As the accounting profession continues to evolve and become more diverse, the advancement of women in accounting has become a major focus. According to the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), women account for approximately 46% of all accountants and auditors in the UK. However, despite this progress, there is still work to be done to address issues such as the gender pay gap and the underrepresentation of women in leadership roles across accounting firms worldwide.
The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) is one of the organisations actively working to promote gender equality in the UK accounting profession. The ICAEW has launched several initiatives aimed at advancing female accountants, including the Women in Leadership Community, which provides networking and mentoring opportunities, as well as a Women in Leadership Programme that offers leadership development to female chartered accountants. The ICAEW has also called on firms to conduct gender pay gap reporting, which has been mandatory in the UK since 2017, in order to address disparities and promote greater gender equality.
Professional organisations play a critical role in supporting the advancement of women in accounting. These organisations provide networking opportunities, professional development resources, and other support for female professionals in the field. One example is the Financial Women’s Alliance (FWA), which has chapters across the United States in New York, California, and Las Vegas. The FWA provides opportunities for networking, mentorship, and professional development for women in accounting, financial management, and other related fields.
The Accounting & Financial Women’s Alliance (AFWA) is another organisation that supports women in accounting. The AFWA provides networking opportunities, professional development resources, and scholarships to women in accounting and finance. In addition, the AFWA hosts an annual conference that brings together women in accounting and finance from around the world.
Globally, women make up a significant percentage of accountants and auditors. Statistics gathered from the 2020 Accountancy Age “Top 50+50” survey demonstrate that nearly half of all qualified accountants were female (45.47%). Yet just 1/5 of women were positioned in senior roles within the sector.
This highlights the need for addressing gender inequality in the accounting profession on a global scale. Women make up a nearly half of the accounting workforce, yet they continue to face challenges such as the gender pay gap and underrepresentation in leadership roles.
In recent years, women have made significant contributions to the accounting profession. In 2019, Elizabeth Smith became the first woman to lead the AICPA as Chair of the Board of Directors. Smith has been a vocal advocate for women in accounting and has worked to promote diversity and inclusion in the profession.
Similarly, in 2017, Cathy Engelbert became the first woman CEO of a major accounting firm when she was appointed CEO of Deloitte. Engelbert has been a vocal advocate for work-life balance and has worked to promote gender equality in the accounting profession.
Despite the progress made in recent years, women accountants still face significant challenges. The gender pay gap remains a persistent issue, with women earning less than their male counterparts on average. According to the AICPA’s CPA Firm Gender Survey, women make up only 24% of partners in CPA firms.
Work-life balance is another challenge that women in accounting face. Many women struggle to balance their careers with family responsibilities, which can make it difficult to advance in the profession. Retention is also an issue, with many women leaving the profession early in their careers due to the challenges they face.
Understanding and addressing the unique needs of both men and women in the accounting profession is crucial for promoting gender equality. In addition to providing maternity leave, competitive pay, and childcare support, other relevant measures should also be considered. These may include flexible work arrangements, mentorship programs tailored to women’s needs, and unconscious bias training for all employees. Encouraging a culture of open communication and support can help identify and address the specific challenges faced by women in accounting. By adopting a comprehensive approach, companies can create an inclusive environment that not only empowers women but also enhances overall productivity and success in the accounting industry.
Resilience is the ability to bounce back from adversity and maintain a positive outlook despite challenges. It is an essential skill for powerful women in accountancy, who face a range of obstacles in their professional lives. Here are some strategies that can help build resilience:
- Build a support network: Surround yourself with positive and supportive people who can provide encouragement and offer a different perspective when you’re facing challenges.
- Take care of yourself: Maintaining good physical and mental health is essential for building resilience. Make time for self-care activities, such as exercise, meditation, or spending time with loved ones.
- Stay focused on your goals: Setting goals and staying focused on them can help you stay motivated and positive, even when faced with setbacks or obstacles.
- Develop a growth mindset: Embrace challenges and view them as opportunities for growth and learning. Instead of being discouraged by setbacks, use them as opportunities to learn and develop new skills.
- Seek out professional development opportunities: Continuously improving your skills and knowledge can help you stay competitive and adaptable in the ever-changing accounting field.
By implementing these strategies, women in accountancy can develop greater resilience, enabling them to navigate the challenges of their profession with greater confidence and success.
It’s not just down to the role of professional organisations, accounting awards, and influential women themselves to advocate for equality and female empowerment in the financial industry. Accountants and auditors play a crucial role in promoting positive change for gender equality and supporting the advancement of women in accounting.
Here are some ways that accountants and auditors can help support the advancement of women in accounting:
- Promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace
- Support women’s initiatives, career opportunities, and professional development programs
- Advocate for gender diversity in leadership positions
- Conduct regular gender pay equity analyses and take action to address disparities
- Provide flexible work arrangements and other benefits to promote work-life balance for women in accounting.
Despite the challenges, promoting gender diversity in accounting does have a greatly positive impact on the profession. Studies have shown that companies with diverse leadership teams are more innovative and have better business performance. In addition, promoting gender diversity can help to attract and retain top talent and promote a more inclusive and welcoming workplace culture.
Networking and mentorship are essential components of any profession, and they are particularly important in the accounting field. Professional networks provide opportunities for women to connect with others, exchange ideas, and build valuable relationships that can help them to succeed in their roles.
Mentorship programs can also help women in accounting to navigate the challenges they face and advance in their careers. The AICPA offers several mentorship programs for women in accounting, including the Women’s Global Leadership Summit, which brings together female professionals from around the world to share their experiences and perspectives.
In addition to these formal programs, there are many informal networking and mentorship opportunities available to women in accounting. Women’s networking groups, such as the FWA and AFWA, provide opportunities for women to connect with others in their field and build valuable relationships. Women’s mentorship programs, such as those offered by the AICPA, provide opportunities for women to connect with experienced professionals who can offer guidance and support.
Education and certification are important components of advancing in the accounting profession. A University Degree in accounting is often required for entry-level positions, and many accountants pursue advanced degrees or certifications to enhance their career prospects.
Association of Chartered Certified Accountants ACCA credential is the most widely recognised accounting certificate in the UK. In order to become a ACCA, individuals must meet education and experience requirements and pass a rigorous exam.
The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) is another credential that is recognised in the accounting profession. CIMA is a global organisation that offers certification in management accounting and related fields.
Despite the progress that has been made in recent years, promoting gender equality in accounting is an ongoing challenge. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants AICPA and other organisations are actively working to address these challenges by promoting women’s initiatives, providing networking and mentorship opportunities, and advocating for gender diversity in the public accountant profession.
One key area of focus is addressing the gender pay gap. The AICPA has called on CPA firms to conduct regular gender pay equity analyses and to take action to address any disparities that are identified. In addition, the AICPA has urged CPA firms to provide flexible work arrangements and other benefits that can help to promote work-life balance for women in accounting.
Another area of focus is increasing the representation of women in leadership roles. The AICPA has called on CPA firms to set goals for increasing the representation of women in leadership positions and to provide training and development opportunities to help women advance in their careers.
The accounting profession has made significant progress in promoting gender equality in recent years. However, there is still work to be done to address issues such as the gender pay gap, the underrepresentation of women in leadership roles, and the challenges that women face in balancing their careers and family responsibilities.
Professional organisations such as the ACCA, AICPA, FWA, and AFWA play a critical role in supporting the advancement of women in accounting by providing networking and mentorship opportunities, promoting women’s initiatives, and advocating for gender diversity in the profession across the globe.
By working together, we can promote a more inclusive and diverse accounting profession that benefits everyone.