In honour of International Womens Day, Cashroom is proud to shine a spotlight on some of the remarkable females within our business.  

With only 12% of Accounting practices in the UK founded by women, Cashroom is proud to be among that elite group. Over 15 years ago, Catherine O’Day established Cashroom and paved the way as a strong female founder in the industry. While Catherine’s role has evolved over the years, her vision and legacy continue to drive our company forward. Despite the historical underrepresentation and challenges faced by women in the legal and accounting fields, we are proud to have a network of female leaders at Cashroom who are instrumental in our growth and the ongoing transformation of legal accounting. It’s worth noting that we have a remarkable 57.14% of female cashiers and accountants at Cashroom, surpassing the industry average.   

Celebrate International Women’s Day with us as we honour the strong female leaders in our industry and draw inspiration from their remarkable achievements. We had the privilege of speaking with a few of our esteemed female leaders at Cashroom to gain valuable insights into their career journeys, experiences, and perspectives on leadership, empowerment, and the pivotal role of women in shaping the future of our industry. Our founder, chief marketing officer and head of onboarding share their thoughts on female empowerment and offer valuable advice for women aspiring to take on senior roles and advance their careers. 

Catherine O’Day – Our Founder and Non-Exec Director 

1.Tell us a bit about your career journey and background to becoming founder of Cashroom…

 I started as a sponsored student with IBM, I chose to do that rather than going to university. So, the benefit of that is that I was qualified as an accountant when I was 21, which is pretty young. Most people don’t qualify until they do their degree and then go onto their professional qualifications right after that, whereas I did mine straight through from school.  

I then left IBM and moved to Edinburgh to live because I was getting married, and my future husband was there. I began working as an accountant for a local manufacturing firm for a while and did various other accounting roles. Eventually I worked for a company called Computer Land where I was acting as a consultant for professional firms, lawyers, and accountants on using various types of software. 

After I had my three children, I took a year’s break. When I went back, I ended up as a partner with one of my clients, I was doing lots of work with lawyers in Scotland on their cashroom systems. 

Eventually I decided to set up as a separate company and formed Dundas IT, here I was doing consultancy work for firms and installing accounting systems. A lot of the firms I worked with were lawyers, which is where my real interest in Cashroom systems came from. We grew that company to a million-pound turnover with about 28 staff and I sold that in 2008. But before I sold the business, the idea of setting up Cashroom had already formed. Mainly through lots of conversations with lawyers who wanted me to do the whole cashroom for them, taking over the responsibility from them. I was working as an outsourced finance director for a few firms, MBM Commercial being one of them. They specifically were really keen for me to take the whole thing over and therefore I was eventually able to set up The Cashroom in partnership with Les Cummings, who was the Law Society of Scotland Finance Director. The great thing about that partnership was Les had the credibility with the law firms and I had the technical skills and experience to provide the service, and that is how Cashroom was formed with MBM as our very first customer. 

We set up with two part-time cashiers in rented offices in Livingston, what is interesting is that we had a fully female staff until 2012 when David Calder joined as our first male employee, which was quite unusual in the accounting industry.  

2. Have you faced any challenges as a woman in a leadership position, and how did you overcome them?  

The biggest challenge for me, not so much in the legal profession, but in accounting, was back then it was a male dominated industry. When I was training to be an accountant, I was in a class of 30 people. There were only two females out of the 30, I don’t necessarily think that caused me a problem, I always had the respect of my colleagues, and we worked well together. Where it did present a challenge was that it made it more difficult for me to find mentors and have people to share issues and challenges with. Especially when it came to balancing a work life balance of having a family and having a career. I think the work life balance is still something that for female leaders is much more of a challenge. I think as things are progressing, childcare is more shared than it was back in my day and not just the childcare, the whole running of the home. When I say things have progressed, I am in no way saying there are now split equally however there has been positive changes. 

3. What advice would you give to women aspiring to leadership roles in your industry?  

My advice to female leaders is to be kind to yourself, be aware of how many plates you’re spinning, I think as females we can be quite hard on ourselves, and we can set our expectations pretty high. I would say I also should have been more confident and put trust in my own experiences, knowledge, and ability. Sometimes you have to stop and look back at what you’ve done. What have you achieved in the last week? What have you achieved in the last year? Rather than constantly worrying about what we have not achieved.  

Working full time as my children were growing up, I was curious if that impact them, or did it have an adverse impact on them? I’ve later learned when I’ve spoken to them, that no, it didn’t, that they never, ever thought it was an issue that that I was working. A lot of the guilt that a lot of working mothers carry is very much self-imposed, and we need to let that go, talk to your kids and talk to your family. Only you know if you think that you’re overextending yourself and relieve yourself of some of that guilt. Because as I said, I think it’s self-imposed, I think as females we do impose that on ourselves.  

4. What achievements in your career are you most proud of, and why? 

I won businesswoman of the year in West Lothian in 2014. The trophy’s still sitting in the board room in in Livingston, but what was interesting about that is I knew nothing about it. It was David Calder and the staff. They put me forward for it at the time and I didn’t know anything about it until I got the call to tell me that I’d won. I was pleasantly surprised and proud of that. But it’s important to point out, it was all part of a team. It wasn’t something that I’d achieved on my own and I was more proud of the company and what we had achieved. And now I’m the same. I’m incredibly proud of the accomplishments Cashroom has made since I’ve left. The team we’ve got is amazing and nothing is ever achieved individually. It’s all about being part of the team, working together through the bad times and the good times. 

