Rachel Harris

Rachel Harris is disrupting what it means to be an accountant, a business owner and an employer in 2024. She is a TEDx speaker, Forbes contributor, content creator, author, business owner and most importantly... an accountant. Rachel is a skilled chartered accountant who is changing the industry for the better. She is passionate about financial education for everyone and is the founder of @accountant _ she and her own rapidly scaling practice, striveX accountants. 

my story

One of the first things I remember about my journey into the world of accounting was back in school and my careers advisor telling me I had ‘too much’ personality to be an accountant. Despite being a maths kid, I was already being told that I didn’t fit the mould and therefore would never ‘belong’.   

Undeterred, I went on to do my apprenticeship as an accountant before moving into one of the top 75 UK firms. Immediately I knew that I’d entered a male-dominated environment with obvious gender imbalances, particularly in the senior ranks. Most socialising – or networking – took place down at the pub, which seemed to suit the men in the company well. As someone who doesn’t drink, this wasn’t a part of the job I enjoyed but I went anyway out of fear that I may miss out on something that could help boost my career. 

At the time there were very few female partners and none with families. I remember one woman in my firm who was set to make partner but ended up missing out because of her pregnancy. 

Even after I qualified as an accountant, I regularly faced situations in which I would be asked whether I was planning to have children. I knew that I’d have to lie or that, likely, I wouldn’t get the promotion. I’ve even heard from other female accountants that they’ll remove their wedding ring before an interview to avoid assumptions and questions about whether they’ll be starting a family.  

Whether it’s parenthood or marriage, there are always assumptions about women in the workplace which serve to challenge us and limit our choices. I know this from experience: When presenting my business plan in a group setting where I was the sole woman, I was the only person to be asked why I hadn’t incorporated family planning into my plan. It’s these microaggressions that seem to never go away – even now I’m still being asked what’s going to happen to my business when I have a baby.  

When I decided to set up my own practice in 2020, I knew this would be an opportunity for me to break down the stereotypes around what it means to be an ‘accountant’ and create a safe space for everyone, regardless of their gender. Eighty five percent of my team is made up of women - not by design but because of the values my company has come to be known for.  

As an employer, there are a few policies and procedures I’ve implemented in my business to support my female employees and help them progress up the career ladder. I see these as the fundamentals that every organisation should have in place. 

One of these is to sign up to the UK Government’s Women in Finance Charter, which provides a framework for financial service organisations to improve female representation at all levels. Signatory firms work commit to working together to build a more balance and fair financial services industry, and to share best practice.  

Another policy I have in place is flexible working, which includes the ability for employees to flex their hours. I see flexible working as a non-negotiable part of the employee experience, rather than a ‘benefit’; without it, many of my employees simply wouldn’t be able to work full-time and I’d lose some of my best talent. 

Finally, mentorship schemes are an important tool for boosting confidence and helping your employees progress in their careers. Some of the very best mentors can be people who work outside of your organisation, who you relate to and can have open conversations with. This can encourage more people to work in a way that challenges the stereotypes of accountants.  

While we’re starting to see a more even split of men and women entering the industry, there’s still lots more to be done to improve when it comes to senior management positions. By taking practical measures to support women, organisations can reduce the barriers preventing them from progressing in the accountancy industry.

women in accounting

We want to empower women in accounting and help them reach their full potential. Our women in accounting hub contains key resources for female ICAEW members to help you thive.



articles and resources for women in accounting


struggling at work after maternity leave?

Here's how to thrive at work if you're struggling to settle back in after maternity leave.


managing part-time employees: how to get the most from your team

When managing part-time employees, it's important to maximise their skills and make them feel connected.


how to build confidence at work: 10 proven strategies

Learn how to develop workplace confidence, from overcoming setbacks to speaking more confidently.


fertility leave: managing strategies & your rights

4 in 5 people say fertility support is an important consideration for them in a new job.


career progression: secure the development you deserve

Learn how to create an actionable career progression plan that will help you move in the right direction.


struggling to manage your workload? here’s what you can do

Learn how to manage your workload and implement effective workload management strategies.