For the women who need us most

For the women who need us most

I’m Werking On My…

I’m Werking On My…

Balancing the books: Becoming a female apprentice
By Ellie Pierce

Leave school, go to uni, get your degree, start working. It can sometimes feel like our lives are mapped out for us and leave no room for us to consider other options. But there’s plenty. One of those is becoming an apprentice. 

I think many of us when we hear the word apprentice, (let’s pretend the TV show doesn’t exist), we think of a young man going into a male-dominated industry.

Olivia Smith, 20, is a female apprentice specialising in accounting. Since the age of 18, she’s smashed gender stereotypes of women not being suited to the world of finance. 

“When I told my maths teacher I wanted to be an accountancy apprentice, she responded with ‘oh dear!’ She was basically laughing at me,” Olivia says. “That was kind of disheartening because it’s like, oh, should I even do that now? And it’s like, you kind of lose a lot of confidence.” 

NotGoingToUni (@notgoingtouni) is an early careers advice hub. Olivia works as an ambassador for this company and educates people on the other routes they can take at the beginning of their career. 

“I was looking at accounting and finance degrees but I was looking at the actual content and I was like that isn’t really interesting to me. I just didn’t want any more studying in full time education.” 

Day to day, her tasks now include bank reconciliations, calling and asking clients about account queries and doing tax returns so dealing with clients’ incomes. Throughout her apprenticeship, she has also learnt how to use software such as Xero and QuickBooks. 

In her first office, Olivia was the only woman in a room full of men. 

“In the beginning, I did find it hard. All the talk was about football, which is like just jargon to me, and then there’s betting and horse racing. Even on the social committee, it used to be very male dominated. So all the activities would be like top golf. I’m a girly girl, though, so I don’t really like that stuff.

“But now I’ve joined it. And we’re doing Drag Bingo next week. 

“There was one point where the men were looking at this girl’s Instagram. I don’t know if they knew her. They were making comments on her appearance and it was just so uncomfortable.”

Male-dominated fields can be intimidating career paths to take but as inspiring women who take on these roles continue to do so, these fields are becoming more equal.

In 2022, the Women in Finance Charter report shows average senior female representation across Charter signatories increased to 35% and almost three quarters of signatories have increased their proportion of women in senior management.

“Where I work it is mostly men, I would say, and all three directors are male but I do have a female manager who is amazing. She’s a great communicator. She’s really friendly, really approachable. She’s like, iconic, love her. And then I’ve also got the lady that’s training me, she’s also amazing. So, I would say it’s mostly men, but there are signs of female leadership that I’m lucky enough to be under because I prefer it. I love a girl-on-girl environment.

“I definitely think more people should be told about being an apprentice and there should be a bigger push for women to consider them.”

Olivia’s main advice for other young women is “definitely ask if you get time to study because, mentally, it’s a lot when you’re working full time as well as studying. You have to make sure they’re giving you time to do both. “

She also emphasises the importance of hobbies and keeping time to do things you enjoy so you don’t become overwhelmed with work.

“I do yoga on a Monday and an art class on Tuesdays.”

Despite some of the challenges she’s faced being in a heavily male-occupied environment, she remains positive and is very happy with her decision to take the less common route of becoming a female apprentice. 

“It’s so rewarding. You get your qualification, you’re learning and earning at the same time. It’s hard in the beginning but it’s so worth it.

“I think girls should go into apprenticeships because we can! We are strong and hard workers. Women bring so much to the table and apprenticeships mean women can get ahead in their career and lift other women up.” 

To find out more about the inspirational women building huge success in other male-dominated industries, check out our story on women in construction.