Listen to this episode here: Don’t Be Afraid, of Being Scared

Welcome to our blog for TALKING NUMBERS with Paul Jansz! In this article, we share our conversation with Rebecca Mihalic, Head of Accounting (APAC) at Practice Ignition, a platform that provides businesses smart proposals that their clients can read, sign and pay in one place.

As well as working with Practice Ignition, Rebecca is a director at businessDEPOT Sydney (previously Aptus Accounting & Advisory), a cloud-based accounting firm in Sydney that focuses on leveraging technology to support client growth and solve their problems.

This is Rebecca’s second visit to Talking Numbers. Previously, she has talked about the transition in the accounting industry – you can read about it here.

Changes Since the Last Talk

Rebecca said they had quite a few changes in the past several months. They have a new business partner Simone Murad, an accountant, and a financial planner; hence, she can help clients from both angles.

Rebecca also thinks they have a lot more contingencies, and they have become more realistic. They started planning for uncertainties and spent more time working on the business planning for the new season.

Top 50 Women in Accounting

The Top 50 Women in Accounting is a global initiative headed up by Practice Ignition. The award is primarily in places where Practice Ignition I is, including America, Canada, the UK, and South Africa. Rebecca said she was honoured to be on the list, which felt empowering.

Rebecca emphasised the award is not just about the fact that acknowledging that there’re women in the accounting industry, but also trying to make sure that women have the right voice, being heard and respected.

Practice Ignition received 1276 nominations globally for the Top 50 Women in Accounting this year. The team of judges at Practice Ignition then went through all the listed reasons and narrowed that list down to 50. This year, they looked at women who promote inclusivity and diversity, not just in their workplace but in the industry as a whole. They were also looking for women who are investing in the next generation and future leaders. Rebecca believed that many incredible women are doing amazing things to support the entire community.

Rebecca gave a big shout-out to Brooke Holmes, who has driven the program to where it is now.

Women’s Choice

“There is a tide of change that’s coming for women in accounting” Rebecca said, “But it’s slow.” Any huge cultural and generational change takes time. Therefore, it’s important to continue the conversation because women in accounting need the voice and the recognition.

Rebecca was consistently the only female in the room early in her career. It always felt lonely, and loneliness can sometimes breed insecurity. It took her years of confidence-building and reinsurance to get through that. Rebecca thinks of herself as of the lucky ones, because there’s still plenty of people who have been through these situations, still are uncomfortable and feel judged in a negative way.

Rebecca noted that there is a definite imbalance of women in leadership positions that the industry needs changes to bring more positive things in.

People need to talk about parenting issues, and there need to be some choices for women, Rebecca emphasised. A woman should be able to choose whether she has time off, or immediately goes back to work, and her choice should not penalise her career.

Calling for Equality

Rebecca shared her own experience as a mum. She went back to work when her firstborn was five months old, and when her second child was three months old. Back then, it was her decision, not just to protect her career, but also because she really wanted to go back. Her husband supported her through that. However, she was judged for it. Sometimes, when her children struggle with things, there was always a conversation, saying maybe it is because she went back to work too soon. It is an unfair statement. Now her husband is a stay-at-home dad, and it works for them. Rebecca speaks out that they shouldn’t be judged for that, nobody should. Everyone should be able to make those choices for them and their families.

The number of women pursuing university qualifications has increased, but position opportunities and pay levels are yet to be equalised. Rebecca thinks the disparity in pay levels lies in several different dimensions. Some women are getting paid less for doing the same job, or sometimes the roles women chose are considered not as important. Rebecca argues that most of the time, it’s an ‘unconscious bias’ that women need to have a voice in the workplace, and we need to have more conversations about this issue.

Coaching and Mentoring

Rebecca Mihalic believes coaching and mentoring are important for everybody, throughout all stages of one’s career in life. A great mentor or at least a network of people around can help you a lot. Having honest conversations helps with increasing security, bouncing ideas, and getting some guidance, and having a mentor is a fantastic way to do that.

Rebecca joined a programme called Lucy Mentoring Program just before the pandemic. It is a specific mentoring for women at university in finance qualifications through the University of Sydney. Rebecca thinks it shines a light on the fact that we have come a long way, talking about women’s rights and women’s equality for so long, but there are still many steps we should take, such as to provide safety for females.

A Piece of Advice

Rebecca said, don’t be afraid to be scared. She suggested understanding that it’s natural not to know what the next step is, and it’s okay to be unsure of that. She said, if you are scared or nervous, that’s normal because we all are. Never doubt yourself because you are unsure. Everyone’s unsure at certain times; some people just do a better job of hiding it than others.

Don’t panic; just focus on figuring out what’s best for you, and for the people in your life that matter. Don’t be too concerned about what other people are looking at or how they may be judging you. And don’t be too harsh on yourself.