“When I first joined the accountancy profession, the firm I worked for was predominantly led by male partners and many of the clients and industries in which they operated were led by men. Starting off my career as an inexperienced junior female tax professional within this environment brought challenges in terms of my confidence and not feeling like I could just speak out but also be heard and that my opinion counted.
I feel that over the years there has been an increase in the percentage of women joining the industry and at my last firm, unusually there was a higher proportion of women than men at management level. However, I do still feel that there needs to be more women in senior positions in the industry, for example, I am the only female in the R&D department. That said, I am delighted that JH have recently appointed a female CEO and a female HR director. It certainly paths the way for more women to feel that their sex is not a prohibitive factor in being able to achieve a senior position in the industry if they have the drive and motivation to do so.
I chose this career because I always had an interest in the accountancy sector, having studied maths/science subjects at A-Level and degree level. The career has been extremely challenging at times but incredibly rewarding. I am proud to be in a position where I am given the right support and tools to succeed but where I am also given the space to learn and grow.
I would like to give a reminder to all women to be confident of your abilities and to not be afraid to speak out and give your opinion on something that you feel strongly about.”
“I feel that more women are choosing to work in accountancy than a few years ago, there is still a gender gap in the field where men hold more positions, particularly in higher positions, but the gap isn’t as big as it was 5-7 years ago with more women choosing to go into accountancy and hopefully in the near future, we will see more women in the field working in all positions and ranks.
My advice to other women who wish to pursue accounting as a career would be to not give up. It may seem like a long path ahead but before you know it your exams will be behind you, and you’ll feel great and confident with yourself for having achieved a qualification in accountancy.”
“Having lost my dad at a young age meant that I had to grow up quickly and provide for my family, at least until my brother finished his studies. My first proper job involved working for a 3-partner accounting practice in South London, where I was a practice administrator. It wasn’t until after I got married that I embarked on my accounting journey. Although my husband was fully supportive, It wasn’t easy managing expectations while living in a joint family as well as the daily commute between Stanmore and South London! However, I was determined to make it through so that I could have a better career and future. I finally left the South London practice around 2012 and joined Haines Watts, where I worked for Sudhir Rawal, now a partner at JH. He was very supportive of my studies and I actually got to attend lectures for the first time since I started studying for ACCA and had some annual leave instead of using it all up for exams! I qualified in 2012, having done all the studying via online classes!
I got to learn the ropes very quickly and I can definitely say that Sudhir is the best boss one could ask for! He was very supportive towards my work and I started gaining the confidence that I had once lost.
My journey hasn’t been easy, to say the least, but somehow I have always managed to make it through with the continuous support of my husband, my family, and all my colleagues that I have worked with and continue working with. A big thank you to the partners at JH for believing in me and supporting me! Whichever career path you choose, if you are determined and dedicated, you will definitely achieve what you set out to do.”
“I didn’t always want to be an accountant, but I liked working with numbers, so I found myself studying accounting at university. I went ahead to get a master’s degree in accounting and also get my ACCA qualification (all under age 25).
Finding my first job was a bit of a challenge as I was considered an ethnic minority but through hard work, perseverance and networking, I managed to land myself an entry-level position with a small private practice.
In the first couple of weeks, I learned that what I was taught in university was vastly different from the real world and I had to adapt quickly. I was able to cope with the exponential learning curve and very rapidly became proficient at the different aspects of the job.
When I joined JH, there weren’t many women in top senior positions at the firm. Over the last couple of months, that has changed significantly. We now have a female CEO, CPO, and a female partner which has shown great representation as well as diversity. I have found this to be very inspiring and shows that the sky is the limit to what I can achieve in my career as a woman.”
“Prior to my current role of Audit Trainee, I was at the University of Warwick, working toward my BSc in Economics. I really wanted the challenge of applying the skillset and knowledge developed at university, and accounting seemed perfect for me. As this was my first job since graduating, I dealt with imposter syndrome for a little while. However, as I grew into myself and connected with the amazing people at my workplace, I found myself growing more comfortable and confident in myself and my abilities. In the future, I hope to see more BAME women entering the accounting field and progressing into more senior roles.
As a black woman, it became apparent to me that very few people in my degree looked like me and the statistics pointed to a similar experience in my career as an accountant. There was not much representation in these fields. I think finding a middle ground is harder in instances like these which is why diversity is so important. Luckily, I have been exposed to many resilient black women in my life that inspired me to chase my dreams no matter what is in the way. That encouragement pushed me to not only study BSc Economics at the University of Warwick but also pursue becoming an ICAEW Chartered Accountant. I really want to provide some positive representation for people who look like me to show them their dreams are possible and within reach.
I think in recent years there has definitely been an uptick in women working in more male-dominated sectors like accounting. There is still a long way to go with more women and especially BAME women assuming more senior management roles, but I am glad there are more programmes and opportunities available to help bridge this gap. I hope to see other women entering the accounting industry.
A piece of advice that has stuck with me is “feel the fear and do it anyway.” Being the first to do anything can be scary. Challenges are a part of life, but you decide how to overcome them. There is no blueprint to life, so you get to create your own path to success. Be open to new experiences and new people and you will be surprised how much common ground you find. And remember, as long as you believe in yourself and put in the work, you can do anything you set your heart on.”
In celebration of this day, we would also want to pay recognition to Mary Harris Smith, a remarkable woman who set up her own accounting practice in 1887 and practiced until the 1920s. She applied on several occasions to be a member of ICAEW and was unsuccessful, however, she did not give up. The ICAEW was established in 1880, which was also the year that our firm’s original founder Alfred Henry was co-opted to membership of it.
After Parliament passed the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act in December 1919, which opened up access to many professions for women, she applied again to ICAEW and in May 1920 was admitted. In doing so, she became the world’s first female Chartered Accountant and paved the way for more women to enter membership. Read more on Mary Harris Smith as well as other historical female figures who helped pioneer the way for women in the profession.