Women Accountants Tell Profession Leadership What It Will Take to Keep Them

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In the 2013 Accounting MOVE Project (written in collaboration with the Accounting & Financial Women’s Alliance), women accountants tell profession leadership what it will take to keep them and examines the top barriers: culture, communication, and work-life conflict. The MOVE Report examines their top recommendations to CPA firm leadership.

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The 2013 MOVE Project is an essential report for firms, as it educates them about what women in the industry want so that firms can enact change to deliver results.

Without women, public accounting firms will not grow. But, women consistently defect from the talent pipeline, currently accounting for over half of CPA firm employees but only 19% of partners and principals, according to the 2013 Accounting MOVE Project results, to be released in May.

Women know what it takes to retain them. Based on a survey of 440 women in accounting, their top recommendations to CPA firm leadership are:

1.    Neutralize work-life conflicts.
2.    Amplify the authority and efficacy of women role models.
3.    Build out programs that equip women with business development skills.
4.    Evolve firm culture to remove subtle barriers.
5.    Communicate opportunities and career paths more consistently and clearly.

“Women want to build lifelong careers at public accounting firms, but the barriers they encounter at mid-career often derail their ambitions,” says Joanne Cleaver, president of Wilson-Taylor Associates, Inc., the firm that designed and manages the Accounting MOVE Project, an annual research effort that measures and supports the advancement of women in the profession.

“The effective practices we profile in the 2013 MOVE Project show that firms must continually improve work-life programs and fearlessly address factors that discourage women from achieving their career goals.”

Supplementing the annual MOVE survey of accounting firms, the Wilson-Taylor team surveyed individual women in the fourth quarter of 2012, asking them about key decisions to persevere in public accounting in pursuit of partnership, or to migrate to accounting careers in industry or as firm owners. A summary of the 2013 Accounting MOVE Project will be published in the May issue of Public Accounting Report, with the full report available through the Accounting & Financial Women’s Alliance, American Woman’s Society of Certified Public Accountants (AWSCPA) and Wilson-Taylor Associates, Inc., websites.

The 2013 Accounting MOVE Project report expands the business case for investing in programs, practices and cultures as crystallized by the five top recommendations of women in accounting. Without enough women in the leadership pipeline, firms forfeit growth; partners limit their options for exit and retirement; and profits erode due to the costs of constantly hiring to replace mid-career women who have left.

“Year after year, the MOVE Project delivers valuable insight on retaining and advancing women in our industry,” said Tricia Bencich, HR Manager at Moss Adams LLP. “Taking a deep dive into the issues that impact mid-career women will influence how we approach Forum_W, our effort to attract, retain, develop, and advance women. What we will learn from this study will enhance our ability to engage in meaningful dialogue with our women about their career and experience with firm.”

“It is imperative for accounting firms and the profession as a whole, to create an environment were women can succeed and the firm’s can capitalize on the strengths of all of its team members. The steps we take today to retain and advance our high potential women will have a tremendous impact on the success of our firms and our profession, which benefits everyone,” said Rosalie Mandel, Principal-In-Charge of Rothstein Kass’ LIFE program.

“It has been proven that firms that invest in women do better on any number of key business metrics, including client retention, decision-making, and overall profitability,” said Lee K. Lowery, CAE, executive director of the Accounting & Financial Women’s Alliance, an association partner of the MOVE Project. “The 2013 MOVE Project is an essential report for firms, as it educates them about what women in the industry want so that firms can enact change to deliver results.”

“There are so many opportunities today for women entering the profession and it’s important through surveys and networking that each woman is informed and educated about the opportunities that lie before her,” says Kim Fantaci, executive director of AWSCPA, an association partner of the MOVE Project. “It’s an ever-changing profession with continual developments but all represent opportunities, many of which haven’t been as readily available as they are today.”

About the MOVE Project

Survey Methodology: 440 women responded to a confidential online survey between October 1 and November 21, 2012. 91% of the respondents have worked for a CPA firm at least once, and 89% of respondents currently work for a firm. Questions focused on retention factors, expectations of making partner, and career perspectives. Individuals quoted by name in reports based on this survey gave their permission to be quoted or identified, and voluntarily provided contact information.

The Accounting MOVE Project is based on the MOVE methodology, developed by research partner Wilson-Taylor Associates, Inc., which investigates the factors proven to be essential to women’s career success:

M – Money: fair pay practices;
O – Opportunity: advancement and leadership development;
V – Vital supports: work-life programs that remove barriers; and
E – Entrepreneurship: operating experience for managing or business ownership

Founding Sponsor Moss Adams LLP and National Sponsor Rothstein Kass, P.C. support the Accounting MOVE Project.

About the Accounting/MOVE Project Partners

The Accounting & Financial Women’s Alliance (formerly American Society of Women Accountants) promotes the professional growth of women in accounting and finance. Members of the association benefit from opportunities to connect with colleagues, advance their careers, and become industry leaders. For 75 years, the organization has proudly upheld its mission to enable women in all accounting and related fields to achieve their full personal, professional and economic potential and to contribute to the future development of their profession. Visit http://www.afwa.org for more information.

Moss Adams is one of the largest accounting and consulting firms in the nation. Together with its affiliates, the firm provides insight and expertise integral to its clients’ success, serving public, private, and not-for-profit enterprises across the nation and in a wide range of industries.

  •     Moss Adams LLP is a national leader in assurance, tax, consulting, risk management, transaction, and wealth services.
  •     Moss Adams Wealth Advisors LLC provides investment management, personal financial planning, and insurance strategies to help clients build and preserve their wealth.
  •     Moss Adams Capital LLC offers investment banking and strategic advisory services, helping clients create greater value in their business.

Rothstein Kass is a premier international professional services firm that has served privately held and publicly traded companies, as well as high-net-worth individuals and families, for over 50 years. Beyond audit and tax services, the firm provides a full array of integrated advisory services, including strategic business counseling, regulatory compliance and SEC services, insurance and risk management consulting, and family office services.

AWSCPA is a national organization founded in 1933 dedicated to serving all women CPAs. The AWSCPA provides a supportive environment and valuable resources for members to achieve their personal and professional goals through various opportunities including leadership, networking and education. As the only resource exclusively for women CPAs and those aspiring to become certified, the Society provides information as well as scholarships to those in the profession. The Society is a leader in addressing concerns such as gender equity, the glass ceiling, and work and family issues. AWSCPA members work in all segments of the accounting and financial profession, from individual practitioners to professionals in industry, academia, and government, as well as partners in all of the largest firms. Visit the AWSCPA Web site at http://www.awscpa.org or call the Society’s office at (800) AWSCPA1 (297-2721).

Strategic communication firm Wilson-Taylor Associates, Inc., has been designing and managing national research projects that measure the progress of women in the workplace since 1998. Its methodology pivots on factors proven to remove barriers so that women can fully participate in driving business results. Led by veteran business journalist Joanne Cleaver, its current and past clients include Women in Cable Telecommunications, the Women's Transportation Seminar, the Alliance for Workplace Excellence, SitterCity, Ebyline.com, and many others. Please see Wilson-Taylor’s portfolio of work at http://www.wilson-taylorassoc.com.

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Diana Cummins
Accounting & Financial Women's Alliance
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