No more excuses

Not enough is being done to give women accountants a level playing field –
every industry statistic you care to examine on the issue of sexual equality
leads inexorably to this conclusion.

The number of female partners working within the Big Four is embarrassingly
low and the old excuse that the number of female partners would rise as more
women entered the profession can now surely be buried. In 2006, 91% of
PricewaterhouseCoopers’s UK partners were male and yet 40% of their qualified
staff were female.

So why aren’t female qualified accountants reaching the top of their
profession? Our survey reveals that an almost equal number of women and men aim
to reach the position of partner or ‘climb the corporate ladder as far as
possible’. At the same time, male respondents acknowledged that their female
counterparts have stronger communication skills, make better mentors and are
more suited to detailed analysis.

Additionally, as the industry struggles to recruit and retain staff through
the growing pains of extra regulatory requirements, why is it doing its best to
alienate so many potential staff? And why would a woman consider entering a
profession in which her opportunities for career development are so clearly
limited? The answer is simple and is due to the unspoken yet prevailing view
that you can’t be a partner and raise a family at the same time.

This view must change if the accounting industry is to continue its
impressive growth, but the will to change must come from existing partnerships.
They need to be more proactive in presenting tailored solutions to female staff
to keep them within the industry. Partnerships must voice genuine support for
equality policies and create an environment in which women do not feel
ostracised for having a family.

Interestingly, 87% of male accountants in our survey said their careers have
been adversely affected as a result of trying to create more favourable working
environments for women. I think we can take this statistic with a pinch of sal

What men are really saying is that they would like their own issues to be
acknowledged. They would like to spend more time with their families and be
given greater flexibility on working hours. Don’t they realise that better
conditions for women will pave the way for better conditions for themselves?

Max Williamson is chief executive of Careers in

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