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Advocating for myself and other women

Bobbi-Jo Pankaj’s story

RFP
Women in BlueI’m second from the right with other Public Sector/Metro DC Working Mother of the Year award recipients
I’m grateful to Grant Thornton mentors who encouraged me to stop second-guessing my abilities. My mentors assure me that I am “enough,” that because of my experience and willingness to learn new skills, I am well suited to reach for higher levels. The most recent result is that I’m confident in my new role as managing director in Public Sector Advisory Services.

Taking that step has been great for me, but there was a second reason to make the stretch. I feel it’s important to keep moving up in order to show other women it can be done. Women need to be positioned to contribute to business success by expressing their diverse viewpoints and acting on those viewpoints to bring about the changes they envision.

Women need to be positioned to contribute to business success by expressing their diverse viewpoints and acting on those viewpoints to bring about the changes they envision. Not that deciding to move up is easy. I had to ponder the additional responsibilities that would surely affect time with my family and volunteer activities. I decided that with the support of my husband, I could be fair in how I dedicate my time. I’m busy, but it works.

My job is supporting federal agencies and departments in mitigating risk through compliance and governance. My teams and I are onsite a good deal of the time. For over 20 years I’ve observed many women serving in government leadership positions. Our clients have been ahead of many private organizations. While it’s been heartening to see this in our government, the opportunities are also plentiful in our practice at Grant Thornton. Like the firm culture as a whole, the practice culture is open and inclusive. No one in our group stands in the way of an idea; in fact, there’s often an offer to help flesh out and implement the idea, or recommend an appropriate person to help bring the idea to life. And you can go to anyone at any level for assistance. We’re free to try new things and to sometimes fail.

Boy in NasaMy son enjoying our client NASA’s Take Your Child to Work Day
A new idea I was pleased to help launch at our office is a Mentor Mom group. This is a Grant Thornton program to assist new mothers in transitioning back to work after paid parental leave. New mothers and mothers-to-be connect with experienced mothers to receive guidance and insights about balancing home and work, and sticking to their career path. Flexibility and acceptance at the firm are the keys to not having to give up advancements or take a step back. I’m as proud of my contributions to Mentor Moms as I am to be the office champion of this important initiative’s sponsor — the Women at Grant Thornton and Allies Business Resource Group (BRG). I’m passionate about the BRG’s mission around recruitment, retention and advancement of women, and getting my fellow leaders involved as members or allies. With the participation of members, and female and male allies, we’ve made notable progress. It proves to me how essential both self-advocacy and allyship are for women moving up in professional ranks.

I’m committed to being an ally to everyone — women and men, all ages, all experience levels — in making connections and contributing input.

Making my impact at Grant Thornton
SKIDUBAILeadership includes modeling work-life balance; my family snowtubing inside a Dubai mall
A major event is hosted annually by the Women at Grant Thornton BRG. The Washington Women Speak! network breakfast is intended to inspire female and male professionals with insights and networking opportunities. I have helped lead the event for the past 10 years. During this time, attendance has expanded to 400 attendees, and we’ve moved our venue from a small hotel conference room to the National Press Club. The event centers on a theme, which for our 13th year was “Together, We Are Stronger.” Congresswoman Joyce Beatty’s keynote address was about the value of diversity, which she declared was a missed opportunity without inclusion. Following the address, panelists discussed workplace diversity, advice for women pursuing professional success, the power of women lifting up other women, and how men can support their female colleagues. I’m re-energized after each event and hear from others that they are, too.

I take this energy to work with me. We have long-term projects — many of them lasting at least a year — that demand acute attention. We help in important government efforts, working with dedicated people to develop programs and improve processes and procedures in service to the American public. Seeing a project through from concept to best-in-class is exciting and extremely rewarding.

I’m also excited about a new program focused on talent at Grant Thornton. I co-lead the Public Sector Associate Talent Pool, whose goals are enabling strong foundational skills and exposure to different aspects of the business. As leaders, we work on behalf of the associates to foster recognition, appreciation, open communication, equitable standards for performance assessment and promotion, and quality coaching and support. I was asked to play a key role in implementing an operating structure for the 250+ members of the Public Sector’s Associate Talent Pool because of my passion as a coach and mentor/sponsor, and results in developing talent. The plan for the operating structure is building communities of associates so they can learn more about opportunities and expectations. In the process, leaders get to know them and their personal and professional interests.

Through all these activities, I feel ever more empowered to believe in my own abilities and to support other women, men and non-binary professionals in believing in theirs.