ACCA member, Sarah Pumfrett ACCA member, Sarah Pumfrett

"It is absolutely essential that career opportunities are available to people regardless of their social background. It is talent that should determine opportunity not the accident of birth.

The main barrier that people face when accessing career opportunities is knowledge about the career in question; the disadvantages and advantages, challenges and opportunities entailed.  

I am convinced that ACCA is open compared to other accountancy qualifications. For instance look at ACCA-X, an online learning programme designed to support learners everywhere interested in accountancy and business.

My own experience underlines how ACCA works. From the age of 16 I worked in a variety of jobs until aged 27 I got a job as an internal audit clerk. Even then the route to studying ACCA wasn’t straightforward. I chose to study ACCA because of a determination to prove my boss wrong as he thought I had too much on and would not cope with the course and exams.

It was a struggle at times but eventually I scraped through. It helps others to realise that an exam failure is not the end of the world. It’s how you dig in and bounce back from it that counts.

And in bouncing back I found that ACCA opened many doors. Shortly before becoming an ACCA I switched from a local authority to work in industry working across Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Europe and the Americas as a senior internal auditor in the oil industry. After over a decade with the multinationals I switched again, this time into practice.

Despite my career success, I still see that there are problem areas that professionals from different backgrounds continue to face. Some industries still behave as a 'closed shop'. There is still a long way to go before people are appointed based on what they know and are capable of, as opposed to who they know.

We have seen some progress in social equality over the last 30 years particularly in the drive for more university access across society. As well, compared to when I was leaving full time education, there are better entry points into organisations for non-graduates, such as apprenticeships for school leavers. 

Gaining gender equality is more difficult. More women are now in traditionally male dominated professions than in the past. But a lack of parity exists in pay, conditions and treatment even in the so called blue-chip organisations. 

To continue social mobility progress I would like to see ACCA provide scholarships for those from the poorest backgrounds – refugees and third world talent. In doing so, we will encourage talented ambassadors who will be well placed to help rebuild societies and countries of the future thus leaving a legacy for the profession and the generations to come.

It is an ambitious vision but I believe ACCA can improve access to opportunities by encouraging talent to surface and putting something back into their communities through corporate and individual social responsibility."