MHA | Will we ever reach a truly gender equal world? Can industry do…

Will we ever reach a truly gender equal world? Can industry do its part?

Kate Arnott · March 6th 2023 · read

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Last year, Head of Professional Services, Partner Kate Arnott wrote a Baker Tilly Great Conversations article on the topic of how the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority diversity quota listing rules and reporting requirements for executive management and key board committees of listed companies had helped the industry take a positive step forward, but it still faced a challenge for true equality.

For International Women’s Day 2023 Kate reviews the progress of change and what issues still need to be addressed to reach true gender equality.

We are nearly a year on from the FRC setting equality and diversity targets for UK company boards and whilst it is far too early to assess the success of this initiative International Women’s Day is an opportune moment for industry to reflect on what it has done, and what it can still do, to push gender equality.

Looking inwards the accountancy sector can still do more to close the gender gap. The latest Top 50, published by Accountancy Age, showed little movement in partner numbers overall and whilst it was pleasing to see the number of female leaders held firm at 21% we should be aiming for an increase to truly address the imbalance.

Disappointingly there was actually a decrease in numbers of firms with diversity and / or equality policies than previously and numbers of female staff have fallen.

The age old issue of female representation dropping off as you enter more senior leadership roles has not gone away and will not do so until companies take proper time to look at the causative factors that lead to this.

Things are improving and measures are being implemented that help support women’s progression in the workplace however business cannot afford to be complacent on these issues. It is a generalisation but studies show that the bulk of childcare and caring responsibilities will still fall predominantly to the females in any household.

The introduction of flexible working, has gone a way to help this but there is still much more to be done. Firms that are serious about developing female talent for the long haul need to take a step further - look at equalising parental leave policies, introducing menopause support packages.

Personally I feel a responsibility to help and support more junior female colleagues in my business. Having senior role models to encourage more junior females to stay the course, implementing gender networks and peer groups and mentoring programmes is vital.

For true gender equality to be reached we need to ensure businesses are walking the walk, show female staff it is possible to achieve success at a senior level. This is not about positive discrimination this is about empowering the next generation of female leaders to step up and stay up.


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