To celebrate Business Women’s Week we’ve asked our Dow Schofield Watts partners and managers to share some valuable advice and insights into their career journeys in the accountancy industry.

business women's week - catriona lang

Catriona Lang

Partner – Transaction Services North West

What do you feel are your biggest achievements? 

Setting up a Transaction Services business from scratch with my good friends and PwC colleagues Ed Brentnall and Chris Williams is up there! Doing it at a time when there was a global recession and one private equity deal in the whole of Manchester in our first year of business (and we didn’t do the due diligence on it!) probably adds to the feeling of achievement. As far as I am aware, we are the only surviving new entrant into the northern market in the entire time I have worked in transaction services (which is a long time!). Winning three Insider awards, disrupting the pattern of Big 4 winners, developing a prestigious and loyal client base and receiving industry-wide recognition for our success is pretty special as well.

Do you think the culture of the profession is changing to reduce the barriers for women to reach leadership positions? 

I do feel as though the culture is changing; I don’t think there has ever been a more level playing field. The private equity industry is still very male-dominated, however, there are numerous women in senior positions within it and that is increasing year on year. Genuinely (and maybe it’s because this is how we have always operated in Dow Schofield Watts Transaction Services), I feel as though people are now being judged by their ability rather than their gender. I’m sure more can be done, but I do feel that the difference between 10 years ago and now is significant.

business women's week - ellen little

Ellen Little

Partner – Business Planning North West

What are some strategies that can help women achieve a more prominent role in their organisations?

From my experience, women are often more reticent to shout about their successes even when they would be more than justified in doing so. I’ve been lucky in my career as I have worked for people who have encouraged me to do this and ultimately done it for me when I’ve not quite managed to quiet the inner voice whispering to me “don’t do it, nobody wants to hear…”. As a rule, if you’re working in a good place, colleagues will want you to succeed. The success of any organisation is, after all, driven by the quality of its people. Therefore, don’t be afraid of celebrating your successes and pointing out when you’ve done a good job. You’ll be reinforcing why you do/should have a prominent role in the organisation.

Having said that, the main strategy which can help women achieve a prominent role in their organisation is not gender-specific. Be the best you can be, and turn up every day ready to learn more, develop further and improve on the day before.

Do you think the culture of the profession is changing to reduce the barriers for women to reach leadership positions?

I am older than I like to confess to, so comparing now to when I started my career I do think that there are more women in leadership positions than there was. We’re still working in a male-dominated industry, but there are a lot of inspiring women now in top positions, and I certainly don’t feel as if gender is a limiting factor in my own career progression. In my case, this is certainly helped by a wider acceptance of flexible working which allows me to manage my work demands around family responsibilities and other interests. I strongly believe that we should be judged on our ability and merits and as long as our outputs are delivered to time and quality, it should be up to the individual as to how it is best to achieve this. 

I am hopeful that the playing field will continue to level out, and the best and brightest talent will continue to rise to the top, regardless of gender.

business women's week - ros jones

Rosalind Jones

Senior Manager – Transaction Services North West

Describe a typical day for you?

No two days are ever the same and I love the variety that project work gives me. Typically, there will always be an element of mental challenge, whether it be a complex working, learning about and understanding a new industry or presenting and answering questions on an FDD report.

What advice would you give an accountant at the start of their career?

Think carefully about what you want to achieve whilst working towards your professional qualification. If you have the opportunity, take on a role that offers a variety of experience which is key to understanding the industry, business and where your interests may lie before you decide to specialise in a particular area.

How do you balance work and life responsibilities?

Everything makes it into my Outlook diary, whether it be work or personal engagements. It means I can make time for things that can easily find their way to the bottom of the priority pile otherwise…like exercise and quality time without distractions with family. Keeping the team informed of other commitments helps to make sure they can be managed around.

business women's week - nicola merrit

Nicola Merrit

Partner – Transaction Services North West

Describe a typical day for you

There is no “typical day” which is what has kept me going in this role for the last 15 years! I could be meeting a management team to find out about its business, going on a factory tour or presenting a due diligence report to potential funders of a deal. I am typically working on 3-5 deals at a time with my team (who I keep in contact regularly with throughout the day).

What advice would you give an accountant at the start of their career?

Take time to reflect on each project/role you undertake and assess what you have learnt from it and what you would do differently. Apply what you have learnt to the next project or role you undertake. I believe we improve our skills through experience and practice, it’s a steep learning curve but you will surprise yourself how much you learn in a year in this job.

What are some strategies that can help women achieve a more prominent role in their organizations?

Be yourself. If you are the party planner outside of work then apply those strong project management skills to your day job. If you are always the one your friends call when they need some help and guidance then have confidence in your coaching and mentoring skills in the workplace. Play to your strengths and you’ll naturally be the one that people “go-to” for assistance and you will become more prominent in your role.

What’s one leadership lesson you’ve learned in your career?

To listen, be fully engaged and always ask questions (just pick the right time!)

How do you balance work and life responsibilities?

It’s not easy but I plan as much as I can in advance (be that food shopping, children’s parties or holidays) and I’m open with my team on commitments (we all have a life outside of work to manage) and ask for support when I need it.