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ICAEW hands honorary memberships to female pioneers

Author: ICAEW Insights

Published: 29 Jul 2021

Three female pioneers have been awarded ICAEW honorary memberships, as ICAEW continues its celebrations of the centenary of ICAEW’s first female member, Mary Harris Smith, being accepted as a member.

Honorary membership of ICAEW is awarded to individuals deemed to have made significant contributions to the accountancy profession or to the finance or business world, who have achieved professional or academic prominence in ICAEW-related disciplines or have made a significant contribution to ICAEW’s work.

This year, three individuals have been nominated for their inspirational work and ground-breaking initiatives in the advancement of women, and for championing diversity and inclusion of LGBT+ communities. They join eight existing honorary ICAEW members including HRH The Prince of Wales, Sir Adrian Cadbury, Sir Bryan Nicholson and Mervyn E King.

Emma Codd

Emma Codd is a partner at Deloitte, and in 2019 became Global Inclusion Leader for Deloitte. Previously, as Managing Partner for Talent for the UK for six years, Codd designed and led significant changes to the firm’s inclusion agenda. 

“As a leadership team, we did so much to tackle the diversity challenges we faced in our organisation. It took three to four years to start to see the results and when I look back I am proud of what we achieved together – 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,” she said.

Codd was instrumental in introducing gender pay gap reporting at Deloitte long before it became a legal requirement. One of the achievements she’s most proud of is the introduction of social mobility interventions at Deloitte. “By the time I moved on from my role as Managing Partner for Talent in the UK we had upward of 200 incredible people who had joined our organisation at student level as a result of changes we made. And that number continues to grow.”

Codd said receiving the honorary membership was beyond anything she had ever expected but she is far from complacent. “There remains a lot to be done across the profession. I’m a very purpose-driven individual. For me, success is about feeling you’re making a difference not only to the people within your organisation, but also the people outside it.”

Beth Brooke

Brooke is a certified public accountant (US) whose career with EY spanned nearly 40 years, culminating in her last role as Global Vice-Chair, Public Policy. 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’. 

She retired from EY in 2019 but continues to serve on several boards, including the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee and The New York Times. Among her many achievements, she is a member of ‘The Committee of 200’ – an invitation-only organisation of the world’s most successful female business leaders and chaired the Board of Vital Voices, a global organisation that amplifies the voice and impact of women changemakers.

Brooke said she was very proud to have been awarded the ICAEW honorary membership and receiving the accolade in the year of ICAEW’s centenary celebrations made it particularly meaningful. “I think we’re making progress on D&I. The events of the past year renewed the firms’ commitment to diversity and inclusion in its broadest sense and resulted in stepped-up efforts to transforming the profession and its impact in the communities in which it operates in a good way. 

“The simple truth is that difference matters and everyone is different. There’s a new level of recognition and embrace of the value of that and I think the firms are using their unique talent platforms to make a bigger difference, internally and externally, on inclusion. For me, along with many others, I just keep trying to make a difference every day in some way – that’s what I’m driven by.”

Melanie Richards CBE

Richards joined KPMG in 2000 to develop the Debt Advisory practice and has more than 30 years of experience in bank lending, debt restructuring and capital markets instruments. As Deputy Chair, she worked with fellow board members to drive KPMG’s strategic direction and major policy positions, including in relation to the firm’s inclusion and diversity agenda. She left the Big Four firm in September 2020 and now sits on the boards of Morgan Stanley International, the Royal National Theatre and is Chair of women’s cancer charity The Eve Appeal.

Richards is a founding member of the ‘30% Club’ Steering Committee and sat on the Steering Committee of the Hampton Alexander Review, set up to increase the number of women on FTSE 350 boards and leadership teams. In 2019, she was appointed to the UK Government’s National Leadership Centre Advisory Board”. 

“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,” she said.

“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. That presents one of the greatest challenges to leadership that we’ve probably seen over many decades.”

The fact that all three honorary memberships have been awarded to women in the year of the 100-year anniversary of the first woman becoming an ICAEW member is significant and far from coincidental, as the importance of successful D&I strategies across both the profession and more broadly across business is firmly recognised as a cornerstone to success.

These three women have been pioneers in driving D&I strategies, not only within the Big Four firms at which they have worked. But their efforts and achievements have had far-reaching ramifications for diversity, equality and inclusion across the profession as a whole. 

The announcement of this year’s honorary memberships coincides with a series of activities to celebrate 100 years of women in chartered accountancy, full details of which are outlined in a dedicated ICAEW Centenary Hub. In May last year, ICAEW announced the commissioning of a blue plaque marking where the offices of Mary Harris Smith once stood in London. Of the 182 blue plaques in the City of London, this is only the third to commemorate an individual woman. A portrait of Harris Smith by Toby Wiggins RP commissioned by ICAEW will also hang at Chartered Accountants’ Hall, ICAEW’s London Headquarters in Moorgate Place.

Meanwhile, a publication telling the story of Mary Harris Smith and ICAEW’s first female Council members and Presidents is already available digitally together with a digital archive of career stories from female members – who qualified from the 1940s through to the 2010s – illustrating the huge progress that has been achieved in terms of female representation across the profession and the huge hurdles that those early female pioneers had to overcome.

While gender equality and broader diversity remains very much a work in progress across the profession, the honorary members announced today, have collectively played a monumental role in pushing the agenda forward and implementing strategies that have had a fundamental transformational impact on the shape of the profession, the impact of which cannot be underestimated.

Former ICAEW President Fiona Wilkinson, who led the centenary celebrations during her presidential term, said the passion and commitment shown by the three women when advocating for women in the profession and promoting inclusion and social mobility, was “hugely commendable and extremely fitting as we celebrate the centenary of Mary Harris Smith’s successful application as the first female member of ICAEW.”