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The Powerful Impact of Women in Accounting and Tax

Superwoman CPAJane Doe, CPA, also known as Super Woman, woke up this morning at 5 a.m., jumped on her computer to address some urgent work emails, proceeded to pack her children’s lunch, get them out of bed (easier said than done), dressed, and off to school – and then worked all day, leading her team and conquering the business world. She runs from one business meeting to the next, finally stopping only to make dinner for her family, help her oldest child with his homework, bathe her two-year-old, and put both kids to bed. Oh, and she also helped her husband with his PowerPoint presentation, fed the pets and paid the household bills. It’s now 9 p.m., time to jump back on the computer and wrap up more business.

Does this sound familiar? We all know women like this in our accounting profession – and these women should be celebrated.

Men and women have inherent differences, thank goodness! Bringing those perspectives together in the workforce (along with talents like Jane’s Super Woman multitasking skills) allows synergy and a blend of ideas to come to the best solution. Cultivating this blend in the CPA profession is critical. Our biggest success indicator is our talent pool – our people. We need to foster diversity and inclusion to keep talented staff engaged and advance our profession.

Startling Statistics for Women in Accounting

According to a recent Women’s Initiatives Executive Committee study, women have made up roughly half of all university accounting programs for a few decades. They’re also well-represented at entry levels in accounting firms, but their numbers tend to significantly decline as they move up the career ladder. Perhaps some women choose to stop climbing the corporate ladder, pursue other endeavors, or maybe they aren’t given the same opportunities or don’t have a valuable mentor to guide them in their career/life journey.

Fixing the Advancement Problem

I want to bring focus to women in the profession and encourage CPAs to implement a strategy to develop and retain female talent.

Our profession has countless examples of women CPAs leading the pack:

  • Cathy Engelbert, first female CEO of Deloitte
  • Lynne Doughtie, first female CEO of KPMG
  • Kimberly Ellison-Taylor, Global Accounting Strategy Director at Oracle and the Vice Chair of the AICPA Board of Directors
  • Tommye Barie, Partner at Mauldin & Jenkins LLC and fourth female Chair of the AICPA Board of Directors
  • Annette Nellen, Professor at San Jose State University and Vice Chair of the AICPA Tax Executive Committee (TEC)
  • Patricia Thompson, Partner at Piccerelli Gilstein & Company LLP and former Chair of the TEC

And, all of the women who received the AICPA Women to Watch Award should also be recognized – to name a few amazing accounting women.

Importance of Mentorship         

One of the best ways for women to lead other women is through example and mentorship. I was fortunate to have a significant female mentor early in my career. Ronda was a partner in the CPA firm that I worked for years ago (she has since moved on to be a CFO of a large company). She took me under her wing and helped me with my challenges. She always listened more than she talked, allowing her to gain valuable information from others, as well as their trust.

To this day, when I find myself in a high-stress situation that requires me to step up and lead a mission, I ask myself “what would Ronda do?” Her poise, composure and professionalism has always resonated with me. Ronda also once told me, “Life is a marathon, not a race.” I live by this advice. Our career isn’t about racing to the finish line, it’s about pacing yourself to continuously grow.

More to Come at the AICPA for Women

The AICPA Tax Division has scheduled a Women in Tax Panel discussion to address the unique opportunities and challenges faced by women in tax. This video will be posted in the spring along with other new resources. Additionally, the AICPA offers the following valuable resources:

  • Women in the Profession Resources page – your one-stop shop for practice guides, research studies, networking opportunities and articles to help firms develop a women’s initiatives program.
  • Women in the Profession Toolkit – Assortment of tools and templates to help businesses and accounting firms develop and implement strategies to foster and advance female talent.
  • Mentoring Program Guide – a 15-page how-to guide to help you set up and launch a mentoring program in your organization.
  • Mentoring opportunities – the AICPA is looking for volunteer mentors to help members seek and obtain guidance and support (use “aicpa2016” in the assigned program passcode field).

Let’s continue our progress. I think we can all agree that Jane Doe, CPA, is truly Super Woman, and we need more women like her leading our businesses.

Susan C. Allen, CPA, CITP, CGMA, Senior Technical Manager-Tax Practice and Ethics, American Institute of CPAs. 

Superwoman CPA courtesy of Shutterstock.

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