No Match Found
Andrea Richards and Barbara Mebold hold part-time management positions at PwC Switzerland and are dedicated parents. In this interview, they tell us how they balance a demanding job with a fulfilling family life - and what needs to change so that compatibility of working and family life becomes less of a challenge.
Andrea, you’re a mother of two, a lawyer, a tax expert, have been working in international tax teams at PwC since 2011 – including four years in the USA – and have been a Partner since 2022. How do you juggle it all?
Andrea: It takes a lot of flexibility, organisation, transparent communication and efficiency. It is important, but also a challenging balancing act to appropriately prioritise my clients, my team and my family. It requires discipline but also certain leniency with myself. At PwC, it is possible to do all of this – at all levels through to Partner.
What does this common understanding of work-life balance look like?
Andrea: PwC takes a modern approach and allows individual career planning with a great deal of flexibility for parents. After the birth of my first child, for example, I was able to take a five-month break – at that time I was at PwC USA in New York. For my transition to Switzerland, I had the opportunity to take a year out, during which I was able, among other things, to gain clarity about my professional development. What has impressed me over the years with PwC Switzerland and PwC USA is how openness and flexibility are lived across borders.
"Although an ideal ambition, it is not always possible to devote yourself a 100% to your family and your job at all times. It is a give and take. PwC offers the framework and the flexibility, the challenge lies in finding and maintaining the balance."
Barbara, you’ve also moved around. You’ve been an auditor at PwC for over 20 years now and a Senior Manager for eight years. How did that come about?
Barbara: I used to work as a marketing and tourism expert in different management positions. To broaden my horizon and deepen my knowledge, I decided to study business administration at university with a specialisation in accounting and finance. After five years at PwC, I then graduated as a Swiss Certified Public Accountant. Being open-minded and having diverse experiences from my previous career in the tourism sector, both help me with clients and colleagues in the auditing world, which is dominated by numbers and rules.
How do you balance your duties as a mum to four daughters with your duties for PwC?
Barbara: I know when I can hand over responsibility and when my team and my clients need my full attention, like during the busy season. Fortunately, my husband and our parents can take on more family duties when my work is very hectic. The ramp-up in digitalisation, triggered by the pandemic, has made life easier for us as parents. Today, there is much more flexibility in where you work, be it with the team on client site, in the office or from home. at least at PwC.
What do you see as your biggest challenge?
Barbara: I always have the feeling that someone or something is missing out, be it family or office work. So, for me, setting priorities appropriately is my most challenging task. At the same time, I mustn’t be too hard on myself.
Andrea: I often find myself in a similar position. Although an ideal ambition, it is not always possible to devote yourself a 100% to your family and your job at all times. It is a give and take. PwC offers the framework and the flexibility, the challenge lies in finding and maintaining the balance.
Andrea, you returned to Switzerland after four years in New York. How do the two work cultures differ?
Andrea: In the USA, people are quite open-minded. In a melting pot like New York, people are typically mindful of inclusion and diversity, extremely tolerant of others, regardless of skin colour, gender, sexual orientation, ethical or religious background. In Swiss society, we often still follow long-established values and family models today – dad goes to work, mom takes care of the family. These social patterns and the traditional school system in Switzerland make it difficult for many mothers to have a successful career.
What’s your perception of the promotion of women at PwC?
Barbara: I think it’s in keeping with the times. PwC has put in place hybrid working, job sharing and other modern working models. It’s important that we are transparent about what’s possible and what isn’t.
Andrea: It is very advanced and progressing. At PwC, there are both mothers and fathers who work part-time, which further supports a more modern perception of roles.
"There’s no magic formula, but don’t think that job and family are incompatible. You need to think about how you want to organise yourself and what career goals you have. And you should discuss all this openly with your line manager. You can always find a solution when you openly discuss it."
Where do you see potential for improvement?
Andrea: A certain flexibility within processes can facilitate career progression of key talents. I think there is some potential to develop as a firm in this area.
Barbara: I agree. Often, when you work part-time it’s simply impossible to manage everything that people working full-time can achieve. But this shouldn’t hinder career advancement. What’s more, childcare in Switzerland needs to become more affordable and realistic, especially for families in rural areas.
What advice would you give to a young female colleague who’s at a point where you once stood 20 years ago?
Andrea: combining an ambitious job with family life is demanding, but it is certainly possible. It takes determination, flexibility, strong organisational and communication skills and effective strategies to increase personal efficiency.
Barbara: There’s no magic formula, but don’t think that job and family are incompatible. You need to think about how you want to organise yourself and what career goals you have. And you should discuss all this openly with your line manager. You can always find a solution when you openly discuss it.
Where do you see yourself in ten years’ time?
Andrea: Ideally, I will be a successful Partner with an established work-life balance.
Barbara: Let’s see what the next few years bring. When my daughters get older and more independent, I’ll have more flexibility in time. Maybe I’ll become a Director or maybe a Partner.
Andrea Richards, Partner International Tax at PwC Switzerland
Barbara Mebold, Senior Manager & Auditor at PwC Switzerland