8 Jul 2016 01:41pm

EY boasts most women in leadership roles in top 10

Accountancy firms are “stand-out pioneers” at appointing women into leadership roles compared to other industry sectors, but EY is ahead of the pack in the UK with its leadership gender balance

This is in spite of the fact that of all the largest 10 UK firms, only Grant Thornton has a woman – chief executive Sacha Romanovich – in a top role: the rest of their managing partners and senior partners are all men.

The data about women in leadership roles in the firms, which has been gathered from the firms themselves for the first time by the Managing Partners’ Forum (MPF), shows that EY is out in the lead when it comes to leadership gender balance (34.1%).

KPMG is second with 32.1%, with PwC (31.7%) and Deloitte (31.6%) in third and fourth place.

There is a 3% gap between the Big Four and the rest of the 10. Grant Thornton takes fifth place with 28.6%, followed by Smith & Williamson with 27%.

Put simply, a diverse and inclusive organisation delivers competitive advantage

Steve Varley, EY UK chairman and managing partner

Moore Stephens has a surprisingly low percentage of women in leadership positions – it comes bottom out of the 10 with a leadership gender balance of just 15.8%.

It scores low across all the different leadership positions in the survey. For instance, while BDO has a functional head gender balance of 69.2% (the highest of the 10), Moore Stephens has one of just 12.5% (the lowest).

Another low scorer is Mazars (in ninth position). The firm has an overall gender balance of 18.8%, has no women on its executive committee (the only firm) and has the second lowest functional head gender balance (22.2%).

Yet, perhaps surprisingly, it has the highest percentage of women client-facing business unit leaders of all the firms including the Big Four. The percentage is 28.6%, well ahead of joint second firms, EY and Deloitte, which both have 27.9%.

PwC has the most balanced executive committee with 42.9% women, followed by EY with 40%.

Commenting on the survey results, EY UK chairman and managing partner Steve Varley said, “Put simply, a diverse and inclusive organisation delivers competitive advantage.

“Our belief in the value it can deliver is so strong that it sits front and centre of our business, which is paying dividends. We have seen improved representation of all diverse talent among our leadership team, testament to the focus we place on creating an inclusive environment where everyone can achieve their potential.

“Now more than ever, the UK needs to signal to the rest of the world that diversity and inclusion is a core business principle that is key to fuelling growth.”

The MPF, a membership organisation that helps professional firms grow, is calling for firms across the professions to set themselves a three-year target of 40% women leaders of their client-facing business units.

That would present all 10 accountancy firms with a challenge, but most of all for Grant Thornton and BDO which currently come bottom of the list with 14.3% and 18.5% respectively.

Julia Irvine


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