Thursday, August 29, 2013

Gail Kelly: Four new attributes required of leaders

If Westpac employees get in a lift with Gail Kelly they may just be asked to share the bank's 'elevator pitch'.

The bank's CEO says with 20-something floors to travel, it's a great opportunity to ensure employees are on the same page delivering the company's vision.

"Most people in my organisation know that if they get in a lift with me I might say, 'Right we've got 21 levels to go between now and the 21st floor, let's do the elevator pitch. So, what are the five pieces of our strategy?" she said.

It's an important skill because articulating one's vision is essential for leading in today's business environment, given change is now constant and nothing is certain according to Kelly.

Speaking at a Ruby Connection lunch in Sydney on Thursday, Kelly outlined the new challenges facing the banking sector – and all businesses – since the global financial crisis, and what she's learned regarding how such challenges have shifted what makes a great leader.

She offered four new requirements for leaders, starting with the need to have a clear vision for an organisation and the ability to execute it – and an elevator pitch that all employees can articulate.

"The vision needs to not just be what it is we do but it absolutely needs to be how is it that we need to achieve that, the purpose of what it is that we're getting to," she said.

"It can't just be that our vision is that we're going to deliver acceptable returns for shareholders. That's not a vision. That's an outcome. Nobody jumps out of bed in the morning and says, 'Right I'm off to the bank and I'm going to deliver acceptable returns to the shareholders! That's not the motivating thing. The vision's got to be something bigger and richer."

Kelly's second requirement for leaders is an ability to adapt to change and work with ambiguity – something bankers have not traditionally been all that good at.

"You don't have all the answers. You don't have all the facts. You don't know where the next risk is going to be or where the next domino is going to fall so you actually have to be really good at change," she said.

"Go deeper on your judgement, draw on your experience, get the information and the sources and the thoughts and then make a call – calm and considered. Move forward and be prepared to adapt and shape it as new information comes to light."

Generosity of spirit was Kelly's third requirement for leadership, something she conceded – given certain stereotypes – some might consider strange to hear from a bank CEO.

"Leaders need to evidence generosity of spirit. Why? Because life is difficult and challenging, it is demanding and you are going to get some things wrong."

That means genuinely wanting others to flourish and not being quick to judge. It's knowing there's no perfect answer, but that you also can't sit on the fence making a decision. "Leaders do not forget when they've said 'yes' down the track and they do not change the truth to suit the story they want to tell."

Finally, Kelly noted resilience is essential for leaders, including being both physically and mentally strong. "We're like athletes," she said. "Sometimes you're going to work all night and work all weekend, you need to be tough."

"You need to be able to get up again. Know it's ok. Ask, how do I get up from here? What did I learn from that? It wasn't a great experience but let's step forward and have another go."

After serving as CEO of Westpac for five and a half years during a difficult economic period, Kelly said two things have helped her with resilience: loving her work and always retaining a positive attitude.

"If you have a tough day and you make a mistake or something goes really badly wrong within your control or not, you actually can say, 'You know what? I love what I do and I believe in what I do', and that gives you the resilience to go on off again."

As for the positive attitude, Kelly said she's always prepared to look on the bright side. "Approaching things from the point of view of positive energy and enthusiasm really helps with resilience."

And forget feeling sorry for yourself. "If you're the kind of person who when something goes wrong that says 'woe is me, it always happens to me, look it's happened again, who do I blame now?' That's not great for your energy. And it's not great for your resilience."

mums@work | 29.08.13
By Angela Priestley / Aug 09, 2013 9:45AM

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Childcare policies compared: making your vote easier

A 'game-changer' is how the Grattan Institute described the effect on productivity of addressing the availability and affordability of childcare in 2012. There is clear evidence, which Treasury agrees with, that improving the quality, availability and affordability of childcare boosts women's workforce participation which boosts productivity. How to do it is the $25 billion question Australian politicians now face.

How they propose to tackle it will be a deciding factor for some voters at the upcoming election. the National Foundation for Australian Women has just published a report comparing the major political parties' proposed policies for doing just that.

In March this year The Australia Institute published a comprehensive report detailing what is wrong with the current childcare model and makes a very clear point: The issues around childcare are complex. From a public policy perspective the quality of care provided needs to be maintained, childcare workers must be paid a fair wage and the cost of care must be affordable to parents. It is clear that there is some tension between achieving each of those objectives.

So how do the political parties propose to address these issues?


A greater proportion of families reported difficulties with the cost of childcare in 2010 than in 2001.



