Women in Accounting–Success & How to Get it Part 2

To read part one of this post, click here

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Find a sponsor 

As the years go on, it seems as though there are less young people utilizing the invaluable resource of a mentor and even less so finding a sponsor. Most industries are changing rapidly, there is tons of solid advice and tips that transcend time and technology, and what better resource to get it from than someone in your professional network?

Whether its a manager in your company, a professor from college, or a connection from LinkedIn, this is a person who knows your long-term goals, and wants to help you achieve them. Whether by doing some extra work for them or openly and appropriately showing your admiration, this person could be the one who sticks their neck out for you and lands you a coveted position.

Connect with your coworkers

Tons of research has shown that “likability” is absolutely essential to moving up in any industry and that women who are perceived as competent and assertive are seen as lacking in likability. So when the opportunity organically presents itself, take advantage to get to know your peers on an informal, fun level.

Connecting on topics unrelated to business will help you see your coworkers and your coworkers see you as people instead of colleagues.

Communicate effectively 

Let’s face it: we enter the finance and accounting industry because we’re good at math, and we prefer working with numbers than with people. Now, this is not to say accountants aren’t people persons, that would be a gross generalization, but knowing how to articulate what you need from others in order to do your job effectively is invaluable. Having the power, prowess, and confidence to have the difficult conversations that can lead you to rise in the ranks will only give you more merit.

If you’re still in school, taking a class that focuses on negotiation, or a marketing class that focuses on branding would be critical to your trove of skills. It’s never too early to think about the importance of personal branding and how it can catapult you into high level positions.

Take a good look 

When you first enter the workforce, don’t let your lack of experience cloud your vision. Take a realistic assessment of your office and how movement within in the company operates. Find out what will it take to land that corner office or executive title and if it’s going to be an attainable goal. If you feel it might be a little behind the times in terms of promoting skilled and accomplished women, don’t worry, there are plenty of firms that are in demand for talented and professional females.

Women in Accounting–Success & How to Get it

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Perhaps you’re a brand new CPA. Perhaps you’ve been in the business for years. Wherever your level of experience may fall, for women in the accounting and finance industry, we still have a ways to.

Now, to say that there hasn’t been progress would be absolutely false. According to the Journal of Accountancy, in 1951, there were only 500 women who held the title of certified public accountant and, in the 1970s, many women interviewing for CPA positions were flat out told “We aren’t hiring any women.”

Today, over 44% of CPA firm employees are women, totaling out at more than 843,000 females (60%) in the accounting and auditing industry. In the classroom, over 70% of undergraduates in Jackson State University’s accounting program are women.

It’s a great field to enter in an economy that’s still struggling to get back on its feet. Showing strong demand–job openings in accounting and auditing were up 19%, and finance was up 21%, in September 2015–as well as above-average salaries for new hires. However, this is still one big problem: the representation of women in high level positions.

Just nineteen percent of partners and principals in CPA firms are women, and while it’s a big improvement from the one percent of women in high level positions in 1989, it’s still a decrease from the twenty-one percent of female partners and principals in 2011. 

What gives? There are plenty of theories as to why women don’t rise to senior positions, from sexism to the desire to not want to work twenty-four-seven. However, that “up-or-out” culture is seemingly on the outs, with firms now listening closer to worker concerns and promoting the value of a healthy work-life balance.

While CPA firms make the shift to uphold family values and a life outside of the office, there are a few key steps females can take in the meantime to help get ahead.

Stay tuned for part two of this post coming soon, where I detail the key steps that females in the accounting and finance industry can take to get ahead.