Empowering and Encouraging Women in Finance: an interview with Sue Murray Johnson of The Family and Childcare Trust
What do you do?
I am the Director of Finance and Resources at the Family and Childcare Trust but I have held similar roles within a range of charities. The roles in each charity have varied according to the priorities and issues affecting each one. In this role, as a new charity the development of financial systems has been pivotal but in others I have managed the finance teams whilst dealing with broader organisational development matters.
How did you get into this?
By accident, and by not being scared of numbers! I graduated in Environmental Sciences with a particular interest in environmental hazards (floods, earthquakes, volcanoes) and joined the voluntary sector in an overseas development role. My first task was to organise a shipment of water purification tablets to Bangladesh. It became clear in that role, and in later ones, that I was quite happy to manage budgets and ensure that reports were submitted on time. This became a key part of later roles. I took a management role in my early thirties in a charity that had to rapidly modernise their financial management processes and I introduced Sage accounts to the charity. Within a year I was producing the year end accounts. My training was very much “hands on” and under the guidance of the charity’s auditor. Since then, I have held director-level finance and general management roles in three national charities.
Can you explain a typical day?
Not really, and that is part of the attraction. My recent jobs have all included line management and membership of the senior management team, so there are responsibilities that go alongside the substantive elements of my role. My tasks over the past week have included writing Board papers, dealing with banking issues, resolving a collapse of the telephone system and reviewing the risk register. I enjoy working in a medium-sized charity where it is important to be both operational and strategic.
From your experience, would you say it’s a good job for a woman?
In general, yes. In a financial management role there is an element of routine (despite what I said above) in that month-end, year-end, VAT returns and audits are regular events. This means that key elements of the role can be planned in advance. From a personal point of view, I have benefitted from working for some very flexible employees and have had a range of part-time arrangements in place, alongside the ability to work from home.
What advice would you give to someone entering the profession?
I think that for finance personnel in the voluntary sector it is important to have an understanding of and empathy with the work of the wider organisation. Communication skills and getting involved in the charity will enhance the experience of being in the finance team.
Best financial advice for any woman?
Budget, and keep a track of expenditure.