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Sarah Hillary

Partner, Digital and Risk Advisory Services at BDO UK LLP

Accounting is a career that has a number of routes to inclusion. One accountant shares her experiences of working in the industry and the importance of diversity and inclusion.

Sarah Hillary is a partner at accountancy firm BDO, sits on the firm’s culture board and is on a mission to improve socio-economic diversity in the professional and financial services sectors through her role on the City of London Socio-Economic Diversity Taskforce.

Sarah was raised outside of the UK and after being inspired by a teacher at the age of 14, realised she wanted to explore a career in accountancy. Despite it not being offered as a subject in her school at the time, a new teacher held extra lessons for a small group of students.

After completing her A-levels Sarah moved to the UK, discovering she could do a one-year foundation course instead of a university degree. Sarah joined an accountancy firm in a cohort of 25 trainees and undertook at four-year apprenticeship to qualify as an accountant. Within her cohort Sarah was the youngest by two years and the only person not to have a university degree.

Accountancy is just one of many industries where you can have an incredibly successful career without having to go to university.

Passion for inclusivity

Reflecting on her own career journey, both in accountancy firms and spending time running her own business has led to a real passion for improving social mobility and equality, diversity and inclusion within accountancy and wider business.

She says: “We know that the UK has low social mobility and this needs to change. It shouldn’t be the case that your start in life determines where you end up. As a profession, we want to ensure that everyone can be themselves and achieve their career ambitions, no matter what their background.

Alternatives to university

“Accountancy is just one of many industries where you can have an incredibly successful career without having to go to university, which for many isn’t financially viable. We employ over 700 trainees every year and each individual brings something unique to the company.”

“An apprenticeship here offers the chance to ‘earn while you learn’ and we have 17 office locations throughout the UK as well as an agile-working policy, so a career with us doesn’t necessarily mean having to re-locate.”

As part of a commitment to improve social mobility, BDO has developed its Explore BDO, a programme designed to help young people get a head start and find out more about the world of accounting.

The Explore BDO Virtual Insight Week is for students in Years 10-13 who attend a state school and whose parental occupation places them within our social mobility criteria.

Find out more at

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