While many companies focus on talking about their B-BBEE statistics and objectives, audit, advisory and tax firm, BDO, has a slightly different story to tell – in South Africa over 60% of its employees are women, with 11 senior positions filled by women and EXCO comprises of 30% women.
BDO in the UK has been (since 2010) ranked as one of Working Mother’s “100 Best Companies” and has also been named a “Top 50 Company” for executive women as recognised by the National Association of Female Executives, and received the When Work Works award for “Business Excellence in Workplace Flexibility.” While in the US, BDO’s Global CEO and US Chairman, Wayne Berson is a member of the 30% Club.
Locally, Managing Partners in Durban and Pretoria as well as the CFO, Head of Finance, Head of Marketing, Head of Transformation, National HR Manager, Head of Business Services & Advisory, Head of International Tax & Transfer Pricing, Head of Employee Benefits and Head of Healthcare are all women.
“All our staff are in their positions because they are the best person for the job. We offer women at all professional levels the opportunity to support each other, speak candidly, and share advice about real business issues through professional development activities, lunch-and-learn programs, and social networking events,” says Mark Stewart, CEO of BDO South Africa.
“While we try to bridge the gender gap in our organisation, it is very encouraging to note the following statistics in our industry - published recently by Accountancy SA. Students studying for the Certificate in the Theory of Accounting (CTA): the number of black students was 40.7% in 2014 (half of them female) compared to 25.8% female in 2003; the number of female students in total was 50% in 2014 compared to 28% in 2003. However, there is still a lot that can be done toward rectifying social and gender inequalities in the accounting profession.”
“When addressing social inequalities, we believe it is important to first start in-house to maximise our inclusiveness and diversity, address sensitivities, obtain staff feedback, proactively manage talent and ensure that communication channels are always open. It is vital to educate staff on diversity, listen to staff and address their concerns,” continues Stewart. “Similarly, the millennials have grown up in an inclusive environment and can relate to everyone. They have expectations in terms of the speed at which inclusion takes place and don’t want to be in an organisation which is stuck in the past. “
The firm has also refined its graduate recruitment searches in line with their Employment Equity Plan to address the various workforce gaps while attracting young people from the designated groups who fit the overall transformation and operational requirements. This will also contribute to a change in our approach to some universities, which need to take on a more diverse student contingent to service the firms looking to further transform the profession.
Retaining staff in the profession is another a challenge, with many recently qualified black graduates preferring to move into broader financially-focused positions in commerce and industry. This is evidenced by the fact that of 31,925 chartered accountants in South Africa , only 13% of them are registered auditors (4,321 Registered Auditors in South Africa according to IRBA ).These figures have fallen over the past five years from 4,398 to 4,321 at the end of last year. This is due to the decrease in new registrations over the same period from 370 to only 219.