Ahead of Essex Business School's Successful Futures Conference on 9 March, we spoke to speaker Gillian Fawcett of Public Finance by Women (PFW) to find out what motivated her to start mentoring women in the field of public finance.

Tell us about how innovation has impacted your career?

Innovation has led to one of the key stand outs in my career, the founding of the Public Finance by Women network.

This network was founded following conversations with colleagues and friends in the accounting industry, and then with the support of my co-founder Barbara Grunewald, Public Finance by Women network was formed.

The network was innovative as we noticed the need for it in the industry, a place for women to discuss their careers through mentoring and coaching, addressing gender inequality, research and providing independent peer support and advice for women seeking careers in public finance with the inclusion and engagement of men that will support an exchange of ideas and good practices. 

Tell us more about the Public Finance by Women network

When creating the network, I explored some options for the mentoring process and found my preferred coaching theory was, Nancy Kline’s innovative model of coaching ‘Time to Think’ I find this method gives mentees the time to think diversely and lead themselves to key discoveries and answers with the support of a coach or mentor.

So far, we have had 60 people go through our coaching programme for all over the world and they have found it very beneficial personally and professionally. I am immensely proud of how global our network has become. 

Advice for students

When speaking to students I often discuss the strong basis accountancy gives you and remind them that there is a financial skills gap currently in industry, I have found that as accounting has developed and grown over the years there a new area of interest to get involved with, recently I’ve been looking into areas such as green budgeting and gender budgeting. These are areas I would advise accounting students investigate as their presence in the public and private sector grows in importance. 

Also, I believe it’s vital to pursue an area or interests that aligns to your career goals as having passion in what your doing is key to success. I also advise people to try and avoid linear careers as it’s so beneficial to explore and aim for a diverse career as there are so many interesting roles out there, so take risks if you can!

About Gillian

My career started as a chartered accountant mostly working within the public sector. I had a brief stint in working parliament, in the committee office managing select committees.

I would describe my career as a portfolio career which is not a typical to accounting career that people often hear about. My portfolio career has allowed me to travel the world by being on numerous boards, one of the key boards I have been part of is as interim chair on the trust board of Friends of the Earth.

Another role I held was as a member of the Confederation of Asian and Pacific Accountants (CAPA) public sector committee for nine years and I was also a former member of Accountancy Europe, public sector committee.

Additionally, I was also treasurer and chair of the Finance and Fundraising Committee for Freedom from Torture for five years and vice chair of the Macro Economic Committee for the European Centre of Employers and Enterprises providing Public Services (CEEP).

Prior to this I was treasurer for the Legal Action Group (LAG).