Seventeen-year-old Dimpy Jindal, a first year student of commerce at New Delhi's Hansraj College wants to become a chartered accountant (CA).
Gunjan Bhagia, a 20-year-old third-year student at Delhi's Sriram College of Commerce wants to become a financial analyst. Both will need to clear a series of examinations to become a CA, and both are off to a start; they have cleared the Common Proficiency Test (CPT), the entry-level examination in the series, which was conducted in November 2006.
Jindal and Bhagia are among the 5664 women who have passed this examination. At 31 per cent, that's a significant proportion of the 18345 who did. It was 15 per cent in 2005 and ranged between 5 and 10 per cent in 2004 and 2003. Although the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI), the apex body of the profession that conducts the examination, does not maintain data on the number of women who appeared for the examination, its president, Manoharn TN claims that the proportion of women who appeared for the CPT in November 2006 was significantly higher than the proportion of those who did in November 2005.
Chartered Accountants are in demand in India with ICAI estimating that there will not be enough to go around till 2012. With companies operating in a more complex and global business environment CAs are expected to do more, handle mergers, present financial statements under several standards in accordance with the laws of various countries, and ensure that the accounting is as transparent as can be.
Salaries too have increased correspondingly, with Manoharan claiming that entry-level CAs start at Rs 40,000 a month as compared to Rs 22,000-27,000 even two years ago. "I am particularly attracted by high salary levels and (the fact that) one can occupy good positions in top-notch companies," says Jindal.
The immediate reason behind the growing interest of women in the profession could be the institute's decision, in 2006, to reduce the minimum time it takes to become a CA, from five years to four. "I can be a CA by 24 and can plan my future when I am still young," says Bhagia who insists that her decision to become a CA was partly prompted by the time factor.
ICAI's Manoharan says the proportion of women members of the profession has increased over the past decade. In 1995, 5.2 per cent of the members of ICAI were women. In 2006, this proportion was 13 per cent.
The results of the latest CPT could help that proportion increase faster over the next decade.