Home / Articles / International Women’s Day 2021: A Discussion with Three Remarkable Leaders

International Women’s Day 2021: A Discussion with Three Remarkable Leaders

March 8, 2021
Jane Pfeifer, Shareholder, CSH
Jane Pfeifer, CPA
Tiffany White, Shareholder, CSH
Tiffany White, CPA
Brittany Lawrence, CPA, Shareholder, CSH| Shareholder, CPA
Brittany Lawrence, CPA

LEGACY. Three women. Three shareholders. Three different stories. One common goal: Serve clients with excellence and lead the firm in making decisions that ensure diversity and inclusion for all.

We reached out to learn more about what drives these women, who Choose to Challenge.

How did you get to where you are today?

Jane: I did not go to college planning to major in accounting. I initially thought I would major in math, but as I took more advanced classes, it was getting pretty abstract and I wondered how I would really use it in real life. At the encouragement of my mom, I took a couple of business classes, one of which was accounting. Accounting just clicked for me and seemed to allow me to use my math skills in a practical way. I also never intended on being in public accounting long term, but after a few years in the industry, I found that I really missed the variety that I saw in public accounting, and the sense of appreciation I received when helping clients.

Tiffany: Building on past experiences, and having a strong work ethic and an open mind. My husband was in the Navy when we were married so I worked at public accounting firms in both Virginia and Hawaii before I joined CSH. I am fortunate to have begun my career working with a wide variety of professionals, clients and industries. At CSH, I have been encouraged to continuously improve my technical skills, build and grow a specialty area and implement my ideas. CSH has also provided flexibility…something I’ve utilized in countless forms throughout my career to spend time with my family and be present for my two daughters as they grew up.

Brittany: First and foremost, with a lot of help from others. From the support of my wonderful parents to many mentors and advocates pushing and supporting me throughout my career, many individuals have contributed to where I am today. I also have an amazing husband who has always given me tremendous support in my career goals. I would also add…a lot of hard work, some moxie, resilience, and at times a bit of stubbornness to not give up!

If money wasn’t a factor, what would you be doing right now?

Jane: I enjoy what I do now, but sometimes I think about working at a non-profit and being more involved with helping people with basic needs such as a food pantry, a women’s shelter, or something along those lines.

Tiffany: I have always had an interest in photography – I think because it is both technical and artistic. I worked in a photography studio throughout high school and college in order to pay for tuition and spent many hours in a dark room printing portraits. I would love to spend more time capturing moments of my family, travels, and communities and being able to spend more of my day in a creative space.

Brittany: I’ve always said if I wasn’t an accountant, I would probably be an interior designer. I enjoy working through remodeling and design projects at home. I love all things HGTV-related…Joanna Gaines is my favorite!

What would you title this chapter of your life, and/or what will the next chapter of your career look like?

Jane: No catchy titles come to mind…I will say that public accounting never seems to get boring. The more years of experience I have, the more interesting it is. Having thirty-plus years in this business helps be feel more confident, but there are still things to learn and improve on. The last year has been extremely challenging and rewarding at the same time. It has been challenging due to the pace to change, the uncertainty of Covid-19, and not being able to connect with others the way we normally do. It’s been rewarding because it has allowed me to help by clients in a more impactful way than I previously have. As for my next chapter, I have a lot of ideas, but nothing set in stone yet.  I plan to stay at CSH and continue to help the firm grow for several more years. As I approach retirement, I think about working less, but staying busy. I hope to do more volunteer work and possibly teach on a part-time basis.

Tiffany: When I think about where I am right now, commitment comes to mind. It has taken a great deal of energy, focus, determination and passion to spend time with and support my family while still progressing in my career. My daughters will both be in college next year so, in theory, I may have more time at my disposal.

I think I will always set ambitious goals and continue developing skills. However, I am interested in other ways I can make an impact – on my clients, CSH and my community. Right now, I’m very energized by my involvement in developing CSH’s diversity, equity and inclusion program.

Brittany: With two young children, I would call this chapter of my life “organized chaos.” There is always a lot going on and everyone is very busy and sometimes it seems like things are out of control, but we all work together as a family to get it all done and ensure everyone is set up for success.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given, as it pertains to your career—or specifically, as a woman in the business?

Jane: An attorney friend told me to act like an owner. I think I was a manager or a new principal at the time. It was really quite a simple statement, but it made a lot of difference in the way I thought about the firm and my clients from that point forward.

Tiffany: I have utilized and shared two pieces of advice consistently: 1) Work smarter, not necessarily more and 2) Set clear goals and don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself.

Time is valuable so I have learned to manage my time carefully and to continuously review my commitments to ensure they align with my goals. Delegation, process improvement and building teams/subcommittees allows other talented leaders in the firm to develop and rise while providing me with more time. Later in my career, I also ensured that I connected with other leaders in the firm to learn their story, share my goals, and, almost always, I walked away with invaluable advice.

