By Rosana Mirkovic, senior policy adviser, ACCA
You’re all probably familiar with the global gender development gap.
But even in economies where there is a long history of equal rights and where women are now more likely to outperform men in education, the question remains: why do women still lag behind men when it comes to business ownership and leadership?
The figures are stark: on average, women are about half as likely as men to be involved in business start-ups and they account for fewer than 8 per cent of top managers in OECD countries.
It seems obvious that progress is at very best slow if not stagnant. Here at ACCA we are happy to share a better story with the majority of our students now being female as well as 42 per cent of our membership. And not only were we the first professional body to appoint a female chief executive, but we are already onto our second one.
But the point here is not to show off about our own achievements but to show that things can be different in successful global organisations. The problem is that we still haven’t arrived at the answers of why this isn’t happening more often in other professions and industries. Of course we know that family life and childcare responsibilities have a large role to play but they don’t explain everything.
We’re soon launching a new report that looks at how women have fared since the beginning of the financial crisis in 2008.
A couple of findings are worth pointing out a bit early: while our members are most likely to be influenced by their environment and more importantly the position they hold within their organisations, there were still some interesting gender related nuances we observed. For example, female members were found to be more negative towards government policy but more likely to interact with business support initiatives, including access to finance projects.
Most interestingly of all however, is the very fact that our female membership is much less likely to respond to our Global Economic Conditions quarterly surveys; although 42 per cent of ACCA members are female, only 33 per cent of GECs respondents are women.
While it is difficult to prove this, it seems possible that women are generally less interested in making predictions and general assessments on economic matters. For instance, academic and non-academic studies show that women are less attracted to economic blogging and few among even the leading female economists blog (and here too)
So the ‘silent majority’ adage might be more accurate then we thought. And therein lies a bit of problem. Diversity leads to policy- and decision-making based on a mix of views, perspectives, and experience. Without the full engagement of a significant section of society, that pool for diverse opinions is more limited than it should be.