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International Women’s Day – Celebrating women at Gerald Edelman

09 Mar 2020

International Women’s Day (IWD) is a global day which celebrates the social, cultural, economic and political achievements and contributions of inspirational women all over the world. 

This International Women’s Day, Gerald Edelman (GE) is celebrating the achievements of exceptional women within our team. We have selected two of our top performing women to interview; to find out how they have overcome challenges, what motivates them and how they are inspiring others in their careers.

Joanna Loizidou, Business Services Manager 
Sonal Shah, International Tax Manager

 

Joanna Loizidou, Business Services Manager

What is your current role?
I am the manager of the Business Services department. I work with a diverse portfolio of clients, from larger property companies to SMEs and owner-managed businesses. 

My team supports clients with a wide range of issues, from compliance to business strategy and advice. 

What prompted you to choose accounting?
I joined GE as part of the graduate programme 11 years ago. After university, I wasn’t sure of the career path that I wanted to pursue, but I knew that an ACA qualification would be a good foundation. 

At the time, I didn’t think that I would stay in accountancy, but the range of projects, clients and responsibility I had at GE drove my interest. For me, there’s nothing more satisfying than knowing you’ve helped your client to achieve their business aspirations.

Can you tell us about the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career so far?
This has to be when I started training. As a young woman in a traditionally male-dominated industry, I felt I had to prove myself, more so than my male counterparts, to be taken seriously. I had to persevere and commit to driving my own career to reach my own personal goals. Thankfully, times have changed since then, and finance is much more open and diverse. 

There has definitely been a cultural shift and there is a clear, positive change in the way that women are seen in the workplace. We have made a concerted effort to work on creating a nurturing environment and level the playing field at GE, ensuring women are treated equally, heard and given the same opportunities.

Are there any tips you’d give women for their careers/ businesses?
The key is to be confident, believe in your own ability and persevere. Additionally, you should work in an environment that persistently challenges you. This will ensure that you maintain that drive and enthusiasm for your career. 

Is there anyone who has been particularly helpful in your career? 
Deval Patel. Deval is a Partner in the Business Services Department at GE and has been a brilliant mentor.

I started my career in the audit team before moving to business services, so I felt that I had some gaps in my knowledge. However, Deval did not let this stop me progressing. He gave me the time to learn and continually challenged me by giving me projects in areas that I hadn’t worked on before. By doing this I was able to build my confidence and knowledge and began to build my own client portfolio. 

Deval has been instrumental in my career progression. He has given me guidance on how to develop not only on client and technical matters, but also how to approach my role in managing people and developing my soft skills.

What is one of the proudest moments of your career so far?
What I’m most proud of is that I have progressed through various departments, from audit through to business services, learning along the way. I’ve now built my own team and I’m on track to become a partner, which is very exciting! 

 

Sonal Shah, International Tax Manager

What is your current role?
My role is focused on building and leading the International Tax Department, where I work with a mixed portfolio of corporate and private clients. I advise on international tax structuring, strategy and cross border transactions, which includes dealing with residency and domicile matters whilst aligning business and personal goals with that of the changing tax landscape. 

I am also responsible for raising GE’s profile as international tax experts and actively promoting our international tax offering. As part of my role, I play an important part in developing our newly founded international network, XLNC, where I represent GE at conferences and am quite often found presenting on a wide range of topics to include panel discussions. I am currently the editor of our quarterly International Tax Round newsletter which provides a great insight into everything tax.

What prompted you to choose accounting?
I didn’t! After graduating with a BA (Hons) in Accounting and Finance, I completed my ACCA qualification at a small accountancy firm, which seemed to be the most obvious next step at the time. I was involved in all aspects of accounting, audit and tax, but hadn’t found anything that really excited me, so considered moving into industry. 

However, my reporting partner at the time, Graham Busch, who I still work with today, saw in me what I couldn’t see. He talked me into staying in practice and subsequently offered me a role in International Tax. The rest, as they say, is history. This led me to my career in Tax.  The role took me around the world and allowed me to combine the two things I enjoy most – meeting people and helping them by providing practical solutions to real life problems. 

I absolutely love and enjoy what I do. There is no greater satisfaction than knowing that I have made a positive difference.

Can you tell us about the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your career so far?
As Joanna said, the accounting and tax profession has traditionally been a male dominated industry. Early on in my career, clients and business introducers often saw me as an unassuming assistant. As an example, many of the board room meetings that I attended with my male colleagues, started with a 20-minute discussion on the latest news from the football world or other sports. I took this as a challenge I was determined to overcome. As time went by, I found myself breaking barriers,  demonstrating my depth of knowledge, being more confident and engaging with everyone around me. I now feel I can tackle any challenges that come my way. Life is all about resilience.

Are there any tips you’d give women for their careers/ businesses?
Be true to yourself! Do what you feel is right and stop worrying.

It’s often said that women can’t have it all, but I think with the right support, we absolutely can. So many women have a successful career and a happy work-life balance; we can eliminate the idea that we must choose between the two. I recommend every woman to read the book, A Good Time to be a Girl, by Helena Morrissey.

Is there anyone who has been particularly helpful in your career? How have they helped you?
Graham Busch. Graham is the International Tax Partner at GE and has been my mentor and guardian, both professionally and personally. I have now known him for 15 years. Graham has helped me develop as a professional,  supported me when the going got tough, guided me when I had difficult decisions to make and taught me to persevere with a smile. He has been inspirational throughout my career and has truly contributed to the person I am today. He is my rock! 

What is one of the proudest moments of your career so far?
I am extremely proud of what the International Tax department has achieved and how it has grown in just over three years, for which I have my team to thank – nothing is achieved alone.

I am en-route to becoming a partner at GE and I am immensely honoured to be given this opportunity.

Happy International Women’s Day – to women and those men who support us so beautifully.

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