Nurturing the careers of working mums
Tracey Norris has been paving the way for working parents for over 15 years, starting when she was the first female to take parental leave from Pitcher Partners Brisbane. Now, she is a client director, recruits part-time working parents and has found a way to nurture the careers of working women while providing the highest level of service and care for her clients.
When Tracey Norris came back from parental leave in the early 2000s, she had a choice to make. She wanted to work part-time but could no longer sustain both the private business advisory and the superannuation work she had been doing before she left.
Tracey chose superannuation as her focus, not just because she was interested and very good at it but also because it didn’t have the time critical deadlines that some of her other work did.
Working part-time, managing daycare drop offs and pickups plus inevitably unwell children meant Tracey needed a career that was flexible. Specialising in superannuation allowed her to deliver for her clients while caring for her child.
Tracey spent her early accounting years in commerce, working in the male-dominated industry of manufacturing. There were times when Tracey was the only female in the office.
“Being a gender minority as well as an overhead can be quite thankless work,” says Tracey.
Looking for something new, she joined Pitcher Partners Brisbane (then Johnston Rorke Brisbane) as a business and general taxation advisor in 1998. After several years working as a general practitioner, Tracey made her career choice to specialise in self-managed superannuation funds (SMSF) and lead the division.
Managing work and family
Even with more manageable deadlines, Tracey still found parenting and work a juggle when coming back from parental leave.
“Initially, I felt uncertain of my relevance in a professional office,” she says.
“But I found that my skills remained, and I became more efficient and outcome-focused.”
As the first woman in the Brisbane office to return part-time after having a child, Tracey felt the weight of expectations upon her.
“It was a steep learning curve for both me and the firm,” she says. “Having two children in quick succession meant it took a couple of years for it to become comfortable for me, but the firm was incredibly supportive.”
The Brisbane firm now have a significant number of part-time and flexible workers due to the firm’s technology and flexible work policies. This allows working parents to manage the day-to-day juggle of work and home life much more easily.
Supporting working mums
As a trailblazer, Tracey continues to support other working mums.
“I want them to know that they are still valuable and should continue to use their skills,” she says.
“Balancing family and work life is hard but it is rewarding, so find a workplace that values you and enjoy contributing and continuing your career.”
When a new mum returns from parental leave to her team, Tracey has found a way to support them while making sure clients get the high level of dedicated care and service they are used to.
“Our new returner doesn’t get a client list and rather is allocated work as it comes up,” she says.
“We have a structure of clear communication with clear workflow schedules and tech tools to make it all work. And once they’re ready for a client list – they have one.”
The team supports them through the transition and makes sure they know there is no judgement while they are handling all the moving pieces of work and family.
A day in the life
When asked about a typical workday, Tracey says it’s really about helping people.
“This includes my clients, my team, sometimes the larger firm and also professional associates,” says Tracey. “The highlight is definitely holding the position of trusted adviser and being able to make a difference in people lives.”
Tracey finds working with different clients provides great variety to each day and the best part is the long-term relationships she has formed. Many become like family, and Tracey’s longest standing client has been with her for 24 years.
Yet the role is certainly not without its challenges. Never having enough time is one, plus occasionally clients have some unexpected requests.
“You get involved in the family dynamics which means it’s essential to understand people. That role becomes just as important as knowing the numbers.”
Building a big career
Throughout her career, Tracey has made the time to develop her own skills – including technical, people and leadership.
“I can credit some wise advice I once received, which was to focus on developing yourself as you are your greatest asset,” she says.
Tracey attended the National Manager’s Conference in 2022, where managers from across the six Pitcher Partners firms came together to connect and learn.
“My favourite session was on triggers with Georgia Murch,” she says.
“In this job, you start learning about accounting and then you realise you also need to learn about people.”
Her approach to growing her skills obviously worked as Tracey was named a finalist in the SMSF Adviser of the Year category in the Women in Finance Awards 2022.
Why representation matters
Tracey believes having female mentors as well as women in senior management positions to look up to is essential.
“It creates self-doubt when you can’t see a role for you. Without female mentors or senior leaders, it’s hard to understand how to reach your own aspirations if there’s no representation.”
When it comes to mentoring others, Tracey’s approach is to nurture them and be involved in their skills and personal development. But she also encourages her people to speak up.
“It’s essential to call out where you want to be,” she says. “Being your own advocate is really important – I can’t encourage that enough. It removes doubt and makes things clearer for everyone.”
Supporting women at work
Tracey says there are ways big and small that everyone can make a difference when it comes to supporting the careers of other women.
“In my own small way, I have promoted inclusion by creating opportunities for meaningful participation in the workforce for our part-time working parents,” she says.
“Providing supportive and stimulating roles for part-time employees means valuable skillsets are not lost and individuals feel valued and more fulfilled.”
Tracey may say it’s a small act, but for the women juggling families who she has hired, promoted, and nurtured, she hopes it has made a big difference for them.
You can read more career stories in our Women at Pitcher Partners hub here.