A two-year study by ACCA reveals how the views and experiences of its female members about the economy and government policies to deal with the downturn differ to those of their male counterparts.
The study – Female perspectives in the global economy - compares ACCA's female and male memberships’ responses to confidence and recovery indices in ACCA's quarterly Global Economic Conditions (GECs) survey which began in February 2009.
Rosana Mirkovic, the report's author and senior policy adviser at ACCA says: 'The findings cover three crucial stages of the global economy to date: the 'green shoots' period of optimism, a brief one year period in which the consensus was that a global recovery was truly underway, and the beginning of the fiscal crisis in Europe.'
While the report makes extensive use of the strong evidence base gathered by ACCA over the last two years, the professional body stresses that the most important finding may be how little is known about women's perspectives on the state of the global economy. The report also illustrates that ACCA's female members were consistently less likely to respond to economic confidence surveys and points to the increasing appeal and influence of economic bloggers, of whom only a very small minority are women.
The findings also reveal that women accountants were seen to be more likely to be negative and less trusting of government policies designed to deal with the financial crisis than their male colleagues. However, women were more likely to interact with business support initiatives, including access to finance projects. Women were also more critical of government handling of financial services firms, in terms of both regulation and bailouts and other support received.
Rosana Mirkovic adds: 'A lack of confidence in government actions throughout the downturn may make women less trusting of any new initiatives that are aimed at improving sentiment and stimulating the economy. The findings also suggest that female respondents expected that government spending would turn out to be more excessive and wasteful than men expected it to be.'
Conversely, women accountants have been less likely than their male colleagues to mention poor access to finance as a problem for their organisations or their clients.
Rosana Mirkovic adds: 'Generally speaking, female accountants are not as extensively involved in accessing finance for organisations as their male colleagues, so this has an impact on their perceptions. Tight finance has been a main feature of the recovery, but it has meant different things for our male and female members. A reason for this is the fact that men and women accountants often work in different areas - women are more densely represented in management accounting functions, and were therefore more attuned to the rising operating costs and tightening budgets.'
Rosana Mirkovic continues: 'Female accountants are less likely to be involved in accessing finance for their own businesses or their clients, and especially with liaising directly with lenders and investors. While we cannot be sure what lies behind this division of labour, it is possible that firms are not employing the female finance workforce to its full potential, with likely repercussions on access to finance at an important time.'
In its research report, ACCA is calling for governments and policy makers not to lose sight of the female perspectives in the global economy.
Rosana Mirkovic concludes: 'ACCA thinks more research needs to be done in this area. Bearing in mind that there are countless initiatives aimed at closing the gender gap in terms of employment, business ownership and leadership, we know surprisingly little about how women have responded to the tough economic conditions. This will be crucial in moving forward on the women’s agenda.'