Talking to accountants every day, you start to pick up on some big trends in the industry.
It isn’t always easy-to-spot (especially on Zoom), but over the past few years some shifts have been unmistakeable.
We’ve got firsthand knowledge of some of them, like the growing importance of advising clients on the right tech tools. Other trends, such as a focus on building communication skills, point to a real evolution in the industry.
But there’s one trend that, from what we can see, maybe gets a little less airtime than others.
That’s gender diversity.
Being transparent about gender
Recently, we’ve been working with the team at can.did., who is behind the brilliant She can. She did. podcast series. Each episode gets into the nitty-gritty details of being a female business owner today – and it got us thinking.
We’re eager to shine the spotlight on the positive developments that are happening, even if they can sometimes feel a little under the radar.
It’s important to be honest upfront though: Our own gender diversity is something we’re working to improve.
Another caveat: We bring the enthusiasm of a start-up to this topic – we fully accept that in this industry, things don’t always change as quickly.
But things are changing. These are the reasons why every accountant should do what they can to champion that.
Set your team up for the future
Overall, the number of women accountants has been growing over the past few years.
And surveys show that the younger generation of female professionals in the industry are more interested than their male counterparts in the long-term career prospects that finance offers.
Many will have 10, 20, 30-year plans within the industry – and so will be looking to impress (and to feel valued) wherever they work.
But it’s not just about finding new talent.
It’s crucial for young female professionals to see women in leadership positions, according to Rockefeller Foundation research. These role models truly encourage (sometimes through official mentorship programmes, other times informally) the next generation.
So any practice that can not only sign up that talent but retain it will be creating its own brilliant pipeline of future leaders.
More diversity = a better service for clients
The push for more diversity and inclusion in the workplace has been a truly global conversation.
That means the advantages of gender diversity (to focus on just one area) are pretty clearly established.
The ACCA’s Leading Inclusion report from 2020 summarised the benefits of increased diversity – including gender – as being “higher-quality work, better decision-making” and “greater team satisfaction”.
All things that add up to offering your clients an A+ service.
And hey, industry leaders are very aware of this fact, which is why it’s fair to expect even more focus on it post-pandemic.
The importance of innovation
“Diverse teams are better positioned to unlock innovation that drives market growth,” reported Forbes in 2020, with those teams sharper at “nonlinear novel thinking and adaptability”.
OK, that’s wordy stuff, but bringing it back down to earth for accountants is simple.
This is a time of major change for the industry, with everything from cloud-based solutions to automation upending established ways of working.
And if a team with a strong female presence makes for more innovation, it puts you all in a better place to ride out the many changes that will shape accounting for the next decade and beyond.
Passing the mic to role models
It’s good to share some of our thoughts on this issue (and hopefully we’ll meet at some real life events soon, to talk more about this topic and many more).
But it’s also cool to send some kudos to the female voices in the industry who are inspiring a positive future outlook.
Because as we said above, these role models are helping shape a more diverse and inclusive industry.
We’ve highlighted Della Hudson before but her short, impactful blog posts are always worth a mention. She talks about subjects like diversity, work-life balance and even the “morning routine of a moderately successful business woman”. Relatable, readable and very memorable.
“I think there’s less overt discrimination now, but there’s still a lot of unconscious bias” - Heather Self, and this interview in particular, are a good reality check on the progress made (and what’s still left to improve).
Need a real injection of inspiration? Check out the Top 50 Women In Accounting list, produced by Practice Ignition each year.
For a history lesson that’s also a compelling read, the ICAEW’s recently-published booklet celebrates 100 years of women in chartered accounting. Lots of great stories and stats feature, tracking how the organisation went from one female member in 1921 to more than 43,000 now.