Women at BDO: A discussion with Courtney Whitecross

At BDO, we're committed to supporting our professional women and driving their success. From graduates to partners, we help women build relationships and create well-defined career paths through networking events, coaching, and professional development opportunities.

To celebrate International Women’s Day and to give you an inside look at what it's like to be a woman in accounting – and at BDO – we conducted discussions with some of our most talented professionals. During the conversations, they discussed accounting and their experiences as women in business, and the importance of diversity in leadership.

What do you like most about your position?  

As an income tax adviser, I provide my clients with a diverse array of services, relating to both tax advisory and compliance. This means I have been continuously engaged throughout my career and am able to provide solutions to my clients' changing, and sometimes challenging, needs.  

What piece of go-to advice do you give someone who is looking to start a career in this field?

Being an Associate Director has allowed me to work with many graduates over the years, enabling me to impart my knowledge to the next generation.

I suggest playing to your strengths and not trying to force yourself into doing something you don't enjoy. You spend a lot of time at work during your lifetime, so you need to enjoy what you do and be passionate about it! For me, working in the tax industry allowed for continued professional development and has been rewarding both personally and financially.

Do you feel that you made sacrifices personally and professionally? How do you find a work/life balance?

I don't think any job comes without its sacrifices, and it's a constant battle to balance work and play. However, I do believe you get out of it what you put in, so although my job isn't always 9-5, you know the more work you put in, the more opportunities you have to learn and at the end of the day, it's about personal growth.  

I've been fortunate that BDO has a supportive work culture allowing me to work from home when I need to. It's really important to set boundaries, and for me personally, I find that exercise has helped me immensely with de-stressing from any work-related issues at the end of the day. I thoroughly recommend everyone find something they enjoy outside of work, whether sport, movies, or reading books. It's also important to have family and friends who can provide you with a support network if things get tough.

What do you think makes a successful leader?

The most important thing about being a successful leader is good communication. They must provide positive and constructive feedback in a timely manner and have the ability to teach and develop those around them. In my opinion, collaboration and allowing a safe space for vulnerability underpin all effective team environments, and these attributes must be shown by the leader of the team.

What do you think the future of accounting looks like? And what are you looking forward to in the future for your own career?

Value-add services are replacing traditional accounting. It's no longer about being able to produce a set of accounts. What's important and what our client's value is our ability to interpret that data, articulate it to them and provide recommendations for actions that will ultimately benefit them (and their back pockets!). The future of accounting lies in good communication and personalised service.  

Whilst there is still some way to go to ensure females are equally represented at the more senior levels, I believe gender-related roadblocks are increasingly becoming less of an issue as awareness and the need for diversity is recognised as imperative for the success of businesses overall. I'm fortunate in that of the eight tax partners in Brisbane’s BDO Tax team, five of them are females! I intend to one day make it to the partner ranks, so it is very encouraging to know that my gender will not be a limiting factor.   

How has COVID changed the way you work, now and into the future?

I think most people would agree that COVID-19 spurred almost all businesses to look outside-the-box to find inventive solutions to ensure they are meeting their customers' needs. The accounting profession has been nimble in moving many of its operations online, with virtual meetings now commonplace.  

I have been fortunate in my career to have the flexibility to work from home one day per week.  COVID-19 has made this common practice and even more socially acceptable. However, fundamentally I believe that relationships are best fostered on face-to-face contact, and it is what clients value the most. Thus, whilst COVID has brought the accounting profession well and truly into the 21st century, the fundamental values of personalised service still remain.