This article was first published in the March 2018 China edition of Accounting and Business magazine.

In the lead-up to this year’s International Women’s Day on 8 March, I have been thinking about the significance of this celebration for ACCA. We have also been taking stock of our membership this year as we celebrate reaching our 200,000-member milestone. 

At ACCA we owe a large part of our identity, our diversity, our past and future to the many pioneering women who have shaped and led ACCA.

More than 100 years ago, in 1909, Ethel Ayres Purdie was the first female member admitted to a professional accountancy body. She paved the way for women in ACCA and the profession, and also campaigned vocally for suffrage and for fairer taxation treatment of women.

Purdie was the first of many trailblazing, inspirational women who have shaped ACCA. From Vera di Palma, the first female president of any international accountancy body, to Helen Brand, who has this year overseen a decade of extraordinary progress as our chief executive, we would not be where we are today had we not welcomed these exceptional leaders.

ACCA members are diverse. We span more than 180 countries and come from all walks of life; 46% of our membership and 56% of our student base are female. Our Council is representative of this diversity: of our 36 Council members, 58% are women, and we live and work in 14 different countries. 

Across the world, ACCA members and staff are campaigning for progress on gender equality. We are vocal about issues such as disparity in pay and boardroom diversity. We, together with many others, continue to work towards achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 5: to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls by 2030. 

ACCA members are current and future business leaders, and it is important for us to set the tone from the top in embracing both equality and diversity in our workforce.

If we are to shape the profession – and the world – for good, then the founding ethos of ACCA remains as pressing today as it was in 1904: our profession should be open to people of all abilities and backgrounds, and it is part of our job to remove any artificial barriers in their way.

Equality isn’t just for International Women’s Day: it’s an important part of our history and our future, and we must continue to push for progress all year round. 

Leo Lee FCCA is retired, but formerly held various roles at the Securities and Futures Commission of Hong Kong and is past president of ACCA Hong Kong