Our Women In Accounting, The Roadblocks + Their Advice

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This 8th of March 2021 marks the 110th anniversary of international women’s day – a day celebrated throughout the world in a myriad of ways.

We wanted to showcase the amazing women that we have in our office (and running it) by letting you get to know our accounting team who are women.  We have put together this blog post with the hope that it will help you overcome any roadblocks and take on some advice if you’re looking to break into the world of accounting, introducing, Our Women In Accounting, The Roadblocks + Advice l Canny Group.

In China, the day is celebrated similar to Mother’s Day by showering loved ones with gifts and thanks whereas women in Italy are encouraged to embark on women-only adventures and celebrate with other women in the region while leaving others behind. And in other countries, the day is marked for demonstrations and protests like the upcoming scheduled protest against the Miss World contest in the United Kingdom.

This year at Canny Group we wanted to shine some light on our very own International Women.  We as a team want to celebrate International Women’s Day 2021 by spotlighting the women accountants in our office and asking how they achieved success, what hurdles did they face along the way and what advice do they have to give to other accountants who are up-and-coming.

These are our International Women that we are celebrating this International Women’s Day!


Krystine Canny-Smith | Director

What was the road you took to become the accountant you are today?

Okay, here is my story. I didn’t complete Year 12. There had been a lot of other things going on in my life and study wasn’t a priority. After working for seven years, I decided I would like to study commerce. I applied as a mature age student and wasn’t offered a place even though I got a high score on the mature age tests (at that time they were called STAT tests).

I went into Deakin University and just arrived at the door of the selector. After speaking with him, he offered me a place on the spot. I loved University and found that I was an academic in the right environment and ended up winning awards on graduation.

Have you found any roadblocks along the way that relate to being a woman?

The biggest roadblock I found was having children and making my family a priority. I was fortunate as I worked at our office at Canny Group, and we, at Canny Group, endeavor to assist our team to make family a priority. So, I was able to bring my kids to work, work remotely and adjust my hours as needed. I would be a liar if I said it was easy though. I have had many nights with broken sleep and then trying to work through a full day. It is my memories of this that drive me to help parents to work and be productive while also having a balanced family life.

I know there are lots of roadblocks for other professional women. I have seen it with friends who are forced back to full-time work after having children with no flexibility and with employers who don’t value caring for children highly. I have also seen women who receive lower wages be written off as only deserving of lower wages because they took time to raise kids and prioritise family. These sorts of situations just cement my resolve to ensure that women I work with are treated equally and allowed to thrive.

Do you have any advice to up-and-coming accountants today?

My advice to up-and-coming accountants is to be persistent. If you receive a no, it is just a step on the way to yes. That doesn’t mean it will magically happen or is easy – it just means that you go back and work harder, work differently and keep at it until you achieve what it is you are striving to achieve. If I had accepted that I didn’t receive an offer for a university place, I would not be where I am today.


Amanda Wilkens | Director

What was the road you took to become the accountant you are today?

I left high school and went straight to university – a gap year was not even heard of then.  Deakin University was in its formative years at the time, and I had done very well in all the science subjects, so I enrolled to study Nutrition. I loved university life, but the only thing I did well was going to parties.

After my marks took a dive, I decided to change to Commerce, and I left university and went to the Gordon TAFE to study bookkeeping. I found this very easy, and it made perfect sense to me. Then I decided to apply for a job as an accountant even though I wasn’t qualified.

I got the job anyway. There was no mentoring, no training – I just taught myself.

I married, had two children, and moved away from Geelong while I went back to university to complete my degree on campus part-time. I then fell pregnant with my third child and used to sneak one daughter into lectures and bribe her with food to keep her quiet.

I completed my final exams at home under supervision having given birth two months prior, so that I could feed the baby in between exams. All the children came to work with me, and, at one stage, I had a cot in my office.

This sounds great, but it was not ideal. I was very lucky though to have the flexibility to do it, so that I could continue with my career whilst being a hands-on parent at the same time.

Have you found any roadblocks along the way that relate to being a woman?

When I first started working, even though I was employed to prepare financial statements as an accountant, it was me who was told to manage the reception counter and answer the phones when our receptionist was sick or on leave – because I was a girl. There was a junior male accountant in the office at the same time as me, but no one would have considered asking him. That was not work for a man!

