A repeat of Sex and the City

Not that Sex and the City. A briefly fashionable TV programme has given way to a more traditional kind: sexism in the Square Mile.

In the wake of a number of high profile tribunal cases that involved women being paid a lot less than their male colleagues despite holding down similar jobs, employment lawyers have been queuing up to condemn corporate London’s beating heart. Painting a picture of the City as a place where unreconstructed sexism flourishes, one lawyer complained to the Independent about male City-workers.

‘They make disgusting remarks to each other,’ she said, ‘down-load disgusting pornography and then e-mail filthy messages around the office.’

Hopefully the accountancy profession isn’t that bad. And it’s certainly true that the world of merchant banking is an altogether more macho place.

But accountancy does have its own problems too. These days there are more female members of the main accountancy institutes than ever before. But while as many as one in four qualified accountants are now female, it is a number that has not expanded significantly for a number of years.

And then there is the thorny issue of pay. Last month’s Accountancy Age / Robert Half careers survey showed that while there has been progress, there is still a long way to go.

In terms of positive examples a male FD, on average, earns £55,965 but female FDs average £58,750 a year. And while female partners earn £50,714 a year, male partners earn £46,477.

It’s not all one way traffic. And where the pay differential swings towards men, the pay difference is far greater. Female consultants, for example, earn an average of £37,143 while their male equivalents earn £54,167.

Without wishing to upset the reader who likened Accountancy Age to a ‘sociologist’s guide to industry’ when we referred to gender imbalance a couple of weeks ago, it is important to pose the questions: will it ever change and does it matter?

There are signs it might change. Some recent passing out ceremonies have been attended by more female newly qualified accountants than male. And almost half of all UK accountants now training are female.

And does it matter? Of course it does.

The public perception of accountants has never been lower. And the Pythonesque image of the profession is no longer an embarrassing topic of conversation at dinner parties, it is fast becoming an impediment to business growth as it gets linked in the public mind with the financial shortcuts that have brought Andersen and Enron to their knees and threaten to do the same to WorldCom. ?:

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