Women have been breaking the glass ceiling in the accounting industry for decades and the cracks are starting to show. Today, more than 50% of accountants in Australia are women. According to CPA Australia, smart and determined women have “fought a winning battle” to be recognized as professional accountants, with the number of female members more than doubling from 22% in 1994 to 49% in 2018.
What helped women get into accounting and progress?
- A culture change in accounting firms
Over the past decade, concerted efforts have been made to address diversity and inclusion issues in the accounting and finance industry. Many companies have formally reviewed their hiring practices and workplace cultures to attract and retain more women.
There have also been local efforts to engage young girls in finance and financial services, such as F3, a program designed to encourage young women to join the financial services industry and create generational change.
- The ability to carve out a career
More and more women are realizing the benefits of a career in accounting, with opportunities to work in different industries and the ability to pursue a more entrepreneurial approach to their careers. Some women have used accounting as a springboard to start their own business, aligned with their goals and values.
Take, for example, Karla Hourigan, winner of Ignition’s Top 50 Women in Accounting. After working in the field for nine years, Ms. Hourigan then co-founded MAD Wealth, which provides accounting services to companies that make a positive change in the world.
With the rise in demand for accountants, there are more secure and competitive opportunities for women to chart their own career paths with confidence.
- The rise of flexible working
Even before the pandemic, many companies were embracing flexible working arrangements thanks to increasing investments in automation and communication technologies. Today, with a greater demand for flexibility and an ongoing shortage of talent, accountants have more bargaining power over where and when they work.
For many women, a culture of flexibility allowed them to balance work and caring responsibilities.
Have things changed fast enough to achieve equity?
In short, no.
Despite so many women joining the profession, we have yet to see equal representation at management level, with women holding just 32.5% of management positions in Australian accountancy firms.
Today, male accountants earn an average of $50,000 a year in Australia compared to their female colleagues.
One of the reasons is that women put their careers on hold to have children and are estranged from their colleagues when they return to work. In many cases, women decide to return part-time (or not at all) due to rising childcare costs.
Greater diversity and inclusion does not happen overnight; Accounting firms should prioritize the hiring, support and promotion of women in leadership and leadership positions. There is also a growing business case for diversity, with more diverse companies reporting increased profitability, productivity and innovation.
Some Areas of Concentration
- Start at the hiring stage
There is still room for improvement to attract female talent. Leaders should start at the hiring stage and work closely with their HR teams, hiring managers or recruiting partners to communicate their workforce diversity goals and plans and implement implementing impartial recruitment practices.
This can be done through various sourcing channels, such as industry associations, and ensuring there is minority representation on the recruitment team to build and assess a pool of candidates. .
It’s also important to remove any subtle sexist or biased terms from job postings that might deter women from applying.
- Building fair and flexible working conditions
While remote or hybrid working arrangements have many advantages, they can also have disadvantages if not managed properly. For example, the formation of “insiders” and “outsiders” groups (those who choose to work from home versus those who work in the office), decreased work/life balance and increased burnout professional.
It is important to ensure that there are clear policies that encourage men and women to work flexibly, and appropriate processes in place to track career advancement, promotion and salary increases in order to ensure fairness.
- Provide parental leave support
Women who interrupt their career to have children should be able to return to work without fear of being penalized. Companies should prioritize policies and practices to help these women re-enter the workforce smoothly, including childcare support to ease stress or offer paid parental leave to promote caregiving. shared.
Deloitte, for example, offers 18 weeks of paid leave to new parents, regardless of gender. This leave can be taken over a period of three years to meet the unique needs of each family.
In addition, parents who return to work receive additional child support for a period of 12 months and will also have their performance goals revised to better support their return to the office.
We are at a major turning point in the accounting and finance industry, with more women entering and progressing in the profession. But there is still work to be done. By creating flexible, inclusive and equitable policies and processes, we can pave the way for the next generation of women leaders.
Francesca Deery, Global Vice President of People and Culture at Ignition