ACCA and WNS hold panel discussion on ‘Women in Finance’

Tuesday, 29 April 2014 00:05 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) in collaboration with WNS Global Services Sri Lanka recently held a panel discussion on the topic ‘Women in Finance’, their success factors and the route to corporate board positions. Present at the occasion were WNS Sri Lanka MD Dushan Soza, Senior Leaders Chamila Cooray and Lakmali Priyangika of WNS F&A operations, ACCA Global Council Member Lynne Hunt and Head of ACCA Sri Lanka Nilusha Ranasinghe. Dushan Soza stated that  why only a handful of women make it to the top is due to certain barriers to women in leadership roles .These could be classified into three categories namely ‘personal’ which is related to limiting beliefs and reduced aspirations; ‘interpersonal’ which is related to engagement and networking styles and third being the organisational factor. “Reluctance to actively network and leverage connections and maintaining work-life balance during to the intense peaks of their career life cycle clearly stand out as the key barriers. Child birth is a huge role in their lives and driven by cultural demands most women tend to slow down or give up work completely post maternity leave. For us the agenda is no longer about keeping a count of the numbers of women in the organisation but trying to set a goal for increasing it,” he added Soza also pointed out: “At WNS we are focusing on the retention of diverse employees in the workforce and have started looking at the quality of these employees’ experience in the organisation. Specific initiatives on practices and policies have been put in place to create an inclusive workplace environment, where women employees feel comfortable, welcomed and included in the organisation.” He observed that women in senior leadership roles make a significant contribution to the success of the company, especially in a boardroom environment, where being stickler for compliance and risk averseness and being great at multi tasking make them highly effective. Chamila Cooray endorsed this point and explained that at WNS women were constantly trained to take on leading positions, hence 20% of the senior management in the company comprised of women, who had equal opportunities for recognition, career progression, mobility across functions and a safe working environment. Lakmali Priyangika affirmed that studies have indicated that the performance of companies with mixed boards matched or even slightly outperformed companies with boards comprised solely of men. This further reinforced the idea that gender equality in the workplace makes good investment and business sense. However, during the discussion it was brought out that only 5.8 % of women were represented in parliament, whilst out of the top 26 public quoted companies only five of them had women on their boards. It was also found that whilst high-powered women are now seen taking on top leadership roles in business; they are still vastly underrepresented on corporate boards, making up just 18% of the directors at Fortune 500 companies. From a regional perspective, companies in the Asia Pacific region had the least gender diverse boards. Further points touched upon were ‘women in leadership across the Commonwealth’. Discussed under this topic was how women across the commonwealth are able to navigate positions of power and how this can be further supported by governments and business alike. It explored in particular how a finance qualification and background influenced the career paths of women in a dynamic business landscape. The panel examined the drivers requiring a more diverse finance function, the changing role of the finance function and the skills and competencies needed. ACCA Global Council Member Lynne Hunt pointed out that it was important that countries put regulations to help women. She said that there should be a steady growth in the adoption of policies and processes to promote gender diversity and equal opportunity. Head of ACCA Sri Lanka Nilusha Ranasinghe said that it has been demonstrated that diversity has moved beyond a ‘nice to have’ but to an essential component of business success. She pointed out that ACCA was committed to equal opportunity and will continue to take a keen interest in diversity issues and the role of women in finance. ACCA was incidentally the first accountancy body to admit women into its membership and was also the first to have a female president. Currently ACCA’s female membership stands at 45% whilst its female students account for 51%.