(c) Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland. Contact ICAS for permission to reproduce this article., Financial Services

Top role for CA boosts number of women in senior roles

Sue Dawe CA, EY’s Head of Financial Services in Scotland, has joined the accountancy firm’s UK Board. Sue’s appointment means that five of the 10 positions on the Board are now held by women, strengthening the diversity of the firm’s senior leadership. 

Here Sue talks to Andy Harbison about her new role and how she has seen attitudes toward women in senior positions change over the years.

About Sue

  • 1988: Sue joined EY
  • 2009: Became an audit partner
  • 2016: Appointed Head of the Financial Services practice in Scotland and Edinburgh Office Managing Partner
  • 2018: Appointed to EY’s UK LLP Board.

What does your board appointment mean to you?

It is a great privilege to be appointed to the UK LLP board where I will offer my opinion and add another perspective to discussions as the Head of Financial Services for Scotland. I am very much looking forward to being directly involved in some of the current debates and challenges facing the profession.

Speaking of challenges, what are the key issues you think the profession should be addressing?

We recognise the importance of the current dialogue around our profession. Our absolute priority is to serve and protect the public interest and bring confidence to the capital markets.

Recent discussions in the UK are rightly focused on important issues including appropriate corporate governance, regulation and oversight of pension obligations, the role of financial system regulators, and the need for competition and consistently high quality in audits. By working with regulators, standard-setters and other stakeholders, EY and the profession can continue to evolve to best serve business, investors and the public interest.

Data from the FCA has shown that women are still very much in the minority when it comes to senior roles in FS. What more can firms do to support women in finance?

Driving up the representation of women in senior roles in business will require a further shift in culture and greater use of effective support programmes and mechanisms.

I am very proud of the environment we have at EY, where we value differences of opinion and perspective. We promote and empower people to pursue personal ambitions and put initiatives, networks and policies in place to support women achieve their career goals.

Throughout my career, I have benefited from the guidance of excellent mentors and sponsors who enabled me to fulfil my potential by encouraging me to push beyond my initial expectations.

Do you think the gender pay reporting rules is enough to begin to close the gap?

The new Gender Pay Gap legislation is a step in the right direction. For greater parity to be achieved we have to ensure this is not reduced to a compliance exercise. The introduction of the reporting function has encouraged companies to look more closely at the gender representation at every level of their organisation and question why they might have disparities, and look to make changes.

Have you seen attitudes towards women in the profession evolve over the years?

When I started my career women holding senior leadership roles within business was rare and not something I initially thought of pursuing. The biggest change I have seen in the last 30 years is the proliferation of women progressing to prominent positions in companies, organisations and government. This has been a huge factor in shifting the dial and creating a new norm where the career aspirations of women are no different to their male counterparts.

With the exception of your recent appointment to the board of EY, what has been your defining career moment?

Being asked to lead our financial services practice in Scotland and becoming the Edinburgh Office Managing Partner in 2016. Having had many different roles in EY it was great to take a leadership position in the office where I started my career 30 years ago. It’s enabled me to have a significant influence on our practice in Scotland at a time of rapid growth.

This article was originally published in the October 2018 issue of CA Financial Services.