By Phil Hall AAT news Why the Women in Finance Charter is an opportunity for your company 1 May 2018 18 months ago, AAT became the first professional accountancy body to sign the Women in Finance Charter. Today, it remains the only body to have done so. In the world of business, support for the charter has been patchy too. True, the big four accountancy firms – EY, KPMG, PwC and Deloitte – have signed on the dotted line. As of March they had been joined by around 200 banks, building societies, accountancy firms, insurance companies and local authorities. However, there remain many omissions. There are some big names who are not showing leadership. But even more important is the almost complete absence of any companies from the SME community. SMEs could lead the way. They could also benefit. More than 99% of UK businesses are SME’s, employing less than 250 people. If these companies do more to increase gender diversity it will have a major impact on society. Parliament knows this. That’s why Economic Secretary to the Treasury, John Glen MP, was under fire in March for the lack of SME involvement. Lack of awareness and lack of understanding of the Charter are likely to be two major factors. So AAT is committed to doing what it can to help in this area. Why should accountants recommend their clients jump on board? It’s not just about doing the right thing, there are numerous other reasons for closing the gender divide and thus reducing the Gender Pay Gap. For starters, it leads to a more diverse and inclusive workforce, broadens the skill base, increases creativity and innovation and reduces staff turnover. In short, there is a business case for greater gender diversity This could add £150 billion to UK GDP by 2025 and introduce 840,000 more women to the workforce, according to management consultant McKinsey . Even micro businesses can sign up. Any high street accountancy firm, even micro businesses (those employing less than 10 people), are perfectly welcome to sign the Charter. They can do so today, completely free of charge and by doing so will demonstrate their commitment to greater gender equality not just to their staff but to their suppliers, clients and prospective clients. Indeed, by becoming a signatory, accountants will then be in a position of strength to suggest their clients consider doing the same. Taking the benefits into account, there really doesn’t appear to be any sound reason for employers not to sign up to the Charter. So, if you’re an employer, consider signing up now. If you’re an employee, have a conversation with your finance or HR department and ask them to look at signing up today. Here’s what the charter entails. The Women in Finance Charter, established in 2016, is a commitment by HM Treasury and signatory firms to work together to make business more balanced and fairer. The four commitments are relatively straightforward; Having one member of your senior executive team who is responsible and accountable for gender diversity and inclusion Setting internal targets for gender diversity in your senior management Publishing progress annually against these targets in reports on your website Having an intention to ensure the pay of the senior executive team is linked to delivery against these internal targets on gender diversity. Find out more and sign up to the Women in Finance Charter. Find out more about AAT’s commitments under the Women in Finance Charter. Phil Hall is AAT's Head of Public Affairs and Public Policy.