Women in Accounting & CIMA: 3 Career Interviews

Women in Accounting & CIMA: 3 Career Interviews

To mark International Women’s Day, we talked to 3 professional women about their CIMA journey and reflect on their careers. Find out about their CIMA journey, experience of being qualified and career successes and challenges. 

International Women's Day celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. But, it also marks a call to action for accelerated gender equality. Equality is not a women's issue, it's a business issue. 

Gender equality is essential for economies and communities to thrive. A gender-equal world can be healthier, wealthier and more harmonious. 

So let’s see what these professional women had to say about studying CIMA and the impact on their careers.

Q. What was the one thing that when you look back helped you get through your CIMA exams?

Leeanne Bryce, VP of Financial Markets at ING Bank

Leeanne Bryce

I did a combination of working and studying part-time. I think it helped me because I was able to take practical working solutions and apply them to the theoretical. Merging the two was really important for me and how I learned, especially when we did a case study for our final exam, being able to put practical practices into place, that was really helpful. 

Caoimhe O’Reilly, Plant Finance Manager at Amcor

Caoimhe OReilly

For me, it was keeping up the pace. I set quite strict targets for myself and tried to get an exam done every 3 months and continue on that trajectory. So, typically I would do an exam, celebrate for a week or two and then move onto the next one! 

Emma Sweeney, Director at EY

Emma Sweeney

I was working and studying part-time. What was important for me was really open conversations with my employer. I was lucky that my employer sponsored me, but in the early stages, I discussed what time I needed for exams and the days I was going to college to ensure I had a work-life balance. 

I now have a lot of people on my team studying CIMA and I push them in terms of their agenda and find out if they need to leave to go to class, time to study, etc. Because there’s enough stress to deal with without having to worry about that too.   

Q. Did you notice that becoming CIMA qualified opened more doors for you to progress your career?

Caoimhe O’Reilly, Plant Finance Manager at Amcor

A CIMA qualification lends a certain credibility. My experience in the past few years has been different from what I’ve done in the past. I think having the qualification gives comfort that while I may not have done this before, I’ve demonstrated an ability to achieve. Being as credible as CIMA is, that’s a valuable tool. 

Emma Sweeney, Director at EY

While I was studying, it stayed the same. Where I found the CIMA qualification really helped was in the last couple of years. 

In my role as Advisory Director we effectively sell projects to clients to help them transform finance functions or set up global business services. In terms of work experience and my accreditation, there’s validation in terms of it being a professional certification which is important for myself and our team for selling online. 

Leeanne Bryce, VP of Financial Markets at ING Bank

I qualified with ING so I was already progressing through it, but having the CIMA accreditation does mean that there were certain levels of jobs I could apply for which I couldn’t as an  unqualified accountant within a finance function. It also gives you a grounding and shows you have a lot of confidence in what you’re doing based on those exams and your ability to be diligent in studying while working. 

Q. How was the journey to where you’ve got to now? Were there any challenges you faced?   

Leeanne Bryce, VP of Financial Markets at ING Bank

Before having my little girl, I was work focused and I’m still work focused, but I have other things going on. 

So, it’s about being in an environment where that’s supported. So when I came back from maternity leave I went on a 90% contract. A lot of people take a day and week and that suits them, but I wanted to maintain that career trajectory while allowing quality time with my family and that’s worked really well. 

It’s about being open and honest and stating your boundaries. Everybody has families and commitments. I think the whole industry is moving towards that flexible arrangement.

Emma Sweeney, Director at EY

At different times in life, your priorities are different. I think working in the area we do and having a professional qualification does mean you have a choice about your employer. 

So, I’ve chosen companies that I want to work with that are going to value me not just as a woman but as a professional. So when I’ve wanted to take time out for personal reasons I had an open conversation and we figured out how that might work. 

Sometimes I think people are afraid to ask the question. At the moment, I work 3 days a week and am still a full-time employee with clients but this allows me to have balance and be effective at work. 

Caoimhe O’Reilly, Plant Finance Manager at Amcor

Manufacturing is quite male-centric but the next generation seems to have a better balance of genders. I do think we have a way to go though and as an industry need to get more women in engineering roles and production management; roles that have been considered male in the past.  

Q. What one piece of advice would you give for people coming into the workplace and studying CIMA?

Leeanne Bryce, VP of Financial Markets at ING Bank

Know that what you’re doing has an end purpose to it. It’s to get that accreditation and once you get it, it’s hard to take away. Focus on that and once you have it, it will help you in your career.  

Emma Sweeney, Director at EY

CIMA is difficult. But it’s worth it in the end. And while you’re studying, focus on study. You can’t be all things to all people. Focus on study, focus on work and when it’s time for downtime enjoy it, but don’t do it all at once. 

Caoimhe O’Reilly, Plant Finance Manager at Amcor

Understand what you’re trying to achieve and know it’s not going to be plain sailing. But feel confident as it’s definitely worth it. Work hard, celebrate hard.



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Topics: CIMA