Overall though, I have not had too many road blocks – I just developed a thick skin and didn’t let anything stop me in what really was a ‘man’s world’ in the 80s and 90s. It is so different now with so many women studying and working in the accounting industry.

Do you have any advice to up-and-coming accountants today?

My advice would be to take your time and learn the fundamentals of accounting. This is not taught so much at university these days, and I find that young accountants can use a software program but do not understand the logic behind it. Accounting, of course, is not just about numbers.

Make sure you are widely read and be interested in what is happening in the economy of the world and how this impacts upon what goes on in our own country. Be interested in the people you meet – everyone has something to teach you!


Fenting Lin | Accountant

What was the road you took to become the accountant you are today?

I came to Australia after completing Year 11 in China and went to Gordon TAFE in Geelong to study English. I had to pick a subject from the skilled migration board to study afterwards. There were not many to choose from at the time, and my parents suggested that I might be interested in studying Accounting as I was ok with numbers. Little did we know Accounting is not so much about numbers, but I survived!

After completing the Advanced Diploma at Gordon TAFE, I went straight to Deakin University to finish my Bachelor in Commerce, majoring in Accounting. I then went on to complete the CPA after joining Canny Group full time in 2015.

Have you found any roadblocks along the way that relate to being a woman?

I have not really had major roadblocks due to being a woman apart from changing my full-time work to very part-time to accommodate for my young child. I have been lucky during my working life, before and after having my family, by being given flexibility to work when I can.

I have also seen some of my friends who have had to give up their jobs after giving birth to their first child and unable to return to work for a long period of time. When they eventually decided to go back, there were not many options to choose from because they could not commit to set days/times.

Do you have any advice to up-and-coming accountants today?

I have enjoyed working as an accountant, and it is a very broad industry. Being in the public practice accounting firm, you will get to know a lot of useful information which could apply to you, your life and your circumstances. You’ll never stop learning, that’s for sure!


Gabriella Gibney | Senior Accountant

What was the road you took to become the accountant you are today?

My father is a Chartered Accountant and his accounting work with KPMG saw him seconded from Northern Ireland to South Africa and then eventually to Australia. I guess going through high school I always had in my mind that the Accounting/Finance Industry was BIG, it was global and it had a lot of paths. I think because of this I decided in VCE that I would like to do Commerce as it opened up so many opportunities.

When I finished my VCE, I decided to leave all my friends behind (they were all going to Bendigo University) and go off alone to Geelong to study Commerce at Deakin University. The course seemed quite broad, and I liked the idea of being able to choose what I majored in. I ended up majoring in Accounting, Finance and Commercial Law, and I started working in a Public Accounting Firm in Geelong while in my last semester. I then went on to complete my Chartered Accountants Grad Diploma all while working full time. Completing this was a huge achievement as was a lot of hard work and commitment.

Have you found any roadblocks along the way that relate to being a woman?

I haven’t really had any specific roadblocks in my journey as a woman, but I have observed some struggles some other women have faced such as a lack of promotion to senior/management positions in largely male dominated firms or lack of flexibility when it comes to family commitments. I guess before I had children, I did wonder how my career in the Accounting Industry would be impacted. I guess for me I am truly lucky to be in a firm that embraces family first, and I think the Industry itself has come a long way. Women can absolutely have a family and a career.

Do you have any advice to up-and-coming accountants today?

My advice to up-and-coming accountants is to just really think of the opportunities that accounting can provide as accounting is so diverse. Just know that you can take many different paths and you really will learn so much once you start working in a practical role.


Helen Yau | SMSF Manager + Financial Advisor

What was the road you took to become the accountant you are today?

In high school, I enjoyed accounting as a subject so it was clear to me that I would go to University to study commerce. When I graduated from University, I initially worked for one of the Big 4 accounting firms at that time as an Auditor. It was not long until I realised that this was not something that I could see myself doing for the rest of my career, so I asked for a transition to work as Tax Accountant.

