The path to equality is hardly linear, at least that’s what we’ve been told by those who have been paving the way since long before we began walking down it. Sometimes it feels like we’re hardly making progress, at least that is until our own lived experiences are held up to the wider historical context. It’s easy to look at today’s political & social climate and ask “Why aren’t we further along?”. Yet it wasn’t until I sat down with Gail Perry, author, advocate, and accounting industry legend that I realized how far we have come in just her lifetime.
During our conversation, Gail told me a story about an experience she had early in her career working for a large regional accounting firm in Indianapolis. The firm had a particularly prominent tax client that refused to “have their taxes done by a woman”. Because of her expertise, the firm assigned Gail the tax client. However, because of the client’s disparaging belief about the intellect & abilities of women, a male colleague led meetings with them while she whispered tax advice to him from behind a curtain. The image this story conjures up feels laughable on the surface and seems to be something out of some long forgotten era. But it was the reality for a woman whose own two daughters have only just embarked on their own careers in the last decade.
Yes, we’ve made progress. But we have so far left to go. That is what I took away from my conversation with Gail. That, and the fact that the only way we’re going to reach our desired goals if we stop asking for permission to be a part of things. It’s time for women to stop waiting to be invited and to start claiming our seats at the table. And if we aren’t invited to the table, we have to recognize and own the fact that we have the power and abilities to create our own.
It’s easy to sit back and say that there should be more representation & equality in the working world. It takes a lot more effort to show up & speak up about these issues and make space for others to do the same. We often trip ourselves up thinking things need to be polished & completely perfect, but as the author 34 books and the editor-in-chief of one of the most influential publishers in the accounting industries, Gail Perry is a testament to the progress that can be made simply by showing up & putting in the work. For that, and for her incredible candor & support of women in the accounting industry, she will always be someone who continues to inspire women to show up for themselves & teach others to do the same.