Smashing the glass ceiling: a CPA's challenge

Jodie Matthews CPA is a financial manager with UGL's $350 million engineering operations in Australia

Jodie Matthews is no cookie-cutter accountant. She's a trailblazer intent on breaking more than a few glass ceilings.

“I’m a different kind of accountant,” declares 33-year-old Jodie Matthews CPA. Not only does she work in the male-dominated engineering and construction sector, she mentors undergraduates, accounting associates completing the CPA Program and, outside work, female entrepreneurs.

A financial manager with UGL’s A$350 million engineering operations in Australia, she wants to increase diversity in all businesses, “because right now we don’t have that many women at the top. It doesn’t reflect [well] on society, on business, to be so skewed one way. 

“I’m passionate about empowering women and helping them to shine and not be afraid to be themselves. That’s probably the biggest lesson I’ve learned working in this kind of business, especially as an accountant. There’s a way that you think that you are supposed to act, but it wasn’t until I hit 30 that I realised I can actually be myself and people will accept me.” 

“... it wasn’t until I hit 30 that I realised I can actually be myself and people will accept me.”

Matthews started in UGL’s treasury 12 years ago, managing 30-odd bank accounts and foreign exchange, and going to lunchtime lectures at the nearby Australian Catholic University in North Sydney. She combined full-time work with part-time study, and graduated with a Bachelor of Business, majoring in accounting.

Straight after graduation she started the CPA Program with a couple of close friends. “We’d all meet up and study on the weekends; it really helped to have other people supporting me.”

Professional Development: Essential mentoring techniques - mentoring fundamentals: Review the objectives of mentoring programs and the benefits offered to employees, mentors, and the organisation as a whole.

After her stint in treasury, Matthews moved into project management working on water treatment businesses up and down the east coast of Australia. “It’s quite tough and different to normal accounting roles,” she explains. 

“We are a lot more involved in understanding how these projects are built, what’s actually happening on the job.” That was the fun part. The not-so-fun bit was the sometimes hairy journeys to remote destinations on tiny planes.

“Now, that’s probably the scariest part of the role,” Matthews confesses.

Back in UGL’s head office, Matthews is enthusiastic about working on renewables, including solar projects in Western Australia and Far North Queensland, and may look to an executive role sometime in the future. UGL has already stepped up, providing paid executive mentoring. “It’s exciting,” she says. 

One piece of advice

“Believe in yourself. If you don’t, no one else will. When I’m mentoring young undergrads who are finishing uni, I find they lack confidence.

Obviously they haven’t had a full-time job and don’t really know their own worth. They’re nervous. I help them to be confident in their abilities. If you walk in and really own your worth, then other people will value you.”

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