  • A means tested Child Care Benefit
  • A non-means tested Child Care Rebate up to $7,500 (cap frozen until 2017)
  • CCB and CCR applicable to out of hours school care (though lower rate of CCB for school-aged children)
  • Additional funding to help parents on income support – mostly mothers – receive training and get the skills they need to move into work.



  • Proposed Productivity Commission Inquiry into childcare. Terms of reference include daycare and inhome services including nannies and au pairs and the out of pocket costs of childcare.
  • Ruled out means testing the Child Care Rebate
  • Supports continuation of Child Care Benefit



  • Proposed Productivity Commission Inquiry into child care funding and how rising costs can be addressed.
  • Boost public funding to support a more generous and streamlined benefit/rebate payment to assist families, particularly those with special needs or in remote or regional areas.
  • Support indexation of child care assistance payments to address current high costs.
  • Pay all child care assistance directly to childcare centres to reduce the pressure on parents who may have to pay fees up-front and claim reimbursement.
  • Proposed a generous Capital Grants Fund to assist new centres to open in high pressured areas meaning daily fees will have to stay competitive.



The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that childcare availability issues are greatest for families with children who are not yet at school and demand is set to increase.



  • Field trials of flexible child care (including overnight and weekend care) with industry, business and child care operators to commence in July 2013
  • Providing over $190 million in training support through waiving TAFE fees for diploma in children's service, introducing a recognition of prior learning program for early childhood educators and the HECS/HELP Benefit for Bachelor of Education (Early Childhood).
  • Reviewing the Budget Based Funded child care program
  • Commissioned research into how to increase supply of childcare and reduce red tape
  • A $450million investment in out of school hours care at schools.



  • Proposed Productivity Commission Inquiry into childcare.
  • Terms of reference include consideration of care in the "24 hour economy" (the hours parents work or study, or wish to study); subsidising nannies and the particular needs of rural, regional or remote parents, as well as shift workers
  • Proposed to re-establish the Federal Planning and Advisory Commission to ensure that new services are approved on an as needs basis.



  • Committed to access for all children aged 0 to 5.
  • Increased financial assistance for child care centre programs that offer flexible hours and occasional care.
  • Enhance flexibility by expanding the number of places in the in-home care scheme.
  • Proposed Capital Grants of $200m over 4 years for community and not-for-profit centres to access funds expand and build new centres to reduce long waiting lists.
  • Proposed a three year pilot of a Micro-Care Scheme, with Commonwealth funding, to help community childcare centres and collectives of local businesses and workplaces, to set up a quality long day care centre on site to provide care for children of employees.



Quality of care is vital as child care is increasingly focussed on as a form of early childhood education



  • Introduced the National Quality Framework to establish national standards for staffing levels and qualifications.
  • Supported by assistance through the Early Years Quality Fund
  • National Partnership Agreement on Early Childhood Education setting a goal for universal access to preschool for 15hrs per week for 40 weeks in the year before commencing school.
  • $25 billion over the next four years to continue to pursue the Government's Early Childhood Agenda.
  • Introduced the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) to help children to learn and develop through play and the Framework for School Aged Care to guide developmental programs in OSHC
  • Published the quality ratings of child care services on the Government's MyChild website.



  • Proposed Productivity Commission Inquiry
  • Terms of reference includes a reworking of the current national Quality Standards framework and the needs of at-risk or vulnerable children.
  • Support the National Quality Framework in principle. Will work with the States to find practical ways to improve implementation.



  • Committed to the roll out of the National Quality Framework and have called for more support for the sector as it faces deadlines for national quality standards.
  • The Greens have said that quality child care includes having highly-trained and fairly renumerated staff in long day care centres
  • Have announced a fully costed scheme to improve the comparative conditions for teachers in long day care and urgently attract more graduates.



Low pay, poor promotion prospects and arduous working conditions are critical challenges for the sector. There are concerns that ensuring childcare remains affordable may create an underclass of women workers.



  • $114 a week pay rise for child care workers subsidised by Federal Government delivered through Enterprise Bargaining Agreements.
  • Established a Pay Equity Unit within the Fair Work Commission to look at wage levels across the whole children's services sector, including OHSC.
  • Funding to Child Care Industry through the Early Years Quality Fund to support employment of appropriately qualified staff.
  • Training support for staff set out in "quality" table above.



  • Productivity Commission Inquiry to include consideration of extending support to care provided by nannies and au-pairs.
  • Opposed the mechanism adopted to deliver pay increases through Enterprise Bargaining Agreements as they'd not apply to all workers. Pay issues should be addressed through making a case to the Fair Work Commission.
  • No mention of working conditions for existing workforce.



