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A Look At Life In Lockdown And Beyond For Women In Tax

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Tax Notes reporters Amanda Athanasiou and Lauren Loricchio share what they discovered reporting on their latest piece, “How the Pandemic Upended Life and Work for Women in Tax,” and their private experiences.

This transcript has been edited for size and readability. 

David D. Stewart: Welcome to the podcast. I am David Stewart, editor in chief of Tax Notes In the present day Worldwide. This week: work, life, lockdown.

Tax attorneys are often fairly adept at managing difficult schedules and competing calls for. However for a lot of girls within the tax career, the coronavirus pandemic has been an unparalleled check of these attributes. Many moms and caregivers have been pressured to juggle distant work with youngster and household care, all with out the same old assist from outdoors members of the family, faculties, and different skilled providers.

Tax Notes reporters Amanda Athanasiou and Lauren Loricchio spoke with a number of girls within the tax discipline about life in lockdown and their hopes and expectations for work-life stability submit pandemic.

Amanda, Lauren, welcome again to the podcast.

Amanda Athanasiou: Thanks, Dave, for having us. It is good to be right here.

Lauren Loricchio: Thanks.

David D. Stewart: Now, you latterly spoke with greater than a dozen girls within the tax career about how the pandemic upended their lives, particularly for moms and caregivers. Are you able to inform us a bit about a few of the frequent themes or tales you heard?

Lauren Loricchio: Positive. We spoke with a fairly various group of ladies within the tax legislation career. Some have been youthful and a few have been older. Some girls had youngsters and a few did not.

The factor that we heard is that everybody was struggling, whether or not it was with the isolation of being at residence or the political occasions unfolding over the demise of George Floyd and considerations about racial justice within the nation. Lots of people have additionally been feeling actually anxious about COVID-19 and apprehensive about their family and friends.

The ladies that we spoke with who appeared to have essentially the most problem juggling work and life have been these with caregiving obligations, whether or not it was for a kid or a member of the family. The dearth of day care and youngsters being out of college appeared to actually make issues tough for some girls.

David D. Stewart: These interviews turned a part of a narrative lately printed in Tax Notes referred to as “How the Pandemic Upended Life and Work for Women in Tax.” The place did this mission come from?

Amanda Athanasiou: The pandemic hit at a time when there gave the impression to be some actual motion on gender variety within the authorized business. Increasingly more consideration and sources are being devoted to the underrepresentation of ladies and racial minorities and the higher ranks of the career.

By some measures, there was lots of progress lately, together with the narrowing of gender pay gaps. Companies are kind of extra open to versatile working preparations, and that type of factor.

With all of the press about how the pandemic got here on and was hitting girls within the workforce fairly arduous, there have been comparisons to the 2008 disaster and studies of ladies leaving the workforce altogether. We have been naturally interested by what was taking place in tax legislation.

When girls depart the career, would they be set again by way of gender and variety progress? Would the explanations for that be traceable once more to gender roles? Are corporations or attorneys dealing with monetary problem That is what prompted us down this street.

David D. Stewart: I am curious to listen to concerning the story behind the story right here. Like everybody else, right here at Tax Notes we have been working remotely for the final 18 months. Did that have an effect on the way you have been reporting a narrative on the lockdown and its results?

Lauren Loricchio: Nicely, by way of collaborating on our reporting, it did not actually have an effect as a result of Amanda is on the West Coast and I am on the East Coast. We might have needed to work remotely anyway to work on this collectively.

However I can say that for me personally, the pandemic began proper after I returned from maternity depart. I may actually sympathize with lots of the ladies I spoke with who had children, who have been scuffling with the day care situation, and have been making an attempt to make money working from home with younger youngsters or children at school. It is undoubtedly been a difficult time for me. I do know it has been for lots of working girls.

Amanda Athanasiou: I used to be really extra interested by what Lauren would say as a result of I have been working remotely for seven years. I’ve all the time felt just like the group is rather well geared up for distant work. In a single sense, it was fairly seamless to embark on this mission with Lauren due to the distant setup that I already had in place.

However as she talked about, having children at residence did increase challenges that we labored by means of. I am undecided if the reporting would have been any completely different had the workplace been open due to the gap. Additionally, the infrastructure was arrange throughout the group already. Hopefully that helps with the transition to distant work for Tax Analysts total. I would say it was constructive expertise.

David D. Stewart: Was there something that you just discovered stunning that you just discovered alongside the best way throughout your reporting on this story?

Lauren Loricchio: I do not assume there was something stunning to me. It was simply fascinating for me to listen to the completely different views on how folks have been coping with their conditions.

Amanda Athanasiou: As Lauren talked about to start with, we had a large cross part of voices within the story. I used to be a bit stunned by how comparable and relatable all people’s story ended up being. Not simply speaking about how tough it was to guardian and work as an enormous legislation legal professional on the identical time, however how the ladies have been capable of take it in stride in a tough time and simply handled issues very matter-of-factly.

One other nice shock was that the business stayed actually busy. I feel there have been studies, and in addition our sources anecdotally reported that their teams have been actually busy. That occurred in lots of apply teams below the tax umbrella. So, even when their group slowed down a bit of bit in March or April, issues tended to select again up once more.

