There's no accounting for families
Roger Trapp on the problems of balancing books and babies
Wednesday 25 January 1995
This case study - taken from a recently published report on women's careers in accountancy by Isabel Boyer - will sound familiar to many. Indeed, there are many variations on its theme in the report. But it is not the whole story.
In the course of research for the booklet The Balance on Trial - Women's Careers in Accountancy, published by the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, Ms Boyer found instances of women managing to hold down challenging positions - sometimes even being promoted - while taking time off or working part time because they had children.
Take, for instance, Juliet. She works part time as an audit manager in the northern office of an accounting firm. Although she did not feel able to return to work full time after the birth of her first child, she remains ambitious and is keen to keep working. Realising that her contribution can be more important at different times of the year, she works an average of four days a week. But, if needed, she may work full time for three months or longer and then take some weeks off at home when the pressureis reduced.
Or there is Beth. She had planned to work part time when she had young children, so had set out to equip herself with the necessary audit and small-business skills that would enable her to do this in her own practice. Now linked with another practice, run by a woman without children who works full time, she works three days a week, one in the office and two with clients. She is increasing her hours as the practice grows and will work an extra day when her children are older.
The link between the two cases is that the women in question have some control over their work. As Juliet says, she is responsible for her work and so can use her own judgement to make her job work. She decides when she wants to work, organises cover, manages relationships with her clients and keeps her colleagues informed.
More common is the experience of Pat. She sees the culture of the company she works for as a barrier to progress. She meets her targets and receives good reviews for her work, but feels her superiors will not promote someone who works part time.
Like many companies, hers sets great store by long hours. If work is managed efficiently and mothers go home at a reasonable hour, it is interpreted as a reduction in commitment.
Questioning such policies and encouraging companies to change them is the purpose of the report by Ms Boyer, who, after spells in banking and industry, runs the Matrix Consultancy, which advises employers on work and family issues.
The findings of the research, which was supported by the UK and Ireland's six accountancy bodies, need to be borne in mind by all members of the profession because women now account for 14 per cent of their numbers. And, thanks to an acceleration in the past decade, this proportion is growing. Among members under 35, the proportion of women is nearly 30 per cent, while among students it is 36 per cent.
But although the barriers to women entering the profession seem to have been largely overcome, women accountants, like their counterparts in other professions, start to fall behind male colleagues later in their careers. Male accountants are twice as likely as women to become partners in larger practices, and twice as likely to become company directors. Women tend to earn less than men - not because of unequal pay for equal work but because of unequal access to senior positions.
The accountancy bodies themselves are hardly blazing a trail here. The Chartered Association of Certified Accountants has, in Anthea Rose, a female chief executive, while the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland followed the lead of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants and the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland in electing a female president. Sheila Masters, a KPMG partner, is in the running to become the first woman president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales after last week declaring herself a candidate in this year's vice-presidential poll.
Ms Boyer believes these organisations could do much to change the status quo. As well as recognising that the issue is central to the whole profession, they should develop a clearer understanding of how the profile of the profession and the needs of members are changing, improve services for women, provide employers with information on women's career issues and set a good example on employment practices.
But women can also help themselves by informing their professional bodies of their concerns, giving their support to bodies such as Women in Accountancy and, when in senior positions, supporting those coming through the system.
This argument is not merely for the altruistic. Pointing out that permanent changes in society and the workforce make old-fashioned employment practices untenable, Ms Boyer makes a business case that is guaranteed to appeal to accountants. If employers, influenced by the professional bodies, do not make the changes needed, there will be an increasing waste of talented people who cannot find a way of working within the system.
"Wastage is bad for employers, bad for women and bad for the prestige of the profession as a whole," she says. "The profession cannot afford to train large groups of women and then watch their potential being wasted as they are unable to get to the top. The cost of doing nothing will increase over time, and lost subscriptions from women members who leave the profession could considerably dent the bodies' finances."
Compare with the Independent: See how much you could save by switching credit cards. Compare now
Is it time to turn your back on Isas?
