We are 100 years away from closing the gender gap – but we can get there quicker if we act together. To mark the 2020 International Women’s Day (IWD) and Women’s History Month, we underline our commitment to driving gender equality in the global accounting profession.
While you may know that gender diversity is important from a social standpoint, it’s also critical to business success. According to the Harvard Business Review, gender diversity leads companies to be more productive as measured by market value and revenue. Additionally, a diverse workforce is better at attracting talent, encouraging innovation, and signaling competence to investors.
Importantly, women remain significantly underrepresented at senior levels. A small sample of data from three countries indicates that in the top corporate companies, women account for a small margin of the members of executive teams: 16 percent in the United States, 12 percent in the United Kingdom, and 6 percent in Brazil; and the percentage of women on companies’ Boards of Directors also remains very low: 27 percent in the United Kingdom, 21.7 percent in the United States, and 8.4 percent in Brazil. For this reason, our efforts are targeted beyond closing the gender gap – it’s about winning equal representation at the top levels of the profession.
IFAC has a long history of supporting global diversity within our staff, on our Board and Committees, and on the independent standard-setting boards we support. This year, we reached a major milestone – one that we are very proud of. In 2020, and for the first time in IFAC’s forty-two year history, we have a majority-female Board (52 percent female)! We share this accomplishment with our member organizations who helped us achieve it by making gender diversity a priority in their regions and nominating top female talent to serve at the global level.
More recently, to support the Capacity Building Program funded by the Department for International Development (DFID), we launched an initiative to assist program participants in implementing their own diversity and inclusion initiatives. Since 2018, we’ve organized several initiatives, including a webinar on Achieving gender equality in the accountancy profession.
As an organization, we will continue advocating for gender parity in accountancy, finance and business leadership roles, as well as continue encouraging our member organizations to champion diversity and gender equality. Many of our member organizations raising the bar by leading successful diversity initiatives. Here is a glimpse into the work of three featured organizations:
AICPA: Promoting Strong Female Role Models Inspires Others
The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) has been a long-time champion for women’s progress both within the profession and across the business landscape. The AICPA’s Women’s Initiatives Executive Committee, which dates back to 1989, leads efforts to close the gender gap in the accountancy profession. The committee offers many resources and initiatives and works to promote strong female role models through interviews, articles, and awards.
In November 2019, Olivia Kirtley, former AICPA chair and IFAC’s first female president, was presented with the newly established AWSCPA (American Women’s Society of CPAs) Lifetime Achievement Award, which recognizes women who are championing women and women’s initiatives in the accounting profession. During her tenure as IFAC President, Olivia encouraged many organizations to promote women and inspired many women to follow her path.
Oliva received her award at the AICPA Global Women’s Leadership Summit, which is a great event focused on leadership, boardroom diversity and best practices to enhance the skills and potential of women leaders in the profession. For more information and resources on AICPA Women’s Initiative, please visit aicpa.org/womenlead.
CFC: Setting Gender Targets Helps the Progress
More than 20 years ago, the Federal Accounting Council (CFC) in Brazil signed a commitment to gender equity in the profession, to encourage greater female participation. CFC, in collaboration with its 27 Regional Accounting Councils (CRCs), created the National Commission for Women Accountants, which carries out various initiatives, including providing continuing education, leadership and mentoring programs, and organizing women’s summits.
The CFC also prioritizes promoting women to leadership roles. Currently, there are ten female Presidents of the Regional Accounting Councils. There are also female Brazilian professionals making history: Maria Clara Bugarim, Auditor General of the State of Alagoas, was the first female president of the CFC (2006-2009). Today she is the first female president of the Inter-American Accounting Association (AIC). Maria Clara is a role model and inspiration to many young professionals as they seek leadership roles at the most senior levels.
ACCA: Diversity is Key to Organizations’ Ability to Innovate
The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) in the UK has a long legacy of diversity and inclusion as it was established in 1904 to open up the profession to people of all backgrounds based solely on their ability.
Ethel Ayres Purdie became ACCA’s first female member in 1909. She was a pioneer who led the way for women everywhere to pursue a career in finance. ACCA now has a female student base of 58%, with more women than ever looking to become professional accountants.
ACCA’s recent research report, Future ready: accountancy careers in the 2020s, identifies inclusivity as one of the 20 trends impacting the profession, with accounting teams becoming more diverse. Diversity manifests in many ways - from greater diversity in gender, age, perspectives and experiences to widening social mobility access, to diversity of skills and experiences. The report asserts that in a global marketplace, inclusivity practices that help drive diversity are key to an organisations’ ability to innovate. After all, a diverse workforce makes good business sense, this is a strategic business issue and not just a moral obligation.
ACCA’s second Ethel Ayres Purdie webinar to celebrate IWD 2020 - Rising above your inner critic - is on March 9 2020 at 11am GMT, available live and on demand afterwards. Join the discussion about diversity, inclusion and how we can tackle impostor syndrome.
We hope you will join us in celebrating International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, and more importantly, will join our efforts for gender equality at all levels of our profession.