  • Workers in the industry should be fairly remunerated for the work they do. Pay rate should reflect the skill and importance of the work. Improved professional development opportunities should be made available for all workers. Lifting wages will lift quality.
  • Have expressed concern that the Early Years Quality Fund wage rise does not cover all early childhood educators.
  • Expressed full support of the Fair Work Australia Pay Equity unit for child care educators and expect that improving wages across the sector will be a key focus in the next parliament.
  • Recognising the teacher shortage, launched a policy initiative in early 2013 that would waive the HELP fees of recent graduates from early childhood teaching degrees, so that for every year they stay in the long day care workforce, a year of their HELP debt would be removed.

    By Georgina Dent / Aug 09, 2013 9:18AM

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A father's perspective: How baby changes life and career

The arrival of a new baby is life-changing for all parents but the nature of the change is unique to every individual. This varied and unpredictable nature of parenthood was highlighted for me recently when I bumped into an old housemate of mine, Tom Keeble.

Ten years ago we were both in the midst of our PhDs at the University of Queensland. We did not know each other well but recognised each other from shared neuroscience classes during our respective undergraduate degrees in Melbourne.

We ended up as housemates because Tom happened to have a spare room at the same time I happened to need one. It was a shambolic Queenslander perched high on the banks of the Brisbane River. We had a fantastic time with too many housemates and too many parties.

From there our scientific post-doc careers took us in different directions: me to Boston and Tom to Singapore. We lost touch until a few months ago, when I bumped into Tom at a conference in Melbourne. We stopped, had a big hug and I asked him what brought him back to Australia from Singapore.

I am grateful that he agreed to share his story here as it’s an important and personal account of how a baby changed a father’s life – and career – in unexpected ways.

Tom’s Story

“You need to tell better jokes”, said our obstetrician as I cradled our baby boy in my arms while my wife sat sobbing next to me in the ED of Gleneagles Hospital, Singapore.

“We need to get out of here”, I thought to myself while smiling weakly back at him. I didn’t know what the hell was going on, but I was pretty sure my comedic abilities (or lack thereof) were not a major part of the problem.

My wife Jo and I had lived and worked in Singapore for more than 4 years, with no plans to leave once our baby was born. We assumed we’d get by on visits from our parents, support from our friends and had accepted the cutback to our lifestyles required to support a family on our post-doc salaries.

The universe had other plans.

Most new mothers will experience the “baby blues” around three days postpartum due to the major hormonal changes accompanying birth and the end of pregnancy, and all will have a degree of anxiety about the awesome responsibility and sheer terror of having a new baby to care for, but this was different, and it didn’t go away,

After a healthy and happy pregnancy, and relatively straightforward birth (as much as that experience can be “straightforward”), we both expected life with a new baby to be complicated but manageable. Instead, Jo was exhausted from lack of sleep, anxious and indecisive about every last detail, and found it increasingly difficult to relax about the prospect of meeting up with friends.

It then became our rule that she needed to step out of the apartment at least once a day to see people, just to make sure she saw some of the “real world”.

Jo couldn’t sleep at night, even when Charlie could, exacerbating all the other symptoms. She never talked about it to me at the time, but she was beginning to give up on herself. Needless to say, I didn’t spend a lot of time at work during that period, and luckily my boss wasn’t too demanding.

Perhaps surprisingly for medical researchers, neither of us recognised what was going on as post-natal depression, but as soon as we realised Jo wasn’t coping we decided we needed to be back home.

It took four months to wrap up our lives in Singapore, and the stress of that process, including dealing with an insensitive and occasionally obstructive academic bureaucracy, only compounded Jo’s feelings, which had now come to include anger (rational and irrational). She wasn’t well by the time we arrived back.

Once home, we stayed with my in-laws, and were finally able to access proper support services, including a Crisis Assessment Team, who didn’t once exhort me to “just be funnier”.

In fact, they and others made sure I looked after myself too, lest I fall in a heap just as Jo began to recover. Gradually we were able to concentrate on getting Jo well again, which thankfully we achieved, and I was able to think about returning to work.

“They” recommend allowing six months to find a new post-doctoral position, but I’d already been out of the work force for four months, so that lead-time was going to be a problem in and of itself.

I’d dropped everything in the lab with little interest in picking it up again, and I was questioning whether I even wanted to enter the scientific funding bun-fight in Australia.

