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Iread somewhere that a man aims to build credibility when starting a business relationship, whilst a woman tries to establish empathy. Of course we are not all the same, but this did strike a chord with me. And it made me think - what do women bring to the practice of accountancy?Let's not get too carried away with the gender argument. Women in business do just that - they run a business. We all have aims and targets to meet, and we all have a job to do. But do we approach it differently to men? On balance I think we do. When I became a director at Sage & Company, many clients were surprised to be dealing with a woman. I had to earn their trust. They have been fantastic people to work with and, I hope, they are pleased with what I do for them. I am very determined, but quietly so.I think women are sometimes their own worst enemies; we strive for perfection and have very high standards. We have families and businesses and the expectation on us to successfully manage these things is high. I believe engaging a good accountant can lighten the load on our shoulders. As a woman and an accountant, I want to help people strike a better balance between family and business. Improve how a business runs, and you can make more time for family and friends - or invest more time in the business if you choose to. I like to think a good accountant brings flexibility to life.Women can be delightful to have as clients. They tend to have a firm belief in their product and keep their eye on the end result. Often women are slow to anger and are not out to establish superiority or territory. We tend to want to nurture, develop and engage rather than have a race or competition. As a female accountant I understand this and work with it. I really listen to my clients and truly understand their needs. How I make people feel has a real impact, and is part of how I establish my credibility in what is still a profession largely dominated by men.I was brought up in a household where gender was never an issue. It was never mentioned. Never did I think I could or could not do something because I was a girl. My dad was fantastic and I helped him with the decorating, DIY around the house, and building stables for our horses. Mind you, I doubt my mum would have let it be I'm not just a NUMBERDirector of Sage & Company Clare Porter explains why women in accountancy more than adds up22Network She I Autumn/Winter 2012Clare Porter is a wife, a mum, and a director at Sage & Company Chartered Accountants

www.networkshe.com23A good accountant should not shy away from difficult conclusions, or fail to describe the impact decisions may or may not have on you or your family. We live in an area where many businesses are family owned and planning succession or thinking of the family as a whole is vital. As I have said, the decisions we make in business will often have a knock-on effect in our private lives and we need to understand the link between the two. I feel too many professionals, accountants among them, make grand promises of offering the best advice, but then fail to look beyond the numbers. How do you know if that might be the case with you? Do what I do. Listen. Take time to consider. Does your accountant understand your situation? Not just on a business footing, but on a personal level too. If not, how can they give you the best advice?So, what do women bring to accountancy? I like to think I bring more to the profession because I am a woman, Or something different, at least. I can deal with family issues and have greater empathy with peoples situations. I know the pressures of cleaning the house, washing, taking the kids to nursery while at the same time dealing with a £10 million company sale. In many ways, my life mimics those of my clients. Here, perhaps, female accountants bring a greater depth to the profession. I feel I do, and I am sure my female colleagues do the same. I am proud of it.any other way! I have stepchildren from my husband's first marriage. These experiences have made me wiser. I understand family issues and the impact of divorce. I understand there can be great emotion behind business decisions as well as those that deeply affect our personal lives. Often, such decisions are inextricably linked.For me then, accountancy is not just about the numbers. It never has been. It's about making the best decisions to enable people to live the life they want. Writing that makes me cringe a little! I'll stick with it though, because it is true. It's about helping people achieve their aims and goals. The official way to describe accountancy is that it's all about reducing tax liabilities and maintaining the never-ending stream of compliance. Preparing VAT returns, payroll, tax returns, and managing inheritance tax, capital gains tax, getting accounts prepared and filed on time, saving money.the list goes on. Of course it is about this, but to me this goes without saying; it is work expected of any accountant. A good accountant, however, is much more than this.A good accountant needs to understand you and have an eye on the longer-term strategy. A good accountant gently asks the difficult questions that need to be asked, and seeks to find the motive. What drives you? Giving good advice is one thing, but on what is it based? Understanding why you do what you do is most important, as often there is a simpler or better way to get there. I know the pressures of cleaning the house, washing, taking the kids to nursery while at the same time dealing with a £10 million company sale.