Women accountants are calling for greater workplace support, and a better culture to improve their mental health and engagement at work.
A new study by Monash Business School researchers, Associate Professor Carly Moulang and Dr Alessandro Ghio from the Department of Accounting, found women’s presence in senior leadership remained low and accounting firms were facing difficulties in retaining them.
The research team set out to uncover why women dropped out in the middle of their career in professional service firms. A report by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency into gender equity, found that despite women making up 48 per cent of employees in the finance and insurance sectors, just 37 per cent of them hold full-time management positions.
Undertaking a survey of 203 women and conducting 31 in-depth interviews, researchers looked at supporting practices for women certified accountants from across Australia – including a broad cross-section of women from diverse backgrounds, demographics, ages and seniority in both urban and rural areas.
Associate Professor Moulang said survey respondents wanted to see more women in senior positions to inspire others to follow suit, and have male partners advocate for them and model greater workplace flexibility.
“Leadership support is key in order to advocate workplace change. There was a real call for more part-time positions with more leadership roles available to be done part-time. The ability to share roles is also on their wish list,” Associate Professor Moulang said.
Associate Professor Moulang says many women experience work-life balance struggles despite the policies being in place for them to take time off work – in reality, they are unable to take the time when they need it.
“The crazy thing is that in many workplaces, while women may have plenty of time accrued, it’s not possible for them to take breaks until the project is finished. Doing so is seen as a ‘career suicide’ move. A consequence of this is that many women professionals then experience burnout,” Associate Professor Moulang says.
“One respondent spoke of the wellness days on offer at her workplace, but they were only available once the work was completed. This was often too late as burnout was already there. In many instances, women