This pandemic has rocked our world and the digital accelerator was pushed to the floorboard. We’re not going back to business as usual before COVID-19, and this presents opportunities for women to propel our profession forward with expanded influence and leadership.
During this time, we’ve been invited into one another’s home and experienced one another’s personal daily lives. We’ve seen a host of previously unknown aspects of personal lives — each other’s homes, favorite T-shirts and PJs, and children and pets via Zoom bombs.
In honor of International Women's Day—a century-old global event that brings the world together in celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women—we look at challenges women face in the workplace and ways the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, the unified voice of the AICPA and CIMA, can help.
Support amidst challenges
1. Find a sponsor. Sponsors can play a significant role in advancing a career. The people they know can become the people you know. They can open doors for you and introduce you to clients. They can advocate on your behalf in meetings and casual conversation and protect you from political dynamics of the workplace.
Did you know one in five women say they’re the only woman in the room at work? If you’re like me, unfortunately, you’re not too surprised by this information. Professions like finance & accounting and tech spaces have been known to have a harder time attracting and retaining female talent. Yet, companies that have a higher percentage of female leadership have been proven to excel. A report released by Credit Suisse states that companies that have women making up at least 15% of senior management are 50% more profitable than those where less than 10% of senior managers are female. So, here are four strategies that will help you attract top female talent to your firm and retain them, too.
How do we encourage women to claim their seat at the table without having to wait for someone to pull it out? Being a woman in the workplace comes with its own set of possibilities and challenges. Yes, your perspective is unique and nuanced, but will it be supported if you’re the only woman in the room? So, how do we ensure female professionals are both heard and respected? In celebration of Women’s History Month, the Go Beyond Disruption podcast featured 13 avant-garde, innovative, and insightful women who provided the answers to these questions. Their answers covered tech and human intelligence topics, ranging from mindset adjustment all the way to cryptocurrencies and blockchain. Kim Drumgo, Director of Diversity and Inclusion for the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, shared her thoughts on what it will take for women to succeed. If you missed any of it, this is me sharing my notes. Here are some tips from trailblazing female professionals about how to succeed in business:
Did you know that the effect of one mild-to-moderately stressful event can last hours in the body? What if you added to that by the barrage of demanding emails, last-minute deadlines, family obligations and a never-ending list of errands? As you can see here, when combined with other demands, that one stressor can last days, weeks, months and even years in your body.
The longer we hold this pressure inside us, the more we begin to feel its physical and mental effects. It starts with a small unease of the body, such as irritability, constipation, acne, low energy and low libido. When I speak with my fellow cohort of CPAs, I learn it gets much worse. Many colleagues around you are suffering from auto-immune disorders, infertility, diabetes, mild depression, anxiety and so much more that are compounded by stress. If you’re one of them, you’re not alone. Burnout is real and can spread like wildfire.
As the host of The Small Biz Brunch podcast, I’ve interviewed some amazing entrepreneurs and CPAs who are changing the world. When I reflect on episodes I’ve recorded over the past six months, some of my favorite have been about women disrupting their industries and paving the way for future generations. And while it’s important to celebrate female entrepreneurs throughout the year, Women’s History Month provides a timely platform for important conversations.
I recently chatted with Lindsay Stevenson, CPA, CGMA, founder of Origin Evolution and Rachel McGirt, co-founder of Healthy Girls Save the World, a program for middle school girls that promotes “healthy bodies, healthy minds and healthy relationships.” We discussed financial challenges specific to female entrepreneurs (for example, how to get funding), and ways to overcome them. Here are the top two tips Stevenson and McGirt provided.
For many professionals, it’s a challenge to maintain work and life balance, but one trailblazing CPA was able to break the mold. By creating opportunities for herself, she opened new paths for other professionals, especially women, to follow.
When Katy Hollister, CPA, chief strategy officer for Deloitte’s Global Tax and Legal practice, approached what might have been an immovable barrier at work, she was able to change the course of her career —and key policies of her organization, too.
