Women split on how firms deal with gender discrimination

While the majority of accounting and tax firms offer policies to discourage gender bias and discrimination, women are divided over whether the firms’ leaders are actually carrying out those policies, according to a new survey.

The survey, from Thomson Reuters and a group called Women in Tax, found that more needs to be done to put women on a level playing field with men in the tax and accounting profession.

More than 70 percent of the 41 women polled said 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, only a little over half (58 percent) of the women surveyed said that practice leaders embrace the organization’s diversity initiatives and goals, and 56 percent indicated that the organization reinforces gender diversity as a strategic priority in its talk and actions. Overall, 61 percent of the women polled said they didn’t think their employers did an adequate job showcasing female role models.

“Accounting and tax firms, as well as tax and accounting functions in corporations, have policies in place to counter gender bias and discrimination and to promote work-life balance, specifically related to parental leave,” said the report. “While having policies in place is an appropriate first step, it does not go far enough. There is a striking imbalance between promoting ‘official’ organization policies and implementing these policies through leadership and management.”

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The survey also asked about work-life balance and flexible work arrangements. Only 54 percent of the survey respondents said they felt their organizations promote work-life balance, despite the fact that 78 percent of those employers offer flexible work arrangements.

Fifty-six percent of the women surveyed indicated that taking parental leave negatively affects women’s careers. Only 42 percent said that colleagues who take advantage of flexible work arrangements have been given the same access to key work assignments that lead to promotion and career advancement. Only one-third of the women surveyed said that gender bias is not an issue for career advancement and promotion.

Only 36 percent of the women surveyed said their organizations mandated gender-diverse candidates for promotion or leadership roles, and 82 percent said their employers lacked mandates for gender-diverse assessment panels for promotions.

Less than 33 percent of respondents indicated that their firms had a set target for board composition, and just over 20 percent said that their organizations openly report the makeup of the organization by gender and level. Seventy-three percent of the women surveyed indicated their organizations don’t analyze gender diversity by practice and/or function, and less than 25 percent employ local strategies to deal with specific gender diversity issues by practice or function.

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