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Women in finance saddled with a seven year handicap


24 Jul 2018


Euro & Finance
Women in finance and accounting take seven more years, on average, than their male counterparts to reach executive level, as they battle with a ‘two-tournament gender system’ throughout their careers.
The slow path to the top: the careers of women in finance and accounting, commissioned by ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) and undertaken by King’s College London and the ESRC (Economic & Social Research Council), compares the career trajectories of men and women in finance and accounting.
The research found that, while the careers of men and women in the sector initially progress in near-parallel, the careers of women decelerated in middle management, due primarily to limited peer sponsorship and a lack of high-profile projects or opportunities in comparison to men. It is at this stage of their career that women will take an average of seven years’ longer to progress up to the next tier – executive level – than their male counterparts.
“While it is broadly acknowledged that the financial services sector has a long way to go to reach gender parity, with women occupying less than 20% of senior roles, this report is particularly interesting as it looks at the factors behind the seven-year lag that women are most likely to encounter when they reach middle management,” said Maggie McGhee, director of professional insights at ACCA.
“In particular, the research takes a closer look at the ‘confidence myth’, whereby the hindered progression of female employees is attributed to a lack of confidence or appetite to ‘lean in’, which then rationalises or hides the inequalities or unfair dynamics in the workplace which are actually at fault.”
The research concludes that for many women, this deceleration of career progression comes about as they are given fewer strategic, stretch assignments and opportunities than their male colleagues, and they lack the protection from workplace politics or exposure to higher level executives that male employees are more likely to receive from a more senior ‘sponsor’ or mentor. 
“We need this kind of research into the root causes behind workplace inequality to ensure that organisations are aware of any underlying impediments. It is every organisation’s responsibility to review the way they support and open up opportunities to women and other minorities,” concluded McGhee.
“The finance and accounting profession is committed to improving the workplace experience and progression prospects for women. We need to work together on a true, concerted effort to acknowledge long-standing embedded issues, rectify them, and bring about change.”
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For media enquiries, contact:
Adele Gilbert, ACCA Newsroom
T: +44 (0)20 7059 5077
M: +44 (0)7753 242 464 

About ACCA

ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) is the global body for professional accountants, offering business-relevant, first-choice qualifications to people of application, ability and ambition around the world who seek a rewarding career in accountancy, finance and management.

ACCA supports its 208,000 members and 503,000 students in 179 countries, helping them to develop successful careers in accounting and business, with the skills required by employers. ACCA works through a network of 104 offices and centres and more than 7,300 Approved Employers worldwide, who provide high standards of employee learning and development. Through its public interest remit, ACCA promotes appropriate regulation of accounting and conducts relevant research to ensure accountancy continues to grow in reputation and influence.

ACCA is currently introducing major innovations to its flagship qualification to ensure its members and future members continue to be the most valued, up to date and sought-after accountancy professionals globally.

Founded in 1904, ACCA has consistently held unique core values: opportunity, diversity, innovation, integrity and accountability. More information is here:



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