It’s a story from many years ago with a timeless lesson. In 1990, Hollister was a manager at Deloitte Tax, LLP for about six years and was pregnant with her first child. She was concerned about balancing parenthood and her existing responsibilities. At that time, the firm, like much of the profession and the business world, had no women’s initiatives or formal programs for working mothers. When Hollister asked her office’s managing partner about a part-time schedule once her child was born, he pointed out that the firm didn’t have part-time options. “I said, ‘How about if we try it?’”
Disruption is no longer a theory. It’s not an imaginary future with a “TBA” label waiting to be updated. You’ve seen the bots with your own eyes, so you know this isn’t a tall tale by a weirdo neighbor sitting on their front porch with antennas attached to an aluminum hat. The decreased need for traditional skills like memorizing and number-crunching, complemented by thinning attention spans indicate a radical change in work style. We are in the thick of the age of disruption. The Go Beyond Disruption podcast, your personal cheat code to beating the bots, celebrates Women’s History Month by chatting with female guest experts in technology and human intelligence.
According to the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Labor, 70 percent of women with children under the age of 18 are part of the work force. Just like many working parents, I struggled trying to balance the demands of work and home life. That’s why working on a reduced schedule for part of my career was so beneficial.
When I had my first child in 1986, I was a manager in the tax department at Deloitte Tax LLP in Detroit. Through the flexibility options available, I returned from maternity leave and began working a 60 percent schedule. I even rose to a leadership position doing so. The experience was so valuable. It allowed me to be the kind of mother I wanted to be, while also giving me the opportunity to build my career. Here are some tips for talking to your employer about a flexible schedule and maintaining professional success:
Women’s History Month is a great time to take inspiration from the achievements of outstanding women, and a chance to check in on your own goals. Are you aiming for advancement and trying to decide the best ways to get there? These are some steps you can take to enhance your prospects for getting ahead.
While preparing to host a webcast on women and money for a client company recently, I was asked why I thought we needed to have a separate webcast just for women – doesn't money work the same way for everyone?
The fact is that yes, money is money. But the way we relate to money, combined with differing life expectancies and career factors, means that we need to approach the "why" behind exercising healthy financial behaviors a little differently.
While everyone has questions about money, here are 3 common questions that I hear from women clients, and how I typically advise them to approach those concerns. What better day to think about this than on International Women’s Day?
For decades, women and men have been entering the accounting profession in equal numbers. As a result, you might reasonably assume that women are now at or near parity with men at the leadership level. However, that assumption would be wrong. Only 24% of CPA firm partners are women, according to AICPA statistics. Another recent study found that only 17% of audit partners are women. If these qualified professionals aren’t reaching the top levels, firms are clearly missing out on a lot of talent.
The AICPA Women’s Initiatives Executive Committee’s (WIEC) CPA Firm Gender Survey, first distributed in 2015, is designed to identify trends in women’s leadership over time. It informs practical solutions for firms that want to make the most of their talent and prevent the loss of leadership potential. The results provide a unique spotlight on trends related to diversity in leadership and suggest solutions on how best to address them. As we launch the second iteration of the survey this year, I’m reminded of a few of the many valuable insights that the last survey revealed, along with some of the questions firms might want to ask themselves in light of those findings. The lessons learned—and the value and perspective they can offer to CPA firms—underscore the benefits of participating in the survey. Outlined below are a few key takeaways from the inaugural CPA Firm Gender Survey.
My first job out of college was the best and worst experience of my life, and it taught me a lot about leadership. I started my career at Target, and because I had studied business, they had me running an area with five people reporting to me. My staff ranged from workers with little apparent interest in their jobs, to team leaders who were reporting to me. The challenges of running such a varied team can be overwhelming, but the job also gave me a tremendous range of responsibilities and leadership experiences, forcing me to learn quickly and be decisive. In the end, it was a good first job that certainly stretched me and helped me see that I could be a successful leader.
Taking the reins of leadership can be daunting, but along the way I have learned a number of useful lessons for current and aspiring leaders.