themselves, "will this ever get better?" Nupur shares one skill that has served her well in addressing the pay gap: assertiveness. Don't be afraid to ask for equal pay for equal work. While the conversation can be tough, we need to be assertive stating our value.
Nupur highlights that the lack of female role models in the industry is also a barrier. She says "without some kind of leading coalition of women, there is a lack of flexible work policies offered and it made it hard to pursue higher career levels." Rochelle adds, "although you can see a better balance of women in CPA graduating classes over the last few years, there is still work to be done in the advancement on female CPAs in the workforce."
Christine emphasizes the importance of having female role models. As an articling student, she was in a firm where there were more than a handful of women senior managers, and it showcased to her that "it was possible." It just goes to show how important those female leaders truly are.
Within the industry there is still pressure many women feel to take care of home duties and work 'like the boys' in the office. What does working 'like the boys' mean? Putting in hours at the office, networking, and going for after-hours drinks. All the things women traditionally didn't engage in because they were (and still are) putting in the long hours in the home. Rochelle says "it's difficult to juggle the expectation of going out for drinks after work with clients only to be deep in thought of the long list of 'to-do's' waiting at home," but she's hopeful a new understanding of this situation is emerging. "I've definitely noticed this being recognized more and more and there seems to be a movement to try to find a solution, but we are not quite there yet."
"Individually and as a gender, we still have to fight in our careers; not against any individual sexism, but instead against systemic and cultural factors that impact how and if women can make it to the pinnacle of a career in accounting." - Candace Surrette
Breaking the Glass Ceiling
The accomplishments and challenges have provided these women with the foundation to envision bigger and brighter futures, and an aspiration for more. They share with us some of their goals that are keeping them driven and focused
Some women have a role in mind, some a yearly salary as a goal. For Nupur, her short-term goal is to build her practice in a way that is both sustainable and scalable. In the long term, she wishes to look back, face her legacy, and smile leaving behind "a team of capable enterprising professionals who would be ready to take this practice and soar to new heights."
Candace says she's always had big goals. She is always striving to meet them day-to-day, week-to-week, and year-to-year. Although some may seem impossible, continuous effort makes them possible. She confidently says that "being the Director of Quality at 36 leaves me a lot of time to keep progressing."
For Rochelle, becoming a partner was a great achievement. Now, she hopes to continue to grow as a partner, serve her clients as best as she can, and enjoy her family-time at home.
Others wish to achieve things within Crowe MacKay as well as in the community - like Ashley. Her biggest goal is to become Partner at Crowe MacKay. Another goal of hers is to devote more time supporting the governance of the Calgary Girls School. The Calgary Girls School encourages independence and leadership in girls and young women and Ashley says "it would be truly rewarding to be more involved with helping an organization shape our female leaders of tomorrow."
For Christine, she wants to support her team as best as possible so that their clients are given the best care. Christine has a very strong skill set and wants to give that to the company she's grown with, as well as to the community she lives in.
Share Your 18 Cents
We ask this group of women what advice they have for other females in business, because we believe in lifting each other up.
"Never limit yourself by thinking that something cannot be done, or that you can't do it."
"In some opportunities, you fail, but you'll learn something and it increases your chance of success at the next attempt."
"Be curious and interested in what you are working on - ask questions and be direct."
"Do your homework, be prepared"
"You are worthy - of the responsibility and respect."
"Know that you will fail but you must value what you learn from the times you fail."
"Take time for yourself: sometimes it feels so overwhelming and that you are being pulled from all angles. Even just taking a walk, or taking five minutes to get a coffee with a friend to talk about other things, can help relieve the stress."
"Keep going: with perseverance and determination you will get there. Depending on your personal situation it may not be the same trajectory as other co-workers but that’s okay, everyone has their own path and you will reach your goals."
"Find your balance/be flexible: similar to taking time for yourself theme, it is important to ensure that you have a good 'balance' between your work life and home life. I don’t typically like using the word balance because it implies a 50/50 split which is not reasonable. You need to be flexible in your expectations of yourself and your career. Find out what works for you, enjoy the journey, and don’t let anyone dictate your path. Each person’s journey is unique to them, you will make mistakes along the way, but learn from them, change what needs to be changed, and go forward."
"Believe in yourself! If you are not willing to do it, then you cannot expect others to do it either."
"Speak up – one of the best pieces of advice that was once given to me during my career is if you were invited to a meeting, then you are there for a reason - to contribute! Yes, it can be nerve racking at first especially in the presence of seasoned partners who have been in the industry for forty years, but I have found that even simply asking a question will contribute to any meeting."
"Maintaining an intellectual curiosity - accounting is a profession with rules and guidelines that are always changing and working in public practice provides exposure to many industries and different types of client work. It’s important to stay on top of changes, continue to build your technical skill (which is a steep learning curve for most) and understand your clients businesses and the industries they operate in."
"Push yourself outside of your comfort zone – I have found that the situations during my career that I felt most proud of and grew most from, were those that I felt the least comfortable in."
"Surround yourself with high achievers – my belief is that there is something to learn from every person, but there is so much experience and knowledge to draw on from those who have achieved a great deal of success. My core group shares their knowledge and advice, pushes me to achieve new levels, and understands the commitment required to achieve success."
Luck: it is where preparation meets opportunity
How Does Crowe MacKay Support Women?
For Crowe MacKay, it is important to have equal opportunities for women. We hope to help accounting professionals, students, and other women thrive in the business world. We do this by having a strong Women's Initiative, led by a group of passionate individuals who want to see women achieve even more.
Candace comments on Crowe MacKay's mindfulness of family-balance and how our company is working on acknowledging this in order to address upward progression for those who don't want to choose between their family and their career.
If you're a woman looking to advance your career in accounting, see here for a free guide to overcoming barriers.
Happy International Women's Day
Ladies, you're tenacity, drive, and commitment to achieve more for yourself inspires young women in and outside of the firm. Thank you for your hard work, dedication, and for being role models to women in various stages of life.