By Anne Rosivach
Outstanding women – those who have made significant contributions to the accounting profession and to the development of women – receive recognition through the Women to Watch program. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) Women's Initiatives Executive Committee (WIEC) initiated the program in 2005 in partnership with several state CPA societies. In 2011, award winners are being honored in twelve states at events sponsored by their CPA societies. Recipients are nominated by their peers and their firms and are then selected by committees within their state professional organizations.
The award is given in two categories: experienced leaders and emerging leaders. Leaders in both categories must be involved in community or public service.
- Additional criteria for experienced leaders included authorship of articles for professional journals, contributions to the CPA profession, improvement in the workplace, and mentorship of other professionals.
- Emerging leaders are evaluated on their demonstration of leadership, contributions to the profession, involvement with educational institutions, and in the creation and implementation of unique initiatives.
The WIEC "saw a great need to bring forward visible leaders and role models for women," Yasmine El-Ramly, Project Manager, PCPS – Human Capital and Women's Initiatives of the AICPA, told AccountingWEB. Women have represented 50 percent or more of total professionals for more than 20 years, but today, women account for only 9 percent of all CFOs and 23 percent of partners in CPA firms nationwide, according to the WIEC.
"The expectation was that the women who entered the profession 20 years ago would be in leadership positions equal to their numbers as they advanced in their careers. That has not happened," El-Ramly said.
"The women who are selected for the Women to Watch awards have made some outstanding or unique contribution to the profession. They have been successful in integrating their personal and professional lives. They are more visible because of the awards. They become role models. They prove it can be done," added El-Ramly.
This is the third year the awards have been given by the Massachusetts Society of CPAs (MSCPA), according to Kara Kieran, Membership/Communications Supervisor. "The awards are one of the initiatives of the MSCPA's Women in Accounting Committee, which was organized in 2008 after members told the MSCPA that they felt there was a need to bring women together and focus on the advancement of women in the profession."
"In early 2009, the committee was gaining momentum through various events and initiatives. We were pleasantly surprised at how many women wanted to network with each other and attend events developed to meet their needs," Kieran said. "As we were meeting more MSCPA women members, we realized that we had so many incredible women who were either rising stars or role models to others in the profession." Kieran learned about the Women to Watch program and recommended it to the committee.
"The judging panel is comprised of the two chairs of the Women in Accounting Committee, one Women in Accounting Committee member, and two award recipients from 2010," said Kieran. "The panel met earlier this month to determine the winners. It was a very difficult decision as there were so many outstanding submissions. As a result of the quality of the nominations, the committee asked that we resubmit all of the nominees again next year so they can be considered again. Two women were selected for the emerging category, and three women were chosen for the experienced category."
The awards are presented at events in each participating state. States determine the format of the event, which can change from year to year. The twelve states participating in 2011 are Alabama, California, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Mexico, South Carolina, Utah, and West Virginia. State societies in Delaware and West Virginia are giving the award for the first time this year; Colorado and North Carolina are planning to participate in the program in 2012.
The California Society of CPAs (CalCPA) presented its 2011 awards at the Women's Leadership Forum, part of the society's Women's Leadership Summit.
During its annual awards event on August 19, the Utah Association of CPAs (UACPA) presented its Women to Watch awards.
The Kansas Society of CPAs (KSCPA) awards will be presented by Greg Anton, AICPA Vice Chair, on September 16 in Wichita. The awards luncheon, which is free to nominees, winners, family and friends, and members of the KSCPA, will follow the four-hour Women's Leadership conference.
The AICPA assists state organizations with the nomination and judging process, the most difficult steps in the program, by providing them with forms and sample letters to members and to firms asking for nominations. They also help with scheduling events and speakers for the events. State organizations interested in getting started in the program can contact the WIEC at 800-CPA-Firm or firstname.lastname@example.org