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On March 11, 2024, IFAC’s three women presidents, past and present, gathered to discuss diversity in the accountancy profession on a live webinar. “Invest in Women: Advancing Diversity in the Accountancy Profession” focused on leadership opportunities for women within the accountancy profession. Moderator Jennifer DiClerico (Head of IFAC Communications) was joined by Olivia Kirtley, who served as IFAC president from 2014 to 2016, Rachel Grimes AM, who served as IFAC President from 2016 to 2018, and current IFAC President Asmâa Resmouki, who has been serving since 2022.

One theme dominated the discussion amongst the IFAC presidents: how to create and access leadership opportunities, as women. Across the board, the three presidents seemed to agree that to build a world with more women leaders, women have to be proactive in advocating for themselves and each other. As President Olivia Kirtley put it, “Leaders aren’t born. They are developed. And we are all responsible for our own personal development.”

The sentiment was echoed by President Grimes. She added that visibly and loudly volunteering for leadership opportunities whenever those opportunities present themselves will serve those women hoping to grow as leaders. She mentioned that her own ascendancy to IFAC presidency was thanks in no small part to her team at the time. “You want to build the people and have them have them develop their confidence,” she explained. “That delegation gives them an opportunity to shine as well.”

But, as President Resmouki pointed out, not all women are extended the same opportunities to volunteer for leadership. It then becomes critical for women’s coworkers, peers, and community to provide an ecosystem where they can become leaders. And, she noted, the factors that lift women up will depend on the cultural context they are operating in. “Education, cultural values, government and regulations—all play a part. There is no one solution, it’s making sure that the pieces of the puzzle work together to play a positive impact for women.”

One of the pieces of that puzzle is leveraging the power of men and women already in leadership positions. President Kirtley mentioned that meeting people and getting to know them a little is not only a good way to hone one’s leadership skills—it also greatly increases the odds that you can introduce the women you meet to an opportunity for leadership down the line. “Talent is universal, but opportunity is not,” she said. “We have a great responsibility to create that opportunity.”

The three presidents collectively agreed that women will have the chance to change the face of the accountancy profession in the near future. There is a wave of fresh opportunities within the profession, pushing it into new spaces and giving it new dimensions. President Grimes mentioned that the introduction of IFRS General Sustainability-related Disclosures S1 & S2, as well as the integration of artificial intelligence with professional accounting, will help attract professionals with new skills sets and interests. “Women are looking at accounting because of ESG,” she said, mentioning that it was important to remember the far-reaching and deeply human stakes of professional accounting. President Resmouki agreed to this sentiment, adding her belief that ESG –especially the S and G pillars--will further the DE&I agenda. “I believe that the development of sustainability and ESG reporting should help drive more and more accountability from organizations and hopefully more progress," she said.  

In their closing remarks, the IFAC presidents left the webinar participants with their takeaways from their years of experience as leaders. President Grimes emphasized the opportunity-rich environment of professional accounting, President Kirtley spoke to the courage needed to lead, and President Resmouki stressed the power of being one’s authentic self.

To see more of our Changemaker series, featuring monthly interviews with professional women accountants from around the world, please visit:

Annie Brinich

Annie Brinich is a communications manager at the International Federation of Accountants. She manages and edits IFAC's Knowledge Gateway.