Women in Accounting–Success & How to Get it

barbara mckinzie accounting

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.