Women now make up more than 60 percent of all accountants and auditors in the United States, according to the Clarion-Ledger. That is an estimated 843,000 women in the accounting and auditing work force.
Although recent educational metrics have shown that girls in school seem to lose interest in math and science, according to Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, women are flocking to the accounting profession. The Clarion-Ledger reports that by 1951, there were only some 500 female certified public accountants, according to the Journal of Accountancy.
This may be a case of hiring practices influencing an outcome. The Clarion-Ledger reports that “More than one woman interviewing … was told, ‘We aren’t hiring any women,’” in the early 1970s, according to the Journal of Accountancy. Today, it is mostly women doing the hiring, often raiding the classrooms to get the best candidates.
Quinton Booker, chairman of Jackson State University’s accounting department told the Clarion-Ledger, “We have 341 accounting majors in our undergraduate program. About 71 percent are females. More females are entering the work force, period, and I believe it plays a significant part.”
Working lifestyle is another factor. Accounting may be attractive to women because it doesn’t interfere with parents and their children. Working using laptops, cell phones, and faxes, the home can be another work place.
“That has helped retain a lot of us. If it had been a choice between my job and my family, I know which choice I would have made,” said Ashley Willson, a partner in the accounting firm Willson, Stratton & Tyler.
The predictions made in a 1984 report by the AICPA Future Issues Committee have come true for the most part. The report made a point that women would probably constitute more than half of the accounting profession in 20 years, according to the June 1989 CPA Journal Online.
In the same direction, BusinessWeek reports that women-owned businesses have grown at 28 percent between 1997 and 2004, according to the Center for Women’s Business Research. For a better perspective, consider that this number is three times the growth rate for all U.S. businesses.
Maria C. Coyne spoke to BusinessWeek about the state of women’s business and the limitations they encounter. She said with universities providing curriculum in entrepreneurship and incubator programs to commercialize ideas that come out of their graduate and undergraduate programs, young women have more confidence and role models than 20 or 25 years ago, when a woman business owner would have been unusual. Coyne is the KeyBank National Association’s executive vice president for community banking and women’s business initiatives.
She stated that the main limitation is the access to information concerning growth capital, according to BusinessWeek. Women finance the growth of their companies as they would manage a household – frugally. This has seen many women-owned businesses grow significantly without the use of credit. Their businesses also finance their growth, using retained earnings and cash flow, rather than loans.
Coyne also said that industries considered non-traditional for women, such as agriculture, construction, manufacturing and wholesale, are becoming less male-oriented, according to BusinessWeek. Women seem to have trouble establishing credibility, but once they achieve this goal, it is much easier.
Technology, as well, seems to be less of a barrier to women entrepreneurs than to male-owned companies. Women seem to take a proactive approach in adopting technology. BusinessWeek reports that KeyBank completed a study last year that found women-owned businesses with annual revenues of $1 million or greater, were more likely than male-owned companies to have web sites with transaction capability. Their study also found that they ran their companies more efficiently using advanced technology, such as technology tools and accounting software.