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Survey suggests more level playing field for women

Following recent press coverage reporting that the number of female directors on the boards of Britain’s biggest companies is rising to record levels, a new survey has suggested that within the accountancy profession, more firms are recognising the need to retain talent – leading to a more level playing field for women.

According to a snapshot survey of 121 female accountants conducted on behalf of Elements, the specialist financial recruiter, over two thirds believe that they have the same career opportunities as their male counterparts. Of these respondents, the great majority felt that, not only are there more women entering the profession than ever before, but that work life balance is an issue for both genders – not just women.

Specifically, 68% rated their general promotional prospects as equal to a man while almost two thirds felt that their overall reward package was likely to be the same as that enjoyed by a male colleague performing the same duties.

The survey did find however, that senior female finance professionals felt that they have had to work harder to achieve their current position with 70% of respondents identifying family commitments as an obstacle to climbing the career ladder.

A substantial number of respondents felt that specific benefits should be introduced into salary packages to recognise problems or challenges unique to women. 42% advocated a wider introduction of formal career breaks to allow for pregnancy and the bringing up of young children. 44% called for flexible hours to fit in with family commitments, while 34% would like to see improved assistance from firms regarding childcare in the form of either in house or sponsored nurseries. However, just over a third of the sample remained sceptical about whether these measures would have any real effect on career opportunities. As one respondent put it: “This is a very well rewarded and consequently a very competitive profession. If you’re not prepared to make sacrifices, you can’t expect to reap the benefits”.

Commenting on the report, Paul Bibby, Chief Executive of Elements said: “We have found that clients are much more concerned about recruiting the best talent – in my experience, the issue of gender just doesn’t arise and the majority of firms we deal with are very meritocratic in their approach.”

According to the survey, female accountants appear optimistic about the future, with over half of the sample expecting an improvement in equal opportunities over the next five years. Reasons cited for this included general changes of opinion in society, a more merit based approach to promotion as firms recognise the importance of retaining talent and the influence of a growing number of women in senior positions in business. “We’re rapidly moving towards a situation where both men and women have an equal desire to create an environment where there is time for both work and family” commented one respondent while another pointed out: “Female accountancy students make up half of new entrants into the accountancy profession – that has to spell good news for the future.”

Sam Woodward
BlueSky PR
0845 130 8290

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