Thirty years ago I started my career in accounting. Where has the time gone? Back in 1987, accounting was a male-dominated profession and my first job at KPMG Peat Marwick in New Zealand had only four women out of 30 auditors in my intake year. My second position in London, England was no better: I was the only female accountant on staff. The job after that, again, I was the only woman on staff.
It was not easy to find women to mentor me, to show me the ropes or to help me on my path to success. As time went on, I sought out women in my circle to help me with my career goals. They shared their successes and failures with me and taught me much of what I needed to learn as a woman in business.
My desire to balance my family and my career led me to the decision to start my own company in 2005. It’s a business I still have with one of the foremost goals being to support other women in their own ventures.
Making career choices that prioritize family is a path many women have taken: the early 2000s was the start of what the New York Times dubbed the “opt-out” generation. 2013 statistics show that almost 36% of self-employed individuals were women, and 47% of SMEs were owned or partially owned by women.
For almost four years, I have been a partner and co-owner at MediaStyle, a progressive communications firm, social enterprise and proud BCorp. The majority of my team are young professional women and I feel it is my chance to mentor these women and help them succeed in their careers.
As much as I hoped things would change in the last 30 years, it’s still hard to be a woman in business. We face different challenges than our male counterparts.
During one job interview in 2002, I was asked if I was going to miss work if my children were sick, because it would cost the company money. Being a mom was important to me and was something I needed to and did work into my career. This comment had a huge impact on me and 15 years later I finally have a chance to do something about it. MediaStyle is hosting an event in May to explore how we can help businesses implement or change policies to benefit parents and caregivers on their team.
Part of my mission now is to help businesswomen and business owners grow and succeed. We need to elevate women, share our successes and failures and offer our opinions openly and honestly. I never felt I had competition in any of my businesses. There is and will be room for every businesswoman to thrive, and helping them find success adds to my own. We need to champion the women around us so that they, too, can help future generations.
Maybe soon, no women will have to choose between a career or a family. We will face no barriers to entry and be paid the same as our male counterparts who do the same job. This is my goal and I hope you all will help me reach it. I ask you today to reach out to two or three women who have similar businesses to yours and start a peer mentoring group. There is no better feeling than helping women—including yourself—succeed.