To mark International Women’s Day 2020, we are featuring women in leadership roles.
In this series we celebrate three women close to our firm: two colleagues and a valued client. We ask them about the achievements they have had and the challenges they’ve faced. They share insights into what this year’s theme means to them and any advice they would have for women starting their career.
In this first interview, we chat with our international colleague Arzu Güven, Managing Partner, Crowe Frankfurt.
Tell us a little bit about you and your career.
My name is Arzu Güven, I am managing partner and tax advisor at Crowe in Frankfurt. Crowe Frankfurt is a tax, advisory and auditing firm with approximately 50 employees and four partners: two men and two women. I see my current role as being a “care-taker”, where I take care of our employees, partners and clients.
After studying Economics at the University of Ludwigshafen, I started my career in the accounting department of a global company. I found it interesting and it gave me valuable experience, but at that point I realised that my future should be in a more advisory function. I joined Crowe Frankfurt and began my career as a tax and audit assistant. After three years I passed my tax exams to became a tax manager and then five years later I became partner.
Along my career path I’ve had three children – three more lovely persons I am happy to take care of.
The theme for IWD 2020 is “An equal world is an enabled world”. What does that theme mean to you and your workplace?
I think an equal world leads to diversity, which in turn leads to an enabled world. Any team that is made up of the same stereotypes cannot appreciate the larger spectrum of possibilities, opportunities and risks. Such a team is handicapped because of its limited view and scope.
The same applies to me personally. Being open to differences enriches mine and my family’s lives.
Can you share any challenges that you have encountered in your career to date and how you overcame them?
With respect to my role as a woman and mother, I have encountered two main challenges in my life up to now.
First, taking up the opportunity of going to university. I am a child of Turkish immigrants, born and raised in Germany. My parents were very conservative and they had set ideas about my future. Studying and moving out from home was not part of their plan. Many discussions later and as a result of their love I got their support.
Second, passing the tax advisor examinations with a baby. The German tax advisor examinations are difficult with high failure rates. For at least for one year your social and personal life come secondary to work and studies. Again, the support of my family carried me through.
It is worth pointing out that during this time I continued to have the complete support of my employer. There was no doubt that Crowe Frankfurt would support me as a woman in the same way they support men.
From my point of view, I believe the main challenge women with families face day-to-day is trying to juggle a career and motherhood. It is the demands that a woman puts on herself trying to be perfect in all areas of her life and the expectations society has about what she should be like that are the most difficult to overcome.
How have you built confidence and/or resilience over your career? Do you have any practical tips you can share?
I work hard. Engagement and commitment are key reasons for my success… and good time management!
From my point of view there are two critical elements: 1) No one is perfect, so don’t try to be and, 2) Make your partners real partners: Demand equality – don´t let anyone pigeonhole you.
According to recent research (McKinsey report 2019), the biggest obstacle women face is not necessarily the “glass ceiling” but the “broken rung” – the first step up to management. Do you agree?
I don’t agree. At the beginning of my career there were equal numbers of men and women. Over time, it is only because more and more women stopped or slowed down their career for various reasons that more men end up as managers.
Crowe Frankfurt believes in a work/life balance and ensures staff have the opportunity to manage the demands of a family and working life. This ethos is across all levels of the firm – from trainee to partner – where staff are offered the possibility to work half-time, part-time or in a home office. In addition, we offer lots of workshops for soft skills to help personal development.
Unconscious bias (the preference for or against a person, thing, or group held at an unconscious level) can really affect workplaces and can be a huge problem for organisations trying to be truly diverse. How do you recognise your own biases and have you any examples of unconscious bias you have witnessed?
I would estimate that 30% of our employees at Crowe Frankfurt are immigrants and 60% are women. We believe in and practice diversity. Nevertheless, unconscious bias can still be a problem. Whenever we notice it we flag it up straight away and often it is enough to call someone`s attention to it. No one wants to have preconceptions and no one should put a label on someone without knowing him or her.
Can you share any advice you would give to some now who is developing their career?
Find out what you want; what is important for yourself (and not for your partner, family members or friends). What is it that you want to reach or become?
Arzu advises national and international companies and private individuals on all aspects of tax. Visit Crowe Frankfurt.
“It is the culture of a workplace that allows you to be happy and effective as an employee. I believe that a key element in any positive workplace culture is a sense that you are enabled to make the best of your role and the environment around you.”
“Owning this business with my husband I think gives our company an ethos of equality that carries right down to the factory floor. We will not ask anyone to do something that we would not (or do not) do ourselves and that ethos is a strong enabler for the rest of the team.”