Gender and tax technology

As data management rises on leadership agendas around the world, it’s becoming more and more clear that the automation of tax compliance has a large part to play in effective management of the tax function.

Grace Lee, Associate Director and Regional Tax Compliance Automation Lead at KPMG Asia Pacific, is helping to lead the charge in this area, as she focuses on the planning and execution of technology solutions in tax compliance for KPMG firms across Asia Pacific.

We recently connected with Grace to learn more about her career in tax technology to date, her life as a new mom, as well as how she manages to juggle all of her priorities day to day.

Not only are women around the world leading thinkers in climate change adaptation, mitigation, and response, but with you as proof, also technology. What actions do you think organizations can take to better recognize the power of women within tax technology?

Truthfully, if my mentor hadn’t presented me with the opportunity to work in tax technology, I’m not sure I would have pursued this career path. At that point, I had no prior training in technology and didn’t have much exposure to the field, but I feel extremely fortunate to have been given the opportunity to take my career in this direction.

From my own personal experience, I can see organizations taking the following key actions to better recognize the power of women in tax technology:

Grace Lee and daughter, Madeline.

Grace Lee and daughter, Madeline.

  • Offering more opportunities to women in this field. Throughout the recruitment process, ensure there are women present throughout each step to help prevent unconscious bias. Guarantee the job description, roles, and responsibilities are peer reviewed by women, set targets for the number of women candidates, and ensure there is adequate women representation in the interview panel.
  • Provide greater access to training in technology through flexible drop-in sessions or online recorded training. This provides women, and all employees, the opportunity to expand their knowledge and see for themselves whether tax technology is area field they want to grow in.
  • Have mentors supporting women in technology. It’s important that mentors of all genders promote this, to help set the tone for the entire organization.
  • Lastly, which I think is most impactful and certainly been most influential to me, is having women in senior management positions. Those that can be viewed as role models for emerging women leaders is so important.

How have you seen tax functions adapting to create a more gender equal workforce and, in turn, a more sustainable future for all?

It’s become common to see tax functions set targets for certain female ratios in both graduate intake and senior management positions. Setting the targets is the easy part, however. To effectively reach these ratios, businesses have begun to recognize the importance of laying the foundation to achieve and continually improve gender equality. This includes providing organization-wide training on unconscious bias, providing flexible working hours and arrangements for all employees, and establishing female-led networking opportunities with both internal and alumni members. It’s great to see.

Having been a new mom who kept a tiny human being alive, fed and taken care of while operating on minimal sleep has made me realize that I can manage anything that work could ever throw at me – it’s made me feel invincible!

Grace Lee

How do you balance your work life and personal life?

Everyone’s definition of balance is different. Being a new mom, I’m still learning how to achieve the right balance for me and my family. It might sound cliché, but it really is a constant juggling act. Each aspect of life is a different “ball”, and in my case it’s work, family, study, hobbies and “me time”. What makes the juggling act difficult is that no one ball weighs the same. In fact, the weight of each ball changes depending on the circumstances of that day or week.

My husband and I have learned to be very flexible and adaptable, especially with my regional role based in Australia, which often means calls during the evenings. I try to avoid meetings earlier in the evening, and prefer to take calls later on, so I can dedicate proper quality time to my family. It’s worked out well that my favorite time with my daughter is meal and play time, while my husband’s favorite time is story and bedtime, considering my evening schedules. If I have evening calls, I try to start the next day later to “balance” out.

Having been a new mom who kept a tiny human being alive, fed and taken care of while operating on minimal sleep has made me realize that I can manage anything that work could ever throw at me – it’s made me feel invincible! It has allowed me to see things more clearly, more calmly assess challenging situations, and more quickly analyze potential problems and prioritize tasks effectively. Being a mom has taught that time is precious and how to manage it.

As more and more women pave their way within the tax technology profession, if you could give one piece advice to the next generation of women within Tax Technology, what would it be?

Never be afraid to try and learn something new. There are such great programs that promote STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) to young women, which I didn’t have in my time. These programs are great because it gives girls and women the opportunity to learn and explore traditionally male-dominated industries. Also, networking with and meeting people in the profession, especially from the perspective of women, is such an invaluable experience that I would strongly recommend.

What do you feel you can do to help #BreakTheBias in the work you do?

Not only allowing but promoting flexible working hours and arrangements. As a woman in technology, I want to be proof that we can still be as (if not more) effective and productive without having to work the historic 9 to 5 workday. It’s no longer reflective of the current times and as a society, we are willing and able to adapt to these changing – and, in my opinion, better – times.