Meet the Female Leaders Of Finance: “Once hired, make sure that women feel included in the culture of your company”

With Tifphani White-King and Jason Hartman

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Once hired, do women feel included in the culture of your company? Are they provided with the same mentorship and/or sponsorship opportunities afforded to men? Are they invited to meetings and social outings? Are they invited to compete on competitive bids and to work on highly visible, revenue generating projects? Do they feel supported in work and life?

I had the pleasure of interviewing Tifphani White-King. Tifphani is the US National Tax Practice Leader for Mazars USA, a top tax, accounting, and consulting firm. Her responsibilities include creating a shared vision, setting strategic direction, and driving marketplace growth. Prior to assuming this role, Tifphani was the US International Tax Practice Leader for Mazars USA. She has nearly 20 years of international tax experience, providing operational, strategic, and marketplace direction for emerging, midmarket, and large, multinational companies. Her expertise includes international tax structuring, transaction planning, mergers and acquisitions, tax provision, compliance reporting, and other related services. Tifphani graduated from Columbia University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics. She received her Juris Doctorate from St. John’s University School of Law, and is currently pursuing her Master of Laws degree at King’s College in London. She is the first black female Tax partner ever appointed at one Big 4 accounting firm.

Thank you so much for doing this with us, Tifphani! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the Banking/Finance field?

I grew up studying ballet starting at the age of 3. I had lofty dreams of traveling the world’s theatres through dance. At university, I majored in Dance, but after listening to the wise counsel of my Mom and Dad, I thankfully also majored in Economics and Philosophy. As my graduation date neared, I realized that dancers (at that time) were not commanding what would be sufficient pay for me to support myself. So, I opted to go on for more and chose law school. In law school, I studied corporations, contracts and taxation. I secured an internship in taxation, in particular, international taxation; and eventually was hired full-time in international tax structuring at a top global consulting firm. So, instead of traveling the world thru dance, I now travel the world advising on international tax.

Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?

For me, I would have to say an interesting time in my career is happening right now. I am pregnant at age 43. I am also about to start writing my dissertation for my LLM candidacy at King’s College in London. All the while, I lead a profitable tax practice for a leading international professional services firm, Mazars USA. I am a daughter, wife and friend. Throughout all this, a lesson I learned is no matter how many balls you are juggling at any given time to always pray, take your time, try not to stress, take it all in stride and smile.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

National tax policy is often changing and the challenges it presents our clients are always exciting to me. But a unique project I am currently working on is to teach business development skills to women through our Women@Mazars platform. Business generation and sales does not come easy to everyone. Our program is designed to give a practical and experiential approach to this invaluable skill. This helps many of our women accelerate in their careers and rise to the ranks of partner, principal or managing director within the firm. This is a successful and fulfilling program that I am really pleased to help create and be a part of.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

What distinguishes Mazars USA is that we don’t just SAY we care, rather we DO care. This is pervasive in so many ways in and out of the workplace. Yes, we work incredibly hard but we support our teams through their successes and challenges. We smile at each other in the elevators and hallways. We exchange real conversation with our teams about life and work. We socialize outside of the office. We join sporting leagues together. We celebrate diversity whether through culture, age, language, geography, experience, industry and more. We take holidays and enjoy them sans work. We shut down and encourage our teams to do the same. We have lives outside of work, are transparent about it and we are proud of it. We collaborate and share workloads. We say thank you. We just simply care!

Wall Street and Finance used to be an “all white boys club”. This has changed a lot recently. In your opinion, what caused this change?

Yes, there has been change — but not enough. There is still significant gender imbalance with respect to senior levels of power, as well as compensation in the world of finance and beyond.

Of course, despite the progress, we still have a lot more work to do to achieve parity. According to this report in CNBC, less than 17 percent of senior positions in investment banks are held by women. In your opinion or experience, what 3 things can be done by a )individuals b)companies and/or c) society to support this movement going forward?

To correct gender imbalance, companies have to have an honest assessment about their culture, hiring, and promoting practices. Some questions that need to answered include:

  1. Look at the number of new hires that interview at or enter your organization. How many of your candidates are women?
  2. Once hired, do women feel included in the culture of your company? Are they provided with the same mentorship and/or sponsorship opportunities afforded to men? Are they invited to meetings and social outings? Are they invited to compete on competitive bids and to work on highly visible, revenue generating projects? Do they feel supported in work and life?
  3. Do women at your company support, share and promote the success of other women?

Let’s now turn to a slightly new topic. According to this report in Fortune, nearly two-thirds of Americans can’t pass a basic test of financial literacy. In your opinion or experience what is the cause of these unfortunate numbers?

In the U.S., we spend billions of dollars marketing financial products and services but spend much less investing in financial education for our people to really understand them. Once you’ve mastered the ABC’s of finance, then in the words of tennis icon, Arthur Ashe, “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”

You are a “finance insider”. If you had to advise your adult child about 5 non intuitive essentials for smart investing what would you say? Can you please give a story or an example for each?

  1. Pay yourself first.
  2. Establish an emergency fund.
  3. Don’t buy excessive material things or increase your living expenses every time you get a raise or bonus. Instead, save it and pretend you don’t have it.
  4. Max out your 401K.
  5. Pay your taxes.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My mentor, Mr. Robert Stricof, hired me as an intern and retired the year I made partner. I always joke that he finished what he started. Throughout my career, he shared life lessons, exposed me to international business and travel, taught me how to be a true trusted advisor to clients, and, most importantly, demonstrated how to blend life and work.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Never be too busy earning a living that you forget to have a life.” To achieve success in this business we must work so very hard. In my role today, I interview many partner candidates looking to leave their current company and join Mazars USA for various reasons. But the most common story I hear is that they sacrificed their family and personal life for a career that’s no longer meaningful and rewarding to them. For me, that’s a non-starter. I always make time for my husband, family, friends and myself.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

This may sound a bit cheeky, but my movement would be the ‘Just Smile’ Movement. Oftentimes in our business, you encounter grumpy professionals and clients. A simple smile can breakthrough tension, stress, challenge, stalemates, stubbornness, disagreement, etc. We should all try it sometime. You just never know what type of conversation or business could arise from such a small gesture of welcome.

Thank you for all of these great insights!

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