Building an inclusive profession

PHOTOGRAPH BY DANIEL JONES 2023 +44 (0)7815 853503

March 2024

International Women’s Day takes place on 8 March 2024, and it has the theme ‘inspire inclusion’. So, we asked CIMA’s 90th – and fourth female – President, Sarah Ghosh, what it is like to be a woman at the top of the accountancy profession.

Is accountancy a good profession for women?

Absolutely, yes it is. There are fantastic opportunities to build a rewarding and fulfilling career anywhere in the world. Our skills are more in demand than ever, and although there is still work to be done to be more inclusive, the profession has made great progress in raising the profile of female leaders and increasing opportunities for women at all levels.

What would be your advice to other women just starting out in the accountancy profession?

Seize every opportunity to learn and seek out mentors to guide you on your journey. If you have the aptitude and are willing to work smartly there is no limit to what you can achieve.

Have you ever encountered misogynistic/ chauvinistic behaviour from fellow professionals? How did you deal with it?

There will be times in all our careers where doing the right thing will be difficult, and we have all faced these moments. True leadership requires courage, and that can mean going against the tide. My advice is to find your voice and call out poor behaviours, not only for yourself but also for those that will follow you.

What progress have you seen on gender equality in your working life?

I have seen tremendous progress during my career. Having worked across a number of industries and sectors, I have witnessed the impact of initiatives that have focused on increasing representation, not only on the dimension of gender, but also other dimensions that are equally important as part of the wider DEI (diversity, equality and inclusion) agenda. It has also been encouraging to experience more female leaders as role models in organisations that I have worked with, as this continues to have a positive impact on the profession and inspires inclusion.

EY recently reported there are no women in a senior board position at 26% of listed financial services organisations in the UK. Is the drive for diversity at the top stalling?

Business, like the accounting profession, has made great progress in recent years in addressing DEI issues, and we should celebrate that, but there remains work to do. Women offer different experiences and perspectives which contribute to managing risks, seizing opportunities and making better decisions. Mckinsey research shows that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 25% more likely to have above average financial returns than companies in the bottom quartile.

What women inspire you the most and why?

I am most inspired by women who have the ability to influence and inspire others to achieve their best. They demonstrate resilience, empathy and leadership qualities that others can learn from and emulate. [President of the European Central Bank] Christine Lagarde is a great example.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you and the profession?

For more than a century, people around the world have honoured International Women’s Day to celebrate the social, cultural, economic and political accomplishments of women, and with the campaign theme this year of ‘Inspire Inclusion’ we must continue to promote the value of women’s inclusion.

What is your International Women’s Day message?

International Women’s Day is a way to celebrate the contributions and achievements women have made in accounting, finance and beyond, over the course of history and today. We must also continue to raise the profile of what we are doing to promote women’s inclusion, for those that follow us in the profession.

Finally, what will be the biggest challenges for the generation of women behind you?

I would like to see a higher profile for women in leadership positions, and that means we as a profession should be doing more to highlight successes in this area. Seeing women in these positions can help inspire future generations and give them the confidence and reassurance to succeed in their own careers.