By Jason Bramwell
The ability of women in finance and accounting to advance through the ranks is better now than ten years ago, according to financial executives surveyed recently by global staffing firm Robert Half.
More than four in ten (42 percent) of the approximately 2,100 CFOs interviewed said women either have somewhat more (30 percent) or significantly more (12 percent) opportunities for career progression in the finance field than a decade ago. Fifty-three percent reported no change, while 4 percent of finance executives believed there are somewhat fewer (3 percent) or significantly fewer (1 percent) opportunities for women.
"Many organizations have made great strides in promoting female professionals in accounting and finance to the executive ranks, but there's more to do", Paul McDonald, senior executive director of Robert Half, said in a written statement. "Ensuring a diverse staff and attracting and retaining top talent should be an ongoing priority. Offering work-life balance programs can be attractive incentives for employees with children, for instance."
Holly Breuer, CPA, a director with St. Louis–based firm Purk & Associates, PC, told AccountingWEB the results of the survey reflect what she has been seeing in the accounting profession over the past decade.
"But it's not just that there are more opportunities for women. I believe it's also that women are really grabbing those opportunities and running with them", she said. "The more we do that, the more we gain the experience and expertise that makes women that much more valuable in the workplace."
While the C-suite is still dominated by men as it was ten years ago, opportunities for women to move up the corporate ladder in the accounting and finance industry have increased, according to Angela Parziale, CPA, MST, a shareholder with Boston-based firm Walter & Shuffain, PC.
"Initiatives, such as the Massachusetts Society of CPAs' Women to Watch Awards, and industry groups, such as the Accounting & Financial Women's Alliance (AFWA) and the New England Women in Real Estate, have increased focus on advancing the careers of women", she told AccountingWEB. "They have raised awareness that disparity still exists, but by focusing on the need for sponsorship of talented women by those in positions of power, women continue to break through the ceiling in accounting and finance."
The survey findings were released in advance of the 2013 AFWA Annual Conference, which began October 20 and runs through October 23 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Robert Half's Accountemps and Robert Half Finance & Accounting divisions are the exclusive staffing visionary partners of AFWA and have been alliance partners since 1996.
"In partnership with Robert Half, AFWA is focused on increasing diversity and gender equity at every level of the profession – from entry-level accountant to CFO", AFWA Executive Director Lee Lowery, CAE, said in a written statement. "We want all employees to feel valued where they are employed, while having access to networking opportunities, leadership development, and education."
As part of AFWA's conference, Robert Half has assisted with planning for the Executive Host Tour portion of "Preparing for Your Future in Accounting & Finance", a daylong event for students on October 22. The Executive Host Tour will give college students an opportunity to visit a Big Four accounting firm and learn what it is like to work there.
Robert Half will present several sessions during the conference, including "2014 Accounting and Finance Hiring and Compensation Outlook" and "Smartphones, Email, Social Networks – Oh, My! Effectively Navigating Protocols in the Digital Age." Free CPE credit is available for attendees of these sessions.
About the survey:
The survey was developed by Robert Half and conducted by an independent research firm. It is based on interviews with more than 2,100 CFOs from a stratified random sample of companies in more than twenty of the largest US markets.