Women on the rise in finance

South African Institute of Professional Accountants

6 August 2014

 Women on the rise in finance


Traditionally a male-dominated sector, the number of women in finance in South Africa is steadily increasing. According to the South African Institute of Professional Accountants (SAIPA), its number of female members increased by around 15% over the past two years.


“The share of women amongst trainees – the next generation of accounting professionals – is now in the majority at 63%,” says SAIPA chairperson Shirley Olsen. “This is particularly exciting since it indicates that women will remain a significant force to be reckoned with in the future.” At the same time, according to the FASSET sector skills plan, the share of women in finance increased to 62% in 2012, proving this trend to be true across the sector. 


“It is clear that women play a key role in the economic growth of the country,” she says. According to Olsen, anecdotal evidence suggests that women’s positive impact on business often occurs as the result of a different dimension being brought to the thought processes and decisions made in business.


“Women bring a unique and valuable element to the table that should under not be discounted,” she adds. “In fact, as women we should encourage each other to overcome the obstacles we face in business, precisely because our presence in business is so important.”


Words of advice


Learn to delegate

“One thing I have learnt during years in business is that women try to do too much,” Olsen says. “Women need to learn that in order to survive: you cannot do everything, so delegate those tasks that will free you up to do what you are good at – and that is looking after your clients’ finances.”


Embrace your strengths

“See your femininity as a strength,” Olsen adds.  “Women need to learn to relax and ‘roll with the punches’. Everyone makes mistakes in business, yet it seems that women, who tend to be more emotional about things, are less forgiving of themselves than they ought to be.”


Women are accomplished multi-taskers, yet when one is running a business, Olsen believes that multi-tasking can do more harm than good. “Developing a laser focus – concentrating on one important aspect of your business development at a time – can make one exponentially more productive. Give the important aspects of your business your full attention for a designated period for greater productivity and phenomenal results.”


Network effectively

Olsen believes that being part of recognised body, like SAIPA, can have positive influence on women’s careers.


“I do believe that seeing and speaking to other SAIPA female members has motivated many woman to believe they can succeed,” she says. “I know that when I have spoken to women in their own accounting practices, they have been inspired to see a woman as chairman.”


“Anything is possible for women in finance. Believe in yourself, seek the support of peers, have a good plan and be determined to succeed, even in the face of failure,” she concludes.