Breaking the accountancy glass ceiling

When I started out in Chartered Accountancy 25 years ago, it was rare to see high-ranking women in the profession. Thats no longer the case but weve still got some way to go before we really break the accountancy glass ceiling.

Accountancy is not a mans world

At ICAEW we think theres a strong economic case for recognising and retaining the best talent, whether male or female, and from whatever background because those are the people who will lead the profession to new heights, enabling it do what it does best, helping organisations succeed and grow sustainably. In fact, the kinds of interpersonal skills and communications skills that you need are often seen as typically female (for all that I dont believe in those kinds of labels).

So where are we at and how can we help women break through

Today the gender pay gap is narrower for the under 30s, but it grows after that in the critical years when accountants reach partnership, senior management and board positions.

The fact is that more and more women are determined to make it to the top of the accountancy sector, and they are frustrated by the pay gap and by their prospects. Businesses need to recognise their talent and ambition and make the changes that will help working women succeed. And at the same time, women need to step up to make sure they are noticed.

What is the accountancy profession doing to support women

At ICAEW, as a professional body weve been working with our members and with major employers to attract women into the profession, and then to make it easier for women to stay in the profession and reach the top.

We think were getting somewhere because today about 40 per cent of those coming onto the profession are women but of course wed like to see a 50:50 split.

So how have we improved things

One thing is quite subtle, and it’s actually about recruiting the right people, whatever their gender and encouraging diversity in backgrounds by widening routes to the profession. In careers’ sessions for students and young people we talk about the ethical foundations of the profession, and why this is important in all sectors; and the ACAs flexibility as a qualification, where you can work in business, in practice, or self-employed. This is a change of emphasis.

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