I GET THIS heart-sinking feeling every time I’m at a dinner party of new acquaintances or in a bar with a different group of friends.
Sooner or later, that break-the-ice “so what do you do?” question surfaces, and there I stand, wondering whether I should come up with something completely outrageous.
“I’m a cattle-herder by day and a pole dancer at night…”.
“I’m training to be an astronaut but in the meantime I coach the England rugby squad…” Instead, I take a deep breath and say, “I’m an accountant”.
Invariably, I find I get a bemused frown staring back at me and some garbled reaction about the fact that I ‘look more girlie’ than they’d expect me to as a ‘boring accountant’.
The reality is, even now, in 2014, there’s a certain perception about the type of person who would choose to go into accountancy, and particularly about the type of woman who might want to enter into that ‘dull number-crunching world’.
It’s as if we should all be sat in grey suits, never uttering a word at our desks, and struggling to engage in human conversation with our clients unless they’re keeping strictly to the matters of taxation and self-assessment.
‘I’m a business adviser’
I take the view that the world of accountancy is changing significantly, and that women are the perfect fit for that transition. I’ve stopped looking at what I do as merely accountancy advisory, but as a compassionate business-advising listener and sign-poster.
Look at accountancy that way, and all of a sudden you can see why those softer skills traditionally associated with women – the empathising, listening, supporting – all play a key role and have the very perfect place in senior levels of an accountancy practice.
I’m always pleased to hear that the numbers of women entering our profession are increasing, and I hope that their unique skillset therefore means that the perception of what we do will continue to change and to see less furrowed-brows staring back at me when I say what I choose to do for a living.
The issue which remains, to my mind, is continuing to ensure that while women are getting in the door of a practice or of financial departments in corporate environments, they also need the mentoring and the opportunity to enable them to leverage more senior posts.
I believe it will come and I hope women like myself can play a vital role in nurturing that transition and shaping other female careers in our industry.
In the meantime, I’ll stick to inventing some mysterious career positions for my dinner-party conversations – for the sheer comedy factor if nothing else.
“Me? Yes, I’m Cara. I’m the understudy for Angelina Jolie in her next Hollywood blockbuster and I can’t stop long because I’m off out for dinner with her and Brad…”
Cara Miller, recently voted Young Business Person of the Year for Suffolk, runs Miller Wash, alongside Colin Wash. She writes regularly on the issues affecting the profession, from her position as an ambitious practice owner