Smart Moves: Do women accountants really count?

This year almost half the student accountants studying with the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales are female.

Accounting has always been a popular career for women. Yet as more thirty- somethings attempt to combine work and family, accountancy, like so many other professions, loses its charm. Companies which have invested in female accountants are forced to let them go when flexible work options are unavailable.

"I, too, wanted the elusive combination of security and flexibility in a career that is usually well paid," explains Anne Jenkins, who chose chartered accountancy after studying for a degree in modern history and economics.

After doing a satisfying job for several years, she decided to work for herself, specialising in training and education.

That was in 1990. In 1993 Ms Jenkins became the youngest elected member and only the sixth woman on the 90-member ICAEW council - a fair reflection of the kind of numbers of women who stay in the profession.

Ms Jenkins also took on the role of president of a pioneering organisation called Women in Accountancy.

WIA was founded in 1992 and represents around 35,000 female accountants. The organisation is funded by five out of the six major accountancy bodies in the UK and Ireland. The group promotes good employment practices, provides a forum for sharing experiences and opportunities and is a point of contact for accountants, employers and public bodies.

"At the end of 1997, in connection with the Institute for Employment Studies, we published a survey entitled Accountants with Attitude," Ms Jenkins says. "We spoke to male and female accountants in mid-career. The findings showed that women were looking for more control over when and where they worked." Ms Jenkins has taken her views along to a series of business breakfasts all over the country. Sponsored by the recruitment consultants Robert Half, the breakfasts go some way towards changing attitudes.

"We need people to accept that if you have the capability to be a finance director or a partner then you can contribute at that level without having to work full-time," Ms Jenkins says.

In 1995 WIA published a booklet entitled The Balance on Trial - Women's Careers in Accountancy. As anticipated, the research indicated that women have not achieved positions in the profession on a par with their male counterparts.

It became clear that if women were given help with their career choices things would improve. To this end WIA has researched and published booklets on Managing a Career Break, A Career Development Guide, Working Together and Effective Self-Marketing.

The group also runs workshops in the UK and Ireland that develop these same ideas.

"For the first time women accountants are able to discuss the issues arising in their careers. We profile two women accountants and draw new definitions of success. We encourage participants to build a professional network and seek out mentors. These things appear to arise naturally for men, but are often overlooked by women," Ms Jenkins concludes.

Penelope Kenny is managing director of Emergent Management Consulting in Dublin. She is also a WIA Board Member. "Our workplace was disabling women from maximising their contribution, yet didn't show employers how to take advantage of this potential either," she says.

Ms Kenny claims that WIA has helped her to see what was possible for professional women in her marketplace as well as to appreciate the value of having mentors and role models.

"Ten years ago WIA predicted and planned for the skills shortage which is now being experienced in Ireland. WIA is one of few groups fostering workplace transformation," Ms Kenny continues.

According to Ms Kenny, WIA is very different from the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland, of which she is also a member.

"Ahead of its time, visionary, WIA provides tangible and useful services to members while fostering and encouraging seminal research and thinking," she concludes.

For more information contact Anne Jenkins and WIA (tel: 0181-891 0899 or by e-mail at

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Senior SEO Executive

£24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior SEO Executive is requi...

Recruitment Genius: Online Customer Service Administrator

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Online customer Service Admi...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Marketing Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This global, industry leading, ...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living