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Diversity & Inclusion

“Meaningful steps” not yet impacting results for women in the tax & accounting industry, new report shows

Women have made significant strides in the workplace, especially in the tax and accounting industry. Nevertheless, there is more work to be done to put women on an equal playing field with their male colleagues.

Thomson Reuters and Women in Tax, an independent organization focused on women’s success and upward mobility in tax profession, partnered to survey women in the tax and accounting field to gain their perspectives on how well employers are demonstrating their commitment to women’s leadership and gender diversity.

Accounting and tax firms, as well as the tax and accounting functions within corporations, have policies in place to counter gender bias and discrimination as well as to promote work-life balance, specifically related to parental leave.

You can download the Thomson Reuters Survey of Women in Tax here.

While having policies in place is an appropriate first step, it does not go far enough. There is a striking imbalance between promoting “official” policies within an organization and implementing these policies through leadership and management.

“Our findings show that firms are taking meaningful steps towards communicating gender diversity as a priority within their teams. Although this is great progress for the industry, these steps are not yet making the desired impact on results,” says Charlotte Rushton, President of the Tax & Accounting Professionals group at Thomson Reuters. “They key takeaway for firms is that communicating gender diversity as a priority is only the beginning of the journey. In order to attract, develop, and retain diverse talent, firms must make their intentions actionable and measurable.”

According to the survey, the phrase “actions speak louder than words” rings true when it comes to women not receiving the same treatment as their male counterparts with regard to work assignments, promotions, or the opportunities to develop client relationships. Simply publishing organizational policies on a website does not automatically lead to breaking down the barriers that women face in the workplace. For example:

  • More than 70% of women agreed that their organizations offer policies and training that they see as important, such as flexible working arrangements and training on sexual harassment and bullying.
  • However, in stark contrast, the level of agreement on questions that address areas of organization culture — the specific opportunities that lead to promotion such as stretch assignments or high-visibility projects, performance management, retention, and promotion — is significantly lower.

Women in Tax CEO Betsy Gillon notes that the insights that this survey highlights are in line with the anecdotal evidence her group sees through their work across the country, adding that the survey will further the group’s mission. “Thomson Reuters’ support of Women In Tax has been critical to our ability to work toward our mission of improving women’s leadership in the tax profession,” Gillon says.

In this accompanying white paper, we highlight the insights learned from the survey. We sought further perspective from women in the tax industry to gain their views on advancement opportunities, to understand how equal (or unequal) they really are in their workplace, and to determine the impact on their careers they’ve experienced when taking advantage of certain workplace policies.

“Women In Tax appreciates the partnerships that we have created with many large accounting firms and companies,” Gillon explains. “Our collective work provides women with an independent means of building crucial networking relationships and offers important technical and soft skills training that will help them reach the next level of leadership within their companies.”

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