In honour of International Women’s Day, we spoke to Simone Lewis, a wonderful accountant at our Leeds office.
Simone shares her thoughts on what International Women’s day means to her.
“To me personally, International Women’s Day is a day that celebrates women who have overcome prejudice and achieved their ambitions, whilst also bringing into the open these issues on a wider platform – both inside and outside of the workplace.”
What are your career ambitions?
I have wanted to be an accountant since I was 14 years old. The thing is, as I grew up and told people of my ambitions, they always looked at me in surprise. What is most surprising is that people still look at me like that now. Although it does not happen as often, I have always wondered whether it’s due to my gender.
How did you overcome barriers to get into accounting?
I did not take the ‘traditional’ path into accounting. I have worked within the profession since I was 16 years old – although for a while away from practice – but it was not until I was 31 years old, that I had the courage to start working towards my goals. By this time, I was married and had two children – the youngest being 10 months old. I worked full time and went to college after work twice a week to study.
It was very difficult at times, trying to juggle everything. But, because it’s what I wanted to do, I kept pushing and studying – knowing that it would all be worth it.
There were many times people told me to give up. How can a mother have the time to work, look after children, AND study? Would they have said the same if I was a man? I honestly don’t think they would have. I qualified in 2005, proud not only of my achievements but that I rose above those who doubted me and followed my dream rather than their poor advice.
How is it for you now?
It was all about finding the right company. Shenward is genuinely the best place that I have ever worked – I promise I have not been paid to say that!
When I started at Shenward, I was responsible for basic bookkeeping and accounts, and since then I have progressed massively within the company.
Unfortunately, many women are still overlooked when it comes to promotion, despite being ideal for the role. There is a particular stereotype in the financial industry: that it is a man’s game, but this could not be further from the truth.
I am lucky to work for a company that credits hard work and expertise. I am now the lead regarding self-assessments at our Leeds office. The truth is, in many other workplaces I may not have risen as I have at Shenward, not because of my lack of experience, but because of my gender.
I have worked for companies where I was never given the chance to progress, and what’s worse is that given my age in many other companies I certainly would be overlooked now. I am a woman of a certain age, but that does not mean I cannot exceed expectations! My age is a testament to my experience, not a ticking clock. Shenward recognises talent for what it is. I know when anyone is offered a role or promotion, it is because they are brilliant at what they do. That is a credit to our leadership, who help and encourage employees at all levels to reach their potential and progress in their field.
What message would you give to others?
The fact that I have progressed so much in this profession is an achievement in itself, and proof not only that hard work pays off, but that hard work will be recognised for what it is – by the right people.
There is one thing I would like to get across to all women, no matter their career, or path: No matter what your ambition is, never give up. I know how difficult it can be, but you can achieve your aims if you surround yourself with the right people.