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ICAEW awards three women honorary memberships to celebrate centenary of first female chartered accountant

Author: ICAEW

Published: 29 Jul 2021

Three women have been awarded ICAEW honorary memberships for their contributions to the accountancy profession, as part of celebrations around the centenary of Mary Harris Smith being accepted as the Institute’s first female member.

Beth Brooke, Emma Codd and Melanie Richards CBE were awarded the honorary memberships for their work championing diversity and inclusion of women and LGBT+ communities.

They have joined eight existing honorary ICAEW members, including the HRH The Prince of Wales, Sir Adrian Cadbury, Sir Bryan Nicholson and Mervyn King.

Beth, a retired certified public accountant in the US, said: “I am very proud to have been awarded the honorary membership and receiving the accolade in the year of ICAEW’s centenary celebrations made it particularly meaningful.

“We’re making progress and the events of the past year have got the firms focused on diversity in its broadest sense and we’re transforming the profession in a good way. I’m just trying to make a difference – that’s what I’m driven by.”

Emma, a partner at Deloitte, said: “As a firm we did so much to tackle the challenges women faced in our organisation. There is still much to do, but when I look back I am proud of what we achieved, particularly reversing the downward trend on gender balance.

“Getting recognition for the impact on the wider sector and the profession as a whole really means a lot to me.”

Melanie, formerly of KPMG with almost 40 years of corporate finance and capital markets experience, said: “I’m thrilled and honoured to receive the award but none of this feels like a solo effort. I’ve been surrounded by some amazing people both inside and outside of the firm with whom I’ve had the privilege of collaborating.

“As organisations we have to decide how inclusive we want to be. If the pandemic has illustrated anything it’s that we’re going to have to evolve leadership styles to lead diverse groups of people. It presents one of the greatest challenges to leadership that we’ve seen over many decades.”   

The announcement of these honorary memberships, which were delayed from last year due to the impact of COVID-19, followed a series of activities held in 2019 and 2020 to celebrate 100 years of women in chartered accountancy. Mary Harris Smith is celebrated as the first female chartered accountant in the world and she became ICAEW’s first female member in 1920.

In May 2020, ICAEW announced that a blue plaque had been commissioned to mark where the offices of Harris Smith once stood in London. Of the 182 blue plaques in the City of London, this was only the third to commemorate an individual woman.

Will Brooks, ICAEW President, said: “I’m pleased to welcome Beth, Emma and Melanie to ICAEW during my presidential year and I want to thank them for their inspirational hard work to champion diversity and inclusion in the profession.”

Former ICAEW President Fiona Wilkinson, who led the centenary celebrations during her presidential term, said: “Congratulations to Beth, Emma and Melanie, who are all deserving recipients of ICAEW honorary memberships. Their passion and commitment advocating for women in the profession, and promoting inclusion and social mobility, is hugely commendable and extremely fitting as we celebrate the centenary of Marry Harris Smith’s successful application as the first female member of ICAEW.”

Notes to editors:

  1. Biographies

Beth Brooke

Beth, a certified public accountant in the US, retired in 2019 after nearly 40 years at EY where she was Global Vice-Chair, Public Policy, in her final role. She led several initiatives on LGBT+ inclusion within EY and at the World Economic Forum, where she chairs the Steering Committee for its ‘Partnership For Global LGBTI Equality’.

Emma Codd

Emma is a partner at Deloitte, and since 2019 has been Global Inclusion Leader. She is a member of Business in the Community’s ‘Gender Equality Leadership Team and sits on the ‘Lead the Change’ Board, established by government to encourage business leaders to promote diversity and inclusion.

Melanie Richards CBE

Melanie retired after nearly 20 years at KPMG where she was Deputy Chair in her final role. She is a founding member of the ‘30% Club’ Steering Committee and sits on the Steering Committee of the Hampton Alexander Review, set up to increase the number of women on FTSE 350 boards and leadership teams. She now sits on the Board of Morgan Stanley International and the Royal National Theatre.


There are more than 1.8m chartered accountants and students around the world and 186,500 of them are members and students of ICAEW. They are talented, ethical and committed professionals, which is why all of the top 100 Global Brands employ chartered accountants.

ICAEW promotes inclusivity, diversity and fairness. We attract talented individuals into the profession and give them the skills and values they need to build resilient businesses, economies and societies, while ensuring our planet’s resources are managed sustainably.

Founded in 1880, we have a long history of serving the public interest and we continue to work with governments, regulators and business leaders around the world. And, as an improvement regulator, we supervise and monitor over 12,000 firms, holding them, and all ICAEW members and students, to the highest standards of professional competency and conduct.

ICAEW is proud to be part of Chartered Accountants Worldwide, a global network of 750,000 members across 190 countries, which promotes the expertise and skills of chartered accountants on a global basis.

We believe that chartered accountancy can be a force for positive change. By sharing our insight, expertise and understanding we can help to create strong economies and a sustainable future for all.

*Source: CAW, 2020 – Interbrand, Best Global Brands 2019