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by Josh Needs - July 20, 2024

‘Equity, education and support the keys to nurturing female leaders’

The alternative, empathetic leadership styles that can be offered by women in senior roles needs to be encouraged, say two experienced partners.

Embrace equity is the theme for International Women’s Day with two partners at mid-tier firms calling for more education and support for women looking to lead in a male-dominated industry.

Chief digital and innovation partner at BDO Australia Tanya Titman advocated a focus on equity rather than equality because everyone had unique requirements.

“For me it’s not about treating everyone equal, it’s actually about understanding the individual needs of every person within an organisation and creating an equal playing field, which is very different to equality, which treats everyone the same,” she said.

“As a female leader what I look to do all the time is empower others, and a key piece for female leaders to do is to continually empower others and help them in their careers and bring them up through the ranks.”

Ms Titman said supporting women in leadership roles was also important as it meant breaking the mould and having an individual management style that was likely to be different from male colleagues.

“I think women have a much more empathetic and a much more emotionally intelligent approach to leadership,” Ms Titman said.

“I think that is what’s great about female leaders and we’ve got to lean towards that more instead of trying to model other behaviours, which may not be authentic to themselves.”

Business advisory partner and HR partner of Mazars Melbourne, Amanda Castricum, said women should avoid being forced into the mould of previous leaders because clients might prefer the alternative style that women could offer.

“There’s definitely far more women in the industry than 20 years ago and I think that’s great to see,” she said. “It’s given a lot of people confidence to be able to go accounting is not just for males, but females can do it as well.

“Often a client might have a personal preference that they want to deal with women, I think there’s a certain level of empathy that women carry.”

Ms Castricum said she missed out on witnessing female leadership because she joined the profession as a teenager.

“I didn’t have that female role model when I went through, and so for me it was a bit like forging my way throughout the profession and really trying to make something for myself without that real role model,” said Ms Castricum.

When she first reached partner level it was her plus two men, and when the firm grew she was the sole woman among seven men.

Today Ms Castricum is one of just two female partners in a group of 13 at Mazars in Melbourne.

As chair of the women at Mazars committee, she said the company was implementing education and training to develop all staff, but particularly women.

“There are a couple we have that are specifically designed for women in leadership and really to break down those barriers and see how we can help bring that next generation of women through because I think as much as we’d like to think there’s no gender bias, the reality is that it still exists,” said Ms Castricum.

“I’ve been a big believer of absolutely giving our women the tools and mechanisms to give them the education so that they’ve got that leadership skills, but it does come down to the supportiveness that they have outside of the workplace as well.”

In her time at BDO Ms Titman has looked to support women by founding both the Consolid8 and Acceler8 programs.

“One of the first things when I set up Consolid8 was to set up on-site childcare, we had nannies on staff, we made that childcare available to everyone in the organisation, men and women,” she said.

“I’ve always been a believer that if someone really wants to progress their career and see it through it’s very difficult if they take 12 months off to then pick it up at the same level, often they see their colleagues as they’ve sort of taken a step back to have a family.”

“I’ve tried to create a level playing field so that women could have a career and have a family and stay connected with their team, and they didn’t have to sacrifice any one of those things.”

This article originally featured in Accountants Daily