SAIPA boosts gender transformation in the Accountancy Profession

The South African Institute of Professional Accountants has boosted the numbers of black women accountants in the country following the announcement of results for its Professional Evaluation exams.

Ashrika Singh, who hails from Durban, was the top candidate for the 2017 SAIPA Professional Evaluation Exam and was awarded the top Achiever Award, as well as the designation of Professional Accountant (SA) -an NQF level 8 qualification in terms of the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA).

Kantha Naicker, the vice chairman of the Board at SAIPA, says this achievement is a positive step in the growth and transformation of the profession.

“One of our initiatives, Project Achiever, was developed to grow and transform the accounting industry and to become more reflective of the real demographics of the country and it has been a resounding success,” says Kantha Naicker, South African Institute of Professional Accountants (SAIPA).

The Project Achiever initiative, a partnership between SAIPA and FASSET Seta, is open to anyone (while the funding element is for men and women from previously disadvantaged backgrounds only), but the national results of the Professional Evaluation exam have shown that its women who are sitting in the top 12 positions.

The top three 2017 candidates, who are all women, from the November sitting of the Professional Evaluation Exam are also from the Project Achiever initiative. Since its inception in 2015, the project has produced 556 Professional Accountants (SA), of which 62% are women.

Ashrika Singh (who is also the national overall Project Achiever top performer), was followed by Nomakorinte Wayiza and Ridhwana Bux, who came second and third, respectively. These are women who have excelled in their Professional Evaluation exams and are getting involved in SAIPA regional structures taking an active part in the Professional Accounting profession.

“It is significant that we are seeing young women picking up the profession and excelling at it,” says Naicker.

“The FASSET funded Project Achiever programme boasts most women and the top achievers are predominantly women. This is showing how women are breaking barriers and removing glass ceilings, both academically and professionally.”

Statistics SA reported towards the latter part of 2017 that 44 of every 100 employed individuals in South Africa’s entire workforce are women. Therefore, women fill 44% of skilled posts, which includes managers, professionals and technicians.

However, this figure hasn’t changed significantly over the years, remaining the same as in 2002 and despite South Africa having made great progress, gender representativity is still below the 50% mark for positions that come with a great deal of influence, Statistics SA put forward.

Steps to gender achievement
SAIPA is committed to providing women with support structures that allow them to grow as professionals. It is also ensuring that each level of the organisation is populated by women who provide mentorship and guidance to the those working their way through the ranks.

“There are those of us who have walked this road for a long time, without that type of mentorship and support,” says Naicker. “Now we have this cohort of women who want to take things to the next level and we can lend them a helping hand.”

Women from diverse backgrounds, perspectives and lifestyles are taking root in the organisation, creating a space that is more open to female engagement and growth. SAIPA has been part of the South African landscape for 35 years, and it is only in the last years that the sheer numbers of women have started to come through its doors.

“We have never seen this level of participation before and I believe it’s because women feel more empowered,” says Naicker. “We are now living in a world where professional women are standing up for what they believe in because they had to undergo a journey to get where they are today.”