So, I am incredibly proud of Cashroom and where we are now rather than what I have done. I think that’s the most important thing for me. 

Katie Wilson – Head of Onboarding 

1. What steps can women take to advocate for themselves in their career?   

Recognise your own skills and knowledge; and take risks. As women we often recognise strengths in others, our partners, children and colleagues but we do not always realise our own power. Knowing what your skills are and how you can use them to your advantage in your career can help you achieve your goals. 

2. What motivated you to pursue a leadership role?  

Cashroom helped me discover my drive, ambition and self-confidence inspiring me to pursue a leadership position.   

3. Do you think your role at Cashroom as a leader is different to what you may have experience in-house at a law firm? 

Yes, when I was working in house at different Law Firms in the UK the role of a leader was not an option that was open to many cashiers. In house cashiering departments tend to run with one leader or finance manager and it was very difficult to progress further up from the cashiering level. At Cashroom this was never a concern, I was offered, and I am still offered lots of opportunity to develop and progress my career, which is not stifled by one department/role. 

Liz Parks – Senior Bookkeeper

1. Have you experienced any challenges around gender in your career? 

In my career, I’ve been fortunate to be in an environment where there has been a good mixture of genders, and interestingly, I have experienced there to be more women than men in accounting. This balance created a supportive atmosphere where I’ve been lucky enough to never encounter any specific challenges related to gender. I’ve been able to build a supportive network of colleagues and mentors who have been there for me throughout my career. I am fortunate to say that gender has never been a barrier to my progression or success in the field and I am grateful for the inclusive culture I have experienced.  

2. What would be your advice to women in the industry today or in the early days of their career journey’s?  

Cultivate confidence – be your own champion. Celebrate your own successes and have confidence in your own abilities. Find mentors who you can trust to build you up and support you personally and professionally to thrive.  

3. If you could give yourself a piece of advice at the beginning of your career with the experience you have now, what would it be?  

For me it would definitely be – don’t sweat the small stuff. When you are starting out, it’s easy to get caught up stressing over minor details, losing sleep over insignificant matters, and losing sight of the bigger picture. So, instead of that, believe in yourself and focus on building your skill set, seizing opportunities as they come and prioritising your professional growth. By doing so, you will be better equipped to navigate your career journey.  

Emma O’Day- Chief Marketing Officer 

1. Balancing work and personal life can be challenging. How do you manage this balance, and what advice do you have for others striving to do the same? 

I must admit that achieving a perfect balance between work and personal life is a continuous challenge and journey. Establishing clear boundaries between my professional and personal time is key, even though working closely with my husband, Chris O’Day, often blurs those lines, I do try and keep boundaries where possible.  

Utilizing our portal for task management has been incredibly helpful, and any effective time management tool can work wonders.  

Learning to say no has been a valuable lesson for me, allowing me to prioritize and delegate tasks effectively. Sharing responsibilities with colleagues or family members and friends can ease the burden, and don’t be afraid to ask for help when needed. Remember, building a strong support team around you only enhances your capabilities – this applies to work and personal life. 

Finally, I try to adjust my expectations, recognizing that there are moments when I perform exceptionally well at work and times when I may not. Sometimes I am on it with wellbeing and parenting and often I am not. Sometimes I fit in a mammoth amount of work and other weeks I have to push a deadline. Knowing that perfection in all areas of life isn’t always achievable, I’ve learned to prioritize various aspects of my life as required. While it can be tough, it’s ultimately okay. 

 2. Have you encountered any gender specific challenges or biases in your career, and how did you overcome them?   

I have. I do have a vivid memory of telling someone I was pregnant with my second child and their instant response being ‘I hope you have a boy this time and you don’t go off and do this again.’  

I have had clothes and outfits commented on as well as being spoken over and interrupted in conversations frequently. I have also had someone greeting me at an event (a stranger) by kissing me on the top of my head, like I was a little girl.  

Honestly with all of these, I wish I had some witty and strong response, but I just took them and got on with my work – hindsight is a wonderful thing.  

I have used ongoing professional training and development to enhance my skills and knowledge, so I stood out more in the workplace and I have continuously pursued leadership roles and projects that align with my goals. Despite challenges, I have utilized continuous professional development to excel in my field, actively pursuing leadership opportunities. Leading by example, I advocate for gender equality within my team, ensuring inclusivity and a comfortable environment for all.  I am very open with my team that I never want them to feel uncomfortable in any situation.  

 3. If you could give one piece of advice to yourself at the beginning of your career with the experience you have now, what would it be?   

Speak up – 95% of the time you were right – trust your gut!  

And stay curious and commit to continuous learning without the mum guilt– your kids are now almost all through nursery and at school and they are fine! None of the children seem scarred for life from crying every day at nursery drop offs! 

The insights shared by the remarkable female leaders at Cashroom stand as a testament to the strength, resilience, and innovation that women bring to the forefront of the legal and financial industries. Their stories illuminate not only the challenges they have overcome but also the transformative impact they continue to make. By fostering an inclusive and supportive environment, Cashroom has not only empowered its female leaders but has also paved the way for future generations of women in the workplace and they are revolutionising legal accounting worldwide! 

To find out about how Cashroom can support your law firms finance function, get in touch to arrange a confidential chat with a member of our team 

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About Cashroom

Cashroom provides expert outsourced accounting services for Law Firms including Bookkeeping, Management Accounts and Payroll services. Our mission is to free lawyers from the complexities of legal accounting by supporting the industry with accurate management information and allowing lawyers to do what they do best – practice law.