Celebrating 100 Years of Women in Chartered Accountancy: The Story of the First Home Grown ACA in Vietnam

icaew 100 years women in chartered accountancy

Chartered accountancy is a recognised profession that can open doors to endless opportunities in different sectors and careers anywhere in the world. Although the profession today is incredibly inclusive and diverse, this was not always the case.

Until 1920, women could not become ICAEW Chartered Accountants and, even after admission was opened up, they continued to face discrimination and gender bias. However, the first female chartered accountants were pioneering women who pushed boundaries, challenged assumptions, and continually exceeded expectations. In fact, women now account for under a third of ICAEW’s overall membership, with the gender balance 50:50 for those entering the profession today.

In May 2020, ICAEW marked a pivotal moment in their advancement of access to the profession – the 100th anniversary of the first female ICAEW chartered accountant, Mary Harris Smith. Having achieved this in May 1920 when ICAEW accepted her application to join as a fellow, Mary’s story is truly an inspiration to all women across the globe. In fact, this was not her first application and, at the advanced age of 75, one has to admire her tenacity in reapplying once it was clear that ICAEW could not refuse her again after the passing of The Sex Disqualification (Removal) 1919 Act. Her determination was consistent with her belief as she was acting not only for herself, but for all women. Ultimately, she based her request on the grounds of ‘admission equal, and status equal with male members’.

To commemorate ICAEW’s historical milestone and in celebration of female chartered accoutnants, this article features the first homegrown ACA in Vietnam, Mai Thi Hong Nhung, who completed the entire ACA journey in Vietnam.


icaew sea nhung deloitte vietnam

The Decision to Embark on the ACA Journey

Nhung began her ACA journey over four years ago, just a few months after ICAEW set up its office in Hanoi. Unsurprisingly, she is also one of the recipients of the ICAEW CFAB scholarship back in 2014. The scholarship was presented by The Lord Mayor of London Alderman Fiona Woolf during her visit to Hanoi.

As a fresh graduate pursuing a career in audit back then, she had no hesitation to pursue the ACA as she believed that the qualification will help her stand out from the crowd. Today, Nhung is working with Deloitte Vietnam, where she has the opportunity to apply the knowledge acquired from her studies and expand her global network.

Ultimately, she chose the ACA qualification due to its international recognition and prestige of being one of the most respected in the accountancy and business field.


Being Empowered to Build a Truly International Career

Nhung believes that the ACA qualification provides her the recognition needed to demonstrate her professional capabilities to not only her employer,, but also her colleagues and peers.. The experience gained from her ACA journey has also empowered her with the confidence to strive for greater heights and compete for better career opportunities.

In fact, towards the end of her ACA journey, Nhung was able able to secure an 8-month secondment in Deloitte Singapore, as part of the training agreement offered by Deloitte before returning to Vietnam to assume the role of an auditor. This marked the start of her international career, opening doors to more global opportunities in the future.


Words of Wisdom & Advice for Aspiring Chartered Accountants

‘What I deserve to receive depends on what I am willing to pay’ has been Nhung’s motto throughout her ACA journey.

Her advice for aspiring ACA students is, ‘If you do not prepare yourselves to achieve international standards, you will always be one step behind. Why not be at the front?’


Ready to Embark on an Exciting Journey to a Truly Global Career like Nhung’s? Learn about the ICAEW ACA and How to Apply!

If you’re considering kick-starting an exciting career journey with the ICAEW ACA to realise your professional career aspirations, contact ICAEW South-East Asia via:

It’s worth noting that you don’t need an accounting background to study the ICAEW ACA.


Related: ICAEW South-East Asia Celebrates 10th Anniversary With Significant Milestones


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