Gender discrimination still stifling female accountants

Despite female accountants now making up half of the industry’s qualified practitioners, outdated work cultures and gender-based discrimination continue to affect their progression.

New research conducted by the University of New England (UNE) has indicated that female practitioners, particularly within regional accounting firms, still feel overwhelming levels of inequality in the workplace when it came to pay, promotions and flexibility.

According to the research and survey results, although women make up half of qualified practising accountants within Australia, these numbers are not translating to senior positions such as principals or partners.

“Gender inequality continues to be reinforced and reproduced by male principals and partners through day-to-day work and social practices,” said Dr Sujana Adapa of the UNE.

“These women felt they couldn’t see themselves progressing into senior roles.”

Unnamed respondents within the survey also indicated that the industry is acutely aware of the prejudice faced by female practitioners.

“Annual pay and incentives are different for men and women working in the profession. Everybody is aware of this discrimination,” one female partner indicated.

“Male accountants spend more time and engage in networking with our high net worth clients out of business hours. They have to be paid extra to keep our business going,” said one male principal at a medium-sized accounting firm.

Pay discrimination, according to the research, continues to be rife as female practitioners struggle to juggle their workplace and family commitments.

“When it comes to pay discrimination it seems male employees are compensated with ‘attractive incentives’ for their engagement with networking-related activities that many women can’t do because of family commitments,” Dr Adapa added.

Several respondents noted that women fail to progress as they require extended periods of leave due to their family obligations, with one male principal even indicating that confidentiality of information may be compromised by these career breaks.

“We are aware that our female staff members are not available out of business hours because of their family commitments. Obviously our male staff members make themselves available for networking with our clients; we have to pay attractive incentives for their out of business hours related work,” another male principal indicated.

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