Women in Tax National Congress sneak peek: is great leadership a balancing act?

A preview of this year’s Women in Tax Congress National Congress.

One of the greatest challenges for both emerging and established leaders is juggling the stress and health issues that can arise during their leadership journey.

In an article by Business Insider, Australia’s Biggest Mental Health Check-In study used data from 3,500 employees across 41 organisations from a range of industries, and was conducted by mental health technology group Medibio.

Results show that one third of program participants were suffering from some form of mental illness, with 36% suffering from depression, 33% from anxiety, and 31% from stress.

“The manner in which we all live, work and interact has changed radically … to the detriment of our mental health,” says psychologist Peta Slocombe, the Check-in program Creator and Medibio senior vice president of Corporate Health.

“And yet organisational approaches to mental health have not kept pace.”

Slocombe adds that depression is estimated to cost Australia $12.6 billion a year.

Juggling stress and health issues will be a topic of discussion at this year’s Women in Tax Congress National Congress in November, where the theme of the event is ‘Leadership in Modern Times’..

We caught up with a few of the panellists set to speak at the ‘Finding Balance’ panel.

In this session, panellists who have dealt with health issues will discuss how individual reactions and supportive workplaces have assisted them in dealing with those challenges and lessened the personal toll to be dealt with on the way

Kathryn Bertram is a special counsel in the Tax team at Johnson, Winter & Slattery, practicing in tax controversy and state taxes. She is married with two children, who are currently aged 8 and 10. She is passionate about helping people understand how to support colleagues going through a difficult time, having being diagnosed with breast cancer 4 years ago.

Jerome Doraisamy is a journalist at Lawyers Weekly and Wellness Daily. For the past three years, Jerome has acted as a thought leader and advocate for mental health issues in the Australian legal profession.

Donna Rubbo is a Tax Principal in the Deloitte Global Employer Services team in Sydney. She has worked as a tax practitioner for over 25 years. She is married with two children and considers her family her passion and purpose.

The panel will be facilitated by Donna, with Kathryn and Jerome joined on the day by Judy Sullivan, CTA (PwC).

Expanding on what’s covered in the program, what can attendees expect to learn from your session?

KB: I will be discussing the impact of having breast cancer at age 34 on my work and family life. Hopefully they learn how to support a team member going through a difficult personal situation.

JD: An emphasis on the importance of individual responsibility and staying true to one’s self, beliefs and ambitions, so as to ensure a tailored, idiosyncratic approach and strategy can be properly formulated.

DR: As chairperson, I look forward to hearing the stories of the three people on the panel and help guide the conversation with questions and comments, if required. Given that the topics to be discussed are quite personal and sensitive, it is important for me to be empathetic and considerate of the panel members’ feelings and experiences.

What will delegates take away from your session that will help their clients and/or business?

KB: Understanding how to support their colleagues who are going through a difficult time in their lives. How to help, what the workplace can and should be doing at such time.

JD: Hopefully, they will take away anecdotes borne from personal experience and expert witness which are not only relatable and accessible, but also help form a better picture for what works and doesn’t work when it comes to putting one’s self forward for promotion.

DR: I hope that once delegates hear the stories of the panel members, it will remind them of how important it is to prioritise their own health and wellbeing as part of their working life and will take away a few key tips and ideas on how to manage stress and/or identify that it is time to make changes of get help.

What do you think it takes to be a great leader?

KB: Supporting those more junior than you to reach their full potential by encouraging, recommending and sharing knowledge, advice and contacts.

JD: In the context of professional services, I think a great leader is one who understands and appreciates not only his or her capacities and limitations, but also those of the people underneath. Being able to effectively manage the personal and professional needs of everyone in the team is fundamental for productivity and success.

Are there any tips you have for those aspiring leaders, seeking to take that next step?

KB: Get involved! Join a committee, raise your hand in a meeting, ask to be involved. Show your interest and doors will open.

JD: Be yourself. Nobody can be a better you than you, and thus your best chance of success comes from being true to who you are and what you stand for.

As the profession, and the world around us changes, and digitises, are there any tips you have for leaders in this brave new world?

KB: Embrace technology because the leaders of tomorrow will demand it.

JD: Don’t be close-minded. Be open to new opportunities and possibilities, and be willing to have your mind changed.


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