As part of IAB’s Women in Leadership Series and in celebrating International Women’s Day 2024, Zoya Malik, Editor-in Chief, International Accounting Bulletin reached out to Liza Robbins, CEO, Kreston Global to understand the network’s strategies for understanding the strengths women leaders bring and providing training they seek to mentor and deliver growth within the accounting profession

Zoya Malik: What is the relevance still in celebrating International Women’s Day?

Liza Robbins: In my position as Chief Executive of Kreston Global, I am fortunate to foster conversations about talent and equality with business leaders across the globe. Celebrating International Women’s Day (IWD) is not just a symbolic gesture; it’s an opportunity to acknowledge and champion the incredible contributions women make to our profession and the barriers that they still face.

Women are vital players in shaping the future of accounting, particularly as we confront issues of talent shortages and attrition. IWD is an important platform for open discussions about challenges females in our profession face, and milestone to examine, affirm, and progress our commitment to building a truly inclusive and diverse workplace.

ZM: How Kreston is involved in furthering Women’s Leadership across firms?

LR: Women’s leadership in the accounting sector hinges on creating equitable pathways through the corporate pipeline which enable women to command the same titles and salaries as their male counterparts.

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Through our many global communities and networks, we work towards gender equality on our Board and global groups to role model what we seek in our firms, share knowledge to assist firms to grow and to promote collaboration across all our firms to help them, their people, their clients, and other stakeholders to thrive.

As a network, we constantly look at the tools and systems in place to ensure women entering the accounting profession receive the necessary support to excel in their careers. This includes conversations around pay equity, inclusive policies, returnship programmes, and flexible work arrangements alongside community and knowledge sharing initiatives like mentorship, networking, and tailored leadership programs.

ZM: How is Kreston Global training women for leadership roles?

LR: Finding success in accounting – regardless of gender – is no longer simply about technical aptitude. We have launched our Kreston Futures emerging talent committee to involve our younger members in the network’s activities across service lines, operational activities and upskilling opportunities.

While not gender specific, these touch on leadership challenges voiced by females in our network including developing a leadership voice, navigating challenges and conflict, and building confidence in your abilities.

We also create opportunities for our younger talent to consult with our institutional partners on the future of accountancy and careers to ensure their views are represented.

ZM: What in your view are the unique strengths and insights women bring to their leadership positions?

LR: Great leadership doesn’t follow gendered parameters, nor is it the same pedigree for every role or organisation. That said, female leaders – past and current – often possess excellent communication and interpersonal skills, are adept at building collaboration and consensus, and demonstrate strong strategic thinking and problem-solving abilities.

From a cultural perspective, women often bring diverse perspectives and experiences to the table which can foster innovation and creativity within teams. With many women taking on primary carer responsibilities alongside their corporate journey, they can also bring a heightened understanding of the importance of positive work-life balance – and the strategies to make it work.

As we grapple with a declining number of student and young professionals entering our sector, these are vital skills to enhancing and evolving corporate culture and positioning our industry as a competitive employer of choice.

ZM: Do tell us about your own leadership development journey?

LR: The challenges for women in the accountancy profession are just one representation of a much wider talent problem. My role exposes me to diverse perspectives from within and beyond the accounting space, and I consistently seek out opportunities to develop my understanding of gendered access, accommodation, and amplification issues.

By access, I mean examining the pathways to funding and institutional support for female founders and leaders. By accommodation, I focus on how we can better support females through inclusive programmes that allow them to achieve their personal and professional goals in tandem – particularly as it relates to salary, progression, and working arrangements. Finally, I look at what techniques business leaders are using to foster and amplify female perspectives and experiences through community and education, and how these can equip the next generation of women with the tools they need to excel in leadership roles.