Quite apart from the numerous tales of woe about the 17% success rate of NHMRC grant applications, the scarcity of future promotion opportunities within Research Institutes and Academic Departments, the relatively poor pay for someone with more than ten years of higher education and the fact that you’re still “training” at 30-35 years old, I was beginning to question my commitment and love for the work.

Spending three-to-five years working on one small topic with incremental minor successes, and the many routine failures that are part and parcel of doing science, was less and less appealing.

And the brutal financial reality of living in Melbourne, with the most unaffordable housing in the world, on one or one and a bit flat lining post-doc salaries, definitely made my decision to leave the lab bench an easier one. On top of that, Jo was really keen on returning to part-time work in the lab where she completed her Ph.D, with the intention of increasing that as Charlie got older.

Two scientists in the household was simply one too many, so we decided Jo should continue trying to build a career in scientific research and I would look for something else.

I realised it was time for a career change.

Along with that came the realisation that there was more to life than work, and that I would need to be flexible and available to my family, ruling out the customary late-night experiments and weekends in the lab.

Many new parents come to the same conclusion, but at the same time not all of them can, or do, act on it. In that sense, this “break” was an opportunity to reassess what was really important to us, and what alternative futures were possible.

In his speech at our wedding years earlier, my father-in-law said one of his biggest regrets was not spending more time with his kids as they grew up, and this sentiment is echoed time and time again at the end of life.

Knowing this, you can choose to either carry on as usual, or do something about it.

“Stepping sideways” was still a challenge. Of course, I worried about whether I was making the right decision professionally, but I was also worried about how I would be perceived by friends and colleagues. I think it’s easier and even expected for a new mum to “drop out of sight”, professionally speaking, for a time (or permanently), but is a much less common path for dads, albeit one that’s becoming more popular.

I’ve hopefully managed to absorb some lessons from all of this too, and I discovered those worries were really a reflection of my own biases, which I’m learning to shrug off. Becoming a dad changes you in lots of ways, as they say, most of them unexpected!

I still love “big picture” science, and was lucky enough to find a position as a neuroscience communicator, at The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health in Melbourne.

I’m still learning the craft, and my job has me doing all sorts of cool and interesting things, including raising the institute’s social media profile, promoting scientific outreach with Victorian schools and the Dax Centre on their mental health school education program, helping out with traditional media channels and fostering greater internal and external collaborations.

I’m immersed in all fields of neuroscience, from genetic developmental disorders to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease, but at the end of the day I get to leave at a reasonable hour to spend time with Jo and Charlie, and that’s just as important as my daytime job.

/ May 16, 2013 7:35AM

Olivia Carter does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.
The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation.

mums@work | 28.08.13

Friday, August 9, 2013

Listen to your instincts: NAB business analyst, Carolina Valdes


Carolina Valdes knows a thing or two about overcoming challenges – both in her career and personal life.

Born in Chile, Valdes moved to Australia in 2004 to complete her Masters in computer science at the University of Technology, Sydney – all with the plan of returning to her hometown to pick up where she left off. But with the vast opportunities available to her in Australia, Valdes decided to stay, landing a role as a programmer with NAB in October 2006.

But moving to Australia and securing a spot at one of the country's big four wasn't an easy feat. Studying in Australia meant quitting her job at a large, European shipping company in Chile to embrace life as a student once again – and the lack of funds that comes with it – in a foreign country, with a foreign language.

"It was a big change," she says, noting how difficult it was to leave her established career in Chile to start from scratch, despite the qualifications and experience she already had.

"Even though I had my engineering degree when I came to Australia, as a student it's not easy to find a job related to your background, so I started with pretty much whatever I could get. My first job here was actually as a cleaner, even when I had a computer background."

Valdes's cleaning gig only lasted a few months before the completion of her Masters degree and permanent residency got her a foot in the door, and she hasn't looked back since.

"Now I work as a business analyst for the online team managing the NAB website," says Valdes, who's now an Australian citizen living with her partner in Melbourne. "I love what I'm doing at the moment, being exposed to the NAB website and doing something that is for the customer, something the customer can see. It's really rewarding."

For Valdes, who originally wanted to be a doctor until her father and "biggest hero" introduced her to the world of computers when she was a young girl, career success is about being focused on what you want, rather than following what other people ask you to do.

"I guess I've been lucky to be in the right place and the right time, sometimes, but I've focused on what I really want and where I want to be, because if you become bored with what you're doing, then you're not going to be your best," she says.

"I really like to follow my instincts all the time, with whatever I do. That gut instinct tells you something."

