UK – Bristol
How can women in PSFs excel in their career?
This was the question explored by Emily
Buist, associate director of SPA (Steven
Pearce Associates), who presented the findings
of their latest research report to the
Forum in Bristol.
The report, entitled ‘Women in
Professional Firms: Strategies for Success’,
reflects on interviews conducted by SPA
with 25 female professionals in senior
positions within magic circle law firms, top
four accountancy practices, global investment
banks and international architectural
The interviewees were asked to share
their views on why there aren’t a greater
number of women at the top of professional
services organisations, and what they
can do to thrive in what is still largely a
Emily began the presentation with a fact;
that nearly half of all new entrants to
accountancy are women, but they account
for only 10 per cent of senior positions
within the profession. A similar ratio exists
within the legal profession.
Reasons typically given for this imbalance
are that women are more likely than men
to have family commitments, and are
hindered by the professional services’ sometimes
long and inflexible working hours.
The individuals interviewed by SPA,
however, suggest a lack of confidence and a
reluctance to prioritise business development
activity as the key obstacles to women
achieving success in the corporate world.
SPA’s research reveals some of the
common pitfalls for women in the professional
- Lacking confidence in their abilities
- Making the wrong impression
- Failing to engage in business development
When Emily invited the seminar attendees
to give their thoughts on the importance of
work-attire, they predominantly fell into two
camps, with one favouring a conformist and
professional business ‘uniform’ of suit and
shirt, and the other preferring to add a dash
of personality by dressing more informally
and wearing colour.
A discussion on corporate entertainment
drew similarly mixed comments. The attendees
were in unanimous agreement that
they felt a significant amount of business is
conducted over dinner and drinks or at a
sporting event and, for that reason, it is vital
to socialise with clients. Most, however,
admitted to preferring to go for a lunch
time coffee with clients and, when attending
an evening function, tended to leave sooner
rather than later.
So, according to the findings of SPA’s
report, what can women in the professional
services sector do to get ahead?
- Recognise your own worth
- Make the right impression
- Work on raising your profile
- Client entertainment is important