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Increase Opportunities for Women in Accounting

Tips to help your firm be more inclusive and productive.

A 2011 American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) study found that although women represent 45 percent of all employees at accounting firms, they account for just 21 percent of all partners. Here's how your firm can help further women in accounting and create a more diverse leadership team.

Offer Flexible Work Arrangements

Employees of both genders appreciate work-from-home and flextime arrangements: Research firm Catalyst found that women and men are equally likely to use some flex options throughout their careers.

However, if flexible work arrangements are not available, women are more likely than men to downsize their career aspirations. A study by the Accounting & Financial Women's Alliance (AFWA) found that 57 percent of women who abandon their partnership dreams do so because they are unable to reconcile their professional ambitions with their personal and family life. Having flexible work arrangements will enable the women in your firm to stay engaged and on track for promotions and senior-level positions.

Some firms prefer informal flexible work arrangements, while others prefer a more structured approach. Make this flexibility part of your firm's culture for both sexes and extend the flexibility through to the partnership level.

Career Advocacy

If your firm is large enough, offer women-specific events and networking opportunities, or team up with other professional-services firms to host events.

Encourage female employees to get involved in women-focused groups. The AICPA Women Initiatives Executive Committee (WIEC), the Educational Foundation for Women in Accounting (EFWA) and AFWA sponsor career advocacy programs that include mentoring, access to networking opportunities and leadership development.

Keep in Touch with Off-Ramped Employees

According to AFWA, 37 percent of professional women will voluntarily leave the workforce and the majority (93 percent) will re-enter, with the typical leave being about two years. Keeping these off-ramped employees engaged and connected--a sort of alumni program--allows you to rehire employees who are already familiar with your firm when they are ready to rejoin the workforce.

Educate Employees on the Benefits of a Diverse Leadership Team

AFWA's 2012 Special Report on Diversity in the Accounting and Finance Fields noted that "diversity of thought...fosters better collaboration and more efficient problem-solving skills." Demonstrate that sentiment through your leadership, and employees will follow suit.


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