Surprising barriers to female leadership in accounting firms

Staff Reporter / Tuesday, 08 March 2016 / 0 Comments

New research has indicated that the biggest barrier to women securing leadership positions within finance and accounting firms could be coming from their female peers.

The survey was conducted by recruitment firm Marks Sattin and covered 1,300 Australian finance and accounting professionals.

Out of the total respondents, 76 per cent said that less than half of their organisation’s leadership team were female.

Only six per cent of the women surveyed were senior executives, compared with the 12 per cent that were men.

Surprisingly, the survey also indicated that women's attitude towards female managers could be preventing succession to leadership, with 21 per cent of female respondents stating they preferred male managers citing reasons such as ‘less emotional', 'less temperamental', and ‘more rational’ than women.

Only five per cent of the female respondents said they would prefer a female manager stating they were ‘more empathetic’, ‘more compassionate’ and ‘had a greater understanding of family needs’ and had a stronger ‘team focus’.

General manager of Marks Sattin and Experis Suzanne Gerrard said that for issues of gender inequality to be properly addressed, it needs commitment from the most senior people within the business.

“Leaders must take accountability and look towards internal ‘change programs’ rather than relying on quotas,” said Ms Gerrard.

She also said there was a need for the finance sector to review existing policies and culture to ensure there are no barriers for women either explicit or understated.

“This would involve reviewing current hiring procedures to ensure females are on the interview panel, and looking internally to understand current barriers to hiring women,” she said.

The Marks Sattin survey showed flexible working options that enable staff to balance work and child care are key to redressing the gender imbalance.

The survey showed women are twice as likely, at 14 per cent, to be attracted and remain in a role that offers flexible work options, compared to men, at seven per cent.

“Enabling female employees to balance work and home care needs will help to keep women in the workforce longer. But support and greater flexibility within roles needs to be a commitment that comes from the top if we want to truly address the gender imbalance,” said Ms Gerrard.

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