Interesting results in the new Accountancy Age Top 50 firm listing (UK):
On average women make up only 9.7% of partners within a firm and the number of female qualifieds has dropped year on year by two percentage points.
Interesting facts and perhaps the latter is a conseqence of the former? Or, perhaps not, suggests the only female managing partner in the Top 50, Linda Richardson of Morley and Scott:
I think it’s a matter of choice, when it comes down to it. It isn’t necessarily a matter of discrimination against a woman, it’s more of a choice that a woman makes in her life.
While UK average women ownership is roughly 9.7%, Mercer & Hole shows the highest woman-owned ratio at 24%. Kudos, then, to Mercer & Hole for being the sort of place where women WANT to stay on and become partners!
In the US, according to a 2006 study that included some 2600 participants, "Women now account for 19% of all firm partners, up from 12% a decade ago." The study credited quality of life initiatives as being responsible for this increase.
The study is known as 'A Decade of Changes in the Accounting Profession: Workforce Trends and Human Capital Practices' and was conducted under the aegis of the AICPA's Work/Life and Women's Initiatives Executive Committee.
This accounting/women study was referenced in comparison to the legal profession when an article hit the front page of the NY Times in March 2006 that caused a huge stir: "Up The Down Staircase: Why Do So Few Women Reach the Top of Big Law Firms?"
Phyllis Weiss Haserot, of Practice Development Counsel, wrote "Up the Up Staircase: Follow the Lead of CPA Firms." She notes that the AICPA study shows: "A gender gap in the desire for partnership exists; 65% of male and 41% of female senior managers expressed a desired for partnership." This certainly corroborates the comments of Linda Richardson--but there's still a big gap between 9.7-19% who are partners and the 40% that aspire to be...
Phyllis also cites the study in that "Women are choosing smaller firms where their advancement is more pronounced" which makes sense.
Similarly, the Accountancy Age study comments stated that the smaller firms had significantly bolstered ethic minority partners ratios which the Big 4 dragged down. That the 10 largest firms only show only an 11.8% female partner ratio is definitely disappointing.
Getting to the heart of the matter, back in 2004, my friend Wendy Werner wrote an article "Where Have the Women Attorneys Gone." Wendy, like Phyllis in her article, is much more interested in fixing the disparity than in pointing it out. Both articles are very constructive.
I have to say that the really depressing news was in Wendy's article where she referenced:
The ABA Commission on Women also found that men earn twenty percent higher salaries than women, and are twice as likely to obtain a partnership than women with similar qualifications.
Hmmmm. Well, money isn't everything. Nowadays, time (as in non-working time) is a currency.
I say this is where smaller firms will win out. Smaller firms are simply more flexible. And this is a huge advantage for them that will play out in the next decade or so as we see talent flocking to the most flexible organizations. It's not just a generational thing, or a gender thing. It's what all of us want.
And it's what many people need as we tend to aging parents and raise children in a more dangerous society than the one in which we were raised. And we can do it so easily now with technology.