Kim Watty is Professor of Accounting and Deputy Dean in the Faculty of Business and Law at Deakin University.
She is internationally recognised for her research and publications on accounting education.
She has made substantial contributions to the development of both research and practice in teaching and learning at a number of universities in Australia, and advises in these areas to professional accountancy associations in Australia and NZ.
My research area is accounting education, primarily graduate attributes, assessment, technology, and quality in standards. My PhD looked what key stakeholders thought about the quality of education in accounting. I've been looking at graduate attributes for sixteen years and now it's become popular as it's linked to employability.
I’ve done research around what academics really think about quality and standards. In my survey of academics, they thought standards were diminishing, but the policy makers disagreed. There is a dissonance between these two camps, which I wrote about.
I did ten years in industry and came into the academic sector part time when I was pregnant. I did a master's degree, then went to full time. After my PhD I stayed in the sector really for the flexibility.
Achievements and Challenges
One of my proudest moments was when my children were young. My head of department at RMIT said to put a paper in to a conference in Cardiff. I put it in, and it was accepted. It took me two days to get there. I slept for three nights and I came home. But I couldn't have cared less. It was my first internationally accepted paper and I was so excited.
Another proud moment was being a primary speaker at the British Academy of Finance Associations teaching and learning group in Belfast. That was pretty cool, because I'd seen people present and you never think you're quite in that grade. I worked so hard and it was a very strong presentation. I got lots of positive feedback from that.
A further achievement has been securing grant money—from my university, as well as internationally competitive funding. Getting research income is hard work; you have to deliver to get a track record. Once you get a bit of a reputation you can actually be more highly considered. Getting that reputation is difficult though.
The other thing I’m proud of is mentoring. I feel I've been quite good at bringing newer academics along with me. I've not had a mentor, although I feel maybe I could or should have. I've taken leadership courses and I’ve had very strong female leaders at RMIT, Deakin and Melbourne. So I have observed females in strong leadership positions first hand. I think that had an influence, seeing what worked and what didn't work.
It’s been challenging for my research to not always be held in the same regard or respect that pure discipline research is. I did think my challenge was to ensure that it was recognised and valued appropriately. When I think back, I was crazy! I should have just done what many other people do—do the research and let it talk for itself.
Working in teams can be challenging. I think I'm quite good as a team leader: I'm respectful of others and I learn from them. I have no problem saying, "I don't know about this. Can you tell me?". But I'm not terribly patient with people who don't deliver. So working in teams can be challenging.
Impact and Legacy
Everything I do is about improving the student learning experience. It's difficult to measure impact though. Nice things happen—someone comes to a conference and says, "Kim, I saw your presentation and I've tried that and it seems to be working." That’s impact, absolutely. Is it captured well? Not really. But those anecdotal stories are important. I also think impact for me has a bit to do with flying the flag so that others who have an interest in this research area see that there is a path forward.
In ten years I hope my legacy will be my conviction to develop myself as a leader in accounting education nationally and globally when it wasn't sexy to be in accounting education. I've kept the flag flying when it wasn't getting a lot of love. So it's about leading in accounting education, sticking to your guns, but also being a role model for other junior female academics.
Advice to Younger Women
I can remember when I was a young academic, someone saying, "You know you're a researcher when you've got one article ready for publication, one article to revise and resubmit, one article that you're almost ready to submit, and two articles in the drawer." And I thought, "I am never going to be there." But I am!
If the commitment and passion is there, it will work for you. But it is tough. In research, you've got to be committed. To my younger self I’d say, you will never convince someone of the value of education research, but it is vital work and your results will speak for themselves. Don't stress about it. Don't justify yourself. Spend less time trying to convince others of your worth and just let your work speak for itself. Sometimes you need to give it a nudge though. It doesn't hurt to give someone a reminder!