Valdes's outlook on her life and her focus on doing what she loves has been shaped by the near-death experience she faced after being hit by a car in 2008 while cycling to work.

"I spent six weeks in hospital with several injuries – I lost my right kidney, part of my liver, I had a collapsed lung. It was really bad," she says. "Obviously that kept me out of work for a bit and it has pretty much changed the way I see life."

The accident, although terrifying, changed Valdes's perspective for the better, teaching her to achieve a balance between work and life and to make sure she's doing what she loves.

"I get a lot of satisfaction out of what I do at work, but it's also important for you to do things that you really want [outside of work]. For example, I'm learning to fly planes and will sit my exam next month for the private pilot course I started three years ago," says Valdes, who leads a very active life outside work including skydiving and marathon running.

Placing such importance on doing what she loves at work, as well as away from work, Valdes appreciates the flexibility and the culture at NAB.

"It's all those little things that make your life easier and better at work," says Valdes, who works from home once a week. "I love the flexibility. You can work from home and you can have flexible hours. Plus my team is a very good team. We work really well together."

mums@work | 09.08.13

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Never hesitate on an opportunity: PwC partner Suzi Russell


Like most of us, Suzi Russell has suffered her fair share of 'imposter syndrome' at times -- that is, the questioning of her own abilities -- but she's never let it stand in the way of grabbing an opportunity.

She was appointed a PwC partner at the age of just 33, jumping across from Deloitte to take on the new role. While she experienced some self-doubt at the time, it never stopped her from stepping into the unknown.

“I’ve always been of that mentality that you don't hesitate when opportunities come up," she says. “I always felt in performance review discussions that I should say, ‘Yes, I’m ready to move up’, even though I may not have personally believed it!”

Since joining PwC four years ago, she's had her first child, taken a six-month career break and learnt a few new lessons about juggling full time work with motherhood. All while undertaking some significant work within her practice, including the privatisation of NSW electricity assets. She's also the executive sponsor of the firm's network for ‘gays, lesbians and everyone else’, GLEE@PwC, which saw the firm take top honours at the Pride in Diversity awards last year.

Russell took six months off after having her first child (now almost two), returning to work while her partner then commenced a period of parental leave.

With the two now back at work, Russell says she’s on the way to mastering the art of juggling work with being a mum. She’s found new hours in the morning, with her daughter up at 5am.

“I have a whole part of my day I never knew existed. There’s no more easing in to my day once I arrive at work. I’m on the phone in the car, managing things before I get to the office. You just become more efficient with kids.” But managing childcare is a serious logistical exercise – one parent does the drop off, the other the pickup, and the car is left in an office car park in between.

Russell says she's found strategies to help. Her PA never schedules a meeting before 9am. And while she might personally feel like she’s “sneaking off” to pick up her daughter from day care of an afternoon, she notices plenty of other male partners in the car park doing exactly the same thing.

“There’s a bit of getting over yourself involved," she says. "But now that I have a baby, I’ve really started to notice how my clients too are managing work with children. You see them also logging on at night. People don’t always expect a response by 5pm, and they won’t assume you’re working late just because you send an email at 8pm.”

She believes more women should take some “strategic space” and reconsider the idea that everything has to be done at once. “It’s just taking a little more time, especially juggling work and a baby at home,” she says. “Sometimes you need to take a breather and leave some tasks for later. Often you find people from your team will step up and help you and you’re pleasantly surprised.”

Soon, the Sydney office of PwC will move to ‘activity-based working’ meaning separate and assigned offices will disappear, and employees will be required to pack up their space when they leave the office. Russell believes this will make it easier for people to work the hours that work for them. “If you don’t have an allocated desk, there’s no guilt about what time you leave,” she says. “It’s actually endorsing the desire for people to be working with clients, working from home, working from a cafe.” PwC’s Canberra and Perth offices are already operating this way.

Russell arrived in Australia through a secondment with the now defunct Arthur Andersen. She studied at the University of Exeter in the UK and says she applied for a graduate position with Andersen simply because her "housemates were going through the application process at the time". Andersen later went down off the back of the Enron collapse: a lesson for Russell on preparing for the unexpected.

She believes there’s a tipping point for professional services firms when it comes to women in leadership, and it’s on the way. “The more women you have, the more you can change the personality of an organisation. It’s hard to see women’s issues if you’re made up of blokes.”

A supportive employer helps. “PwC has been brilliant. They have forward thinking policies in place and supported me being in a gay relationship. I’ve never felt any animosity and never felt anyone’s been chosen over me.”

