Lord Davies said that in the next three to four years “there is going to be a transformation in the UK corporate landscape.” He pointed both to changing attitudes among younger people, and greater acceptance among leaders that diversity is a business issue.However, professions such as law and accountancy “really need to get their act together”, he said, warning that too many mid-career women “are leaving in droves”. Perhaps this is not surprising, said Brett Steenbarger in a Forbes article, given that we live in a world where women hold 14 per cent of corporate board seats and two of CEO positions. “Women perceive greater barriers to entrepreneurial capital than men; women also are less likely than men to select finance as a business concentration and instead seek family-friendly career fields,” he said. “Studies also find that women tend to be more risk averse than men and that the choice of risky financial careers is a function of testosterone levels and low levels of risk aversion. “This has helped create what one could call a ‘macho culture’ within the world of finance, in which stereotypical masculine sex-role behaviours are especially prized. This culture no doubt contributes to a situation in which finance accounts for six of the ten jobs with the greatest gaps of compensation between men and women.” However, finance chiefs believe opportunities are much greater for women to progress through finance than ten years ago. This is according to a survey of 200 UK finance professionals by Robert Half, which found that nine in ten believed that there were increased opportunities for women to secure executive board positions. Female finance chiefs are more positive than male FDs about the opportunities, with 67 per cent of women being positive about female finance career paths, compared to 61 per cent of men. Phil Sheridan, MD of Robert Half UK, said: “Creating a diverse talent pool should be at the top of the agenda for businesses, alongside attracting and retaining skilled professionals. Providing more career opportunities for women within finance will see a stronger talent network for business to draw upon. This will not only improve prospects for women, but for the economy as a whole.” Despite the positivity, other statistics show there is still plenty of work to do. The FRC’s “Key Facts and Trends Survey” highlighted that the total proportion of female members and students in the accountancy profession remained constant between 2010 and 2014 at around 50 per cent. Another study by Audeliss, released the same time as Lord Davies’ report, warned that the proportion of women non-executive directors in the FTSE 100 could drop to 26 per cent in the next 18 months. Commenting on the research, Helena Morrissey, founder of the 30% Club, said: “It’s so important that the improvement in women on boards seen over the past five years is sustained, and this new data is a timely reminder of the need to keep up the momentum and source more talented women who can serve on boards.” Concerned with issues surrounding gender diversity in business? Don’t miss Real Business’s First Women programme: Drawing on ten years of the First Women movement and the phenomenal network of pioneering women the Awards has created, this programme features The First Women Awards and The First Women Summit – designed to educate, mentor and inspire women in all levels of business.
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