Growing up, I never thought twice about where I came from or what gender I was. That all changed during the first years of my career as an accountant.
After unsuccessfully spending three out of the four years of Uni applying for graduate programs and unpaid internships in mid-tier to big four accounting practices, I started to wonder what I was doing wrong. Were my grades not good enough? Was it because I had no connections? Maybe my name was too difficult to say? Was I too young? Was it because I didn’t go to the right schools? Don’t think I’ll ever know why. I no longer speculate.
After a year of odd jobs, I finally landed a role at a wholesalers through a family friend. Whilst grateful for the opportunity to finally get to use my degree, I was in an environment where I was told not to speak up too much and respect the more senior (older, not necessarily more experienced) members of the staff.
Two years later, I was an Assistant Accountant in a finance team led by a female Financial Controller at a vehicle finance broking firm. I had been quite excited at the thought of a female FC, someone I could look up to and relate to, the role model I never had. However, this role left me feeling insecure, uncertain of how one progresses within an organisation based on merit. Unless you were a part of the boy’s club, your opinion didn’t matter and hard work didn’t necessarily mean better opportunities. Long story short, my time there left me feeling disheartened and concerned about my future in finance.
Then I met Abigail, Chief Financial Officer at Viridian.
For the first time in my career, I felt that my age didn’t make me feel less skilled, my gender was not an issue, my nationality not a hinderance to reaching my goals.
As I watch the people around me grow into roles that once upon a time went to certain types of people and as intelligent, determined women, like so many in our company, enter leadership positions, I’ve started to forget that biases do exist.
Rie Maki is Finance and Operations Manager at Viridian Advisory.