Women are still less likely to reach the top levels of management – only 9% of the financial and professional services companies have female managing directors. While most of the international firms strive to have a better gender-balanced corporate culture, gender inequality still persists and because of it, women are filled with self-doubt to reaching their full potential. Lucy Franklin, a managing director of an international VAT compliance firm, was able to lead a traditionally male-dominated organisation successfully and she highlights in this article diversity and inclusivity as contributing factors to an organisation’s efficiency, and encourages women’s participation and representation that greatly affect the workforce’s overall success.
Women make up around half of the finance and professional services workforce. That’s about right, given that we are half of the population. But when you delve into the figures, the picture is a little different. In my experience, women are represented less, and less visible as you move up the ranks of an organisation.
In the main, women tend to dominate the support functions in finance and professional services industries. These are vital roles and the finance and professional services sector is a fantastic place to explore these careers, but these shouldn’t be the only doors open to women. According to the World Economic Forum Future of Jobs report, while close on half of the all roles are filled by women in the Financial and Professional services sector, just 9% of companies have female MDs. This is startling and means that the sector is unrepresentative of its own workforce, and of wider society.
For the past two decades I’ve directed teams and led organisations within a range of sectors, and I’ve seen how talented, dedicated, capable, hardworking women are held back from reaching their full potential by self-doubt. So often women don’t believe in what they can achieve, don’t put themselves forward for senior roles that they could excel in, and are held back from the positions that could get them where they should ultimately be.
I took up the post of Managing Director of Accordance, an international VAT compliance and consultancy practice, at the beginning of this year. As a woman in a position of leadership in a traditionally male-dominated industry, I’m acutely aware of my role and its responsibilities. That’s not to say I’m in my post just to advocate for women – I run an organisation with 122 staff of different genders, identities, nationalities and ethnicities, and my role is to make sure that they are all fulfilled, excelling and developing as they wish to in their careers, while exceeding client expectations and boosting our business. But I personally and professionally identify with the struggle to ensure that women are not held back. I know that women can be anything they want to be, do anything they want to do, and aim as high as they like – if self-doubt doesn’t get in the way. It’s the unconscious aspects that hold women back that I’m committed to eradicating from my organisations and others within our arena, and it’s ultimately what led me to this role.