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Women in Leadership – CIMA Ireland members tell us how they are achieving an equal future

To celebrate this day, CIMA Ireland invited four Irish members to share with us their inspiring and empowering lessons.

March 8, International Women’s Day, marks a day where we celebrate women’s achievements around the world. It’s a day to appreciate and recognize the history of women’s rights, and marks all efforts many women have made to demand civil, social, political and religious rights for all others.

The 2023 International Women’s Day theme “Embrace Equity” , focus on gender equity that needs to be part of every society’s DNA. A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. A world that's diverse, equitable, and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated. Collectively we can all #EmbraceEquity.

In addition, CIMA Ireland hosted an extremely interesting and empowering webinar on Wednesday 8 March, where CIMA Irish members discussed how we all can tackle gender balance and close the gender pay gap. We lined up an inspiring panel for this webinar including Mary Connaughton, Director of CIPD Ireland, Henry Webb ACMA, CGMA, Executive Recruitment Consultant at VANRATH and Caroline Kelleher ACMA, CGMA, Director of Public Affairs at Shannon Group Plc. Moderated by Andrea Linehan ACMA, CGMA, Chief Marketing Officer at Zai | Currency Fair, we hope you will join us for what is shaping up to be a very interesting discussion #EmbraceEquity.

Watch the full panel discussion here.

In the past, to celebrate this day, CIMA Ireland invited four Irish members to share with us their inspiring and empowering lessons, and what setbacks were inevitable as part of their learning journey that can inspire and encourage other women to grow and progress in their professional and personal journey.  So, let’s see what these empowered CIMA members have to say:

1.  What advice would you give to other women to encourage them to grow, strive and thrive in their profession?

Caoimhe O’Reilly, ACMA, CGMA &  Finance Manager for Budget Energy. 

I think it’s important to trust in your ability to develop new skills and experiences, and make it known that you welcome opportunities to do so. Accept help and be equally generous in sharing your own experiences and skills to help your colleagues.



Fiona Keane, ACMA, CGMA, & CFO at Drogheda Credit Union where she manages the Credit Union's finances and investments. 

Work hard, challenge yourself. Take a chance, get out of your comfort zone and say yes to things that scare you. 




Janet Jensen, ACMA, CGMA, CIMA Mip & Owner and Director at Ekstra – Accounting Solutions.

Most definitely lead by example. There is room for everyone to step up and step out. Attract what you expect, reflect what you desire, become what you respect, and mirror what you admire. Success isn’t just about money it’s about being true and authentic to yourself and making a difference in your own life first. Be a person of value. Recognise your own worth. No one will appreciate your contributions until you appreciate them yourself. Work to be known as a genuine person of worth and value, someone who can be trusted and relied upon. Find your tribe. Cultivate relationships with people who support and believe in you. They will be your best and most honest advocates and will give you the support you need when things aren’t going as well as expected.


Kajsa Svensson, ACMA, CGMA, & Leader, Data Science, Insights and Analytics at Western Union Payment Services Ireland Ltd

Put your hand up and make it clear you want to learn new things and progress; if you don’t ask, you don’t get. Don’t be the glue that fills in the gaps for the rest of the team as your own priorities suffer. And find a partner who will do their share, not ‘help’ – whether it's to clean, stay at home with sick children or provide emotional support.

2.Name an influential female leader who have inspired you? And why?  

Caoimhe O’Reilly

There are so many incredible female leaders in the public domain that I admire but in reality, I am most often inspired by the female leaders I have been lucky to work with over the years. I find working with, and for strong women has always encouraged me to aim high, work hard and meet my goals.

Fiona Keane

Jacinda Ardern. She became the world's youngest female head of government in 2017 at just 37 years of age. Within a year of becoming New Zealand's Prime Minister, she gave birth to a baby girl. I admire how she juggles it all and how well she is handling the Covid-19 pandemic. She is open, honest and compassionate and I think that these traits are inspiring and refreshing. Her empathetic leadership style resonates with people.

