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Talented women vote with their feet, top firms warned

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Many Women in Accounting award winners set up on their own when their career paths were blocked, say Rebecca Mihalic and Guy Pearson of Ignition.

By Philip King 10 minute read

There’s still a glass ceiling and gender pay gap at the top of accounting firms, says Ignition head of accounting Rebecca Mihalic, but talented women are voting with their feet if they get overlooked.

Speaking on this week’s Accountants Daily podcast in the wake of the Top 50 Women in Accounting awards, Ms Mihalic said there had been progress in the six years since they began and there were more great places to work than before.

“But we have not made sweeping changes, particularly not globally,” she said. “I’m constantly surprised when I hear stories about what occurs in some of the not great places to work.”

“The CA ANZ remuneration report from last year talked about a pay gap, particularly at the top end of an accounting firm. So we’re talking about partners – these are the women in that firm who have had strong successful careers and are still getting paid less than their male counterparts. And it’s insane. It’s not small amounts, like $50,000 a year.”

“So we have absolutely made progress. But there is a lot more to do.”

She said there were promising signs among women just entering the profession.

“I’ve had conversations with some girls in the next generation and they will say things like they’re completely unaware that there are problems on a gender basis, because they’ve never experienced it. Now, that’s amazing.”

Ignition co-founder and CEO Guy Pearson, who began the Women in Accounting awards six years ago, said data was vital and some firms were now marketing themselves on their gender balance merits.

“There’s definitely been some movement perhaps in the right direction, but it’s too slow,” Mr Pearson said.

“We’re going through an exercise that we have done in the past 18 months analysing gender pay gap internally at Ignition to make sure that we host these awards, we damn sure better act through our values!”

“What is definitely true is all these firms are starting to try and market themselves on their gender balance, which is perhaps a step in the right direction, at least on the awareness side.”

Ms Mihalic said many of the Top 50 Women in Accounting award winners were very proactive when it came to their careers.

“They’re not just sitting around waiting for the equality to occur in the firm. So if these big firms want to stay doing what they’re doing … they’re going to have to figure out a way to let women in because they’re just exiting.

“They’ll set up their own firms, they’ll leave, they’ll go to tech, they will find a better way to do things.

“It’s exactly what I did and I know plenty of women – and a lot of the top 50 women – who were there because they left organisations that would not treat them fairly. They started their own journey.

“All these online service providers make it super easy and incredibly affordable for you to start an accounting firm tomorrow. You basically just need to set up a company and get some insurance.”

Ignition’s Top 50 Women in Accounting awards is now in its sixth year of celebrating women who are at the forefront of driving change, innovation and creating a more diverse and inclusive industry.

This year, nearly 940 women from 14 countries were nominated by their peers, colleagues or leaders for this year’s awards. The top 50 were shortlisted by an esteemed global judging panel with winners from Australia, Canada, Cayman Islands, France, New Zealand, Pakistan, the UK and the US.

 

 

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Philip King

Philip King

AUTHOR

Philip King is editor of Accountants Daily and SMSF Adviser, the leading sources of news, insight, and educational content for professionals in the accounting and SMSF sectors.

Philip joined the titles in March 2022 and brings extensive experience from a variety of roles at The Australian national broadsheet daily, most recently as motoring editor. His background also takes in spells on diverse consumer and trade magazines.

You can email Philip on: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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