The student society bringing diversity to the accounting world

Beth Jones hosting an Accounting Society event in a Management School lecture theatre

In autumn 2021, Accounting and Finance student, Beth Jones, and five friends got together to discuss forming a student society for people interested in accounting. It would be a first of its kind society at Lancaster University.

Within a year, the society grew from six to over a hundred members.

And, in that time, the group became a partner of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), the world’s largest professional body of management accountants.

Shortly before she started the society, Beth’s lectures returned to being held in person after Covid restrictions eased.

When Beth showed up to the Management School building, she realised she knew the names of her classmates from emails and Microsoft Teams calls, but she couldn’t point out who was who in the room.

“A lot of us were impacted by the Covid year. A lot of us didn’t know who we were sitting next to in lectures.”

“We thought: Oh, this is just ridiculous. There’s a hundred of us here and we don’t know each other.”

Beth noticed that she and her classmates were struggling to figure out their career options in accounting.

“There wasn’t that space for everybody that wanted to do accounting.”

“Essentially, we were a little bit lost and we didn’t know what careers we wanted to do.”

Beth felt that it wasn’t until their third year of university that students would normally begin digging into the professions open to them. She thought it’d be better to start that process in their first and second year.

As a result, the accounting society regularly holds career-themed events, including sessions connecting students with accountancy professionals willing to share their insights.

Beth speaking at an Accounting Society event

Beth speaking at the Accounting Society's International Women's Day 2023 event

Beth realised she wanted to go into accounting when she was in school in North Wales. “I am quite a structured person and accounting is rules based.”

She was exposed to accountancy problems through talking to her dad about his business.

“My dad works on a farm. He’d be scratching his head like ‘I’m not sure how to do this’. I’d always really want to help him. That’d be cool if I could provide him with the answers when I’m older and qualified.”

Beth recognises the challenges she faces as a woman in getting into senior accounting roles.

“I am very aware that the financial planning space is very male dominated.”

“I think it would be a really great achievement if I could become a female financial planner.”

According to Accountancy Age, just one-fifth of senior roles in accountancy were occupied by women in 2021.

“When I was starting the society, I knew this whole executive team needs to be diverse - including a mix of nationalities.”

“That was something that weighed heavily when I sort of brought a team together.”

Speakers at the society's International Women's Day event 2023

Sue Hutchinson speaking at the society's International Women's Day event

The emphasis the Accounting Society places on empowering women is evident in the amount of effort they put into their 2023 International Women’s Day event.

The event was a panel discussion. It featured women in accountancy talking about the theme of International Women’s Day 2023: 'equality versus equity’. One of the speakers was Sue Hutchinson, a partner at UK accountancy firm, Beevers and Struthers.

By inviting speakers such as Sue Hutchinson, Beth hoped to give a message to people in the room.

“I’m hoping it helps women realise that they can go into senior leadership positions.”

Speaking about how it feels to be part of Accounting Society, Beth emphasises that it’s the supportive nature of the community that makes it thrive.

“It’s quite competitive, the accounting world, or it can be, especially if you want to get into big firms.”

“We’re quite united in the sense that we sort of know what we want and we’ll help each other through it.”

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This article is part of a series celebrating the student communities that make Lancaster University Management School distinctive.