Celebrating International Women’s Day 8 March for CAs

Women in business
By Ellen Arnison

7 March 2016

Less than 100 years ago, in 1923, Isobel Guthrie became the first female member of ICAS and, in fact, the first woman to be a chartered accountant in the UK.

Now current records show that 33% of members are women and 41% of the student body is female.

March 8 is International Women’s Day, a day for celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. But it’s also the day that marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.

The dual aims appear to be reflected in the stories we see at ICAS. On the one hand, only 10 years ago the total female membership was only 25% and now it’s a third. Yet, a recent report showed that women accountants still earn £17,000 less than men.

Change is on the way

However, as any CA knows, the bottom line does not always reveal the whole picture – dig a little deeper and it's clear that change is coming.

Dave Way, managing director at Marks Sattin, the company that carried out the pay gap research, said the profession was making “strides towards equality”. Accountancy as a whole has a slightly lower gender pay gap than the national average (17% compared to 19.1%).

There is still much work to do in realising the benefits of truly diverse business, but many of the foundation stones have been laid

He added: “Our research is promising for accountancy as it shows the pay gap is closing. The imperative for large companies to publish their gender pay gap from 2018 should galvanise further positive action and internal programmes to drive change.”

The drive to greater gender parity isn’t just driven by a need to be doing the right thing. Proper diversity is increasingly being seen as essential to success, whatever the organisation.

Diversity is essential to success

Many organisations – including leading accountancy firms - are putting programmes in place to better support women in the workplace and to drive attitudinal change.

According to one expert, key benefits of diversity include improved innovation, access to a greater pool of talent, improved financial performance and a more meritocratic culture.

Yvonne Smyth is Group Head of Diversity for Hays plc said: “There is still much work to do in realising the benefits of truly diverse business, but many of the foundation stones have been laid.

“Different sectors may require different actions, but the common goal shared by all is to have a progressive organisation where the realisation of full potential for an employee is based on true merit alone.”

ICAS is driving improvements

And ICAS is playing its part. It has many measures in place to broadly encourage diversity and specifically to support female CAs. These include training courses, research that drives policy and events.

With continued effort, today's CA students may well see as many women as men at all levels of the profession and then they'll be in a position to support equality for women where ever work remains to be done.

So this March 8, let’s celebrate International Women’s Day by acknowledging the individual and collective achievements of women in our industry, but, at the same time, keeping the work going to achieve better equality.


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