Every day, I meet talented accountancy and finance professionals who excel in their field. These are often hard-working, ambitious women, but from many of them I keep hearing the same thing, that they are still struggling to have their voices heard by their employers.
Only half (52%) of women working in Ireland today believe that their opinions are heard and respected, our research for the Hays Ireland Diversity & Inclusion report 2018 has revealed. For every woman whose opinion is heard, another voice falls on deaf ears. If we truly are to ‘balance for better’ this International Women’s Day, we need to stop talking about how to make improvements and start listening.
1. Address doubts about equal opportunities
Fewer than half (46%) of professionals working in Ireland believe they have the same career opportunities open to them as their colleagues, regardless of gender, and even fewer (43%) believe they are being paid equally. Of those who felt their career opportunities had been inhibited, 72% of women felt that this was due to their gender, in comparison to only 21% of men, who were more likely to feel their age (47%) or ethnicity (40%) had a part to play.
Most accountancy and finance employers would be quick to refute any suggestion that their employees’ progression is limited due to gender, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, disability or socio-economic background. However, they should be aware that these perceptions do exist amongst the wider employee population. Employees should feel confident to express this sentiment, and there should be a process in place for any feedback to be responded to and acted upon where appropriate.
2. Lead from the top
According to our research, less than half (46%) of accountancy and finance professionals in Ireland trust their leaders to deliver change on the diversity and inclusion (D&I) agenda. This suggests that more needs to be done by employers if equality is to be felt at all levels.
Until employers are seen to be proactively pursuing diversity and equality in the workplace and taking steps to ensure that the voices of all their employees are heard, the trust-deficit will remain. By giving employees an equal chance to share their ideas, leaders will not only cultivate a healthier working culture, but always allow the most talented to rise to the top. This is something which is of vital importance in the current climate of widespread skills shortages.
Begin by being more aware of your actions as an inclusive employer and leader within your organisation. Try to recognise your own unconscious bias and mitigate the consequences they have on your team. Be open and authentic when you communicate with those under your wing and actively seek out their opinions. This can be done through face-to-face meetings or more anonymous methods, whichever is more appropriate.
The important thing is that your employees, regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or background, feel as if they have an equal platform to voice concerns or thoughts. This will increase trust and loyalty and give everybody the chance to express ideas, which could improve both the way you do business, and the culture you create.
Establishing D&I champions, groups and other programmes can all help greater representation within the accountancy and finance sector. Not just for women, but also for those of different ethnic groups, abilities and ages. Inclusive leaders should openly celebrate the social, personal and commercial successes which result from these, thereby increasing employee confidence in their leaders as well as their own ability to speak out and be heard.
When recruiting, work with an expert recruiter who understands how to attract accountancy and finance professionals from traditionally under-represented groups and has existing relationships with specialist communities. Not only will this help you attract talent by positioning your organisation as having a welcoming environment, but it will help you source talent from the widest possible pool. This will help demonstrate a commitment to diversity early on and offer a better candidate experience by allowing talented professionals to stand out based purely on their skills and experiences.
Although we are starting to see improvements in gender diversity, we all have a part to play to continue this journey. View our diversity page for more insights from Hays experts, and to get the latest Hays Ireland Diversity & Inclusion report.