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A finance background helps women get boardroom positions says ACCA report: "Women in finance; a springboard to corporate board positions?" Back
A report commissioned by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) shows that a financial qualification or a background which demonstrates substantial financial acumen are seen as catalysts for women getting onto the boards of FTSE companies.
The report shows that:

- Proportionally, women appear more successful in attaining executive roles where they have a financial background: 45% of female executive directors are financially qualified and 65% in total have a financial background, while 26% of their male colleagues are financially qualified and 44% have a financial background.

- More than half of new female Non-Executive Director (NED) appointments have a functional background in finance.

- The finance function is seen by the three groups interviewed for the research - executive search consultants, chairmen and women who have made it to the board - to be more facilitative for women’s progress to the top of corporate organisations.

Liz Hughes, Head of ACCA Ireland said: “What we have sought to understand through this study is why the finance function is such a springboard for women. We are seeing a time of change when it comes to women’s representation in the boardroom – since the Davies Report of spring 2011, we have seen a 5% increase, equal to the entire increase over the previous decade. Our report shows that more than half of the women appointed in this period have a functional background in finance and the proportion is even higher for female executive directors, at 65%.”

The report says that finance is the language of the boardroom and having the ability to communicate financial information establishes and builds credibility; it appears to validate women’s suitability for consideration for a board appointment – a view especially expressed by search consultants who took part in this research.

Hughes added: “A certain level of financial acumen is necessary for all board directors. But for women, having a finance qualification or functional background helps to break down some persistent stereotypes about women’s competence, giving them credibility, legitimacy and a common language that allows them to join the conversation of the boards.”

Bringing together new findings, plus existing research into the differences between men and women when it comes to access to the boardroom, the report reveals that finance offers a clear career path for women, especially within professional services firms.

The research also indicated that women appear to have been more successful in reaching the most senior jobs through the function of finance and this may have implications for other functions when looking to encourage the progression of female talent. But the research also reveals that women nevertheless need to build their networks, use their social connections and use their financial acumen to progress their careers.

“While there was a clear message from executive search consultants and the chairmen, that finance was a facilitator for a path into the boardroom, it is also clear that financial skills alone are not enough – women need to stretch their social connections, and make themselves known to those where they want to work. The adage ‘it’s not what you know but who you know’ still stands in the workplace, but for women - to get to the top they need to be motivated, driven, determined and known.”, Hughes said.
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