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Women slowly taking on more C-Suite roles

Women’s representation in CFO positions has nearly doubled in the USA over the last ten years, accounting for 12.6% of CFO positions according to a study by Crist Kolder Associates.

The AICPA chair of the women’s initiative executive committee Melissa Hooley said there is still much to be done in terms of women’s representation in the industry. “When I became a CPA 25 years ago, I thought we would have come a lot further than we have,” she wrote in an AICPA blog post.

In Europe, the number of women on boards is increasing as well, but not as quickly as hoped. The Female FTSE Board Report 2017 reported that in the UK the number of women on FTSE 100 boards has risen to nearly 28%, but in order to make the 33% by 2020 goal there needs to be a greater push.

In Europe, we see the highest numbers of women on boards in France (34.4%) and Albania (31.1%), according to the French CPA Women on Boards Association (AFECA - Association des Femmes diplômées d’Expertise Comptable Administrateurs) statistics.

Considering that roughly 10,000 baby boomers reach retirement age (65) each day through to 2029, according to a study by Pew Research and the Social Security Administration, can companies, and although women represent more than 50% of accounting graduates entering the profession over the last 20 years, according to the AICPA, constituting a large pool of talent to choose from, there is a question mark as to why they haven’t made it up the career ladder.

Many companies are vulnerable to the ‘pipeline myth’, which suggests that the reason for small numbers of females at the top of corporations is because not enough of them have been in the industry long enough. Several studies have challenged this myth.

An AICPA report found that women have made up 50% of new CPAs for the last 25 years, more than enough time to take on leadership roles. A 2017 report by McKinsey and Lean In has further backed up the AICPA report. They’ve found that the lack of women in top positions starts at entry-level, when women are less likely than their male counterparts to be awarded key promotions.

The difficulty women face in rising in the ranks early in their careers results in fewer women in top positions in the corporate world. If women in entry-level positions were promoted at the same rate as their male counterparts, women at the C-suite levels could double, the report claims.

By Madeleine Crean

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