Shaping the landscape for women in business
Following on from our look at the hurdles faced by female CAs, we caught up with Suzy Kerton CA to discuss her MBA initiative, dispelling sexist myths in business.
Suzy most recently worked with the Cabinet Office as a Financial Accountant and is a co-Founder of Anything International, which offers accounting assistance to small businesses. In 2016, she was recognised for her influence and innovation in the ICAS 35 CAs under 35 list.
She qualified with Baker Tilly (RSM) in 2012 and was previously CFO of Clear Books, the online accounting software developer.
The landscape for female CAs has dramatically evolved over the last 80+ years but there is still work to be done in achieving equality in attitudes.
Suzy has first-hand experience of the biases that can come from being a young woman in a senior professional role.
"I was told while operating as a CFO, that 'I was very young for my role'. I always wonder if, were I a man, would that perception of being young still have been there?
"Statistics show that people often place more faith in the capabilities of a man than a woman. It is a subtle discrimination: people assume you might not be able to do something because of your appearance," she explained.
"Once we recognise and acknowledge the stereotypes that we cast on others and we consciously work against these biases to ensure that we have diverse teams and leaders, then we will achieve equality."
I always wonder if, were I a man, would that perception of being young still have been there?
Suzy is currently taking a sabbatical from work to study full-time for an MBA with Imperial College, London, where she has set up a sexism awareness group called The Allies that is open to all genders.
"The aim of The Allies is to create a group of people who are empowered to speak up for gender equality in the business school and bring positive change to Imperial by sharing thoughts and ideas on how to do things better.
"I set up the group within my MBA cohort as I noticed that, within the business school, when people were talking about hypothetical leaders or CEOs they were always using 'he' rather than gender neutral references like 'he/she' or they'."
The group was created out of a need to empower students to speak up for gender equality in class and provides a safe space where anyone can ask questions without judgement on personal viewpoints or the questions raised.
Suzy Kerton, pictured centre
Suzy has been working hard to raise awareness of the issue within the College, and plant the seeds of change for the business leaders of tomorrow.
"Since the Allies was founded, the topic of gender equality has been brought to the forefront of conversations at Imperial.
“Imperial have been very receptive to the changes and initiatives that we have suggested. One lecturer has incorporated an updated gender-neutral version of lecture material into their class, for which I am very grateful!
“A programme of workshops has also been introduced on the MBA around maternity/paternity leave and unconscious bias training."
Since the Allies was founded, the topic of gender equality has been brought to the forefront of conversations at Imperial.
Creating an open dialogue on the issues surrounding gender inequality is key to targeting any existing prejudices, emphasised Suzy.
"I hope that people will accept that sexism still exists and that part of doing good business is to promote equality," she said. "I hope that people will have the confidence to speak up when they encounter sexist behaviour and to actively promote equality in the workplace."
As both an MBA student and a CA, Suzy is encouraging her peers to take similar strides in pushing back against prejudices and hopes that the initiative can spread throughout the Imperial community and business world.
"I hope that the legacy of the Allies will carry on at Imperial after our cohort graduates and that we make a lasting impact on the inclusive environment at the business school.
"We will know that we have achieved gender equality when we don't have to celebrate the 'first female partner’,” Suzy concluded.
If anyone would like to help or join the Allies initiative or find out more about what they do, please get in touch.