The business world is often seen as one where masculinity is more prevalent, particularly in the board room. Mark Fullilove looks into the world of accountancy and whether this is all just a misconception.
To many people, finance and accountancy related jobs are often seen as being in a male-dominated industry, especially in higher positions. However, recent figures from UCAS highlight that more females are aspiring to achieve accountancy roles in comparison to men – suggesting a shift in attitudes and a move towards a more representative gender balance.
The research, largely focused on student application trends, also found that there has been a significant growth in overall applicants studying accountancy related degrees at UK universities. A 16% increase has been recorded since 2007, and this trend shares similar growth patterns with apprenticeships, independent courses and school leaver programmes.
The most laudable statistic, however, shows that there has been an increase of just over 20% in female applications, compared to 12.6% from men. The number of females accepting places on accountancy related degrees has also slightly increased from 41% in 2007 to 43% in 2014.
Clare McCullagh, founder of Heavenly Online Accountants, spoke of the changes in the industry and how gender played a role in her early career:
“In the early days, in fairness it all seemed fairly level in terms of equality. But you would see it more with older partners, or partners from a different generation, that they preferred the boys.
“Younger managers were fine and I don’t think there is necessarily any issue with the number of females in the industry. There have always been female accountants and a lot of them too. But I guess PricewaterhouseCoopers were one of the more progressive companies at the time.”
Speaking on diversity, Professor John McKernan from the University of Glasgow expands on Clare’s sentiments and echoes the contention that a lack of gender balance in the financial industry may be a stereotypical hangover from a different era:
“At the University of Glasgow there is good gender balance and there has been for many years. At post-graduate taught [level], women tend to outnumber men.”
The benefits of achieving a natural gender balance are not hard to find evidence of, either. A global study recently found that diverse executive boards outperform boards run by all-male boards. The study which covered listed companies in the UK, US and India found that the opportunity cost for companies with male-only executive boards came to a stunning $655 billion in 2014.
Analysis on ROI highlighted that, on average, companies with at least one female executive board member outperformed those with male-only boards in each of the three financial markets (UK FTSE, US S&P and Indian CNX).
Whilst this evidence reflects a general business spectrum rather than specifically an accountancy environment, it shines a light on the benefits of a diverse boardroom. As time passes and generation-based attitudes fade away, the boardroom is increasingly opening up to a wider range of candidates – bringing with them their own unique experiences, viewpoints and ideas.
With the emphasis increasingly placed on seeking true diversity and balance within society, its heartening to see movement – especially within industries traditionally seen as being male dominated. What remains to be seen is how long it will take for a truly inclusive society to emerge and for all industries to make the change.
Have you noticed a particularly developed level of balance in your industry? Or perhaps you feel that field you work in has a long way to go. Why not leave a comment below and share your thoughts.
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