Accounting Jobs for Women in India have a Better Way to Go

Accounting Jobs for Women in India Have A Long Way To Go


The financial year end is just around the corner and with many companies and tax payers set to close of the books of accounts, it is rather staggering to find out that women who make up at least 50 percent of the accountants, internationally, are still competing to receive fair benefits from employment.
On the international women’s day, this finding warrants a deeper view to determine the issues faced by women in the booming accounting community in India and reasons for the pay gap.


Are There International Gender Benders? 

Last year, when the Big Four, Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PwC was ranked among the Top 50 Employers for Women in the U.K. , the industry by large, acknowledged the importance of adopting gender equality policy as a part of the business strategy. 

Deloitte interminably pushed its target increase in women partners from 14 percent in 2014 to 18 percent in 2016. And with the appointment of Cathy Engelbert as its first woman CEO in March 2015, the company’s vision of strengthening female workforce to boost gender diversity stood out as one of its core initiatives.
Across the community, EY ranked at the top of list of companies with 34 percent of women in senior leadership positions followed by KPMG showing 32 percent , PwC with 31.7 percent and Deloitte having 31.6 percent.
Besides this positive findings, only a handful of names including Sacha Romanovitch (CEO of Grant Thornton, UK), Jana Schreuder (COO, Northern Trust Corporation) and Lynne Doughtie (Chairman and CEO, KPMG) are associated with high-profile roles in accounting firms. Back home, the Big Four Banks lead the list of women role models like Arundathi Bhattacharya (Managing Director, SBI), Chanda Kochhar (CEO and MD, ICICI), Shikha Sharma (CEO, Axis Bank) and Nina Lal Kidwai (General Manager and Country Head, HSBC India).
This is leaves us to wonder if Indian accounting firms would follow suite to eliminate gender differences and equality barriers to up the scales of diversity and progression? Will there be more names to look up to in the list of successful women in accounting careers?

India has Possibilities?

After multiple policy regulations, tax amendments passed in the country and influx of foreign direct investment, Indian government pushed for increasing the job opportunities in the accounting sector. As a result, many candidates are seen to be in a hot pursuit of landing the perfect, respectable and well-paid job in accounting. The demand has been more pronounced ever since the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi made the statement in 2017 about creating India’s own ‘Big Four’ accounting firms to accommodate the ‘big pillars of the country’.
To reach the global gender equality standards, accounting start-ups and firms have a host of issues for women in accounting profession to sort out. This would mean, increasing higher education enrolment ratio, enabling a flexible working environment for working mothers with leave, maternity benefits and infrastructure that enable female participation like hostels, crèches, transport, etc.
This would require the combined initiative of the academia and organizations to boost attrition and employment of women in male-dominated professions.

Global Male Domination in Senior Roles

Not so long ago, findings from the survey by the ICAEW (Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales) and Stott & May show the pay gap between male and female chartered accountants increased by 5.4 percent since 2014. The survey results also found the pay gap hit its historic low and was more pronounced among women in senior roles or over the age of 45.
The difference in demographics and nature of the sector played the huge determinants in salary structure of men and women. The research experts also noted the trend of working for not-for-profit organizations and public sectors where the pay scales were slightly lowers were popular among female respondents in the survey. To counter the long-term impacts of the gender pay gap, the reports also recommended serious actions like fining companies in the UK with more than 250 employees if they failed to close the gaps.
“Businesses are changing. They need to be more collaborative and diverse as they operate in an ever-interconnected world. Leaders must work with people with different values, perhaps even in different time zones. You can’t ignore half of the working population and the opportunities it will bring to business,” says Sharron Gunn, ICAEW Commercial Executive Director in a Press Release.

Incidentally, in the U.S., the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) conducted a study on diversity on accounting professions and found that only 19 percent of women end up becoming partners and principals in renowned firms.
“I looked at the people above me. It wasn’t unusual for people to put endless hours, especially during audit season and brag about it. One senior man slept on the couch in his office every night and didn’t see his family for a week,” expresses Kristen Rampe, Principal at the leading U.S.-based Kristen Rampe Consulting that works exclusively with public accounting firms.
Serious attempts have been made by the corporates and MNCs in India and abroad, yet there is seems to be a massive gender pay gap. The research report by Accenture has also revealed that men outnumbered women in high functional and leadership roles and the disparity in pay scales were also based on other factors like education, nature of the job across different industries and the number of hours clocked in. Even on the global scale, it was revealed the average working woman takes home a salary that is at least 40 percent less than that of her male counterpart.
“Despite recent successes such as improvement in education, and more work opportunities, socio-cultural issues often force women to step back at important stages in their careers making the gap harder to close," said Rekha Menon, Chairman and Sr Managing Director, Accenture in India, according to an English Daily.

Extending Maternity Leave Help Prevent Attrition

Closer home, another shocker was that the trend of unfavourable and unfriendly work policies for working mothers existed until companies like Flipkart, Accenture, Godrej and HUL began sanctioning six months of maternity leave. These organizations reportedly practised the concept of extending the leave for the female work force much before the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 was amended to provide grace vacation period from 12 to 26 weeks.
This was to iron out the deficiencies the organizations would mostly likely suffer if women opt out of their careers due to strong factors like maternity or childcare. Besides, the extended maternity leaves and other benefits are proven to foster balanced, supportive and positive work culture for women for a more successful career trajectory.

How to Fix the Gender Gap?

To bring about a paradigmatic shift in the accounting community by reducing gender biases and encouraging employment of female accountants, it is necessary to vehemently promote and create female role models. According the Accenture reports, the change can be brought out by the thorough usage of powerful accelerators —digital fluency, career strategy and tech immersion to blur the pay gap.
The onslaught of accounting software programs, certified courses and short-term courses on accounting serves as an added advantage for women of all age groups and backgrounds. These courses allow candidates to take advantage of technological conveniences that help save time and effort to take learn and understand concepts and receive relevant exposure.
Contributing to the above finding based on 29 countries, a cross-industry report, Getting to Equal 2017 posits that the pay gap can be eliminated if women were provided the chance to take advantage of the powerful accelerators. Which mean the pay scales disparities in the developing countries can be closed 2066 and 2044 for the developed countries!
Accounting sector in India is in the pulpit of change and one can only hope for speedy transition of current organizational structures into more female-friendly and growth-centric platforms.
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