Breaking the Bias: Learnings from the Women of Accordion
Honoring International Women’s Day 2022
#BreakTheBias is more than a hashtag; it’s a movement. Today, people across the globe are taking action against gender bias, discrimination, and stereotyping – while taking steps towards diversity, equity, and inclusion. And Accordion is no exception.
For the women of Accordion, this notion of breaking barriers is particularly relevant – not only because finance is a male-dominated industry, but also because “challenging convention” is one of our firm’s core values. As such, we see it as our duty to stand up, speak out, and share learnings that empower women and help forge gender equality in the workforce.
Read on for Accordionites’ career advice, valuable lessons, and more.
Q: If you could travel back in time to the start of your career, what advice would you give to your younger self?
Don’t underestimate yourself. If you’ve gained a spot at a firm, a seat at the table, or an invitation to a coveted meeting, you’ve earned that spot for a reason – make sure you show up with your full self. Speak up and share what you know. Present with confidence and can-do positivity. Make the ask of others to help you progress. If you consistently demonstrate the right knowledge and attitude in your interactions, even the most difficult people will want to support your success.”
At the start of my career, it was my perception that in order to crack through the glass ceiling, I had to know everything. I was afraid of receiving negative reactions if I admitted that I needed to conduct research to provide an answer. Eventually, I witnessed colleagues with far more experience admitting when they didn’t have an answer to something – and no one thought any less of them. In short: I’d tell my younger self that it’s ok to say ‘I’ll need to get back to you on that,’ do the research, and come back with a response. ”
Start by doing excellent work and building relationships with peers. But don’t stop there and assume that is enough – figure out how others can help you, and then make specific asks for what you need. Be cognizant that certain traits or behaviors that are common among women—waiting for vs. seeking recognition, understating vs. promoting, or adding detail and qualifiers vs. generalizing—can be detrimental to reaching your goals. ”
Learn all that you can, seek challenges, and find the courage to leave the table if your worth and potential are no longer valued. Every project or assignment should be used as an opportunity to build relationships and learn something new. Raise your hand for the projects that no one wants, as that experience will help you grow and build confidence. Once you get to a point where you know who you are and the value you bring, you will learn to separate yourself from those who don’t believe in you or value your worth. Remember Mohadesa Najumi’s words: ‘the woman who does not require validation from anyone is the most feared individual on the planet.’ ”
They say knowledge is power, but self-education is a superpower. You’ll never regret arming yourself with information or taking the initiative to learn a new skill; it’s the best way to invest in your success, and ultimately, the success of those around you.”
Q: How can women in finance help foster one another’s growth?
When selecting a vendor, always go to a female contact at the company (even if she is more junior than your other contacts). This will get her a seat at the pitching table, credit for bringing in a lead, and help establish the confidence to know that selling and marketing are within her reach!”
Women in finance need to have confidence in their voice and skills. Define what you need to be successful, articulate what you want, and then go achieve it. We deserve the same seats at the table as others if we put in the hard work and time to get there. Don’t let anything be handed to you; work for it, show your intelligence, and know you can achieve what you put your mind to.”
I think the easiest way for women to foster others’ growth in finance is to make more genuine and informal connections with younger female professionals. At Accordion, my counselor, her counselor, and the head of my practice are all women. That is truly remarkable, not the norm, and not something I ever want to take for granted. There are so many ways to connect – whether it’s through informal coffee chats or a quick Zoom. I can’t emphasize enough how much a 5-10-minute chat can help someone feel more connected and empowered. ”
When making recommendations for filling roles—whether building internal teams or selecting service providers—make an effort to ensure that there is at least one female candidate. While the ultimate decisions should be merit-based and gender-blind, often the hardest part for women is getting in the room. ”
Q: How do your fellow female colleagues inspire you?
I'm inspired by the women around me, climbing that same ladder as I did (and am!), but in what feels like an entirely new world. They're navigating career growth and the ever sought-after, but not always achievable, work-life balance. Mostly, I’m inspired by how much they care. They call one another for coaching on everything from how to build a Power-BI model, to how to schedule client meetings around dinner-making and daycare pick-ups. I watch these women carve out time that doesn't really exist from their own busy schedules to lean in and support one another – all while not skipping a beat and making it look easy.”
We have examples of women in leadership at Accordion that unapologetically bring their authentic selves to the table. They inspire me to be bold and fearless.”
Q: What’s the best advice you’ve received from a female mentor or leader?
‘Trust your abilities and stand up for yourself’ was what my mentor encouraged me to do at the start of my career. As a woman who was still relatively new to the corporate world, I frequently felt inadequate and blamed myself for things that went wrong. My female mentor taught me to not be too hard on myself, and instead to learn to defend my viewpoint and decision. I still keep that advice close to my heart and remind myself every time I doubt my abilities.”
‘Nobody is going to fight for you as much as you fight for yourself.’ And, ‘If you work to help others be successful, you will be successful. Basically, if you want to be first, you have to put yourself last.’”
I once faced a difficult decision to leave a firm I truly enjoyed and respected for a promising career opportunity at another firm. Upon telling my longtime mentor that I considered myself risk-averse and was thus concerned about making such a big change, she wisely advised me that often it is not making a change that is the more risky decision. ”
My first year in public accounting, I was driving the head of our FAAS practice home from a client site. I got super frazzled by traffic and ended up in a fender bender. I was mortified – a car accident with my partner in the passenger seat. But, looking back, this event is what led to her becoming my greatest mentor. She took a real interest in my career, let me shadow her, and invited me to take a seat at tables that I otherwise wouldn’t have had the opportunity to join so early on in my career. The moral of the story is: everything happens for a reason, and you really have to own it, find the positive, and stop beating yourself up.”
Q: At Accordion, we strive to foster “a better way to work in finance” – what does this mean to you? (Particularly in the context of gender equality.)
I’ve had the unique opportunity to watch this firm grow over the last 9 years, across all service lines and business operations, and I am humbled by the way our team embodies work/life integration for women and men alike. We are a 'family first' firm, and our high gender diversity has afforded us with a great consideration and understanding for each other beyond just what we do together professionally. I appreciate this aspect of our firm every day – it’s a piece of our culture that you can’t easily replicate elsewhere.”
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