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Women in accountancy – Get involved NOW

Women in Accountancy aims to drag the profession into the 21st century. Here’s why, and how you can help

The conference season has well and truly started, with many events being held up to the holiday season as well as, following a break for the summer, in the Autumn. With the exception of the Practice Evolution conference, one thing that was obvious from the published agendas was the lack of women speakers at these prestigious events targeted at accountants.

Why are women underrepresented as speakers?

It’s not clear as to why there are so few female speakers. There certainly seems to be enough willing volunteers out there. Isn’t it time that the organisers promoted positive gender equality and put equal numbers of male and female speakers on their programmes? Maybe it’s time to promote female only sessions, at such events like the recent Women in Accountancy Round Table session I chaired at Accountex Summit North. The session, the first of its kind at Accountex, was so well received that it was standing room only.

It’s all about balance

Accountancy is about balance and we should have exactly that with gender representation in the profession. At all levels – not just at entry level. This is the 21st century after all; we shouldn’t need to have to demand that as women. It should be a given. So is gender inequality a figment of my imagination or is it a fact?

Staggering pay gap

Accountancy Age recently reported a staggering gender pay gap of 21.5%, placing accountancy well above the national average gender pay gap of 18.4%. Men in accountancy earned an average of £66,646 while woman just £53,688. You don’t have to be an accountant to do the maths and arrive at the shocking difference of £12,958 a year.

Further details can be found at https://tinyurl.com/yb6lmp77.

That is just not acceptable; it’s something that the professional bodies should take ownership of and look to take action to close this gap down.

Bullies, misogynists and male chauvinists

What about the old boy networks of bullies, misogynists and male chauvinists that I experienced when I was training in the profession back in the 1980s? Do they still exist? Based upon my recent social media experiences with the Head of Tax at a top six firm of accountants, sadly I’d have to say that they do indeed.

Luckily I do not have to tolerate unacceptable behaviour and can simply block or ignore it when it happens, but my fear is that if this is how some males interact on social media what must it be like to work with or for them? What must it be like to be a female client? How much good talent is being overlooked and marginalised if a firm is ruled by old boy network bullies, misogynists and male chauvinist?

Glass ceiling

Referring again to the Women in Accountancy event I held at Accountex Summit North, the overwhelming view of those around the table was that women reach a glass ceiling within accountancy practices, especially the larger ones; a view supported by a quick view of the partner panels at the top flight accountancy firms in the UK. Spot the females partners.

Rather than push hard against the glass ceiling and break through it, women avoid the drama and hassle by pushing out on their own; not surprising if the glass ceiling is accompanied by misogynistic behaviour.

Flexible working

Setting out on their own gives the added advantage of flexible working, allowing those with childcare needs the opportunity to attend school events or work at home. Of course, the need for flexible working doesn’t just apply to women, but it still seems to be an uncommon working practice in accountancy. Staggering, given the positive advantages that this could bring to the employee, the employer and the client; not to mention the PR hype that such a move could generate.

‘High heel-gate’

But no, the accountancy profession is still stuck in an era where the supplier of staff to a major firm of accountants demands that the females wear high heels. Is it just a matter of time before we hear of a Harvey Weinstein-type scandal in the accountancy profession? Has one already happened and been covered up?

It’s not all bad

I’ve been in the accountancy profession for approaching 40 years now; I’ve seen good accountants and bad. I’ve worked with bullies, misogynists and male chauvinists (not for long, before I moved on elsewhere). I am one of those women who set out on their own so as not to be ruled by those without gender equality vision, who refer to women with an opinion as being a feminist or emotional.

Accountancy is an excellent career choice but there is still massive room for improvement in gender equality.

Both male and female accountants need to work together to improve gender equality in the profession, starting with addressing the pay gap and stamping out chauvinism at all levels. Partner boards need to be more balanced. Women need to be given the opportunity to speak with men listening very carefully; not only could they learn a lot, but they could be part of a better future.

For more on Women in Accountancy go to http://womeninaccountancy.com/

Tell us what you think by completing the Women in Accountancy Survey at https://tinyurl.com/y98oqhye

  • Elaine Clark is Managing Director of award-winning digital accountancy practice www.cheapaccounting.co.uk

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