Gender diversity: Dealing with a big issue

Gender diversity is an issue that all tax companies need to consider if they are to develop a truly modern workforce.

Females must be represented at every level of an organisation, as appointing women to high-profile positions makes it easier for others to follow in their footsteps.

PwC has posted encouraging figures with regards to gender diversity, as 47 per cent of its workforce is made up of women, while two-fifths of new equity partners at PwC UK are female. It means there are now a total of 148 female equity partners at the company - more than any other professional services firm.

Ian Powell, UK senior partner and the man who has overseen the push for gender diversity, stated: "It was clear that we could only deliver our growth plans if we were a diverse and inclusive business. We have introduced a range of talent management programmes that help people achieve their potential."

As the firm states, being a diverse and inclusive organisation is about much more than presenting a positive image, as in fact it is a "commercial imperative" in the 21st century.

Why promote gender diversity?

Research by the American Accounting Association has found that diverse boards are more likely to avoid risky projects and deliver greater dividends for shareholders. Researchers by the Wake Forest University in the US analysed the performance of more than 2,000 companies from 1998 to 2011.

This demonstrates how there are genuine business reasons for adopting gender diversity directives. By altering the culture and values present within organisations, there can be significant operational benefits.

However, this is a long-term project that should be underpinned by talent development, succession planning and continuous measurement of results.

Improvements are being made, but its a question of sustaining and building on them. For example, figures from EY show that 15 per cent of financial experts sitting on boards were women in 2013, up from 13 per cent in 2012.

As the figure edges closer to 50 per cent, the tax sector should expect to see a cultural change in operations.