Amanda Flouch on finding your ‘normal’ and paying it forward

Amanda Flouch is now a partner at Deloitte and is paying it forward to create a supportive and empowered workplace for women in leadership. Her journey here has been riddled with obstacles, physical and emotional. She talks to Circle in about how she overcame adversity and pursued a career in professional services that gave her the independence to get on with a ‘normal’ life as a working parent.

Can you tell us about your career journey?
At the age of 18, I had just started my university degree and contracted a serious medical condition: meningococcal septicaemia. I was lucky to survive, however had sustained serious damage to my left leg. Over a period of four years, I had multiple surgeries and subsequently had a below-knee amputation. During this time, I continued my studies and was determined to complete my degree with the goal of starting to work in professional services.

I graduated from Melbourne University with a Bachelor of Arts/Commerce and was so happy to secure my first role as a consultant at Accenture in the year 2000. It was a formative three years. I met a lot of amazing people and friends, loved the experience and ultimately had the independence and ability to get on with a ‘normal’ life. 

I decided to move to London after three years. I was keen to travel abroad and, in equal measure, obtain a diverse amount of international work experience within the financial services sector. I returned to Australia and joined Deloitte 13 years ago and haven’t left since! 

I have worked as a management consultant in many different industries and with diverse clients on some amazing projects whilst progressing through different career and life stages. I am now a partner at Deloitte in Human Capital Consulting and I love it. The organisational culture is fun, and the team I work with is like a family to me. The work we do is challenging and interesting. I find myself continuously learning and growing in different domains.

You have two gorgeous children who are at primary school. How has having children changed you? Are you more or less ambitious career-wise?
Becoming a parent opens your world and eyes. The instant love and protective instinct that came over me was overwhelming, I think it has made me less selfish, more understanding and has given me a bigger sense of perspective. I often remember bringing home our first baby, Jean-Paul, and lying on the floor next to the cot to just watch and listen to him breathing. 

From an ambition perspective, I think I have always been determined, goal orientated and focused. This has also translated into the way that I’ve set career goals, and I have continued to progress in my career at my own pace.

You’re a partner at Deloitte. How did you navigate your career progression and having children? Did you find it easier or harder than you expected?
Reflecting on the past 10 years since I had my first child, I have found that at different life stages, I’ve dialled up and down the hours I’ve worked, and the roles I’ve held with the backing and support of the leaders with whom I have worked. 

During the early childhood years I was the primary carer and I experimented with different days of work, childcare models and support. I found it challenging, particularly with my son who had recurrent ear infections and illness, and it was tricky to juggle. I had times where I felt exhausted, however I knew I have always wanted to have something for me, continue to keep my career going and to make a financial contribution at home. 

During this period my husband, Paul, was travelling a lot and taking on more responsibility in his family business, so for me it was really important to be more of the primary carer, be available and support our family.

I set some clear expectations with work, was able to continue to be recognised for the contribution I was making and was supported to do so.

When my little girl was three, the opportunity to become a partner presented itself and I was in a position to accept. It was always an ambition and vision that I had; it was something that I had worked hard towards and something I wanted for myself and for our family. 

Paul and I had a lot of conversations about the different roles we held, having dual careers and the role of primary carer and what that meant. Practically speaking, we discussed what support models we would need, the balance of work at home, and the potential shift and focus for our respective parenting roles. Paul was able to shift some of the ways he was working and we re-balanced the workload at home. 

It is something we are continually working at. Dual careers combined with family responsibilities is commonplace and needs to be easier to do across our workplaces, societies and systems in which we all live.

On reflection, I really think I have won the trifecta: I have had the support of a great husband, my family and workplace. 

As a senior female leader and a role model for so many in your business. How do you support other women who are following behind you?
A key part of my role is being a career coach and mentor—from which I get immense satisfaction. The joy I get out of supporting others and watching people grow is one of the best parts of my job. As a leader, you need to think about the leadership shadow that you cast which is really important.

I am genuinely interested in understanding what drives people and what is going on in their life. I enjoy working with female talent to shape career plans and goals, work experiences and learning plans. 

I am honest, take time to listen, and actively find opportunities to support people achieve their goals in life and work.

Deloitte as an employer has a priority focus on diversity and inclusion. This is not just lip service. I have personally found the support as a woman in our business empowering.

Making time, being visible, and helping shape opportunities is so important. I have had some amazing leaders along the way who did the same for me.

What do you think the biggest barriers are for women to move into senior leadership roles? What needs to change?
I think many of the challenges relate to organisations really focusing on having the right systems, processes, policies, cultures and ensuring there are role models at all levels for both men and women. Many barriers are systemic and have been built over many generations, and there are multiple lenses that need to be considered. 

Example initiatives that contemporary workplaces need to address include:

  • Role design—having senior roles that can be designed to support different models of working.
  • Addressing the gender pay gap—ensuring there are practices that measure the gap and are acted upon including continued superannuation payments during parental leave.
  • Better utilisation of technology and assets that foster inclusive work environments.
  • Programs that educate leaders at all levels to address unconscious bias to focus on fostering inclusive workplaces. 
  • Parental leave policies—All parents, men and women need support, policies and opportunities that support roles as parents. The Aussie dads program at Deloitte is focused on encouraging men to take on the same opportunities as women for parental leave. I can slowly observe more men participating and taking up these options as primary carers. 

What is your advice for other women who have ambitions of becoming senior leaders while having a family?

  • Run your own race. Don’t compare your path to someone else. As you progress through career stages during different stages of your life, make sure you do what is right for you and your family. There will be trade-offs and only you can decide.
  • I have found the thinking and model in the 100 year life helpful as a framework to independently consider the different elements of your life and the different focus you may have. We are working and living longer.
  • Enjoy what you are doing, have fun and stay positive. 
  • Make sure you always have something to look forward to—a weekend away, a holiday, space to think, creative outlets and hobbies. I call it turning the soil to spend time with your family, and yourself away from the regular routine.
  • Find mentors and role models both inside and outside of your organisation who are real and you can relate to.
  • Ask for feedback.
  • Be vocal and clear about your goals and ambitions; know the value you bring.

How have you and your husband worked together to practically manage the juggle?
We are one team, no point scoring. We are by no means perfect and try our best to manage two careers, being there for our two little people, logistics, finding time to exercise and be there for our family. 

As we are both now working full-time, we naturally work on areas that are our strengths and capacities. 

  • We have a diary at home with a schedule written up on the wall, and talk all the time about who is doing what.
  • Paul is super-organised, tidy, does washing, helps with a lot of the management and mental load. He is the first parent on the list if there is an emergency at school. He is the port of call, which has taken me time to transition to. I do the school co-ordination, medical appointments for the children, organisation of kids duties, pastoral care, breakfasts, homework checker, and I would say probably the disciplinarian.
  • We know it takes a village. We have had some amazing after school carers who help pick up. I would say though the most important anchors are the support of our parents who are super involved and some very special aunties

I feel very privileged for the help, support and people around us. Our cups are very full and we are very blessed.

What is the best career advice you have ever been given?
The biggest mistake you will make is the one you make on your own.

My senior partner told me this when I became a partner, and I have found it to be so true. Leading teams, collaborating, sharing ideas, asking for help, being curious, working together delivers the best outcomes.

Favourite time of the day is… driving my kids to school in the morning, having time with them when they openly chat about their day.

Instagram sites that inspire you… Fashion sites. I love fashion and find this is a creative outlet. 

I’m happiest when… Friday afternoons when I’m home. We pick up the children, come home and have a champers.

I’m addicted to… skinny piccolos.

My role model is… I really admire Julie Bishop.

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