While finance is often seen as a male profession, a new report commissioned by ACCA and the ESRC (Economic and Social Research Council) from Cranfield School of Management shows that a financial qualification or a background which demonstrates substantial financial acumen are seen as catalysts for women getting onto the boards of FTSE companies.
The report shows that:
- Proportionally, women appear more successful in attaining executive roles where they have a financial background: 45% of female executive directors are financially qualified and 65% in total have a financial background, while 26% of their male colleagues are financially qualified and 44% have a financial background.
- More than half of new female Non-Executive Director (NED) appointments have a functional background in finance.
- The finance function is seen by the three groups interviewed for the research – executive search consultants, chairmen and women who have made it to the board – to be more facilitative for women’s progress to the top of corporate organizations.
The report says that finance is the language of the boardroom and having the ability to communicate financial information establishes and builds credibility; it appears to validate women’s suitability for consideration for a board appointment – a view especially expressed by search consultants who took part in this research.
Bringing together new findings, plus existing research into the differences between men and women when it comes to access to the boardroom, the report reveals that finance offers a clear career path for women, especially within professional services firms.
The research also reveals that women appear to have been more successful in reaching the most senior jobs through the function of finance and this may have implications for other functions when looking to encourage the progression of female talent. But the research also reveals that women nevertheless need to build their networks, use their social connections and use their financial acumen to progress their careers.
The finance professionals surveyed said that while they need to continue to firmly control the cost base, they must also sustain their businesses’ growth strategies by providing business insight to support decision making. Their biggest challenge is coping with “too many finance priorities.”
The survey also shows that finance leaders are involved with an increasing breadth of stakeholders. Some relationships with traditional stakeholders such as auditors and bankers remain high in importance, but increasingly, stakeholders like customers and suppliers are also becoming more relevant.
The report examines the following six key issues for CFOs:
1. Current priorities
2. The effectiveness of the finance function
3. Finance function challenges
4. The importance of different skills
5. Identification of key stakeholders
6. How finance leaders allocate their time