Improved career prospects for women in finance and accounting

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A career in finance and accounting is a sound choice for aspiring female chief executives (CEOs), according to research from specialist recruitment consultancy Robert Half UK.

The firm reports in the latest study-based on more than 200 interviews with finance executives across various UK companies – that 64% of UK finance directors say there are more opportunities for women to move up the ranks in finance and accounting roles than 10 years ago.

Eighty-seven percent think women have a better chance of securing executive board positions as a result of those opportunities and 81% believe they have a better chance of moving into a chief executive role.

A recent report by the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) finds that the total proportion of female members and students in the accountancy profession remained broadly constant between 2010 and 2014 at around 50%.

However, the percentage of female qualified members is 36%, suggesting that while equal numbers of men and women start a career in finance and accounting, more men maintain a longer-term tenure in the profession. The percentage of women in the accountancy profession is growing slowly, moving from 34% in 2010 to 36% in 2014.

Female finance chiefs are more positive than male finance directors about the opportunities for women to progress. Just over two thirds (67%) of female finance directors (FDs) believe there are better opportunities than 10 years ago, compared to 61% of men.

Ninety-two percent of female FDs think women have a better chance of reaching the board compared to 83% of men, while 88% of female FDs think women could become CEOs following a more positive career in finance and accounting compared to 75% of men.

Finance directors in London and South East England are also far more positive about opportunities for women to progress to the top spots in business than counterparts in other regions. Seventy-five percent believe women have a better chance of moving through the ranks in finance and accounting, compared to 65% of FDs in the South West and Wales, 65% in the North, 60% in the Midlands and 55% in Scotland.

“Creating a diverse talent pool should be at the top of the agenda for businesses, alongside attracting and retaining skilled professionals,” said Phil Sheridan, managing director of Robert Half UK. “Providing more career opportunities for women within finance will see a stronger talent network for business to draw upon. This will not only improve prospects for women, but for the economy as a whole.

“Candidates with a strong background in finance are highly-valued as these professionals can drive business objectives with a strong understanding of the financial implications, and are therefore often candidates for the role of CEO.  Talented accounting and finance professionals who are able to translate actionable insight from the numbers are more likely to accelerate their career projection.”

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