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The Women in Accounting conversation continues as we ask the question 'Can women have it all?'
5 mins 09 Feb 2023 by Brooke Kayira
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For decades now, working women have perennially been asked one nagging question: can you have it all?

To delve into this question as we celebrate women in accounting, Ignition's Rebecca Mihalic, Head of Accounting, APAC, hosted a panel discussion with Jackie Brian, Michele Grisdale, financial advocate at Rainforest Bookkeeping, Anita Da Encarnacao, owner and founder of Bookstar Bookkeeping, and Sarah Lawrance, founder and Director of Hot Toast.

They explored what ‘having it all’ really means, the pressures that women face, how COVID-19 might change gender stereotypes for good, and offered advice for dealing with tough times.

What does ‘having it all’ even mean?

We quickly came to the conclusion that having it all means something different for everyone.

According to Rebecca, “I'm thinking family, great career, time with my friends, taking care of myself and doing it all guilt-free”.

And that it is near impossible to pay equal attention to everything that is important, all of the time.

Jackie shared, “One of my favourite quotes is from Quentin Bryce, the ex-Governor General for Australia—she said ‘you can have it all, but not all at the same time’. I have tried to have it all, all at the same time, and ran myself into the ground. I've come to terms with the fact that it is almost impossible to lean into all of the things that are most important to me equally at the same time, it's about figuring out what is most important at any given point in time and then setting clear expectations for myself and others inline with that.”

Anita was quick to add that even when you do appear to ‘have it all’, it rarely feels that way, “I have at times thought I do have it all. Everything’s been going well, the kids are healthy, they're fed and clothed, and I've provided shelter—but you still go home at the end of the night thinking, ‘I'm sure I forgot something.’”

Sarah hates the phrase: “I just feel like it’s another stick that we should beat ourselves with and feel guilty about.”

We all agreed that life can be going great—you’re successful at work, your kids are happy, you have a good relationship with your partner— but does that mean that you have it all and things are going perfectly? Of course not. Appearances can be deceptive!

Why are women even asked this question?

“There's no panel of men sitting here going, ‘Can we have it all?’" Sarah very astutely pointed out.

Despite the progress that has been made on gender equality, a lot of the juggle does still seem to fall on women. .

Michele shared, “A lot more is expected from us. If you have a kid, you're suddenly expected to be 10 times more than what you were the day before. As soon as you become a Mum, you’re suddenly just expected to step up and be a full-time mother, a full-time professional, keep your house in order, maintain your relationship, and more.”

Rebecca agreed, adding: “We're the worst enablers, but we were raised that way a little bit, too. It's a societal expectation that we internalised as we were growing up”. Anita provided a great example of this. Her husband cooks dinner every night (which we all loved), however, once he’s finished cooking, in his mind, he’s done and is then ready to relax. However, Anita is still busy doing the laundry, the washing up and whatever else needs doing.

If we want more parity between the genders, and to reduce the multiple daily pressures that working women face, then it appears there may still be some more work to do to normalise a different way of life.

What impact has COVID-19 have?

Interestingly, our panellists believed that COVID19 might have opened the door to a new normal when it comes to gender roles.

“With COVID-19, everybody’s working from home now—and it’s really highlighted all the unsung work that women do around the house,” Anita shared. “It’s also become a lot easier to say: ‘Why am I doing all the cooking or homework? I’ve got a job too, so let’s split the responsibilities evenly’”.

Jackie couldn't agree more: “The last 12 months have exposed what my daily life actually looks like to my family. As a result of that, my husband's stepping in more, and even my kids are offering to cook dinner from time to time. It feels like a real turning point”.

Top tips for dealing with it all

‘Having it all’ is tough. Trying to balance responsibilities at home and in the workplace, as well as carving out time to invest in relationships with family and friends, plus self-care is really hard and a constant juggle.

Our expert panellists offered three top tips for getting through hard times.

1. Be honest and ask for help when you need it

Let people know when you’re struggling. Have honest conversations and own your vulnerabilities with friends, family, colleagues or clients.

We like to pretend that we’re superwomen, but it’s natural for pressures to add up and take their toll. Ask for help, believe it or not it can be very empowering. Chances are you will get lots of people saying yes, plus play a role in making it easier for others to learn how to ask for help too.

2. Recognise that we’re all running our own race

Michele pointed out the importance of knowing what you really want: “Run your own race. Don't let somebody else tell you what you need to do and what you need to have, because that's not who you are.”

Work out what’s really important to you and stop comparing yourself to others.

3. Help each other out

This is especially important in the workplace, where women are still greatly underrepresented in leadership positions. But whether you’re in a leadership position or not, you should always be on the lookout for women that might need your help.

We’ll only get better if we help each other out. Seek out opportunities to mentor, support, and be there for other women. Let’s make an active commitment to raise each other up.

A problem shared is a problem halved

Thanks to our wonderful panellists for joining us to discuss this key issue. Over the past year or so, it’s been great to see how the Ignition community has brought women in accounting together to offer much-needed advice during tough times or just lending an ear when needed.

Meet the author

Brooke Kayira

Global Community and Referrals Manager  Ignition

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Published 09 Feb 2023 Last updated 28 Feb 2023