Pioneering an influential new silver and gold development programme to help empower and advance women in leadership roles globally, accounting network Nexia has hosted its first Aspiring Women Leaders Programme.
The long-term goal of the inclusive peer programme – which comprised 40 delegates from across EMEA, North America and APAC in the first cohort – has been designed to support colleagues, by growing their confidence, self-awareness and skills as they advance into fulfilling leadership roles within their respective firms and the wider global accounting profession.
The programme is already having an impact, with 100 percent of the Advance Silver delegates stating that they’ve grown in confidence, have greater clarity about their future direction and now feel part of a community of likeminded women. A huge leap forward for Nexia, which has a defined five-year strategy to drive progress across the network in Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI).
Committing to the climb
Like many professional services firms, attracting an equal and balanced pipeline of talent isn’t the challenge. The most recent (2022) survey by The Financial Reporting Council (UK) reveals that the percentage of women studying accounting worldwide was 49%, and yet, they made up just 27% of partners within accounting firms. This isn’t an issue confined just to our profession.
Despite the volume of gender inclusivity initiatives, only nine female CEOs are currently running FTSE 100 companies. One positive is that four of these hailed from the financial services sector. Indicative of how the tide is starting to shift, the number of women heading up America’s Fortune 500 companies in March 2022 rose to 74 – up from 41 in June of 2021 and only 7 in 2002.
For women, however, to reach the higher echelons of the business pyramid requires more than just a diversity campaign. They need confidence and strength to make the jump to Manager, Director and future Partner.
To help bridge this divide, Nexia launched an Aspiring Women Leaders programme in September 2022. Fully subscribed and hailed by the 40 delegates as a huge success, the network – which comprises more than 270 member firms, 35,600 professionals and is present in over 125 countries – has already committed to make this programme a centrepiece in its DEI strategy.
Rather than teaching women what leadership is, the three month silver coaching programme and six month gold programme instead focus on getting woman to explore, delve deep, identify and validate who they wish to become and the leadership style they want to hone. Through peer to peer facilitated coaching, and one-on-one mentoring.
What women … and firms want
According to a 2019 report by McKinsey, companies with more gender-diverse executive teams financially outperform those with less diverse teams by 21%. Stating a commitment to diversity and inclusion is one thing. Translating into meaningful progress and gender parity is another step entirely.
By covering everything from the impact of body language to sidestepping saboteurs, silencing inner critics and how to communicate with impact, the Aspiring Women Leaders programme provides a confidential virtual platform for each Nexia delegate to share their narratives with likeminded women from different countries and cultures, and challenge and build self-trust in their personal leadership style. ‘Inspiring’, ‘Reflective’ and ‘Validating’ were the top three phrases reported by the APAC silver delegates.
“This programme opened my eyes to who I am and who I can be in my workplace and in my life in general as a woman leader. It’s inspiring, allowing me to connect with my ‘Why’ and made me more self-aware.” “This course has helped me find my footing as a new manager and evaluate what I want my leadership style to be. As a new manager I found this course very validating, a lot of my fears and insecurities are what other people on the group felt. This course helped us work on them together and build strong leadership skills.” Course leader and facilitator Kielan Tayler of theGrogroup summarises: “Dealing with senior stakeholders more confidently, setting clearer boundaries more firmly, and having greater clarity of direction are all benefits the women on Advance for Aspiring Leaders have experienced! Fabulous for the women involved – and the firms they work for.”
Nexia CEO Tim Wilson is giving the programme his full support. He comments: “Everyone should have the right to be a trailblazer. The perceptions of what can be achieved and the path to partnership, if that’s what professionals aspire to, should not be curtailed for any committed and talented person. Self-awareness is an important part of this. As is having a supportive network and role models comprising international colleagues. I am delighted how this programme has been received and it will continue to be a key learning and development offering for Nexia going forward.”
Regardless of race, age, sexual orientation or other diversity attributes, Nexia remains committed to the fair treatment and the creation of opportunities for all employees, clients and stakeholders.
The first Gold Aspiring Women Leaders Programme concludes in March 2023. With a strong contingent of new women leaders already queuing up to participate, planning for another successful 2023 course is already underway.