Equity, Opportunity & The Issues Facing Women CPAs

August 7, 2020

A Closer Look At Pragmatic Workplace Solutions to the Struggles Many Women Face In The Accounting Industry

Many organizations within the accounting profession are taking initiatives to offer increased opportunities for women to advance and excel. The AICPA developed a 3-year pilot program in 2017 as a road map – with studies, resources and feedback – to aid businesses in expanding the roles of women in their companies.

The Journal of Accountancy, in reporting on the AICPA’s pilot program, explained that, with the retirement of the Baby Boomer generation, many firms are experiencing a shortage of talented professionals. To remedy this, firms are encouraged to learn how to attract and retain talented individuals at all levels. Women, who have traditionally held a minority of upper management positions, offer competitive advantages to firms that are willing to embrace or adapt the steps contained in the AICPA’s pilot program.

Workplace Setting

Greater Empowerment In The Workplace

Common practices that inhibit career growth for women have been identified, and initiatives that businesses can take to train, advocate and promote women are helping firms empower their female professionals. 

These initiatives include:

  • Changing company practices so that salary and benefits are not based upon gender
  • Implementing advocacy and sponsorship programs in addition to the more traditional mentorships
  • Developing leadership programs that include work-life balance information aimed to address women’s concerns
  • Including men and women with equal respect in policy discussions to avoid discriminatory practices, including reverse discrimination

A major career issue facing women is balancing career growth with raising a family. This translates to a challenge for businesses in how to retain female professionals in the workplace. 

Some fast facts quoted in the CPA Journal:

  • 22% of accounting firm partners are women
  • 17% of women don’t grow beyond mid-career
  • More than 50% of accounting graduates are women

How Can Companies Retain Women Employees?

Training Programs to Retain Employees

Although flexible schedules and remote work options allow for greater retention of women, these perks provide little opportunities for leadership training. Companies, therefore, are seeking other creative approaches, such as reducing required travel time to allow employees to have more time with family and encouraging employees to take vacations and paid time off during non-peak seasons. Corporations that invite staff to share opinions, concerns and creative solutions create a better work environment. Retaining trained professionals helps to avoid the “succession crisis” that many firms are facing in which a large percentage of those in higher positions are retiring without enough trained professionals to take their places.

Ongoing training programs, mentorships and performance reviews allow for greater career development. Companies that are supportive of women who desire long-term careers and who want to raise families can provide nurseries on site, offer practical accommodations for nursing moms, and allow for a combination of reduced hours and working from home while caring for an infant.

Sharing Responsibilities in a CPA Firm

Shared Responsibilities: How CPA Firms Can Balance Benefits, Empathy & Accountability to Improve Company Culture 

According to the Journal of Accountancy, another way to support women in professional careers is by offering similar programs to men and to “remove the stigma” of using those programs. One large reason that women do not have as much success in the workplace as men do is because women are often given far more of the home responsibilities, especially in connection to raising children. Although sharing responsibilities at home is becoming more popular, many companies are not supportive of men taking time off to take care of family needs. 

By taking the initiative to offer flexible hours, work-from-home opportunities and more to both men and women, companies can be more supportive of families as a whole, have better retention of employees and see a larger number of women be able to pursue their careers on a long-term basis.

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