Woman vice-president lobbies hard to lead accountants' institute

In December HKICPA council members will pick their president and will it be a woman this time?

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 30 October, 2012, 7:17am

Excitement is growing about the prospect of a woman heading the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

Its presidential election will be held in mid-December and lobbying usually begins in November. But accountants said this year the two front runners have started their lobbying months earlier for the top seat on the industry body.

Susanna Chiu, director of Li & Fung Development (China) and now a vice-president of the institute, tried to break the glass ceiling last year and contested the president's seat.

She lost to Ernst & Young's Asia-Pacific financial services leader, Keith Pogson.

This year, Chiu is back and appears to be more aggressive in canvassing for supporters in the past few months.

If she wins, that glass ceiling will be well and truly broken.

Chiu, who has volunteered on various committees at the institute since 1993, has served on the council since 2004 and has been vice-president for the past two years.

But for her to enter the history books, she has to beat another vice-president, Clement Chan Kam-wing, the managing partner of BDO, who is also lobbying for the job.

Chan, has been a council member since 2007 and is a vice-president. He is also chairman of the Financial Reporting Standards Committee

In December, 33,000 accountants in the city will select new or re-elect council members whose terms will expire then.

The 22 council members will then elect the president from among them.

The institute has had slightly more men than women but this year the gender gap has almost closed. But the fact that a female president has never been elected shows men are still dominant in the sector.

As a female columnist, I will like to support Susanna (sorry Clement) as I would like to see more women in top positions in the business community.

Another indicator of there being too few women at the top, is the percentage of women directors of companies, which is about 10 per cent, according to the Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing.

The HKEx has a consultation paper out until early November calling for companies to adopt policies to achieve a more balanced gender composition on their boards.

It shows that 40 per cent of listed companies have no female directors while 37 per cent have only one.

The HKEx is doing the right thing in calling for companies to review their board composition and ensure they have a policy that reflects not just an old boys' club but to have more female voices to provide a balanced gender view.

There have been more women than men in accountancy in recent years but only 30 per cent of the partners in the Big Four accounting firms are women.

Watch this space and I will update you on the outcome of the elections in a couple of months.