UKCBC recently attended the annual Accountex event at the ExCel centre in London; Accountex is the UK’s number one exhibition and conference dedicated to accounting and finance professionals. The two-day event gives attendees the opportunity to hear from a great variety of industry experts in seminars, get involved in hot accounting topics on round tables, and visit the stands of over 200 exhibitors that are offering the latest accountancy products and services.
UKCBC listened to a number of seminars and joined a number of round table discussions with the aim of gaining insights on the accounting and finance industry that could benefit our former, current and prospective students. The first seminar UKCBC attended was a panel session titled ‘Can Women Have it All?’ The seminar was facilitated by Catherine Morgan, FCA, and the panellists were Kath Haines, Chief Executive of CABA (the charity that supports the wellbeing of the chartered accountancy community); Isabelle Campbell, a consultant, trainer and coach; and Laura Dymott, a forensic accounting and investigations team manager.
The panel discussed their own accounting journeys with the audience and addressed the big challenges facing women in finance: are women able to have it all, and what does ‘having it all’ actually mean?
A Man’s World
“Travel by yourself and you’ll go faster, but travel with your team and you’ll go further.” – Kath Haines
First to share their story was Kath Haines; the chief executive has been at CABA for ten years and was the most experienced panellist. Haines told the audience that, although “it was very much a man’s world” when she first started her accounting career, her successes derived from simply being herself; she refused to take on the typical ‘pin-striped suit,’ serious accountant persona.
Haines explained to the onlookers that she got to where she is today by treating people the right way; she said that being a leader is all about understanding the issues people are facing and recognising when they want something different.
Haines’ biggest challenge came when she was made redundant from a senior manager role just five months after returning from maternity leave. She was the only person in that particular job, but just three months after the redundancy, the same position was given to a male colleague. Although Haines has been made redundant “three to four” times in her career, she encouraged the audience to take the positives away from a situation: by the time her former male co-worker had been given the job, she was already in a new role and on a new journey.
“We Can Have It All…
…depending on what our interpretation of ‘having it all’ is.” – Isabelle Campbell
Next to take the limelight was consultant, trainer and coach, Isabelle Campbell. The consultant shared some of the challenges she’s faced as a prosperous finance professional, which included the relationships she has with her friends and her wellbeing suffering due to not having enough free time outside of work commitments. Campbell said she hasn’t personally suffered from ‘burn out,’ but it took her taking maternity leave to realise a change was needed in her life. Today, the coach makes time for herself (usually by allowing herself to say “no” to things) and recommends that all working professionals should do the same; Campbell enjoys eating well and meditating in her free time, for example, which allows her to relax and de-stress; this helps her “sleep better at night and wake up happier in the morning.”
Campbell explained to the audience that, although she hasn’t witnessed a gender bias in the sector, she has suffered from ‘imposter syndrome’ (the feeling of inadequacy that persists despite evident success) throughout her career. Campbell said that if she had had a female role model to look up to this would have helped her, or possibly stopped her, from having feelings of self-doubt. The coach says she still has that “little gremlin on her shoulder” today, but rather than listen to it, she writes down what it says and then evaluates whether it’s worth listening to (usually it isn’t). Campbell told the audience that pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone – such as volunteering for tasks at work – can help you to fight off imposter syndrome.
The consultant’s definition of ‘having it all’ was a combination of being able to look after her own wellbeing, being able to ask for help when needed (and also accepting it) and being able to speak up, have a voice and elevate the professional conversation. However, Campbell also relayed that “we all have our own versions of ‘having it all;’” for one individual this could be having a senior role with a good salary, but for another this may mean being able to have a family as well as a rewarding career.
“Opportunities Won’t Present Themselves…
…you have to go out and get them for yourself.” – Laura Dymott
The final member of the panel to have her say was forensic accounting and investigations team manager Laura Dymott. Like Campbell, Dymott hasn’t personally had direct exposure of gender inequality in the work place, yet believes it is still an issue today that “won’t be solved overnight.” Her answer to ‘can women have it all?’ was “yes, but only if you want it.” Dymott believes the responsibility lies with us as individuals to be successful. The team manager explained that opportunities won’t necessarily present themselves to females in the workplace, therefore women need to voice their interest for existing opportunities (which she admits can be difficult if there are no role models and you’re the first to do so) and create new ones themselves. Dymott said that, personally, she “volunteers for everything,” and juggles lots of career-boosting responsibilities (such as being on the ICAEW (Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales) panel) outside of work but acknowledges she doesn’t yet have children so it’s easier for her to do so. Her advice to the audience was that “the pressure of a job has to be a healthy one” – she’s a busy woman and always wants to do more, but that’s what she enjoys doing.
Panel facilitator Catherine Morgan finished off the seminar with some valuable advice for the audience:
“I want my boys to see me working. It’s important for us to ‘stand at the table’ and say we have a right to be there; not because we’re women, because we’re people.”
We hope you’ve enjoyed the low-down on our first takeaway from the Accountex 2018 event. Keep your eyes peeled for our next two articles on ‘How the Role of an Accountant is Changing’ and ‘Millennials – The Next Generation of Accounting’.
Accountex will be back next year on the 1st and 2nd of May 2019.
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Interested in studying accounting at UKCBC? Visit us on one of our next AAT open days in August – you can register your attendance here.