Brittany: Probably the most impactful advice I’ve been given, and I’ve seen it several places such as podcasts, books, in conversations with more senior leaders – is that work-life balance is a myth. To me what that means is that the “balance” part of it implies that everything is in perfect harmony and that work and home should always be perfectly aligned, when in actuality there will be times you need to lean into one or the other more. There is also an important part that boundaries play in work-home life, and for me that has been key to my success.

If you could go back and tell your 22-year-old self anything, what would it be?

Jane: Believe in yourself, expect the unexpected and don’t be so hard on yourself.

Tiffany: Have confidence in your voice and your ability to make an impact.

Brittany: My 22-year-old self was fairly timid and shy and doubted her abilities at times. I would go back and tell her that she is good enough and has what it takes! Lean in, speak up, raise your hand, and figure it out later!

What are you passionate about (work-related)?

Jane: Client service is what I am most passionate about. I like knowing that I am taking a burden from them, and giving them good advice in the process.

Tiffany: I really enjoy mentoring. Being able to share my experiences and offer another perspective to someone going through career and personal challenges is impactful. I always valued someone who provided me honest, direct feedback and advice during my career, so I try to provide the same to others. It is so rewarding to see someone I mentored flourish and rise.

Brittany: I am passionate about helping others grow and learn. I enjoy working with future rising stars and helping them see their potential. As I mentioned above, I had the good fortune of some amazing mentors in my career and they always tried to push me outside of my comfort zone and challenged me to think about things differently. I hope I can pay it forward and do that for others.

When not at work, how do you enjoy your free time?

Jane: Spending time with my kids and my grandson, working in my yard, traveling.

Tiffany: We aim to have quality time as a family on a regular basis – whether that is cooking together, having movie nights, attending events, playing with our two beagles or just sitting on the patio.

Brittany: Most of the time, I am enjoying time with my family, husband Brian, and two children, Samantha, age 10, and Aiden, age 5. We enjoy the outdoors, game nights, and watching movies.

What do you think is the best way to inspire or motivate your others/your team?

Jane: I have always felt that setting a good example was important. I would never ask anyone to do anything that I would not do. I think it is also important to introduce staff to clients early in their career, so they understand how what they are doing has impact.

Tiffany: I try to be as authentic as possible with my team – we set and share common goals, work hard and are willing to learn from each other. I believe sharing failures is just as important as celebrating successes. I also believe showing a sense of humor goes a long way.

Brittany: I think the best way to inspire and motivate is give others on your team the freedom to fail. What I mean by that is giving them opportunities and allowances to suggest ideas and run with them, with the support of others on the team and leadership. People need to feel empowered in their daily work in order to be truly innovative and gain fulfillment.

How do you define success (for yourself)?

Jane: I think there are many aspects of success and no single definition. For me, seeing my children become successful at work and in their personal lives is a measure of success for me.

Tiffany: Having a connected family and a career that I find both challenging and rewarding.

Brittany: Success at work is helping clients and my community be successful. I enjoy working with clients to solve problems and make connections. I also enjoy giving back to my community via my participation on the finance committee of Redwood. Success at home is helping my children grow into kind, intelligent, empathetic, responsible young adults. I hope that my example as a working mother is inspirational to them.

In your experience, what is the most challenging aspect about being a woman in business?

Jane: When my kids were younger and still at home, I found balancing the demands of work with parenting to be very challenging. I wanted to be there for my kids while also providing them with examples of a strong work ethic and the ability for a woman to have a career and family. There never seemed to be enough hours in the day, so I had to find pockets of time to get things done. For example, I might bring work with me while I was waiting at a dance class, or might use that time to fit in my exercise by jogging in a nearby neighborhood.

Sometimes I found networking to be a challenge. I looked for multiple ways to get in front of people, like writing articles, or giving presentations.

Tiffany: For my family, having a dual-career, highly ambitious household presents challenges. Over the years, my husband and I have had to each make sacrifices for the other to be able to try new endeavors and progress in our careers. We have always made a priority of being present for our girls and decided to get outside help when needed to manage our household. Many days, I would leave work early to attend my daughter’s events and happily work later to finish my workday. The flexibility I received at CSH was critical to enable me to be involved with my family to the degree I desired.

Brittany: I don’t know that it has anything to do with being a woman in business, but work-life integration is very challenging during seasons of life. Whether it be tax season or working through a behavior issue with my children, life just gets messy sometimes. For me, it helps to try to find time to decompress and time for self-care. I also try as much as possible to give myself some grace, as well as extend the same to others. We could all use a bit more compassion in our lives.

All content provided in this article is for informational purposes only. Matters discussed in this article are subject to change. For up-to-date information on this subject please contact a Clark Schaefer Hackett professional. Clark Schaefer Hackett will not be held responsible for any claim, loss, damage or inconvenience caused as a result of any information within these pages or any information accessed through this site.

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