Women in accounting

Five women leaders from PKF Francis Clark
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Posted by Laura Bell on 07/03/2024

To mark International Women’s Day 2024 we’re sharing the stories of some of our inspiring women leaders, from leading at work to volunteering in their communities.

Nicola, Partner

Nicola was nominated for the Inspirational Leader Award at the West Country Women Awards 2023. She said at the time: “I’m wracking my brains trying to think of some reason why I would stand out as an inspirational leader for women.

“I’m not extraordinary. I’m just a normal 30-something woman. I live a normal life. I have two beautiful children who I love to bits but at the same time drive me insane on a daily basis. I get up. I go to work. I come home again. I care for my family alongside my wonderful, supportive husband and try and fit in some ‘me-time’ whenever possible!

“I’m about as normal as it gets. But maybe that’s just it. Maybe that’s why I was nominated as inspirational? I’m relatable. And I see many women absolutely smashing it every single day.”

Lucinda, Partner

“I joined PKF Francis Clark as a graduate trainee. After a couple of years in audit, I decided to specialise in business recovery and now head our restructuring team.

“When a business fails, there are a lot of emotions involved for the owners, their staff and the creditors who are affected. We’re very people-centred in our approach to handling such situations. It’s all about fairness and doing the right thing by everybody in difficult circumstances. I find it very rewarding when we save people’s jobs and a business can continue to trade, or when that can’t happen, recovering as much money as possible for creditors.

“I also chaired our firm’s board and members’ committee. I feel privileged that my role gives me an opportunity to make a difference to others and the future of the firm. One thing I’m excited about is ensuring ESG (environmental, social and governance) issues are at the heart of our decision-making – something that’s really important to me and a big focus for the firm.

“As chair of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales’s (ICAEW) ethics advisory committee, I enjoy having direct input into our ethical strategy. Raising standards across the accountancy profession is really important to me. I’m an active member and past president of the South Western Society of Chartered Accountants. I enjoy sharing knowledge and providing training to accountants and other stakeholders.

“It’s great that we have a lot more women in senior roles than when I started my career, but we recognise that we still have further to go.

“One of our strategic priorities is to increase the number of female colleagues who come up through the ranks to become directors and partners. A key part of this is understanding the factors that might be preventing women from progressing to these levels, which is a common issue across the profession. From my own experience, I know some weeks it can be difficult to juggle leading a team, doing your day job and having quality family time.

“For any women or girls considering a career in accountancy, I would say it’s a fantastic profession to be in. There’s so much more to it than preparing accounts – you’re interpreting data, using your people skills and advising businesses to help them succeed. The world is your oyster and you can achieve anything you want with hard work.”

Sonia, Partner

“My claim to fame is that I became the 100th partner in PKF Francis Clark’s history. It was 2019 – the firm’s centenary year and the year I had my first daughter. I was also the first partner here to take maternity leave, so we had to figure out how to make that work.

“Fortunately, my colleagues have always been incredibly supportive. With the number of female partners continuing to grow, I won’t be the last to take maternity leave or return to work part-time.

“I’ve always really liked the people side of my job, so I was pleased to take on the role of head of our Exeter office last year. It’s about making people feel part of the office and ensuring it’s a happy working environment. One of my priorities is looking after the wellbeing of the 250 people who work here. Social events are a big part of our culture – and PKF Francis Clark is already certified as a Great Place to Work – but we’re always looking at what more we can do.

“The firm has really supported me to combine having a family and a rewarding career, and hopefully my experience demonstrates that you don’t have to put your career ambitions on hold to have children. Managing work and bringing up children can be a challenge, but I’m fortunate to have a fair degree of flexibility to fit my work around being a mum.”

Katie, Partner and Parkrun volunteer

Katie volunteers every Sunday at Junior Parkrun in Bodmin. She helps with jobs like registering, marshalling, and timekeeping. This is a timed 2km run on the camel trail in Bodmin for children aged 5 – 14 years old.

Katie told us: “The aim is to improve the health and wellbeing of children in the area – it’s very inclusive, not competitive and has a nice community feel to it. It’s really great to see children trying their best and seeing their joy of achieving – be that running the whole way or further than last time or setting a personal best time.

“I really believe in getting children active, away from computer games, screens and other sedentary activities, and Junior Parkrun is a fantastic, completely free initiative, helping to set children on a positive path to fitness and general health and wellbeing.”

Charlotte, Director and Shine Cancer Support volunteer

“I volunteer for Shine Cancer Support, a UK charity that supports cancer patients in their 20s, 30s and 40s. I had cancer at 36 and found Shine when I was in remission. I’d just moved to Devon and felt the need for a bit of peer-to-peer support. It can be lonely having cancer, especially when you are younger and it was so helpful to meet up with other people of a similar age who had experience of cancer, they just got it.

“When I joined Shine, the nearest meet up was in Bristol and I’ve helped the charity to expand its reach into Devon. It’s my role to get the word out about the charity, through healthcare professionals and cancer centres, so that cancer patients can find support. Shine helps people of working age with the many challenges that cancer brings, for example with free workshops about finances, returning to work, dating after cancer, fertility, bringing up children when going through cancer treatment and many more.

“I arrange regular meet ups in Devon, these have been mostly in Exeter but we have had a recent meet up in Teignmouth. We avoid clinical settings preferring to meet in pubs or outdoors in the summer months. I’ve made amazing friends through the meet ups; we have a lot of fun and it’s great to have something positive come out of a very difficult experience. I have also lost a number of really great people my age to cancer over the past year which is tough. A reminder of how indiscriminate and unfair cancer is.

“Having had cancer is a big thing to share with someone. It’s emotional to talk about. It can be scary too, for example you might be wondering how your employer is going to react to the news. I wasn’t long in remission, and still undergoing multiple hospital visits a year, when I joined Francis Clark Financial Planning, and the support I have had has been amazing.

“Our meet ups are a safe space to talk about big questions: Is it going to come back? How do I feel about dying? Why hasn’t life gone back to ‘normal’ after treatment? You need to talk about these difficult things when you have cancer, it helps you to process it and to think through all the eventualities. It can be hard to talk about these subjects with family and friends as they invariably want you to stay positive. It’s powerful to be able to talk about cancer with other people your age who just get it.

“That’s not to say it’s all we talk about, sometimes when we get together, cancer doesn’t even come up, just being with others who get it is enough. We do activities, like axe-throwing, going to burger bars and for dog walks. It’s really good fun and you just know that the support is there whenever you need it.

“I am in remission, I’m one of the lucky ones, so it was really important to me to give back to my community so others don’t feel alone.”

Five brilliant women and all fantastic ambassadors for our firm. PKF Francis Clark ranks as one of the UK’s Best Workplaces for Women in 2023, on a list compiled by workplace culture experts Great Place to Work.