From XU Magazine, 
Issue 31

The role we have to play in getting more women into accounting

Accounting firms need a dedicated focus on inclusivity to make an impact

Women want to get into the industry - with Ignition’s Women in Accounting Awards seeing a 27% YoY increase in submissions.
This article originated from the Xero blog. The XU Hub is an independent news and media platform - for Xero users, by Xero users. Any content, imagery and associated links below are directly from Xero and not produced by the XU Hub.
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Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is one of the most talked about issues across all sectors and industries. It’s no shock that diversity of thought is a crucial factor for growing the business. It’s also proven to be an important part of attracting talent, with 76% of job seekers considering it a top factor when evaluating job offers.

Thinking about DEI across the accounting sector is no different. It has long been a male game, but with more accounting firms taking a DEI-focused approach to hiring and culture, the accounting profession has become more accessible for women. In fact, Accountancy Age’s “Top 50+50” survey demonstrates this, finding that, at the time of the research’s launch in 2020, nearly half of all qualified accountants were female (45%) - however, only one-fifth of senior roles within the sector were occupied by women.

Barriers to equality still exist. This is why the accounting industry needs to better engage its people to make sure they are putting the onus on themselves to ensure the sector adapts to reflect our diverse society. At Ignition, this is something we strongly believe in - and we’re making sure we don’t just talk the talk.

In fact, we recently announced the winners of our 2021 Top 50 Women in Accounting Awards. We are keen drivers of the annual awards programme because we understand the need to recognise outstanding women who are driving meaningful change and leading the way for the next generation in the accounting and bookkeeping industry - for example, Michelle Kvello at Lantern Partners, who said she’s “grateful for the opportunity that [she now has] to be able to use the [Award] to further drive the support and recognition for other women in accounting and finance, and more broadly to promote diversity within the industry which will in turn lift us all.”

Now in its fifth year running, the awards programme received almost one thousand nominations, with a 27% increase in award submissions from nominees compared to the previous year. We are determined to have an impact on a global level, which is why this year’s honorees come from all corners of the world, including the UK, Australia, New Zealand, the US, Canada, South Africa, the Cayman Islands and Nigeria.

It was so inspiring to see the record volume of submissions of women who are truly advancing diversity and inclusion in their industry, from all walks of life and from different parts of the world. From those such as Elona Mortimer-Zhika, CEO of IRIS Software Group who believes accountants are the backbone of our economy, and diversity leads to better decision making and more business success - all the way through to women such as Cindy Schroeder of Bright Bookkeeping LLC / Bookkeeping Buds who felt like she was never in the right place at the job she worked in until she launched her own accounting business. Each and every woman who entered the awards is a role model and understands the importance of taking inspiration from one another.

We helped launch the Women in Accounting initiative on International Women’s Day in 2018, as a way to drive advocacy, change and opportunity in the accounting and bookkeeping industry. To date, the awards programme has received thousands of nominations globally and has helped us share the stories of 250 winners. We at Ignition are proud to play a key role in amplifying the voices of women making a difference across the accounting sector, and are privileged to be supporting the programme year on year.

But don’t just take our word for it. Here are just some of the things our Top 50 Women had to say about the programme:

“When you look through the list of other people that have been recognised in these awards, you see the amazing things these women are doing in their respective communities or industries across the world, and to be named as one of them is incredibly humbling [...] I spent the early part of my career trying to copy what [those around me] were doing [...] As I have developed and learnt [over my 20 years in the industry] I’ve realised that it’s much more important to be your true self and show up as you.” - Kat Wellum-Kent, Monahans.

“We both want to say a huge thank you to Ignition for recognising us as Top 50 Women in accounting. Thank you for acknowledging the impact we’re making in the accounting industry now and moving forward.” - Alexandra Falcon Huerta, Soaring Falcon and Sherrell Martin, Nitram Financial Solutions.

“There’s no shortage of exceptional women who are making an impact in our industry, so to be included in this list for the second time is incredibly meaningful, especially with this year’s theme of celebrating our unique differences. Having a platform to further promote the benefits of embracing a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion programme in your business is an incredible honour and something I look forward to continuing to do [...] Stand up for what you believe in, know your value, know your worth, and don’t accept anything less.” Kelly Eke, Precision Taxation Accounting & Management.

When putting the programme together, we at Ignition carefully thought about how we were going to assess submissions - we want this award to mean something and to have an impact for the women who enter, and win, so we came up with a set of criteria that we felt best honoured how women across the accounting industry can show their value to the industry.

Submissions were measured on:

  • Experience: What the nominee has achieved professionally and how that has been informed by their unique lived experience and story.
  • Encouragement: How the nominee is actively and practically encouraging the next generation of future female leaders in the industry.
  • Empowerment: How the nominee supports and inspires others to reach their potential and claim the full confidence of their strength as a woman.

While the representation of women in accounting, bookkeeping and professional services is increasing, many women still face obstacles when it comes to pay and opportunity parity. As you can tell from the quotes from our Top 50 Women, this year’s award honorees are paving the way for a more equitable future, by uplifting more women into senior roles, driving culture change in their workplace and organisation, and inspiring the next generation of future leaders.

Every single applicant shared a significant story about how they had contributed to the betterment of their peers in the profession. And herein lies the most powerful part - awards and initiatives such as this, along with placing a dedicated spotlight on women in the industry, enables them to collaborate in an authentic way. There is so much going on behind the scenes to progress our industry forward, and it’s important we keep sight of this as we continue to evolve not just the service we offer, but the people we have in place to evolve that service.

Why leave it there?

To find out more about the awards programme

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