She’s especially proud of what they’ve achieved with GLEE@PwC, given it’s allowed the firm to branch into new forms of external networking unlike anything they’ve done before. “That was a real achievement for the organisation. We’re taking PwC on a diversity journey and we’re achieving some great things,” she says. “These events can really connect the top end of town in a new way.”

Currently on the board of the National Stillbirth Foundation, Russell is considering the idea of a portfolio board career in the distant future. She says boards remind you of the diversity of life, and prove just how appreciated your skills and expertise can be.

But in the meantime, she’s at her most confident and happy while busy on a large project. “When you see everything just humming,” she says.

mums@work | 08.08.13

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A diverse career: EY Sydney Office Managing Partner Lynn Kraus


Lynn Kraus has spent much of her career with the one firm. But she’s somewhat improvised her way to the top, taking on new and varied opportunities to get to the executive and to her current position as EY’s Sydney Office Managing Partner.

“I thought making partner was the be all and end all but it’s not,” Kraus says, noting she’s taken on roles within EY she never expected since joining the partnership in 2004.

Upon returning to work following the birth of her second child, the then client services partner took a new position with the firm in a field she had no experience managing: as head of human resources across Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Indonesia.

And just to make it more interesting, she took the job part time, working Tuesdays to Friday.

It happened when former CEO Gerard Dalbosco decided the firm needed a new approach to HR. He liked that Kraus had been a client (working in-house with Westpac) and a partner with the firm, and believed she could spearhead a new agenda for recruiting and developing staff. He supported Kraus’ desire to work four days a week, acknowledging that if it couldn’t work for an HR executive they would have problems encouraging it elsewhere. Kraus became one of the first women on the EY executive, and the first executive to work part time.

“That changed my career. He took a chance on me by appointing someone with no HR background and by appointing someone on maternity leave who wanted to come back part time and into a role she hadn’t done before,” says Kraus. To help her move into the executive, Dalbosco also offered an executive coach to assist her negotiating skills. It was a move that inspired Kraus to implement, as part of the firm’s parental leave scheme, a menu of items new parents can use to help their transition back to work such as coaching, additional superannuation, parenting advice and even cleaning services.

Now, she’s one of the firm’s six city managing partners, four of whom are women. It’s a contrast to many professional services firms where barely 20% of the partnership is female. “We’re all highly efficient at what we do and can multi-task really well,” says Kraus. “We got there at different times, marking a change in which different CEOs said, ‘It may have always looked a certain way, but it’s time to break with tradition’.”

Kraus is ultimately responsibly for the firm’s 2800 employees in Sydney (although she only has six direct reports), working on everything from EY’s market strategy and identifying the clients it works for, to developing and connecting teams within the business and managing the firm’s brand. Following the firm’s mantra that you don’t only lead, but also ‘do’, she also spends around 40% of her time on transactional work clients. “That sitting in the ivory tower telling people what to do doesn’t exist here,” she says. Kraus is also chair of the firm’s diversity and inclusiveness council for Australia and New Zealand.

Kraus admits that while continually putting her hand up for opportunities, she didn’t always put her best foot forward on negotiating pay and applying for promotions. From that experience, she now uses her leadership position to ensure women get what they deserve.

“There’s some luck involved, but then there’s the need to absolutely back yourself,” she says. “I haven’t always been that way. There have been times when I’ve not put myself forward only to see someone who was less qualified move into a role.”

“I’ve tried to champion that for all of the women within EY, to let people know what you want to do in a way that feels genuine to you. It’s not about self promotion. It’s about using your network to get what you want.” While head of HR, Kraus conducted the firm’s first ever pay parity review in order to determine if there were pay gaps across EY.

She passionately supports employees working part time and in flexible arrangements, declaring her personal key to managing it as an executive was to be open and upfront about her boundaries and the hours she was putting in. She encourages part-time employees to communicate their working arrangements to those within the firm and their clients externally.

Kraus developed an interest in accounting working part time in her father’s textile manufacturing business back in the US. She studied at South Carolina University, before starting with EY in Atlanta, like the “clear career path and clarity” the firm could offer. A secondment in Australia turned into a four-year working stint. She went back to the US following 9/11, later returning to take a position with Westpac, and being recruited back to EY.

Kraus notes the importance of mentors and sponsors throughout her career – especially one female partner who told her to put in her business case for partnership despite Kraus not thinking she’d have much of a chance, or was personally ready. “She basically replayed my career to me and said, ‘You’ve already done it all! There’s no reason to wait’,” says Kraus. “I always looked for mentors and sponsors. I think the reality is that all organisations are political and while you don’t have to play politics, you at least need to understand them.”

