Executive sponsorship may be the single-most powerful factor in helping women navigate the last few steps to partnership, according to the 2016 Accounting MOVE Project report.
There are many factors that weaken or strengthen women’s commitment to pursue top leadership at public accounting firms, but research from the 2016 MOVE report, released in June, found “executive sponsorship is very nearly a silver bullet – a single strategy, already in play at most firms, that addresses many of the factors that shape women’s determination to stay or depart.”
Now in its seventh year, the Accounting MOVE Project, the profession’s only annual benchmark of the status of women in leadership roles, once again found a steady increase in the proportion of women partners and principals at the 49 firms participating in the 2016 project – an average of 23 percent, a marked increase from 17 percent in 2012 and slightly higher than the 22 percent reported in 2015.
“Progress is accelerating at MOVE firms,” said Joanne Cleaver, president of Wilson-Taylor Associates Inc., the firm that designed and manages the Accounting MOVE Project. “Leading MOVE firms have figured what works, and they are reinvesting in proven strategies, like executive sponsorship to increase the number of women in the leadership pipeline.”
In conjunction with the release of the MOVE Project report, the Accounting & Financial Women’s Alliance (AFWA) and the American Woman’s Society of CPAs (AWSCPA) also announced its 2016 Best Public Accounting Firms for Women list. The annual list is based on results from Accounting MOVE Project research.
According to the AFWA, the 10 firms named to the 2016 Best Public Accounting Firms for Women list embrace the same three characteristics when it comes to the advancement of women:
- Consistent, measurable progress in advancing women to leadership.
- Proven and evolving programs that retain and advance women.
- Clear and compelling integration of the business case for advancing women.
The 2016 Best Public Accounting Firms for Women are:
Burr Pilger Mayer Inc., San Francisco: In one of the toughest talent markets in the world, Burr Pilger Mayer has boosted its proportion of women partners by concentrating on coaching, professional development, and internal networking to help senior managers fine-tune their vision of personal success. The firm is cross-pollinating best practices among its offices to foster mentoring and sponsorship.
Clark Nuber PS, Bellevue, Washington: Leadership is both “caught” and “taught,” which is why Clark Nuber invests heavily in training top leaders to be effective performance managers. Among the skills they must master are advocating for candidates, ferreting out the right opportunities at the right time in candidates’ careers, and never putting career goals on automatic pilot. It’s working: 38 percent of the firm’s partners and principals are women.
CohnReznick LLP, New York: Try it, track it, evaluate success, repeat. That’s how CohnReznick reinvests in the precise programs that make the biggest differences to retaining and advancing women, such as backup child care, women’s networking events customized for each office, and top-level coaching for executive sponsors to amplify their results.
Frazier & Deeter LLC, Atlanta: Frazier & Deeter retains women in its partnership pipeline better than most, with women comprising 31 percent of partners and principals and 57 percent of senior managers. The firm just introduced a 100 percent childcare reimbursement for all Georgia employees, a move designed to retain millennials who are starting families and add an additional resource for midcareer women.
Lurie LLP, Minneapolis: Lurie is increasing market share by sharing with clients and prospects in the Twin Cities business community the firm’s dedication to retaining women. Strong female leadership at the firm – its CEO and COO are both women – increases credibility with the entire Minneapolis business community.
MCM CPAs & Advisors, Louisville, Kentucky: MCM CPAs & Advisors achieves what most firms consider to be impossible: It gains women at higher levels, with women comprising 60 percent of the firm’s managers, 57 percent of senior managers, and 50 percent of directors. To help increase referrals within the firm, MCM held a business development program for employees to learn more about cross-selling and how to identify clients’ needs for other services.
Moss Adams LLP, Seattle: With women comprising 27 percent of its partners, Moss Adams is gaining momentum as it aims for 30 percent by 2022. One tactic: a yearlong leadership development program for high-potential women senior managers. The program is based on a comprehensive analysis of data on what it takes to succeed: personal brand definition, team building, and business development.
Plante Moran, Southfield, Michigan: When the firm’s first pay equity audit discovered some anomalies, the women’s initiative leadership was drawn into the analysis. The resulting insights helped Plante Moran better understand the intersection of culture and compensation, and how to evolve all of its renowned programs to ensure holistic equity.
Rehmann, Troy, Michigan: Women early on in their careers don’t have to wait their turn for leadership development opportunities. Rehmann’s leadership development programs, as well as its Women’s Initiative Network, offer tracks that help associates and senior associates gain traction with a variety of business skills and self-evaluation.
The Bonadio Group, Pittsford, New York: While 36 percent female partners and principals is an accomplishment in its own right, The Bonadio Group manages to accelerate more women to leadership even as the firm grows rapidly, currently topping 577 employees. The Bonadio Group reinforces collaboration with its policy of providing equal credit for new business brought in to both the referring employee and the employee working the account.
The MOVE Project is co-sponsored by the AFWA and the AWSCPA, and made possible by founding sponsor Moss Adams and national sponsor CohnReznick. The 49 participating MOVE firms represent about 25,000 employees at CPA firms.
“Initiatives such as the MOVE Project and the programs within these firms help move us toward the ultimate goal of supporting the whole woman CPA in all aspects of her personal and professional life,” said Danielle Supkis Cheek, association administrator for the AWSCPA.
Deanna Arteaga is a professional freelance writer and public relations specialist who for the past six years has covered CPA industry trends for AccountingWEB. She also writes about CPA firm marketing, higher education and professional development for CPAs, and workplace trends in the accounting profession. She has more than 20 years...