Career breaks 'bad for progression in accountancy'

21st March 2014

MGI World Career breaks 'bad for progression in accountancy'

Career breaks are often seen as useful professionally and personally. They’re a chance to focus on other things, develop and gain new experiences. Above all, though, when we talk about career breaks we are referring to one of two things; having a child or illness.

Unfortunately, it seems that taking a career break is not good for your career. For women, this would appear an especially important area, as a new survey from the International Accounting Bulletin (IAB) shows.

A career break is the single most crucial thing holding women back from greater career progression in the accountancy profession, the poll found. It seems that having children is bad for your career as an accountant; or at least that is the perception.

While a majority of men (56 per cent) think their female colleagues can be just as successful following a career break, just 39 per cent of women would agree with them.

Clearly there is an issue that needs to be addressed by the sector, even if only in terms of how it is viewed by women who work in it. Unfortunately, evidence of salary gaps reinforces fears about career progression potential after a break.

Research from accountancy recruiter Marks Sattin in the UK shows that after ten years in the profession, the gender salary gap for accountants widens to £26,000. This could be in no small part be down the progression gap as women take career breaks to have children. As Marks Sattin managing director Dave Way points out, such a two-speed career ladder is “not healthy for accountancy”.

The IAB Women in Accounting survey was conducted earlier in March among nearly 600 accountants worldwide - more than four-fifths of whom were women. It also found women were twice as likely to favour boardroom quotas as men.

However, further evidence from the Marks Sattin research suggests that prevailing attitudes about women struggling to progress up the corporate ladder may not be entirely accurate. It found 22 per cent of European and UK board positions at firms are held by women, up from 14 per cent in 2012.

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