Janet Jensen

J K Rowling. Her story is an inspiration, from a single mother living on benefits to being a household name. If you ever need proof that following your dreams, never giving up works, J K Rowling is proof. She suffered multiple rejections from publishers. I read somewhere that she used to go into Waterstones book shop and go to the fiction section and visualise her book with her name on it sitting on the shelves.

Kajsa Svensson

Jacinda Ardern – for having the courage to choose the right thing over what is easy.

3. Have you noticed that becoming a CIMA qualified opened doors for you to progress in your professional career?

Caoimhe O’Reilly

Absolutely. My undergraduate degree was in business, so CIMA was my first venture into professional accounting qualifications. It has been massively helpful in career progression from the very first exam passed. CIMA members are recognised for merging technical accounting skills with more strategic business skills which I believe creates an advantage.

Fiona Keane

My CIMA qualification has definitely opened doors in my career to date. I don't think I would have progressed as quickly in my career without the qualification.

Janet Jensen

Yes, most definitely. CIMA is a globally recognised qualification. It’s an accountancy qualification that is different from others as it is much broader. It provides you with the skills to assess and transform all aspects of the business which is much more valuable in the commercial world than a pure accounting qualification. Companies have longed realised that is the most pertinent qualification for the business overall. I know that I would not have obtained some of the roles that I have held without it. Now as a member in practice I am finding it even more valuable to SME’s.

Kajsa Svensson

Yes! I'm from Sweden where the concept of chartered accountants doesn’t really exist. A colleague was looking into studying for CIMA and I liked the focus on management accounting so I signed up, too. It opened up a lot of opportunities, both in accounting and beyond.


4. Lessons I’ve Learned…What did you get out of getting it wrong? What mistakes and setbacks were an inevitable part of your learning journey that you could tell us to inspire other women who are progressing in their career?

Caoimhe O’Reilly

I’ve learned that things rarely turn out exactly how you expect them to. Businesses constantly evolve, and we need to be able to adapt. The benefit of change will not always be immediately obvious, but with experience I’ve learned to trust that setbacks can be reframed as opportunities. To give a personal example I took a risk in relocating to Northern Ireland during the pandemic. I was uncertain what lay ahead but this led to my beginning 2021 with a renewed sense of positivity, working in a new industry which aligns closely with my personal values.

Fiona Keane

I think it's good to make mistakes. No one is perfect and you can learn a lot from your mistakes which in turn make you stronger. I think it's good to fail because once you have you realise it's not as scary as you thought. It can be disappointing when you don't get that job or promotion you feel you deserve, don't take it personally and stay positive. While it might seem the end of the world at the time, it's an opportunity to learn more about yourself and to improve for the future.

Janet Jensen

You don’t know what you are capable of doing until you try so don’t be afraid to try things. If you fear failure, you most likely will not give it a go and as a result, you will never know. Failure is only failure if you don’t learn from it and strive to be better and stronger the next time around. Another mistake I made was not believing in my own ability, listening to that negative inner self that constantly told me that I couldn’t do this. The second mistake was fearing failure, what people would think about me. Albert Einstein is quoted as saying “Failure is success in progress”. Don’t allow yourself to become defeated. Try to take the positive out of everything that goes wrong and keep going. Lean on your support group at these times and allow yourself that support as the road can sometimes be bumpy.

Kajsa Svensson

Don’t limit yourself: I was reluctant to become a manager at one point and said so, which held me back once I realized it was the key to career progression at that time. It's good to have a plan - I've tended to pursue things because they seem interesting (like CIMA) rather than because they fit into a grand strategy. It has led me to interesting places, but having a master plan might have been better for career progression.


