Ethel's father bought her a comptometer, the first commercially successful key driven mechanical calculator, for £5.00 from somewhere on Cheetham Hill Road. She attended a comptometer training school run by Felt & Tarrant on Quay Street, Manchester on Saturdays at the age of 13.
On leaving school she started work as Comptometer Operator No 3 at Thomas Manning & Sons, jute manufacturers on Canal Street, Manchester. After a while she found the work boring and asked to become the managing director's secretary, which she was by the age of 18 and had been promoted to Comptometer Operator No 2 she used an electric machine which was quicker to operate than the mechanical one.
After 14 years at the same company she went to work for several other small companies, working on accounts and databases, with the introduction of computers. She was eventually made redundant after which she went to work for the Citizens Advice Bureau.