I enjoyed my work as an Accountant, so this led me to complete my Chartered Accountant Graduate Diploma. The change in legislation and my accounting experience then led to complete my Diploma of Financial Planning and become a Financial Adviser. I now have the joy of working as an Accountant and Financial Adviser.

Have you found any roadblocks along the way that relate to being a woman?

My roadblock was trying to find that balance between work and family. When my children were young, they were not well and required a lot of care, so I made the choice to reduce my work hours to care for my family. Some career women may find themselves putting their career on hold to raise their family. Fortunately for me, Canny Group were flexible and were able to cater to my changing circumstances. Personally, I did not feel a reduction in my work hours affected my career as I still had the environment to continue to grow as an Accountant and realise my potential. Finding that work life balance meant I could have a successful career and a happy family life.

Do you have any advice to up-and-coming accountants today?

There are many challenges that women may face in their career but your mental attitude to each challenge will have an impact on the outcome. If we can adopt a positive mindset and try to view our challenges as an opportunity to learn and to grow, we will more likely be able to face challenges with an “I can do it” spirit.

My other advice is, we should never feel we need to face challenges alone or have the answers to everything. It is ok to reach out for help and guidance along the way. This is not a reflection of our weakness but demonstrates that we recognise that we all are just humans and need the support of those who care about us.


Jamie Arrington | Accounting Manager + Senior Accountant

What was the road you took to become the accountant you are today?

When I was in high school back home in Ohio, I really gravitated towards two subjects – accounting and chemistry. I excelled in both and in my last year of high school, I studied and tested out of accounting part way through the year and took the other half of the year to tutor other students in my class while in chemistry, I took the tests and exams before other students in the class to keep up with my fast-paced learning.

When I went off to University in Ohio, I picked Bachelors of Science majoring in Accounting at Wright State University rather than a chemistry degree because my dad convinced me I would have an easier time finding and keeping a job in my adult life. Three and a half years after starting University, I was at a strange and fearful stage in my life and I decided to change my major from Accounting to Computer Science.

A year later, I met and fell in love with an Australian and made the very big decision to move to Australia. I attended the University of Newcastle, and I decided to go back to my accounting education. I graduated with a Bachelors of Commerce two years after moving and obtained my Diploma of Chartered Accountancy not too long after while working in Newcastle at a public practice accounting firm. I worked in Newcastle for about five years and in that last year, I got married, had a baby and decided to move to Ballarat to be closer to my daughter’s father’s family.

I have been with Canny Group since that move four years ago excluding a tiny blip of time I took to explore other avenues.

Have you found any roadblocks along the way that relate to being a woman?

When thinking of a response to this question, I was thinking of a way to answer it without mentioning my children – after all, women are much more than the children they do or do not have. But my life is so centered around having to care for them that I can’t honestly answer this question without them – they are my life. So, my biggest and most major roadblock in my career as a woman was trying to find that balance between caring for my children and continuing to advance in my career as a full-time accountant. It’s still a struggle to this day!

As others in this article have answered, I have been very lucky to work for two amazing women at Canny Group who understand, respect and trust me as an individual and allow me to continue advancing through my career while managing my tiny, beautiful family at home. I have worked for many amazing people in my life, but I don’t think I would be where I am today without Krys and Mandy.

I would also say that my partner’s work has also made this roadblock in my career a bit harder to budge – I don’t know how many times he has had to have a conversation with his bosses about taking some time off work to help care for our children. It is both disappointing and saddening that his workplace isn’t as understanding as mine.

Smaller roadblocks I face along the way before having children seem so small in comparison. When I was in university in Ohio, I had a professor, who owned her own accounting practice, say to our class that she would never consider a woman who didn’t wear a skirt to an interview for a role as it was unprofessional for women to wear pants. I made a mental note to never apply for a job at her firm. I can also remember a boss I worked for not long after graduating telling me to make sure I wore make-up the next day to a client meeting – I must have looked rough that day.

Do you have any advice to up-and-coming accountants today?

My advice to the up-and-coming accountants is take it a day at a time and remember to breath! I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t take a second, remember to breath and try not to get overwhelmed by all the … work! You will get there, just keep going. This has applied to all aspects of my life from family tragedy to my career to having a baby. Make it to the next day and keep going – keep chipping away at that iceberg.

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