Women at BDO: A discussion with Tanja Vukasovic

What is most rewarding about your role at BDO?

I enjoy working with many different people across BDO and learning from them. Everyone has a voice at BDO; you are encouraged to provide insights and think differently - your opinion matters. The ability to work with leadership and change thinking or influence key projects is incredibly rewarding. 

What progress have you seen on gender equality throughout your career?

Throughout my career, starting first in science then business, I didn’t see a noticeable difference except at senior leadership – where women were almost invisible. Along my journey in the corporate world, I’ve often found myself to be the only woman in the room. It was daunting at first, however, over time it became the norm. On reflection, I appreciate how wrong that was and it is great to see this changing. 

I have seen a considerable shift during my time at BDO with women who have developed and grown with the business into fantastic leaders and many experienced and inspiring female leaders joining our team.

Why do you believe gender equality is so important?

The inclusion of women is critical as it brings a holistic perspective and enables the right decisions to be made. It also motivates and demonstrates to everyone that we all have an important part to play and the opportunity to make a difference.

What value do you think women bring to leadership?

The ability to step back and see the bigger picture, have a long-term view with an empathetic lens. These qualities are so important and is recognised as what will differentiate leading firms from others. Put simply, more talented women are key to future business success.

Have you ever had to overcome gender bias? If so, how did you tackle it?

Upon reflection, I experienced this when I was in my 20s, at the beginning of my professional career after I started my family, and then when I returned to work. 

Whether one will admit it or not, there is focus and bias based on your appearance as a young woman. Once you start having children, consideration for future projects and promotions seem to decline. 

Roles that provide some balance between your children’s needs and career are hard to come by. You are labelled a ‘working mother,’ and you lose your sense of self. While motherhood is the greatest gift there is, you’ll rarely hear men referred to as a ‘working father.’

When training for a new role, I was told to “get my mind out of the kitchen and home and now focus on being a businesswoman”. That was hard to hear, but I tackled it by focusing on my job and proving my worth. Today, I would call it out immediately. It’s not acceptable.

How has BDO supported your career journey?

BDO understands the full picture of life and has been incredibly supportive and respectful of my work and outside work needs. Career is important, but so too is being able to cherish those once-in-a-life moments with your family. BDO understands that, and you feel very valued.

What should be done to increase awareness of the need for equality in the workplace?

I think it’s important to demonstrate the possibilities and show where we could be with more equality versus where we are. Being inclusive and valuing everyone’s input will lead to the right approach, fostering innovation and reaching outcomes that may not have been considered before.

We need to be conscious of the narrative and change it to empower and encourage women to be involved and step up. 

What do you think future opportunities look like for females in our industry?

There is a long way to go in our industry as senior leadership is still male dominated. This is changing, and organisations that foster female leadership will be the leaders. Our industry is recognising female leadership for the competitive advantages it brings, and I think that will drive a lot of great opportunities for women in the future. 

How would you suggest workplaces break the bias against gender equality?

I believe everyone has biases - many may never have thought they did until they had to think hard about it. Workplaces need to facilitate opportunities for their employees to understand their existing biases.

There is so much opportunity for firms to cultivate future leaders from the beginning of their career by making people valued from the start and listening to their thoughts and opinions. This can only build confidence and the self-belief that they too can be leaders of the future.