Women in leadership – Emer O'Riordan, Partner, Audit & Assurance

To mark International Women’s Day 2024, we are featuring some of our female team in leadership roles.

We want to celebrate their achievements while also sharing some of the challenges they may have faced and any advice they would have for women starting their careers. This article features Emer O'Riordan, partner in our Audit & Assurance department.

Tell us a little bit about you and your career.

I studied Agricultural Science (Agribusiness) at UCD, followed by a Masters in Business Studies at UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School. My part-time job in college was in advertising telesales at Independent Newspapers (INM) and following my graduation I took a full-time role there for four years looking after B2B marketing to advertising clients. It was an exciting and fast-paced role, and my training ground in commercial business. INM had a strong coaching culture, and it was through this that I made the decision to study accounting and began sitting ACCA exams. My first finance role was as a finance assistant for a property development company in Edinburgh. It was a small finance team, so I was exposed to all aspects of day-to-day transactions and month-end close. With my ACCA exams completed, I joined Mazars in 2007 and became an audit partner in 2018. Together with my colleagues Lorcan Colclough and Jilly Harvey, we lead a team assisting a range of indigenous and international businesses, with my dominant areas being the retail and technology sectors. 

Is there anyone that inspires you in your career?

My aunt who worked in the newspaper industry in the US. I aspired to be as independent and career-driven as her as I grew up. I am also inspired by many women who are successful in our sector and find working with the professional services group of the 30% Club both thought-provoking and rewarding. I have always felt very supported at Mazars, and my progression here has been due to the sponsorship, mentoring and belief shown to me by peers and colleagues, as well as the merit of my work. 

What does International Women’s Day mean to you? Why do you think it is important to celebrate International Women’s Day?

I have participated in many International Women’s Day events over the years, and I take away something from each one. It is an opportunity to share experiences and it is reassuring to know how others have faced the same challenges that we all share. 

The theme for IWD 2024 is ‘Inspire Inclusion’. What does that theme mean to you?

I believe that inclusion is a key factor for success in business. Our understanding of how the world operates is influenced by our individual lived experiences, which shape our perspectives. We all have a responsibility to acquire the skills to manage how these impact us individually and collectively. 

How have you built confidence and/or resilience in your career? Do you have any practical tips you can share?

I have high expectations for myself in my career that I rarely intuitively feel I am meeting. Instead, I rely on reflecting on more data-driven assessments and acknowledging and celebrating my progress to build confidence. Keeping perspective on setbacks and learning from mistakes help to build resilience. 

Have you faced any barriers in your career due to being a woman? If so, how did you overcome them?

While I have not faced any barriers in my career from an organisational or opportunity perspective, sometimes I feel that I am not doing as well as I should in one of the many roles I have in life. I monitor, listen and constantly recalibrate the balance of where my attention and energy are focussed to ensure I keep all of the plates spinning.

Why do you think diversity in the workplace is so important?

Diversity in the workplace fosters creativity leading to better performance. It also has an important role in mitigating risks that arise from groupthink. The data supporting this is well-documented. The focus needs to remain on the actual experience of women in the workplace rather than assuming well-intentioned initiatives will have the desired outcomes.  

What is the most important message you want to send out to young women thinking about their careers?

Surround yourself with people who respect you, look out for you, and where you feel you belong.