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ACCA CEO Helen Brand has called on the accounting industry to work together to ensure that the encouraging numbers of women entering the profession are able to reach senior level positions.
ACCA said that data from the Financial Reporting Council’s tends report showed that the number of qualified female accountants rose from 30% to 34% between 2006 and 2011 while the percentage of females studying for their accountancy qualifications fluctuated between 48% and 49%.
‘Accountancy is often perceived as a male dominated industry, but the number of women in the profession has been rising steadily in recent years.
‘International Women’s Day is a day for celebrating progress, but also recognising what still needs to be done. As an industry we must work together to ensure that female talent is nurtured and supported. Women… are still under-represented in high level positions in the industry. The profession must work together collectively to find ways of helping women reach the more senior positions,’ she said.
Brand’s comments come as research from PwC shows that women in the UK have seen their career progressions stall since the start of the global financial crisis.
PwC found they are less likely to be in work, experience lower job security and greater pay inequality than their counterparts in other developed countries.
The firm’s new Women in Work Index shows that the stagnation for female employees has caused the UK to slip to 18th position out of 27 OECD countries in 2011 - from 13th position in 2000 and 14th in 2007.
The research considers five key indicators of female economic empowerment - the equality of earnings with men; the proportion of women in work - both in absolute terms and relative to men; the female unemployment rate; and the proportion of women in full-time employment.
The research noted the UK’s improvements on the majority of the indicators since 2000, but this progress has been slower than other countries and has stalled since the beginning of the credit crunch in 2007.
The Nordic countries lead the Index, with Norway in pole position, followed by Sweden and Denmark. These three countries have consistently occupied the top 3 positions in 2000, 2007 and 2011. Finland was in fifth place in 2011, just behind New Zealand in fourth.
Yong Jing Teow, author of the report and economist at PwC, said that it is worrying that the UK’s progress in encouraging more women into work and closing the gender pay gap has all but ground to a halt since the recession hit.
‘While most other OECD countries have continued to move ahead, our progress appears to have stalled.
‘Norway leads the pack when it comes to women’s economic empowerment due to its high rate of female participation in the labour force and a low gender pay gap. Women in the UK are struggling against a backdrop of rising female unemployment since 2007, above average pay inequality and fewer full-time employment opportunities,’ said Teow.
Margaret Cole, general counsel and executive board member at PwC, said it was worrying that increasing employment opportunities for women seems to have been pushed down organisations’ agendas since the recession.
‘Actions need to be taken from the top of organisations. Businesses should be held to account over their female promotion pipelines and diversity goals. Young women want visible and aspirational role models at all levels and boards should be accountable for providing these.
‘Without strong and accountable action from British businesses, it is hard to see how we can achieve any real change and move past tokenism,’ said Cole.
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