I did not hear any studies that “my apply space slowed down and it by no means picked again up.” I am not saying that did not occur, however the truth that it did not come up on this cross part was fascinating and pleasantly stunning for the business.

David D. Stewart: Have been there any tales from the folks you spoke with that stood out?

Amanda Athanasiou: For me, the studies from attorneys of coloration within the aftermath of the George Floyd homicide stood out to me quite a bit. They talked about features of apply that I hadn’t heard from different attorneys.

A few of their feedback revolved round Zoom and the way there have been pluses and minuses to Zoom. Clearly it is plain that there are some particulars in communications which are extra evident whenever you’re head to head with anyone and that may be useful. However, as we reported within the story, some attorneys of coloration discovered Zoom to amplify the truth that they tended to be the one folks of coloration in conferences, each internally and in addition with purchasers. That was particularly highlighted after the George Floyd homicide.

Lauren Loricchio: I spoke with one girl who did not need to reveal her id within the article. She was the one girl that we spoke with who really left her job due to a few of the difficulties that she was experiencing together with her household and her children, juggling all the pieces. She stated she had been fascinated about leaving her job, however this was the tipping level for her. That was type of an uncommon factor.

She stated that she actually did not hear of lots of people leaving their jobs in tax legislation due to the pandemic. It seems like lots of people felt like their corporations supported them and accommodated them all through the whole factor. However she was the one distinctive individual that we ran throughout in our reporting who did find yourself leaving.

David D. Stewart: Nicely, that really leads me into one other query I had, which relates again to a narrative that Amanda wrote back in late 2019 about girls leaving the tax discipline. This takes place proper earlier than the pandemic. Are you able to inform us a bit about what you discovered by means of your reporting on that story and whether or not the pandemic has exacerbated a few of the typical challenges girls in tax are confronted?

Amanda Athanasiou: Positive. That story tried to seize the present explanations for why girls nonetheless make up such a stubbornly small proportion of tax attorneys and better ranks.

Lots of these causes have been fairly properly documented. They embrace issues like mommy observe stereotypes, some entrenched insurance policies or habits that may not appear discriminatory on their face, however usually are in apply. Fewer girls in larger ranks usually means fewer function fashions for younger associates to have a look at and see how paths have been taken to make a long-term profession in large legislation work.

A few of these issues have led to extra problem originating work by some measures. You’ve got research on pay gaps and that type of factor.

That story additionally meant to focus on some good concepts for the way the paradigm may shift. Some newer tales and discussions have proven that there was lots of progress on this entrance.

The pay hole was really narrowing by some measures proper earlier than the pandemic started. The worry that the pandemic may stroll again a few of that progress was excessive on everybody’s minds because the pandemic hit.

To date, the reply to the query appears to be no, girls are not leaving tax legislation and math. They do not understand that they have been set again by this expertise, overwhelmed although they really feel. Most of the folks we spoke with weren’t apprehensive about it, however in some methods the timing of this story makes it a little bit of a cliffhanger.

I feel there may be lots of optimism proper now that the varied pluses that got here out of the pandemic — understanding that distant work can work, that you may work together with your children in the home, that the sky does not fall — will assist girls in the long term. There’s hope that corporations will embrace these versatile schedules and that they will turn out to be extra commonplace.

Nevertheless it stays to be seen how that may play out within the subsequent six months or a 12 months. Some have prompt that issues can get again to regular fairly rapidly. These different work preparations like taking lengthy breaks for youths and making up time at night time may simply as rapidly return to being kind of a weird scenario.

David D. Stewart: Did you draw any conclusions, any classes to be discovered throughout your reporting or from your personal private expertise of issues that employers might need carried out higher to help girls working from residence throughout this era?

Lauren Loricchio: From what I gathered from the folks that I spoke with, it sounded just like the legislation corporations have been fairly accommodating with the ladies. Lots of the attorneys that I spoke with stated, “Our male colleagues have been coping with the identical points like working from residence with youngsters.” That may’ve made issues a bit of bit higher.

Some girls stated, “My apply is run by girls with youngsters they usually perceive the difficulties that I am dealing with.” I feel from the reporting that I did, it appeared like girls working in legislation corporations had lots of help from their employers. Extra so than possibly girls who work in decrease wage jobs the place they do not have the power to make money working from home.

David D. Stewart: That leads me to the massive query on the market for immediately. With vaccination charges rising and employers seeking to reopen workplaces, the place do issues stand for these girls? Will their work lives seem like they did 18 months in the past?

Lauren Loricchio: It seems like lots of people are hopeful that their legislation corporations can be extra versatile and accommodating and that distant work will turn out to be extra prevalent. It seems like issues could be simpler for ladies shifting ahead.

Amanda Athanasiou: I might agree. There’s lots of optimism that corporations will seize on the capabilities that they used through the pandemic and preserve these versatile schedules working and preserve choices obtainable, not requiring as a lot in workplace time. There’s lots of optimism.

However some have additionally voiced considerations that issues may get again to regular inside six months or a 12 months. A number of the sources voice that it’s a little untimely to understand how issues are going to work out over the following six months or a 12 months. 

I suppose we’ll simply have to attend and see.

David D. Stewart: All proper. Nicely, Lauren, Amanda, thanks for being right here.

Lauren Loricchio: Thanks for having us.

Amanda Athanasiou: Thanks for having us.

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