Vita Gustafson started her own accounting firm in Palmerston, NT in 1985, after working at another firm for eight years and training a male graduate who then got paid more than her.
Cheryl Mallett joined Vita Gustafson & Associates in 1993 because it was the only firm that would take her on part-time so she could study and also raise her children. In 1999, Thanh Thai also joined the firm because it was the only one that would take her on with her strong Vietnamese accent.
While much has changed since then, Ms Mallett told AccountantsDaily that she believes the industry could practice equality better.
“It’s a conservative area. I think it has improved, the industry is realising that women have got as much to offer as men, but I’m surprised that we're still talking about this sort of stuff in 2016,” Ms Mallett said.
“Accounting is still conservative but it’s a pleasure to see now that it's not just two women and 80 men in a room, it's more or less half-half, or at least getting that way.”
Ms Mallett also highlighted the need for the industry to promote better work-life balance.
“You see a lot of chest-thumping and people very proud of themselves because they got to the office at 6am and didn't go home until 8pm. I just don't think that's something that people should aspire to. If your staff have to work 16 hours a day to get their work out then clearly you need more staff,” she said.
“I think the culture should change because it's damaging everybody.”
Ms Mallett said that Vita Gustafson & Associates has a policy that family comes first for all its employees.
“One of the policies that we have is that we don't want our staff working overtime, but we do expect 200 per cent during business hours,” she said.
“It’s just as important to go home and be with your family because that just makes better workers, and I think that that policy has paid out, because look at us now.”