Ultimately, Kraus's career path’s been very different to what she imagined joining EY as a graduate, back when making partner seemed the end result.

“People might look at a professional services firm and think it could be very monotonous,” adds Kraus. “But it’s a great place where you can have a completely different career. I would never have seen myself as an HR profession, and now heading up Sydney markets. It’s been interesting to be able to continually re-invent myself.”

mums@work | 08.08.13

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A fresh face in the partnership: Deloitte’s Vivienne Tang

Vivienne Tang is one of Deloitte’s 45 new partners promoted from within the firm to mark the beginning of the new financial year, a fresh intake of leaders of which 29% are female.

She speaks to Select Employer while attending a new partner conference in Sydney (joining an additional 22 partners hired laterally by the firm over the past 12 months), just days before stepping into the new role on 1 July 2013. While admitting she's a little nervous about the next career stage, she also knows it's where she deserves to be and is excited about the opportunity.

"You need to have the confidence in yourself and in your abilities, believe in others and have them believe in you", she says, "Throughout your career you will encounter challenges along the way and to be successful, you must be confident, resilient and agile in your response to those challenges.”

It’s been a big couple of years for Tang, who gave birth to her first child 15 months ago, took a seven month career break from the firm, initially returned part-time, and successfully completed the challenging process of being appointed partner.

She’s made it work with focus and hard work but also with support from family and internal support within Deloitte - including her team, mentors, and counselling partners who have continually encouraged her throughout her career to partnership today.

Working in the Governance and Regulatory Consulting team at Deloitte, Tang’s developed her leadership skills as head of the Melbourne team, having specialised in regulatory compliance advisory matters for the banking and asset management industry. She loves her job and enjoys working with the team at Deloitte.

‘It’s a challenging environment for our clients due to the extent and complexity of the regulatory requirements impacting the industry such as FoFA and Stronger Super and the speed in which the industry has to respond to be compliant’ she says.

She considers the promotion to partner a privilege. Tang was earmarked for the partnership early, joining the “Pathways to Success” leadership program with Deloitte, which prepares talent for acknowledging what it means to be a partner, and how they can get there.

“It’s a very interesting but tough process. You need to demonstrate consistently why you deserve to be there, and have the track record of success,” Tang explains.

For Tang, the promotion fills an ambition she’s had since joining the firm, although she notes she’s questioned it from time to time, believing it’s healthy to consider all options when making long-term commitments and plans.

"Being a partner of a firm is a big responsibility. It is important to think through whether it is the right path for you."

Again, Tang says her focus and determination is key. Combined with a great team and good support structures backed her all the way –as well as a strong family support at home. “'Knowing you can do it and have others around you who support you and believe in you gives you the encouragement to take on the next step',” she says.

Tang studied a Bachelor of Accounting at Monash University on a scholarship program. She was drawn to Deloitte at a careers fair, saying she immediately had a “gut feeling” about the firm, and listed it as her first preference for a student placement. After the initial 16-week placement, she received an offer to join as a graduate in late 2002.

She’s stayed with the firm ever since, taking on new career and life experiences along the way. To her, it is exciting working for a firm which has a culture that encourages innovation, talent and agility. Tang was one of the 11 Finalists in the 2011 Deloitte Businesswoman of the Year which is part of the Deloitte Inspiring Women’s program. Deloitte was recognised in 2012 as an Employer of Choice for Women for 11th year in the row by the Federal Government’s Equal Opportunity for Women in Workplace Agency (EOWA). And for the first time, Deloitte being a professional services firm has been awarded an Australian International Design AwardTM for its audit services.

“It’s been a really rewarding time for me, especially the last couple of years – being a first time mum, taking a lengthy break from work, and then being given the opportunity to really focus on achieving the next part of my career, as a Partner of Deloitte.”

mums@work | 07.08.13

Monday, August 5, 2013

Work-life balance for the modern grandmother


Grandmothers have become busy people, often providing help with childcare while managing their own career, household and social lives.

As Doreen Rosenthal and Susan Moore, authors of New Age Nannas: Being a Grandmother in the 21st century, explain: "The old stereotype of delicate ladies in rocking chairs, scone makers par excellence, has changed."

Rosenthal and Moore's research found most of the grandmothers they surveyed had a lot going on – often in either full time or part time paid work while looking after their grandchildren for varying amounts of time.

