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 At the moment Worldwide. This week: work, life, lockdown.
Tax attorneys are normally fairly adept at managing difficult schedules and competing calls for. However for a lot of girls within the tax occupation, the coronavirus pandemic has been an unparalleled check of these attributes. Many moms and caregivers have been compelled to juggle distant work with youngster and household care, all with out the same old assist from outdoors relations, faculties, and different skilled companies.
Tax Notes reporters Amanda Athanasiou and Lauren Loricchio spoke with a number of girls within the tax subject about life in lockdown and their hopes and expectations for work-life stability publish 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 lately spoke with greater than a dozen girls within the tax occupation about how the pandemic upended their lives, particularly for moms and caregivers. Are you able to inform us a bit about a number of the frequent themes or tales you heard?
Lauren Loricchio: Positive. We spoke with a fairly various group of girls within the tax regulation occupation. Some have been youthful and a few have been older. Some girls had kids 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 dying of George Floyd and considerations about racial justice within the nation. Lots of people have additionally been feeling actually anxious about COVID-19 and anxious 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 children being out of college appeared to actually make issues tough for some girls.
David D. Stewart: These interviews grew to become a part of a narrative just lately printed in Tax Notes known as “How the Pandemic Upended Life and Work for Women in Tax.” The place did this venture come from?
Amanda Athanasiou: The pandemic hit at a time when there gave the impression to be some actual motion on gender range within the authorized business. Increasingly more consideration and sources are being devoted to the underrepresentation of girls and racial minorities and the higher ranks of the occupation.
By some measures, there was lots of progress just lately, together with the narrowing of gender pay gaps. Corporations are type 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 laborious, there have been comparisons to the 2008 disaster and stories of girls leaving the workforce altogether. We have been naturally interested by what was taking place in tax regulation.
When girls depart the occupation, would they be set again when it comes to gender and variety progress? Would the explanations for that be traceable once more to gender roles? Are corporations or attorneys going through monetary problem That is what prompted us down this street.
David D. Stewart: I am curious to listen to in regards to 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: Properly, when it comes to 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’d 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 fighting the day care difficulty, and have been attempting to do business from home with younger kids or children in class. 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 outfitted for distant work. In a single sense, it was fairly seamless to embark on this venture with Lauren due to the distant setup that I already had in place.
However as she talked about, having children at residence did elevate challenges that we labored by means of. I am undecided if the reporting would have been any totally different had the workplace been open due to the space. Additionally, the infrastructure was arrange throughout the group already. Hopefully that helps with the transition to distant work for Tax Analysts general. I would say it was optimistic expertise.
David D. Stewart: Was there something that you just discovered shocking that you just discovered alongside the way in which throughout your reporting on this story?
Lauren Loricchio: I do not suppose there was something shocking to me. It was simply attention-grabbing for me to listen to the totally different views on how folks have been coping with their conditions.
Amanda Athanasiou: As Lauren talked about at first, we had a large cross part of voices within the story. I used to be a bit shocked by how comparable and relatable all people’s story ended up being. Not simply speaking about how tough it was to dad or mum and work as an enormous regulation lawyer on the identical time, however how the ladies have been in a position to 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 stories, and likewise our sources anecdotally reported that their teams have been actually busy. That occurred in lots of apply teams beneath the tax umbrella. So, even when their group slowed down somewhat bit in March or April, issues tended to select again up once more.
I did not hear any stories 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 attention-grabbing and pleasantly shocking 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 stories from attorneys of coloration within the aftermath of the George Floyd homicide stood out to me loads. They talked about elements 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 can be extra evident if you’re nose to nose with someone 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 likewise with shoppers. That was particularly highlighted after the George Floyd homicide.
Lauren Loricchio: I spoke with one lady who did not wish to reveal her id within the article. She was the one lady that we spoke with who really left her job due to a number of the difficulties that she was experiencing along with her household and her children, juggling the whole lot. She stated she had been desirous 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 regulation due to the pandemic. It seems like lots of people felt like their corporations supported them and accommodated them all through your entire factor. However she was the one distinctive individual that we ran throughout in our reporting who did find yourself leaving.
David D. Stewart: Properly, that truly 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 subject. 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 number 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 share of tax attorneys and better ranks.
A whole lot of these causes have been fairly nicely documented. They embody issues like mommy monitor stereotypes, some entrenched insurance policies or habits which 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 massive regulation work.
A few of these issues have led to extra problem originating work by some measures. You might have research on pay gaps and that type of factor.
That story additionally meant to focus on some good concepts for the way the paradigm would possibly shift. Some more moderen 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 concern that the pandemic may stroll again a few of that progress was excessive on everybody’s minds because the pandemic hit.
Up to now, the reply to the query appears to be no, girls are not leaving tax regulation 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 anxious about it, however in some methods the timing of this story makes it a little bit of a cliffhanger.
I feel there’s lots of optimism proper now that the assorted pluses that got here out of the pandemic — understanding that distant work can work, you could work along with your children in the home, that the sky would not fall — will assist girls in the long term. There’s hope that corporations will embrace these versatile schedules and that they’re going to grow to be extra commonplace.
But it surely stays to be seen how that can play out within the subsequent six months or a yr. Some have urged that issues can get again to regular fairly rapidly. These various work preparations like taking lengthy breaks for youths and making up time at night time would possibly simply as rapidly return to being type of a peculiar scenario.
David D. Stewart: Did you draw any conclusions, any classes to be discovered throughout your reporting or from your individual private expertise of issues that employers may need executed higher to help girls working from residence throughout this era?
Lauren Loricchio: From what I gathered from the those who I spoke with, it sounded just like the regulation corporations have been fairly accommodating with the ladies. A whole lot of the attorneys that I spoke with stated, “Our male colleagues have been coping with the identical points like working from residence with kids.” Which may’ve made issues somewhat bit higher.
Some girls stated, “My apply is run by girls with kids they usually perceive the difficulties that I am going through.” I feel from the reporting that I did, it appeared like girls working in regulation corporations had lots of help from their employers. Extra so than perhaps girls who work in decrease wage jobs the place they do not have the power to do business 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 places of work, the place do issues stand for these girls? Will their work lives appear to be they did 18 months in the past?
Lauren Loricchio: It seems like lots of people are hopeful that their regulation corporations might be extra versatile and accommodating and that distant work will grow to be extra prevalent. It seems like issues is likely to be simpler for girls 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 operating 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 yr. A few of the sources voice that it’s a little untimely to know the way issues are going to work out over the following six months or a yr.
I assume we’ll simply have to attend and see.
David D. Stewart: All proper. Properly, Lauren, Amanda, thanks for being right here.
Lauren Loricchio: Thanks for having us.
Amanda Athanasiou: Thanks for having us.