5.   An inspiring book every woman should read? 

Caoimhe O’Reilly

One of my sisters recently shared a short book called “We should all be Feminists” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Drawing from her experiences of sexism growing up in Nigeria, Chimamanda impressed upon us the fact that true feminism is about equality between both sexes and illustrates how this seemingly obvious point is often overlooked. I have since encouraged my other sisters and brothers to read this beautifully written perspective.

Fiona Keane

Becoming by Michelle Obama. "I'm an ordinary person who found herself on an extraordinary journey". As the first African American First Lady of the United States, Michelle describes her triumphs and disappointments, private and public. The book is split into three sections - Becoming Me, Becoming Us and Becoming More. Michelle writes about childhood, her marriage to Barack and her journey in becoming a mother and First Lady. 

Janet Jensen

Think Rich, Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. In essence, the book looks at the 13 steps to becoming rich. Whilst the title and the content of the book leads the reader to initially think it is about becoming rich in the financial sense of the word, the book is actually exploring 13 ways to ensure that you succeed at whatever you wish to succeed in or at. I, therefore, consider this more of a personal development book than finding the secret to becoming wealthy. By default, if you succeed at whatever you desire you will become rich, both in monetary terms and in your feelings of achievement.

My key takeaway from this book is that the mind and our thoughts are incredibly powerful. If you focus hard enough and have the determination you can achieve whatever you desire. However, you also need to have “grit” to persevere in the face of obstacles that are you are bound to encounter along that journey.

Kajsa Svensson

"Fed Up" by Gemma Hartley - it talks about the way women are socialized to carry the mental load in relationships, and how that plays out at home and at work.




Caoimhe O’Reilly is an award winning CIMA accountant with more than ten years’ experience in manufacturing environments. Caoimhe is a Finance Manager at Budget Energy NI. Caoimhe specialises in process improvement and throughout her career has been instrumental in ERP implementations, leading start- up teams and introducing improved finance systems and workflows.  Caoimhe is as passionate about people as she is profit and speaks at public events to promote professional development and equality in the workplace. In her spare time, Caoimhe volunteers with Sported UK, and in happier circumstances she loves to combine her love of travel with spending time with her large extended family.

Fiona Keane is the CFO of Drogheda Credit Union where she manages the Credit Union's finances and investments. Fiona is a CIMA qualified accountant with 12 years’ experience in the financial services and aviation industry. Prior to her current role, Fiona worked for Ryanair as Deputy Treasurer. Fiona also spent 7 years working in banking at Bank of Ireland Corporate Banking and Global Markets. Outside of work, in her spare time Fiona enjoys keeping fit and watching Netflix.

Janet Jensen, ACMA, CGMA, CIMA Mip & Owner and Director at Ekstra – Accounting Solutions. Janet Jensen qualified in 1992 as a Chartered Management Accountant and became a CIMA member in 1995. Completing the qualification at the age of 22 was a great achievement for her and set her career in motion. During her professional career, Janet has worked in four different countries, with over 20+ nationalities, across a range of industries in the services sector.

She always had a dream of being her own boss but somehow for the next 30 odd years, she never had the confidence to take that plunge.  Janet got close back in 2007 when she created her company but it wasn’t until 2019 that she had the confidence to actually realise that dream. Whilst she enjoyed the roles that she held, the people that she worked with, and the places it took her to, Janet always had a sense of unfulfillment. She left a Director of Finance role to pursue her dream. Now, Janet share her skills, knowledge, and experience with business owners helping them achieve the results that they desire.

Kajsa Svensson, ACMA, CGMA, & Leader, Data Science, Insights and Analytics at Western Union Payment Services Ireland Ltd. 

Kajsa has a degree in Economics from Linköping University and qualified as a CIMA associate in 2011, with six 1st in Ireland exam distinctions. She has worked for Western Union since 2009, progressing from accountant to accounting manager before she joined Western Union's first rotational leadership program in 2019. Since then, Kajsa hase worked in Operations, currently as Leader for Data Science, Insights and Analytics: turning operational and financial data into insights underpinning strategic decisions.