Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Business
5 March 2013

Ok, so there is “tokenism“ in selecting women, say firms

"Still on the nursery slopes"

By Raymond Doherty

Leading figures from major law and accountancy firms admit there has been “some tokenism” over the issue of women in senior roles

Simon Collins, chair of KPMG UK, said there has to be organic change to address the problem but “we are still on the nursery slopes”.

Collins was speaking at the Women in Professional Firms: The Male Perspective event hosted by SJ Berwin and Steven Pearce Associates (SPA) last week.

It was the launch of SPA’s latest research report, based on interviews with senior-level men from leading professional firms on why there are so few women at the top of professional firms and what both genders can do, strategically and practically, to obtain a balance.

Accountancy and the legal profession have been criticised for the lack of women in partnership and leadership roles, despite a recent push to instil greater equality.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A weekly dig into the New Statesman’s archive of over 100 years of stellar and influential journalism, sent each Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy

Collins said that although it is true that some are “paying lip service”, his firm is serious about the issue from the top down.

“There needs to be more organic change. The leadership and tone have to be authentic. It’s incredibly easy to undermine it so it’s vital for those in senior positions to set that tone,” he said.

Mark Bomer, senior partner at BDO LLP, said that it was a very difficult proposition. “How do you make firms more attractive to senior women?

“I admit our firm is not at the forefront but others have done some great things with little results,” he added.

Christopher Saul, senior partner at Slaughter & May, argued that, equality aside, from a business standpoint it represented a poor return on investment of time and money when almost half of his firm’s women leave before gaining a senior position.

He admitted that there has been some “tokenism” and that there has to be more tangible action on the issue.

This article can be read in full at economia.