Shirley Olsen is Chairperson of the South African Institute of Professional Accountants. She also runs Training for Results, an organisation which promotes the acquisition and application of accounting, financial and business skills. Every year on 9th August, South Africans celebrate Women’s Day, a public holiday that pays homage to the women of the nation; Shirley wrote some advice for women to coincide with this year’s commemorations.
Traditionally a male-dominated sector, the number of women in finance in South Africa is steadily increasing. According to the South African Institute of Professional Accountants (SAIPA), its number of female members increased by around 15% over the past two years.
South African Institute of Professional Accountants – advice from the Chairperson
The share of women amongst trainees, the next generation of accounting professionals, is now in the majority at 63%. This is particularly exciting since it indicates that women will remain a significant force to be reckoned with in the future.
It is clear that women play a key role in the economic growth of the country. Women bring a unique and valuable element to the table that should under not be discounted. In fact, as women we should encourage each other to overcome the obstacles we face in business, precisely because our presence in business is so important.
Learn to delegate
One thing I have learnt during years in business is that women try to do too much. Women need to learn that in order to survive: you cannot do everything, so delegate those tasks that will free you up to do what you are good at – and that is looking after your clients’ finances.
Embrace your strengths
See your femininity as a strength. Women need to learn to relax and ‘roll with the punches’. Everyone makes mistakes in business, yet it seems that women, who tend to be more emotional about things, are less forgiving of themselves than they ought to be.
Developing a laser focus, concentrating on one important aspect of your business development at a time, can make one exponentially more productive. Give the important aspects of your business your full attention for a designated period for greater productivity and phenomenal results.
I do believe that seeing and speaking to other…female members has motivated many women to believe they can succeed. I know that when I have spoken to women in their own accounting practices, they have been inspired to see a woman as chairman.
Anything is possible for women in finance. Believe in yourself, seek the support of peers, have a good plan and be determined to succeed, even in the face of failure.