How to get the best return from your cash
Make money as a mystery shopper
How to start your own internet business
The whole truth about legal fees: Conveyancing can knock a big hole in home-buyers' finances. To get the best deal you must cross-examine solicitors about their charges, says Sue Fieldman
- 1 Hells of residence: Inside Macedonia's horrifying student accommodation - where the walls are green and the food is black
- 2 Michael Schumacher 'experience' gives F1 legend chance to 'show his character', says Lewis Hamilton
- 3 Girl found in the Amazon rainforest with neighbour Grover Morales after going missing for 7 months
- 4 Rampaging elephant smashes up house but then 'saves crying baby trapped under debris'
- 5 Disney's Frozen is 'very evil' gay propaganda, says Christian pastor
Katie Hopkins continues campaign to become Britain's most hated talking head with poorly timed Bob Crow tweet
No EU referendum under Labour: Ed Miliband to reveal that vote on membership is ‘unlikely’ in next Parliament if party wins power
Grace Dent: Who cares if she spells it Barraco Barner? Gemma Worrall is more employable than some bookish arts graduate
Fracking is turning the US into a bigger oil producer than Saudi Arabia
Ukraine crisis: Russia pledges to 'retaliate against sanctions' as Ukrainian president says Crimea vote will not be recognised
The quiet diplomat: Catherine Ashton - recognised and admired in all the world’s troubled countries, yet ridiculed at home
iJobs Money & Business
£32000 - £36000 per annum + generous benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: * TAX * ...
£37000 - £40000 per annum + £20000 benefits package: Pro-Recruitment Group: **...
£55000 - £70000 per annum + benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: In-House Corporat...
£80000 - £100000 per annum + benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: In-House Opportu...
Day In a Page
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens
A seven-bedroom Grade II-listed property with a separate self-contained apartment
A five-bedroom Victorian house with three reception rooms and galleried landing, £695,000
A six-bedroom farmhouse with five acres of land in a former cloth-making village
A secluded seven-bedroom detached house with large private garden, £490,000
A three-bedroom cottage overlooking Sarratt village green with open fires and solid oak floors
A three-bedroom maisonette flat in a Grade I-listed, Georgian townhouse in a sought-after location
A one-bedroom apartment located within a private gated development, north of Turnham Green
Look forward to a brighter future at two-bedroom Sunny Cottages, ideal for Londoners looking to downsize
A three-bedroom red-brick cottage with outbuildings and pretty gardens, £200,000
This three-bedroom flat within a former textile factory spans the corner of the fourth floor and has a balcony
A charming four-bedroom Oxfordshire cottage with oak floors and chunky-beamed ceilings, £465,000
A beautiful one-bed flat in a sought-after portered block, with access to Norland Square communal gardens
A one-bedroom flat within a Sixties school conversion with high-spec design and open-plan kitchen, close to Lambeth North Tube, £435,000
A 17th century four-bedroom house, with open fireplaces, cellar and pool, £600,000
A three-bedroom, coach house with luxury open-plan living space and contemporary breakfast bar
A newly refurbished one-bedroom flat in the heart of Mayfair, close to Grosvenor Square
A charming four-bedroom house overlooking Burleigh Square Park, close to Thorpe Bay
A three-bedroom farmhouse with a large inglenook fireplace and exposed beams
A boutique mews house, set around a central courtyard, with three bedrooms and a private roof terrace
A four-bedroom farm-conversion with three bathrooms and two reception rooms
A two-bedroom detached house with ensuite bathrooms and a sun-drenched decked terrace, £750,000
A modern and spacious two-bedroom, penthouse flat with two bathrooms in a prestigious development
A beautifully renovated five-bedroom terrace with three reception rooms and a courtyard garden, £700,000
A four-bedroom period house which has been extended to provide almost 2,500sq ft of living space, £675,000
A pretty three-bedroom Georgian home with a 22ft drawing room and a master suite with a balcony, £525,000
A substanstial family home with five bedrooms and landscaped gardens in the much sought-after Branksome Park area
A well-presented three-bedroom house with front and rear gardens, close to White City station, £475,000
A handsome five-bedroom house in a sought-after location close to the city centre
A five-bedroom country home with valley views, equestrian stables and 27 acres of land, £725,000
A six-bedroom farm house with separate, detached cottages and 371 acres of land
A two-bedroom cottage with parquet floors, chunky beams and an open fireplace
A three-bedrrom flat with 2,733sq feet of living space, a beautiful private garden and 15 acres of communal grounds
A four-bedroom chalet bungalow with three bathrooms and a spacious garden, £525,000
A two-bedroom flat with an open plan kitchen and two balconies, close to Arsenal station
A Grade II-listed home with six bedrooms, secluded landscaped gardens and views across Hadley Green
A Grade II-listed mansion with two apartments and a cottage, near Gretna Green
A three-bedroom Grade II-listed mews house with vaulted ceilings and roof garden