A new study published by caba, the occupational charity for ICAEW chartered accountants and their families, has revealed that almost 2 in 3 (62%) female chartered accountants say they’ve been severely impacted by feelings of self-doubt regarding their ability to perform in their job role. 

Of these, 29% cited an overwhelming need to always be ‘perfect’, 27% said they have a heightened sense of stress or anxiety, and 26% reported a heightened fear of failure. 

In the study of over 200 female chartered accountants living and working in the UK, 4 in 5 (80%) respondents spoke of feeling like they need to work harder than their colleagues to prove their worth. 3 in 5 (80%) said that they regularly seek approval from others for their work or decisions.  

9 in 10 (88%) respondents said they regularly sacrifice their work-life balance to accommodate the needs of others. 2 in 5 (41%) admitted that they’d avoided taking annual leave on more than one occasion because they were worried about handing over their tasks to a colleague. 

Meanwhile, almost half (47%) of respondents said they’re uncomfortable telling their manager about areas they feel less confident in, including areas where they’d like more training. 

When asked about which strategies and resources they think would be helpful in combatting feelings of work-related self-doubt, the most common responses were flexible working arrangements (34%), regular feedback and recognition from their manager (33%) and access to training and development programmes (30%). 

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Commenting on the findings, caba head of support services, Ola Opoosun, said: “In recent years we’ve seen great progress in tackling gender inequality within the accountancy sector thanks to ongoing efforts by leading organisations like the ICAEW. Analysis shows that women currently hold 54.6% of ICAEW’s senior roles, up from 33.3% in 2017. 

“Nevertheless, today’s findings show that there are still significant challenges to overcome if the industry is to become a truly inclusive space for women. Many female chartered accountants are struggling with a lack of confidence in their role and this, in additional to other factors such as gender bias and a lack of representation at a senior level, is stopping them from reaching their full potential.  

“We urge employers to reflect on the strategies and resources highlighted by many of the women who participated in our study and ensure that they’re doing everything they can to support and empower their female employees.” 

Accountant and @accountant_she founder, Rachel Harris, added: “When I first started my career as an accountant, I remember being told that I had ‘too much personality’. I struggled to fit into the mould of how an accountant was supposed to look and behave, and this led to feeling that I didn’t belong. I witnessed women around me trying to blend into the status quote, even taking off their wedding rings during interviews. 

“Since starting my own accountancy firm, I’ve had the opportunity to break down these stereotypes and create a safe space where everyone can be themselves, regardless of their gender. As a result, I’m now surrounded by role models who I look up to – whether that’s a working mum or someone who feels they can stand up and ask for help or training without fear of looking weak.” 

As part of its ongoing commitment to the welfare of the ICAEW community, caba has launched its new Women in Accounting Hub, a dedicated online space where female ICAEW members can find support, development courses and other helpful resources.