Key Issues for Women in the Accounting and Finance Profession


On average, women represent 50% of accounting graduates venturing the profession for the last 20 years. However, they only represent 19% of the partners in accounting firms national wide. Further still, statistics shows that women have earned more bachelor degrees than men for the past 3 years. Yet the number of women holding top leadership positions in finance and accounting are less compared to that of men. It makes us wonder are women taking the right types of degrees or does it mean women leadership is not profitable? Women are far and wide the caregivers in most if not all organizations. They are very talented and it is the high time proper initiatives are taken to nurture these talents in the accounting domain before there is a shortage. They have made progress in the accounting field but not to the level they should be. What are the key underlying issues that are making men to dominate the leadership positions yet there are women who deserve such positions?

There are unintended biases in accounting and finance profession that needs to be addressed. Different women networking organizations are raising the alarm calling for accounting firms and industry as a whole to help women leaders. A desire to nurture these talents have led to establishment of different non profit organizations acting as platforms where different measures are aired to enhance the sustainability of the female accountant.

Based on recent studies, organizations with gender diversity in leadership perform better than the ones with low diversity among the board of directors. Moreover, there are numerous leading companies that have strategically prioritized their diversity and inclusion initiatives as they top strategic goal. Women have been far and wide credited for their multi-tasking capacities which makes them collaborative employees.

There are many initiatives that are being taken worldwide by most leading companies aimed at increasing the percentage of women on their boards. An initiative known as 2020 Women on Boards is aiming at ensuring that there is 20% increase in female board members especially those in finance and accounting.

There is another women social group known as Thirty Percent Coalition and is also looking forward to the same. With positive results being inherent in both groups, they both agree that there is still much to do. In addition, several countries such as Norway, Germany, France and Spain have implemented quotas to ensure a certain percentage of women board members. Using quotas is often times associated with many disadvantages hence not a most appropriate way of strengthening the accounting network.

Progress of Women Leadership in Accounting and Finance.

Is the professional women network in accounting and finance making significant progress? As reported in Fortunes almost 90% of the CFOs in 500 companies are men. Fortune also reports that in 2015, women held 11.6% (58)of CFO positions; “58 women CFOs in the Fortune 500: Is this progress?”. The fact that less than 5% of CEOs are women makes the CFO percentages to sound like good news. However, the picture arrayed by looking 15 years down the line proves otherwise.in 2000, Catalyst reported that 5.6% (28) of America`s largest companies had women CFOs who increased to 36 by 2002. That translates to an increase of 30 women CFOs from 2000-2015; from 28-58. Further still, the U.S Bureau of Labour Statistics (BLS) reported than in 2015, the category of Accountants and Auditors, women represented 60% of the entire workforce. However, for the women in accounting and finance holding a position with the word finance or financial , only 43% of a workforce of 322,000 consists of women. Those metrics indicate slow progress in women`s leadership positions.

Looking at educational qualifications, women had earned 46% of all bachelor degrees in 1976 in the U.S. and were earning more than 50% of all bachelor degrees by 1982.The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports that this has increased to 57% since the late 1990s. These metrics show that women have been acquiring great skills in the accounting and finance domain but they have not still made good progress which balances the leadership positions in the firms. Or weren’t they acquiring the right type of degrees? Well that is not the case because these were the same degrees offered to their male counterparts. Research also shows that men have also been earning more than women in the accounting network.

Since the professional women network is full on numerous elite female accountant, the measures necessary for enhancing their career development is not the education system. More still, it does not mean that women lack the talent and skills essential at promoting the rationality of any given accounting firm.

Women`s network need therefore be promoted by the women themselves through distinguished professional women organizations. Nonetheless, the women accounting network is to be promoted also by men. As a man, don’t wait until your daughter shows interest in the accounting and finance area in order for you to realise how critical the condition is.

Albeit different organizations and governments from different countries are taking necessary measures to support the female accountant, I have found out that much of the solution will be brought by the women in finance and accounting field, the ones who are already well established in the industry, the ones who are still growing with time and the ones aspiring to join the field.

Below are some of the factors necessary for advancement in accounting and finance that may have been overlooked all along or have not been given a lot of attention. Putting these factors into consideration may be the key to becoming a prominent business woman who will in return strengthen the professional women network further.

Mentorship and Sponsorship.

Some women in the accounting network or aspiring to join the profession fail to reach their goals because they lack good role models. Mentorship from both successful men and women have been indicated as one of the key pillars that made most prominent female accountants in the field. To be great, you have to think like a great person. As an accountant perhaps working in small or medium sized firms, you may need mentorship.

One of the best ways to get mentors is joining women social groups where you can conveniently air your problems and benefit from the vast experience from the members. The accounting network is very large and these groups tend to connect individuals from all parts of the world.

More importantly, joining professional women`s organizations will not only help you to get mentors but scholarships too. You need financial support in your journey to achieve your dream career in accounting and finance. There are sponsorships programmes being offered from time to time but you can never know about them unless you join the other women in accounting via such organizations.

Most often than not, the founders of these organizations are prominent business women who have held different leadership positions and are inspired to help other young women become great accountants without necessarily facing the same challenges they faced. Most of the leaders of these professional women organizations have gone to an extent of establishing their own accounting firms. To make such great heights, it takes time and in your growth in the accounting network, here are some few thing you may need to always remember.

Your Journey to Success.

As a prominent business professional woman in the accounting or finance, you want to grow and earn a top leadership position in your organization. With great desire and proper support from other business professional women. Nonetheless, you will advance your accounting further by:

  • Seeking guidance from both male and female experts. Men have dominated the accounting industries for many years. It is therefore myopic of you not to realize that they may give you something that will live to guide you in your entire accounting profession. As a matter of fact, most women have reported to be recommended for top positions by their male counterparts.

  • Always be professional. As a young lady who has completed your studies but has not acquired an employment position yet, here is the secrete. Don’t go across different firms telling them you need a job because you have pursued a CPA designation. Employers are never looking for employees, no. They are looking for someone who can give them something they don’t have. Therefore, as a female accountant look for an accounting position in a firm where you are sure of exactly what you want to do for them and more importantly, look at how you can help them improve their organization.

  • Start small and grow. Most professional women`s organizations are made up of students, young female accountants and their leaders. To make it to that top position, it will take some time and don’t try to rush things. Some women in the accounting profession just want to attain top positions without giving much attention to the output they bring in an organization. The world does not recognize effort but only appreciate results. When you are keen to give maximum results to an organization, you start in a better position to earn higher ranking.

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