Accountancy Firms leading the way through the glass ceiling?

31st January, 2011. It was confirmed that PricewaterhouseCoopers shall set targets for the number of women it employs as partners to allow women to break through the corporate glass ceiling. 

Whilst the outcome of Lord Davies’ report on the lack of women in the boardroom of FTSE companies has still to be published[1], PwC has made the bold move to endeavour to address the imbalance in the higher echelons of the firm and to put mechanisms in process to attract women back into the workplace post career breaks following childbirth.

Accountancy firms seem to be at the forefront of pushing for great diversity.  The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales has developed a new leadership programme designed to support women in finance working across practice, industry or the public sector who are aiming for senior management roles. Additionally certain senior accountants are supporting the campaign – the 30% Club which is an initiative that believes that gender balance on boards not only encourages better leadership and governance but that diversity contributes to better all-round board performance. [2]

Again as I have commented in past articles, whilst quotas and targets are helpful in providing guidance to companies in terms of gender and ethnic minority numbers, people must get to positions by merit and not because of positive discrimination. The ICAEW programme and the 30% club seem to recognise this and these are important initiatives to ensure that women are represented fairly at senior levels due to a recognition of their competence and not merely as a tick in a box.

It will be interesting to see how other industries look at the process of diversity and ensuring that the recommendations of Lord Davies (when published) are put into practice.  From a Women in Law perspective, this has long been on their agenda and their fundamental goal is to assist law firms in achieving diversity where they can.