More Women Enter Partner Ranks: Firms Support Networks

Nineteen percent of partners in public accounting firms were women in 2004, according to bizwomen.com, but women received 30 percent of partnership promotions within the last three years. According to Shaun Budnik, women’s initiatives director at Deloitte & Touche, “Since the launch of our women’s initiative in 1993, the percentage of women partners at the firm increased to 17 percent from seven percent, that is, to more than 600 in 2003,up from 97 in 1993. The growth in the firm’s revenue for the same period has also been dramatic: U.S. revenue increased to $5.93 billion from $1.93 billion,” cpa2Biz.com reports.

KPMG executives see improvement in their bottom line resulting from the launch of the KNOW program for female employees. “We had a woman working in our tax practice

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who was able to connect a big client with a woman in our audit practice and as a result, the company won the contract with the client to serve their audit needs,” says Cheryl Levy a national recruiter with KPMG, according to the Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal.

The goal of the KNOW program was originally to provide women with the opportunity to network, mentor and share experiences. To date, more than 7,000 women accountants at KPMG meet monthly in 39 chapters, the Business Journal reports. “It really gives the women a chance to get to know one another and build morale,” Levy says. “And by having this program, KPMG is able to recognize and celebrate the contributions and successes of women in our company.”

A survey of men and women members, conducted by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants’ (AICPA) Work/Life and Women’s Initiatives Executive Committee, entitled “Opportunity and Balance: Is Your Organization Ready to Provide Both?” noted the prominence of women at smaller firms. “At first glance the data on women’s advancement in public accounting looked positive; however, there were some differences across firm size that showed smaller firms were promoting women at even higher rates than larger firms.”

More than half of accounting graduates in the country are women, according to the Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal. Commenting on women’s promotion rates in their Annual Report for 2005, the AICPA said “while women are not advancing in comparison to their numbers, once they make partner they advanced to leadership positions in their firms. Firms apparently are increasingly offering non-partner tracks for those less interested in partnership – women are taking advantage of such options, over men, by a margin of more than two to one.”

The AICPA survey also found that “CPAs’ desire to leave their firms and organizations likely was tied to their perception of the opportunities for advancement. . . . This pessimistic view was even more pronounced in business and industry, with 64 percent of the female respondents and 58 percent of males, reporting limited, or no opportunities for upward mobility.” The ability to achieve work life balance was also a key to retention, the suryey said.

Leslie Murphy, newly elected Chair of the AICPA, led the organization’s first Women’s Summit in October 2005, in Rosemont, Illinois, hosted by the Work/Life & Women’s Initiatives Executive Committee. The focus of the summit, “Helping Women Professionals Succeed” was the expanding role of women in the accounting profession and what the future holds for them.

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