Breaking the accountancy glass ceiling

We also support women and men who have taken career breaks to come back into work with professional update days, for example. And the firms have led the way by encouraging their people to return to work, addressing their working culture to make it more family-friendly, and offering flexible and part time working to both men and women; and perhaps by not insisting on overseas placements before awarding promotions

Leadership development can help improve the pipeline of women

The biggest issue seems to be fostering the pipeline of female talent and encouraging recruitment firms to look beyond the usual suspects.

In January, the proportion of women on FTSE 100 boards topped 20 per cent for the first time, and the UK government wants that to rise to 25 per cent female membership by 2015. However, while at the top levels of business now you find increasing numbers of female Non Executive Directors, you still won’t find so many Executive Directors, who have more powers and are better paid.

Thats a problem weve tried to tackle through leadership training for women focused programmes where women are mentored for top-level positions and work on their people management and leadership skills. Programmes like Women in Leadership which targets women between one and three stages away from board level – have attracted some of the top talent in the profession as mentors, who are keen to give something back. We also ensure that on our general leadership programmes we emphasise the importance and benefits of leaders encouraging diversity part of being a great leader is ensuring your have a diverse team who can progress their careers to become leaders in the future.

Its a tough message, but women must also help themselves

The fact is that change is afoot but ultimately you have to help yourself and recognise what you need to do to progress in your career. That means recognising your strengths and building on them inside and outside work. But it also means putting yourself forward, and not waiting to be recognised. You need to tell people about your ambitions and network with those with the power to promote you and take on projects that widen your breadth of experience even if they dont lead immediately to a promotion. My path to director was not straight up; I took on more and more responsibilities at each level of my career to ensure I had the breadth of experience needed to lead a diverse team.

I believe it is an excellent time to be a woman in the workplace, and to be a woman in the accountancy profession. And I think we all need to think about the next generation and how we can help them come up.

From my experience having become an Executive Director after ten years working at ICAEW, I know about the pressures of working at this level. So I have a very positive attitude to mentoring women here. In my experience most women who have succeeded in making the transition to leadership roles give their time generously.

ICAEW will be sponsoring the First Women Awards 2014 at the London Marriott Hotel, Grosvenor Square on June 12, 2014.

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