Moss Adams Voices

Joan Taylor: Breaking the Gender Bias

To celebrate Women’s History Month, Joan discusses gender bias and her work with the Forum W’s consulting chapter.

Joan Taylor

Joan Taylor, consulting senior manager, joined Moss Adams in January 2014. She left her previous firm to better accommodate her schedule as a working mother of two children. Throughout her career, she’s navigated the barriers of being an Asian woman in a corporate culture—she’s personally suffered many microaggressions in the process. Over the years, she’s maintained her passion for breaking the gender bias; it’s one of the reasons she stepped up to co-lead the consulting region’s chapter of Forum W. During Women’s History Month, Joan talks about #BreakTheBias—this year’s theme—while encouraging all at the firm to confront the barriers that women face while fighting to succeed in their careers.

What excites you about the new chapter of the Forum W BRG?

The consulting region operates differently than other regions. We were already in a virtual office before the pandemic, and we don’t have traditional busy seasons like the assurance or tax folks. How we use our time is more ambiguous, and sometimes our needs are different. We created the consulting chapter of Forum W to address the nuances of the region.

Forum W is important because there are still many women in our region who are unsure how to successfully navigate a career as a consultant and daily life. I have peers who have told me that becoming a partner seems far out of reach because they don’t see much representation of women. We want to be able to break through those perceived barriers. We want the women in our region to feel supported—our chapter will encourage and empower women, and address any of those barriers.

Can you speak to some of the barriers for women professionals?

When we look at the trends in corporate America, approximately 47% of professionals at the entry level are women. As we move to the executive or C-suite level, that percentage of women professionals drops to approximately 20%—and an even lower number for women of color. At Moss Adams, recent reports show women make up half the staff level, but only 26% of partners are women.

Essentially, women in our region are wondering why there isn’t better representation. With those numbers, women can perceive that it’s a challenge to be a woman executive or partner. What does that mean for their progress? How do they move up at the firm? Why do they feel like they’re competing against male peers? Answers to these questions became an important conversation for me. It’s why I’m involved in leadership of two BRGs right now—a chapter of Forum W and the Asian BRG. I’ve heard before from colleagues that being a woman and a minority means I have less chance to become a partner. Just the fact that some folks think that should prompt change. We have to change the way we’re doing things to better address gender bias.

Joan Taylor

Have you experienced gender bias?

I’ve experienced racial and gender bias in my personal and professional life. Sometimes it’s subtle—I’ve walked into client meetings as the senior team member and everyone looked to my junior male colleague to lead the meeting, or they were surprised when he deferred to me to answer questions.

It also can be more explicit. Once during a client’s board meeting, two male partners and I met with the client CEO who asked us a question I’d already previously answered for him. I started to answer him again in a different way, and I briefly stalled to reword my answer. He interrupted: “Hold on, Joan. Why don’t you let the older gentlemen answer the question?” and looked to the partners. I was shut down, and his CFO at the time, a woman, just stared at me in shock. The partners essentially gave the same answer I had. I later heard from the CFO that the CEO had a difficult time working with women, so she left shortly after.

This year’s International Women’s Day theme is #BreakTheBias. Can you speak to what that means to you?

I’m a first-generation Filipino in the United States, raised in the 1980s, and also have lived in the Philippines for four years. I grew up understanding those traditional gender roles for women, where women were more submissive and raised the family.

There was a lot of conditioning when I was growing up, but I remember wanting to be like the “girl boss” women on television because they were breaking the mold. They were doing things that no one expected of them, and I wanted to be like that. It hasn’t been easy—mom guilt is a very real thing. I’m trying to keep up with my peers and be successful at work, but also meet my kids’ needs. Whenever their grades slip, or they don’t tell me about an event because I’m always too busy, I feel awful.

I always feel like I have more to give not just to my family, but everyone around me. I’ve had years of conditioning toward that traditional role, and sometimes I feel bad that I can’t just stay at home and take care of the household. I have an awesome support system, including my husband with whom I share household responsibilities, so this is an internal struggle. I want to be okay with how I’m navigating through life priorities and minimize the guilt. I think addressing and breaking biases will help with that.

It’s also important that my children are part of breaking the bias. My daughter has different ideas than I was raised with, and it’s cool to see her breaking away from those gender norms. She doesn’t feel like she has to get married. She sees how I work, how I am with people, and how I try to give back—I see her following suit. I love that she tells me she sees me as a leader. You want to teach your kids good values and encourage individuality, so they have the proper tools and skills for success. I feel like I’ve influenced her in a positive way.

Joan Taylor

How can we all play a role in breaking the bias?

Change needs to be systemic. Collectively, the BRGs are a great start for the firm. It shows our leadership is taking the initiative to support us, but we also need better diversity and representation in our firm leadership. Since 2020, the firm hosted a few listening sessions—we need to turn that into action. Some things are already happening, such as partners now having inclusion and diversity (I&D) included on their scorecards during the evaluation process. We are moving towards changing the system by incorporating diversity into the firm’s culture.

When we kicked off the consulting chapter of Forum W, one of the male partners who attended said he was there because he has four daughters and wants to understand how they can be successful in the business world. That’s amazing! Individually, men also should want to understand the barriers that women face. Help your wife move up or find ways to better communicate with the women on your team. Set your daughters and your sisters up for success. Do it for the women in your life.

Go Beyond the Desk

At Moss Adams, we believe in the power of possible to empower our clients and people to pursue success however they define it. Explore stories about our professionals, including their personal achievements, at our Beyond the Desk page.