On March 8, IFAC joins the international community to celebrate International Women’s Day! International Women’s Day is celebrated in many countries to recognize women for their achievements and to inspire a call for action for gender equality around the globe. Each year, Women’s Day has an official theme (a practice started by the United Nations in 1996), and this year’s theme is Think equal, build smart, innovate for charge.
We could not think of a better way to mark this day than to ask strong female leaders in our profession to share their success stories, encourage young women and support our efforts for better balance in the world.
Here is what they had to say:
Kandimathie (Christine) Ramon, IFAC Board Member and CFO, Anglogold Ashanti, South Africa. Christine was recently honored with the 2018 CFO of the Year Award in South Africa, being the first female to win this award:
“I am one of five children and grew up in a poor, single parent family. Hardship made our family stronger and we learnt to value the simple things in life. My mother was our pillar of strength, and pushed us to be independent and achieve our ambitions. Through tough times, where we studied part-time and worked, we learnt that hard work and resilience pays off. Today three of my siblings, one of which is my twin sister, are also chartered accountants with successful careers and my youngest sister is a medical doctor. My mother is my role model and much of my work ethic and approach to life was shaped by her and the values she lives by. I have now been a listed company CFO for 16 years spanning across diverse sectors ranging from gold to petrochemicals and media / entertainment. When I joined AngloGold Ashanti, there wasn’t one woman in the Finance executive senior management team. I brought two in: the Chief Information Officer and the Senior Vice President of Finance. Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith on a person with high potential and give them an opportunity, the kind of opportunity that’s often given to men. I believe that as women leaders we have a responsibility to make the working environment a better place for all women to work in and to bring other senior women along with us.”
Sheila Fraser, IFAC Board Member and is a Trustee and Vice-Chair of the IFRS Foundation. Sheila was the first female Auditor General of Canada from 2001-2011:
“When I began my career, I made a promise to myself that I would enjoy my work, feel valued and continue to learn, and if ever that was not the case, I would find new employment. I would encourage any young professional to do the same. We all spend so much time at work that it must be meaningful. I believe you cannot be successful if you don’t enjoy your work. No one wants to be ‘trapped’ in a job that does not allow one to grow. It may take great courage to leave a secure position but never compromise your happiness and success.”
Dr. Nurmazilah Dato’ Mahzan, Chief Executive Officer, Malaysian Institute of Accountants (MIA)
“I’m a great believer in the power of technology to make work-life balance better for everybody in the profession, especially for working women and the sandwich generation who shoulder the double burden of work and family care. We can clearly see the benefits of technologies such as automation and robotics today in reducing workloads and routine tasks, especially for those in the audit profession as well as in the finance function. Instead of pulling all-nighters at the office during audit season, we can now work on-site at the client’s office and thanks again to technology such as cloud computing and analytics, go home at more reasonable hours. In addition, the internet of things such as audio books and e-learning make it easier to enhance knowledge and skills. This can help to recruit and retain more talented women, and men, in the accountancy profession. MIA has 175 staff in total, of whom 134 are women. Out of these 175, 69 are managers or above of whom 74% are female. This proves that it is possible to demolish the proverbial glass ceiling!”
Asmâa Resmouki, IFAC Board Member and Deloitte Partner, Morocco. Asmâa is the Immediate Past President of Pan African Federation of Accountants (PAFA), the first female to hold this position:
“The advice I would like to give to young professional women starting their career could be summarized in 8 points as follows: (i) be assertive, know what you want and develop a strategy to get there; (ii) look for mentors and role models to learn about their experiences and get inspiration in difficult times; (iii) find a purpose that will help you drive your profession career; (iv) be kind to yourself: you do not need to know everything before you go for a leadership position, you will learn as you walk the path; (v) surround yourself with family and friends who will not pull you back but encourage you to move forward all the time; (vi) imagine your professional life in chapters: your career does not have to be your priority at all times as you will go through different phases; (vii) fight your own stereotypes and bias as you will also be leading by example; (viii) be yourself, be authentic and don’t try to be a man.”
Gail McEvoy, IFAC Board Member and Partner, McEvoyCraig Accountants and Auditors, Ireland
“I think education is key, no matter what level you are at keep upskilling. I have found inspiration on every course I have taken, either from the teacher or the friends I have made while learning. Sometimes the benefit is not just the subject you are learning but the interaction with fellow classmates as you learn. My second piece of advice is get a mentor. They will offer you encouragement and guidance having learnt from their own experiences. Quite often they will act as sounding boards to bounce ideas off and allow you to speak freely and unfiltered. And most importantly they will both hold you accountable and remonstrate when you are being too hard on yourself.”
As the global voice for the accountancy profession, we advocate strongly for greater gender equality within our member organizations and throughout the profession as a whole. Within our own organization, we are proud of IFAC’s progress, but continue to work toward greater gender parity on our Board and other Committees.
Happy International Women’s Day!