According to a report by the U.S. Census Bureau, the representation of women in the workforce has witnessed a tremendous increase since the early 70’s. About 40 years ago, the workforce was comprised of approximately 62% men whereas women made up the remaining 38%. As of 2010, things had slightly changed in women’s favor where women representation in the workforce had risen to more than 47% while that of men shrunk to 52.8%.
Nonetheless, the main professions for both men and women are yet to witness considerable change. For instance, in the 70s, the popular occupation for men was truck driving and this was still the same case in 2010. Similarly, in the 70s, most women held secretarial positions in firms and the trend was still the same in 2010. Women began holding key management roles in financial institutions in the late 80’s. The issue of business professional women holding key positions within the field of accounting and finance began attracting world attention in the early 90’s particularly in countries like Canada, the UK, and the US. Today, most financial institutions employ women as secretaries, tellers, and assistant administrative staff.
Women leadership representation in men-dominated fields
Contrary to the popular belief that women have no interest in science, math and other male dominated industries, the number of professional women presently working, and joining the field of accounting and finance suggests otherwise. More than ever, women are opting to become accountants.
One main reason why many women are joining the field of accounting is because they are positive that a career in accounting can finally give them a work-life balance they so much need. Thanks to the mobile technology, many accounting companies are experiencing workplace flexibility, and this continues to create more options for professional women.
Today, nearly half of CPAs in accounting firms are women, and this is an opportunity for women to be fully in charge of their careers. The good news is, if a woman accountant is fully licensed, she can choose to stop working for a company and open their own practice where they can control their careers by calling all the shots. One great thing about CPAs is whether they choose to give full attention to a certain niche or consider having a wide-ranging practice, they will always figure things out on their own and more importantly, they will never experience work shortage regardless of how much time or hours they allocate to work each week.
The idea that women can also succeed in men-dominated fields, like accounting and finance, and the fact that many women are now pursuing accounting careers has tremendously helped draw more women to these men-dominated fields. More importantly, seeing other career women succeed in these fields has helped boost the confidence of young women to become accountants.
There is need for urgent improvements
It clear that, in the last 20 years, women have held approximately 50% of all new CPAs in the fields of accounting and finance. However, in all CPA companies countrywide, women account for a mere 19% of partners. Additionally, in CPA companies with 100 employees or more, only 23% of partners are women, which is an improvement since 2010.
Although there are a lot of professional women out there with CPA licenses, the number of women partners in CPA companies is still low, and this is very unfortunate. Very few business professional women in men predominated professions, like finance and accounting make it to the top positions or become partners. One of the main problems faced by women in these fields today is the difficulty to progress past the position of Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) after securing a job position in a large accounting company.
So, why are there few women holding top positions in large accounting firms? If you pose this question to a woman CPA, she’ll almost certainly tell you that the way of life associated with being a partner isn’t meant for women. There might be some truth in this response because a survey conducted by an institute of CPAs in Pennsylvania back in 2015 found out that approximately 38% of employees opt to venture into a different field of work instead of moving up the ranks in accounting alleging lack of balance between work and personal life.
Other professional women simply don’t desire to become partners. Being a partner can be challenging and the reputation that comes with being one isn’t worth it for most women. The moment someone becomes a partner, a woman in this case, they tend to spend more time traveling away from home to women’s networking groups, and securing new accounting networks. For many professional women, these demands mean spending lesser time with their families or not having time for family at all, so they willingly choose to put their children first.
But, this doesn’t imply that accounting firms aren’t making the necessary moves towards creating partnership positions for women. In fact, about 55% of accounting firms have put in place flexible work arrangements especially for career women, and the good news is most women are already taking advantage of these plans.
Resources for female accountants
Various organizations dedicated to promoting the involvement of women in accounting and finance are available today. One such organization is The Lady CPA Network, which is a renowned non-profit dedicated to advancing the position of women in the fields of accounting and finance. It offers scholarships, internships, guidance, and mentorship opportunities to women who look forward to building careers in the fields of accounting and finance.
Other renowned organizations doing the same work as the Lady CPA Network include, the Educational Foundation for Women in Accounting, AICPA-Women in the Profession, American Woman Society of Certified Accountants, National Association of Women Business Owners, American Business Women’s Association, and the Accounting & Financial Women’s Alliance.
