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International Women’s Day is an opportunity for businesses to better support women in the workplace

Companies of all sizes can take five actionable steps to foster greater gender parity

4 March 2021, London – In advance of International Women’s Day on 8 March, the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (AICPA & CIMA) shares tips for businesses to better support and empower their female employees.

“The global pandemic has highlighted the balancing act that women have performed for years managing their work and family lives,” said Crystal Cooke, Director of diversity and inclusion for the Association, the global organisation for the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) and The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA). “It’s incumbent that organisations recognise the challenges women face in their career progression and put practices into place to support their success.”

Here are five things businesses can do to build a culture that provides greater gender equity in the workplace: 

  • Be flexible: The COVID-19 pandemic has forced all of us to change the way we work and manage our lives. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, working mothers are spending significantly more time on childcare and housework than men during lockdown. Employers should understand the added stress that comes from managing household responsibilities with the demands of work. This will likely require thinking outside the box for equitable and realistic solutions, such as flexible work hours or split days. 
  • Make it OK to say “no”: Create an environment where those who are overwhelmed feel safe, and will not feel penalised or judged, for saying “no” to additional projects or responsibilities. Encourage women to ask for help when they need it and the option of taking wellness breaks to move, meditate, practice gratitude, and embrace this time with their families. 
  • Offer support: Show concern for your employees and offer them the support they need. Ask the important questions and really listen to responses: How are you doing? and What can we do to assist you? Then find a way to provide the support needed, which again could be unconventional.
  • Emphasise well-being and self-care: For nearly a year, your employees have largely lived the same day over and over. Many are juggling all their responsibilities, which have now seeped into their workday and therefore resulted in no boundaries. It’s important that you help the women in your organisation find ways to successfully manage their mental health, stress and energy levels and to take some joy out of each day. 
  • Be more inclusive: Look around you in important leadership meetings – online or in person. Are women and people of colour (POC) well represented? If not, reshape your invitation lists and include women and POC in meetings where strategy, vision, and business critical decisions are being made, even if they aren’t partner yet.

The Association (AICPA & CIMA) is committed to supporting women in the profession and to achieving gender equity for women in the finance and accounting profession. The Financial Reporting Council’s 2020 Key Facts and Trends in the Accountancy Profession found that women currently make up 50% of all accounting students at the UK professional bodies and 37% of members. Yet, they remain largely underrepresented among management and partner positions, with less than a fifth of all partners being women at the largest firms. The Association has several initiatives to empower women in accounting and finance and support allyship in the workplace, including: