For years, decades even, there has been much conversation, research, analysis, and even frustration about gender equity in the workplace. Although there has been some progress in closing the pay gap and an increase (although slight) of women in the C-suite, there still seems to be a long way to go, particularly with women in finance and accounting.
According to one study, women make up more than half (60.6 percent) of all accountants and auditors in the U.S. and 51 percent of full-time staff at CPA firms. Sadly, only 24 percent of partners or principals are women.1
It’s not for lack of awareness. According to the 2017 World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report, “Female talent remains one of the most underutilized business resources.” In some industries, like finance, this is especially clear.2
This tells us that the majority of women in accounting and finance are remaining in entry-level or mid-management positions. In this blog series, we’ll take a look at a couple of the more visible and popular attempts that companies are making to bridge the gender gap, where efforts may be falling short, and how women can get noticed as a finance or accounting leader by adding strategic value.
By all indications most companies today, financial firms included, have the best intentions when it comes to improving gender balance among their senior executives. They typically start with “women-friendly” programs, such as flexible hours, parental leave, and mentorship. But while flextime and alternative work schedule programs are great benefits for retention and recruitment, they are just that—benefits. And while enabling employees to balance their personal and professional lives is important, it is not a substitute for grooming future leaders through leadership development training, sponsorship, and removing professional roadblocks to the advancement of women.3
There’s more. According to Jaenkle and St. Onge in a Harvard Business Review article, even benefits combined with a comprehensive leadership development program “do not fully address the underlying problem of unconscious biases, expectations, and practices of organizational cultures, which have been created by predominantly male executives over decades. Getting middle and senior management to recognize their biases is the most important first step toward reforming a corporate culture that disadvantages women.”4
What initiatives might senior leaders adopt to help guide the advancement of women in finance? We have a few ideas that we’ll present in Part 2 of this blog series. Here’s a hint: Leveraging financial technology, business analytics, and accounts payable (AP) / accounts receivable (AR) automation tools.
1Quick Take: Women in Accounting, Catalyst Research, Published May 9, 2019, retrieved June 18,n 2019 https://www.catalyst.org/research/women-in-accounting/
2Five Things You Need To Know About Women In Finance, Forbes Councils Contributor Forbes Marketplace. Published June 5, 2018. Retrieved June 18, 2019 https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesmarketplace/2018/06/05/5-things-you-need-to-know-about-women-in-finance/#6868bce44e77
3El-Ramley, Y. Six mistakes to avoid with women’s initiatives programs, Journal of Accountancy. Published Oct 30, 2017. Retrieved June 18, 2019.
4Jaekel, A., St-Onge, E, Why Women Aren’t Making It to the Top of Financial Services Firms, Harvard Business Review online. Published Oct 25, 2016. Retrieved June 18, 2019.