At Xero, we work with a number of incredible female accountants and bookkeepers. Many of them are going above and beyond to help break some of the biases that still exist in the industry – through collaboration, mentorship and supporting female entrepreneurship.
We want to celebrate the fantastic work they do to help push the industry forward this International Women’s Day.
We spoke with Georgi Rollings, Founder of Starfish Accounting and Lauren Harvey, Founding Director at Full Stop Accounts, who shared their experience in the industry and how we can take steps towards gender equality in the future.
What advice would you give to young women looking to become accountants?
Georgi: Communication and IT skills are as important as technical accounting. Don’t believe the old school stereotype!
Lauren: I think it’s a great time to become an accountant – flexible working is on the rise and acknowledging the importance of family/work/life balance is becoming much more widely discussed. This is particularly the case for service-based businesses, following the success of working from home.
How do you support other women in accounting or in your business, and how can the industry do better?
Georgi: We encourage hybrid working amongst the team and we don’t have fixed core hours. We are very collaborative with other women-led accounting firms and cross-refer work. We also meet with other female accountants to swap advice and support, and don’t see them as ‘the competition’.
Our whole business is built around supporting women-led businesses to cut through the jargon and to understand their goals, not to assume that everyone just wants to be a millionaire.
Lauren: I lead by example where I can – like a lot of women who set up their own accountancy businesses, it is often from a place of necessity to facilitate family commitments. I think it’s for us to lead the way and allow this flexibility for men and women to share in the family/work balance
What’s the one piece of advice you wished you had received when you were starting out?
Georgi: Do your research and be picky about which firm you choose to work for. Look for a firm that shares your values, and has a track record of promoting and supporting women.
Lauren: Don’t let people tell you what they think you should be.
How can male accountants be better allies?
Georgi: We are lucky to count some fantastic male accountants as allies. The male accountants who are better allies are the ones that don’t view other accountants as competition that has to be beaten. Be prepared to work collaboratively, share advice, focus on the soft skills, and understand that not everyone is in it for the same reasons.
Lauren: Women can lead the way to show that we are striving for equality and not be treated any differently just because we are women. Men in return should be encouraged to share traditionally women-based home responsibilities both in society and in business.
How do you think the industry has changed over the past five years in terms of gender equality?
Georgi: There is now more acceptance of flexible working, and more understanding that family comes first. Cloud accounting means that working from home, when needed, is much easier, and we have all demonstrated that this is possible during the various lockdowns due to the pandemic.
Lauren: I’m not sure about the wider industry, but I know that at Full Stop we strive for equality for all every day – particularly with a 70% women team.
What can the accounting industry do better to make greater strides in breaking gender bias?
Georgi: The industry can show more female led accounting firms as role models. We can also break the 9 to 5:30 working day norm – it is possible to do a good job in part-time hours. There are still too many women who don’t return to work after having a family because they don’t believe they will be supported to work part time. However, all of our team started on part-time hours and we have never regretted that approach.
Lauren: I think part of allowing women to be the true voice of equality is standing up and saying we don’t want preferential treatment. Perhaps it’s just my opinion, but we don’t need women-only awards, but we do need men to step up and be allowed to pay their fair share in terms of home/family life.