Boosting the retention of working mothers and improving gender diversity, especially at senior levels, are ongoing challenges for accounting firms. However, the companies that create a culture of inclusion from the top down can ensure a more strategic and sustainable solution to attracting and retaining female talent.
Company executives need to take a stand on gender diversity and understand how it not only impacts the corporate culture, but the long-term retention process and talent mobility of the firm. However, while the CEO is the primary role model and needs to stay involved, one person cannot single-handedly change the face of gender diversity.
Working in tandem with HR professionals, the CEO and senior accounting executives need to take the time to identify future female leaders and discuss the best paths to develop their careers. The board, the HR department and management teams also need to consistently engage fully with both diversity and equal opportunity in order to integrate them into the overall working culture of the firm.
Such a culture requires an ongoing transformation process which involves the advancement and nurturing of female talent, succession planning, measuring results and reinforcing progress through active role models and mentors.
For new female staff, it’s critical to identify their best career paths to accelerate their growth and potential to impact your firm in the long run. Newly recruited female talent can also be effectively nurtured though job rotation in functional and line roles. Over time, it’s important to actively engage with female staff, keep the dialogue going and talk openly about diversity and why it’s important for the firm.
When it comes to succession planning and looking at current and future openings, firms need to be strategic and intentional about how they want to place women in those roles. High-performing women can be selected for special training sessions and mentoring programs, as well as the opportunity to interact with the CEO and board members. There also needs to be transparent accountability for any skills gaps or discrepancies in the tenure of women in more executive positions.
Encouraging the appointment of women on boards can prove a real advantage to accounting firms who want to kick-start their gender diversity programs or accelerate career progress.
Qualified female directors can not only prove to be a robust addition to the boardroom table, but can become effective role models to nurture the next generation of female accounting talent.