Developing the Accountancy Profession
‘Talking Power’: How WeCAN Has Advanced Gender Equality at ICAZ
Felicity Karekwaivanane | December 14, 2021
According to the Sustainable Development Goals Report (2021), Zimbabwe ranks 125 out of 165 countries measured on the global SDG index. Our country index score has remained consistent (around a high 58) but with continued improvements in SDGs such as good health and well-being, gender equality, and decent work and economic growth. At the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Zimbabwe (ICAZ), we are committed to doing our part and demonstrating how PAOs can advance the SDGs. One of the ways we do this is through the Women Chartered Accountants Network (WeCAN), which was created in 2016 and officially launched in 2017.
WeCAN was established with the following key objectives:
- Encourage and improve participation of female members in ICAZ activities and to promote diversity of views (At the time of its launch, women CAs were 25% of the membership).
- Provide a platform for female members to network and share ideas to promote female CA’s influence in the economy and thereby work towards ICAZ’s objective of exerting influence in all spheres of the economy.
The key success indicators were:
- Growth in female membership
- Improved conversion rates in female students to qualified members.
- Increase in proportion of representation of female members in ICAZ Council and Committees.
- Occupation of influential positions by female CAs in industry and commerce
To achieve WeCAN’s objectives, ICAZ created several sub-committees dedicated to focusing on students (e.g., examining the female student baseline and identifying barriers to full membership and developing at least 2 activities for the year aimed at encouraging, inspiring, and assisting female students to qualify as members); full members and engagement; and promoting the WeCAN amongst its membership.
Promoting the SDGs through WeCAN
The objectives of WeCAN also align with some of the indicators under SDG 5: Gender Equality, such as increasing the mean years of women’s education (compared to men); increasing the ratio of female-to-male labour force participation rate; and increasing seats held by women in national parliament. Furthermore, WeCAN promotes other SDGs, such as SDG 3: Good Health and Well-being; SDG 4: Quality Education; SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation; SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth; and SDG 10: Reduced Inequality.
GOAL 4: Quality Education, GOAL 10: Reduced Inequality:
WeCAN has a mentorship program for female members and students. The mentorship program ensures female students are properly supported during their qualification as we observed that there was a lower final completion rate for female than male students. In addition to transferring critical business knowledge and skills, the mentorship program is helping develop a pipeline of future female leaders who understand the skills and attitudes required to succeed in the professional world. The mentoring program is assisting in achieving quality education and is developing a culture of personal and professional growth.
Goal 5: Gender Equality; Goal 10: Reduced Inequality:
Similar to the global SDG 5 sub-indicator on parliament representation, at the 2016 Annual General Meeting, ICAZ members approved that the Council composition should aim to have at least 40% of the members being women by 2020. To achieve this, Council decided to set aside a seat at every election, specifically reserved for female Chartered Accountants until this percentage is achieved. We are proud to say that as of 31 August 2021, female representation on the ICAZ Council was at 50%, up from 5% in 2005 thanks to deliberate steps taken by ICAZ and the WeCAN to achieve gender parity— parity was in part achieved by introducing the WeCAN seat on Council.
Below are the demographics of female members sitting on council in the past 15 years:
Year Number of Female Members Percentage
2005 1/21 5%
2010 2/20 10%
2015 5/22 23%
2020 9/23 39%
2021 11/22 50%
ICAZ has also made it conducive for female members to hold the position of ICAZ President. The first female president was elected in 2010. Since 2010, we have had three more female members elected as the president.
GOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth:
WeCAN is working on ensuring greater female representation in the local economy and businesses as well. It has partnered with the Institute of Directors in Zimbabwe to do this. Whenever board seats are advertised, WeCAN ensures that its members are aware of the roles—which can often be an obstacle in applying—and are appointed for these roles based on merit. It does this through the WeCAN Bulletin, which broadly focuses on matters relating to the development, promotion and profiling of female members and students.
Additionally, through its “PowerTalks” WeCAN is also addressing SDG 8by promoting women from different backgrounds, profiling its members, and strengthening its members’ influence. The PowerTalks provide a platform where women can freely talk about challenges and solutions that uniquely affect them. For example, problems they encounter in the workplace, balancing work and home, and mental health awareness sessions. Topics have included “Equality vs Equity: Getting the Package You Deserve”, “Silencing Self-Doubt”, and “The masked effects of Covid-19: Finding a balance”. The PowerTalks are held at least once a quarter and provide women with an opportunity to network and engage with each other outside the usual work environment. PowerTalks are also done in partnership with WeCAN chapters from other countries. The ICAZ PowerTalks are open to a wide range of individuals to have the most impact, including female Chartered Accountants, female students of ICAZ and to female administrators from the ICAZ accredited training offices.
GOAL 3: Good Health and Well-being: GOAL 6: Clean Water and Sanitation:
WeCAN has also been in engaged in initiatives outside the business space but are nonetheless connected to women and girls’ education and future. It has run the WeCAN Pad campaign since 2017. This is a campaign aimed at ensuring that girls from less privileged backgrounds have access to sanitary pads which can often be out of reach. It is a widespread but unsolved problem that many girls from poor communities around Africa miss school and stay at home when they go on their monthly periods. This initiative promotes good health and well-being by ensuring that the girls do not turn to alternative unhygienic solutions and can also stay in school.
GOAL 17: Partnerships for the Goals:
ICAZ recognizes that partnerships and collaboration are key to further success. In 2019, WeCAN joined as a member of the International Federation of Women Accountants (IFWA), a non-political and not-for-profit organization. IFWA, in turn, is the brainchild of the Society of Women Accountants of Nigeria (SWAN).
ICAZ is proud of the contributions and impact that WeCAN has made since it was first launched, just four years ago. It is equally fulfilling to see that ICAZ and IFAC are moving in sync toward gender parity in Board membership and IFAC’s continuous calls to action for the profession to champion diversity and gender equality. We are excited for what the future holds for our membership and look forward to sharing more success stories and examples that other PAOs may consider implementing along the way.
WeCAN can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org.
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