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Women CAs get help to break gender barrier

Women are on the rise everywhere in Corporate India. But in chartered accountancy, the gender gap is yawning. The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) is now on a drive to bridge the chasm. Aparajita Bharti reports.

business Updated: Jul 09, 2009 23:28 IST
Aparajita Bharti

Women are on the rise everywhere in Corporate India. But in chartered accountancy, the gender gap is yawning. The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) is now on a drive to bridge the chasm.

“We seek to provide our 1,49,000 students and 22,200 members with career guidance, conceptual clarity and a platform to address specific problems through a series of such conferences in our 5 regions”, said Uttam Prakash, president ICAI.

From just 5.2 per cent of the total chartered accountants in India in 1995, to the current 15 per cent, the profession is seeing greater participation from women, but they are yet to run the show as CEOs and CFOs. They are also stuck with conventional prejudices as independent practitioners.

There are some exceptions like HSBC’s country head Naina Lal Kidwai, but the profession remains largely hidebound though women MBAs are making their mark in marketing and general management.

The percentage of girls among total CA students has risen by 10 per cent from 30 per cent last year to 40 per cent this year. The pass percentage of girl students was 42 per cent as against 37 per cent among males in the CPT (Common Proficiency test) exam last year.

The ICAI set up its women steering group on March 8, the International Women’s Day to address women’s concerns. The group is planning to set up hostels for girls in major cities, where a lot of outstation students come for articleship and coaching.

“Through this group we want to make chartered accountancy a more comfortable profession for women while guiding them to manage work-life balance and to encourage them to reach to the very top”, said Priya Bhansali, convener, Women Steering Group.

“Though the first woman CA in India was registered in as early as 1950, women still struggle to prove their worth at times,” said Manjula Banerjee, speaker at a recent conference on the issue.

“Independent practice is still seen as a no-no for most women because they are not trusted enough by clients”, said Meenakshi Gupta, a practising CA.