There is an abundance of talented and inspirational individuals in the tax sector. However, despite widespread awareness of gender inequality and some fantastic groups and events designed for women in tax, many women find that some form of the glass ceiling still exists. Women who are successful during their early career are often unable to progress beyond the senior manager level because of personal priorities.
The remote working conditions required because of the COVID-19 pandemic have shifted traditional gender roles faster than many expected, but the health crisis has also had a negative effect on women in the workplace. McKinsey found that women’s jobs are 1.8 times more vulnerable to the crisis than men’s jobs and that women make up 54% of redundancies despite accounting for only 39% of global employment.
More needs to be done to ensure there are more women at partner or executive level, while also ensuring there is wider diversity based on race, ethnicity, sexuality, and age.
In the UK, the Law Society launched a toolkit on March 8 to help achieve international gender equality for women in the law. The toolkit contains advice on how to set up gender equality initiatives and organisations and gives details of existing groups across different jurisdictions.
After a survey of more than 300 individuals, the Law Society found that there is still much further to go to achieve gender equality for women lawyers globally. It said unconscious bias, unequal pay, a lack of support when speaking out about instances of sexual harassment in the workplace, and the ‘double burden’ women face when juggling caring responsibilities and work commitments still exist.
“In jurisdictions across the globe, female lawyers are experiencing significant barriers to progression and are struggling to reach senior leadership roles in equal numbers to men,” said Law Society President David Greene. “International women’s day provides an important chance to reflect on gender equality in the profession.”
Separately, the International Bar Association (IBA) has launched a nine-year global project to uncover the root-causes of the lack of gender parity at the most senior levels of the legal profession. The project, which intends to provide a blueprint by 2030 for achieving gender parity, will identify whether diversity initiatives introduced to address this disparity are having any impact, and to provide practical conclusions and guidance to the profession.
Here, ITR has collated some of the recent articles that focus on women across the industry. The publication's annual diversity and inclusion survey has also been launched to see if there have been any improvements over the past year.
ITR’s Women in Tax events
At ITR’s first Women in Tax Forum of 2021, held on March 3-4, women shared their tax expertise on key topics and discussed their experiences of adapting to the new world of working, building a career in tax and much more.
Tax directors are using a range of methods to deal with the transfer pricing (TP) implications of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has made in-depth documentation more important. However, TP directors are split over which COVID-19 TP documentation strategies work best. Read the full article here. More articles from the event will be published on the ITR website over the coming week.
The ITR website hosts an abundance of previous coverage from ITR’s virtual Women in Tax forums held in the Americas and Europe. At these events, women said that career progression requires multiple factors: the support of good mentors, a corporate sponsorship programme, a good network and, most of all, the ability to take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way. Click here to read their views.
In addition, ITR’s Alice Jones spoke to tax directors on similar topics in some featured free podcasts:
- Karine Halimi-Guez, FedEx, talked about cross-functional tax planning, the importance of flexibility as a leader during COVID-19, and the importance of the tax function during a corporate restructuring;
- In a second podcast with Halimi-Guez, the discussion focused on diversity and inclusion and FedEx's Benelux networking and mentoring project for women; and
- Gemma Low, tax automation manager at Royal Mail, talked about tax technology developments, career opportunities in tax, and how tax teams can support one another while working from home.
Women from the Big Four and law firms on working in tax
A common interest in tax, whether it is a career or vocation, binds everyone in the tax community. However, within this ecosystem, there are many who share other values or backgrounds, and these factors, subconsciously or unconsciously, influence decisions.
Many accounting and law firms approached by ITR in 2020 were reluctant to share data that offered a gender breakdown of their tax practices in specific countries. Some firms said this information was not available specifically for the tax practice or risked breaching data confidentiality rules, while others just refused to participate. This suggests that there is cause for concern and indicates a lack of gender equality within their firms, especially at senior level.
However, firms are trying to break this pattern, albeit slowly.Practitioners ranked in the WTR Women in Tax Leaders guide took part in a survey and provided feedback on their experiences of working as women in the tax industry. The worldwide poll intends to help build a picture of the situation for women in tax. Results of the survey can be found here.
Kate Barton, EY global vice chair of tax, discussed the trends shaping the tax industry with ITR, and what this means for students and graduates embarking on their career today, having started as an EY intern herself. Read the full free article here.
From Deloitte US, Emily VanVleet and Denise Hintzke from speak to ITR about how they manage their tax practices and client relationships amid constantly changing reporting requirements and technological advancements. They also discuss how robotics and automation will transform the way companies comply with global reporting requirements in a post-COVID economy.
Also looking at how COVID-19 has changed the lives of tax professionals, Katy Rabindran, member of the UK Women in Tax committee, highlights how tax professionals have managed remote working practices over the past year following a recent event where women in tax shared their advice and tips.
At KPMG, Jane McCormick, former global head of tax and legal services, and Grace Perez-Navarro, deputy director of the OECD's Centre for Tax Policy and Administration, showed how they excel in their tax expertise. During another ITR women in tax event, McCormick and Perez-Navarro discussed the issue of tax morality in great depth, offering the audience an insight into how organisations and accounting firms perceive the controversial topic. Read the full article here.
Jessica Kemp, tax partner at Travers Smith, talked about the five things that helped her on her path to partnership, and gave practical hints and tips on how best to make the most of your skill set. Read the full article here.
Meanwhile, Alpa Kuwadia, partner at Kuwadia Shah Shah & Associates, shared her journey of building her own tax practice in India while juggling family life. She revealed her seven steps to success. Read the full article here.
In a free podcast, leading global law firm, Dechert, demonstrates progressive policies for women and minorities featuring three partners who won awards for their work at the Women in Business Law Awards.
Diversity affects everyone. Over the past year, tax professionals have written about the topic, covering ethnicity and how it can be used to build a strong foundation.
Tasneem Kadiri, UK and Ireland tax director at L’Oréal, shared her experience of building a career and how companies could be more diverse and inclusive for black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people.
Also on ethnicity, the Black Lives Matter movement was featured as part of ITR’s Global Tax 50, while reporters looked at why the tax sector is failing to address racism and why the issue needs to be dealt with at the levels of university education and graduate jobs to make a real difference.
Addressing diversity and being inclusive is a business reality and a must-have in tax departments. Donata Koren, global head of tax, and Andrew Daly, senior tax manager, at Zalando, shared how their tax function has developed an environment where creativity and engagement flourishes.
In addition, ITR’s regular columnists contributed some valuable op-eds on diversity in tax:
- Keith Brockman explained why diversity and inclusion are key pillars to a strong tax function;
- Sandy Markwick asked whether a tax team can be more effective through diversity; and
- Giles Parsons explained why tax executives need to get out of their bubbles to diversify their teams based on education, experience and national origin if they want to be truly diverse and inclusive.
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