So how do grandparents manage to find work/life balance? We speak to two busy grandmothers to find out.

Enjoying the highs and the lows

MaryAnne Bennie and Tulla Ristevski are two women who know all about the challenges of working while caring for their grandchildren. They say that while supervising the children is hard work, they would not trade it for the world.

Bennie, who has five grandchildren, regularly provides 8 to 20 hours of childcare per week while also running her home, office and business. Spending so much time with the grandkids has meant she has struck up a close bond with all of them. "I absolutely adore being part of their lives. The time we have with them is beautiful and it's good for their development and mine," she says.

However, as much as it may be pleasurable, anxiety can set in about caring for children who are not your own. Ristevski, who has two grandchildren, says looking after grandkids can be more daunting than parenting. "You may not have been that careful about your own kids hurting themselves, but you're more paranoid [with grandkids]!"

Balancing work and grandkids

At work, a lack of acknowledging extended family responsibilities can provide a hurdle to achieving balance according to these grandparents. Ristevski says it's been a battle to convince her employer to reduce her hours, from full time to four days a week. "My job is a five-day-a-week job, so things can crop up on a Friday that need attending to. I did solve it a little bit by reading my emails at home, when the kids are sleeping or playing. If I think it is an urgent issue, I might attend to it or ring someone at work and say, 'can you fix this'."

For Bennie, the benefits some parents get from working for themselves, at home, also apply to grandmothers. She's a personal organiser, presenter and trainer. "I don't have that much that's so urgent that it has a real impact, so people tend to get emails from me at three in the morning, rather than three in the afternoon," she says.

Noting the impact on physical and mental health

Bennie sees plenty of positives running after her active grandchildren, including the fact it helps keep her fitness and energy levels high. However, being with them takes its toll on her mentally and she admits she's happy at the end of the day, when the kids go home.

Ristevski too appreciates the down time. "I look forward to seeing the grandchildren, a day at a time or babysitting when required. It can be quite tiring at our age."

Acknowledging the financial implications

As a grandparent, having grandchildren at home on a regular basis requires an investment in a number of things. Ristevski has made such investments happily – buying a car seat, high chair and also furnishing a special room in her house for the children to play in.

Although Bennie sometimes feels like she satisfies one of the minimum requirements for receiving financial assistance from the government – providing 35% or more care for her grandchildren – she says she's happy to bear the costs of providing care for her grandkids.

Bennie and Ristevski's top tips for grandparents:

  1. Be organised. Have a repertoire of favourite foods available for the kids.

  2. Promote predictability. Have your own routines and rules during their stay

  3. Don't forego your social life. Say no if you have already made plans.

  4. Share the caring responsibility. Formal childcare and other grandparents may be able to help.
mums@work | 06.08.13
Image: Free Digital Images/Ambro

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Schoolkids Bonus has helped families with back to school costs


The second instalment of Federal Labor’s Schoolkids Bonus has been paid to more than 1.2 million families as their kids start returning to school.

Over the past few weeks, $590 million has been paid to eligible families – $205 for each child in primary school and $410 for each child in secondary school – to help parents get all the things their kids need for Term 3.

The payment has helped parents buy uniforms, shoes, school books and stationery, as well as other costs like school excursions, music lessons and sports registration fees.

This was the second instalment this year for families, with the first instalment arriving before school started in January.

Some families who claim their Family Tax Benefit at the end of the financial year will receive both instalments of the Schoolkids Bonus with their lump sum Family Tax Benefit payment.

In total, 1.3 million families will receive the Schoolkids Bonus.

Australian families love Labor’s Schoolkids Bonus. They know how much this payment has helped over the past few weeks as they got their kids ready to go back to school.

And they know that if Tony Abbott is elected Prime Minister at the election, the Schoolkids Bonus payment they have just received will be the last one they ever get.

An Abbott Government will axe the Schoolkids Bonus and rip money out of the pockets of 1.3 million families.

Axing the Schoolkids Bonus will mean a typical family with two kids will be $15,000 worse off over the course of their children’s schooling.

Australian families are already feeling the pinch. They can’t afford an Abbott Government making it harder for families.

Families receiving Family Tax Benefit Part A, as well as young people in school receiving Youth Allowance, and other people receiving certain income support or veterans’ payments are eligible for the Schoolkids Bonus.

For the latest information about the Schoolkids Bonus and other family assistance measures, visit or ‘like’ our Australian Families Facebook page.

State breakdown of families receiving the Schoolkids Bonus this year:

Image: Free Digital Photos, Poonsap