The typical accountant working full-time puts in an additional eight to 10 hours on top of their contractual working week, and many put in even more. But although they generally enjoy their jobs, that pattern of working is not what they want, according to a survey by the Institute for Employment Studies published today.

More seriously, but probably equally predictable, the survey also found that, while male and female accountants report high levels of job interest and career satisfaction, women do not believe they have the same opportunities as their male counterparts. And that could be made worse by other evidence in the survey, commissioned by the organisation Women in Accountancy, which suggests, that women's careers are seen as less important than men's.

The report by Charles Jackson, associate fellow of the Institute for Employment Studies, calls for initiatives to help women achieve the kinds of job moves and career experiences that will enable them to compete on an equal footing with men. But Anne Jenkins, president of Women in Accountancy, believes confidence-building can play an important role. "Women can achieve success in accountancy, but they are doing so on their own terms and are re-defining workplace practices for the new era. They often need encouragement to ask for what they want, and help in selling the benefits of their ideas to employers."

A similar approach is advocated by Teresa Graham, chairman of Workplace 2000, a group with similar interests. As staff partner with the middle- ranking firm Baker Tilly, she says she will often accept - or even propose - solutions for people who are finding the traditional working week difficult to reconcile with family interests. She cites the example of a tax specialist who came to her saying she would have to resign because of the difficulties of working and looking after her children, but ended up taking up a more flexible arrangement. While accepting that some of her male colleagues might not have approved, she says they are now "openly pleased that we hadn't lost her".

Nevertheless, she is concerned about the danger of getting "fixated" on women's issues. As the name of the body she heads suggests, she is "trying to broaden it out" so that men as well as women think about achieving a better balance between work and life.

"We're doing a lot more work about educating employers that flexible working in its widest sense must be the way to go, that in fact it is likely to enhance the bottom line," she says.

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