Most of these organizations have been operational since the 30s and are committed to speeding up women’s professional advancement. Additionally, these organizations support women involvement in accounting by conducting repeated research and offering financial support towards female education in all levels of education. Here is detailed information about what some of these resources for female accountants do:
The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA)
This organization has been advocating for CPAs for over a century. It has several volunteer activities, task forces, conferences, and events that provide an opportunity to spread out your networking. In addition, being a member of the AICPA allows CPAs to access education opportunities provided to members. Most of these opportunities centre their attention on some of the latest issues facing CPAs.
The American Payroll Association (APA)
This association offers numerous benefits to its members. Some of these benefits include career resources, free e-books, and webinars. Besides local chapters, APA also hosts national events, and its annual Congress gives members an opportunity to meet with fellow professionals.
National Association of Black Accountants (NABA)
This network has more than 7,000 members and is one of the few with both student and professional chapters. In addition, it provides student development, community outreach, and networking. It also has thousands of local chapters across the U.S.
Accounting & Financial Women’s Alliance (AFWA)
This organization gives members a chance to sharpen their leadership skills. Additionally, it provides a platform for female finance professionals to interact. AFWA hosts a number of regional conferences per year. It also hosts annual conferences. Members of AFWA have an opportunity to get their hands on CPE credits. Members can also acquire degree and certificate scholarship programs in CPA, CMA, and CIA.
Financial Executives International (FEI)
FEI is committed to advancing the success of financial executives who hold high-level positions in their respective organizations. It also helps advance the success of member financial organizations, and women professionals. FEI has been operational for over 80 years now and has over 11,500 members all over the world.
The Institute of Internal Auditors (The IIA)
This group was set up in 1941. It advocates for the rights of internal auditors globally. The IIA is a principal educator and a recognized authority. It has over 185,000 members spread across over 165 countries.
Should you join a professional women’s network?
A professional women’s network will give you an opportunity to share your ideas with other CPAs outside the office. More importantly, professional network groups are able to promote the development of careers for members from different fields. For instance, being a member of a professional organization helps you learn various tricks useful in your industry and prepares you for leadership roles. Being a member of an accounting network also shows your dedication to the industry, and this impresses employers.
Note that professional women’s organizations have professional affiliations with a broad range of business professional women. These influential professionals are well aware of the distinctive position women hold in different industries. Therefore, if you are a female accountant it is advisable to identify a women’s network to enroll. Here are some benefits that come with being a member of an accounting network:
National Membership Directory. Becoming a member of a network for women will give you the opportunity to access the online directory of the given network members. This includes finance and accounting professionals drawn from all parts of the country.
Conferences and Events. Usually, women’s network host several conferences in a year such as seminars, national conferences, and spring conferences. Besides providing leadership development and networking, these events and conferences issue attendees with CPE credit. More importantly, being a member of a network allows you to attend various events and conferences all through the year at a low-priced rate.
Social networks. Members of professional women's organizations interact on various platforms, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Therefore, as a member you can access the various exclusive Online Member Exchange social networks, where you can find professional support and share your ideas.
Publications. Once you’ve become a member of a women’s network, you qualify to receive monthly and quarterly network publications.
Access to Members-Only Websites. Most women networks have exclusive sites meant for members only. The sites have special materials and resources designed to aid members with their local chapters.
How to network as a female accountant
Many women CPAs fail to notice the significance of networking in their places of work. Bear in mind that your coworkers are not there to stay, and it’s hard to tell where they’ll go next. Even if you deem yourself a non-networker, you should consider staying in good terms with your coworkers. You can organize office coffee or monthly lunch, and remember to keep it professional. Subsequently, after they’ve left the firm, or you’ve left, make sure to keep in touch. Your previous or current coworkers may immensely contribute to the success of your career in future.
Learn how to network in conferences and seminars
Being able to network professionally in conferences and seminars has a lot of benefits. For example, it connects you with women in accounting you would never come across otherwise. For this reason, it is prudent to attend lectures and talks on accounting subjects that interest you. After the event, hang out with the speakers as well as the attendees and try to make beneficial connections. Don’t forget to bring your business cards with you.
Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Facebook provide a broad range of opportunities to network with former schoolmates, workmates, and other professional business women. And if you are hunting for a job in finance or accounting, a social media account can help you a great deal. You can join women’s networking groups on social media to find discussions where you can learn important ways to deal with financial and accounting challenges.
Although the number of business professional women in the fields of accounting and finance doesn’t match that of their male counterparts or is yet to attain the desired mark, women in finance are committed to putting in the work to promote gender equality in accounting and finance. Women-owned accounting firms, which seek to provide employment opportunities for women CPAs, mentor, and give them internships, are increasing by the day and are doing a great job.