The average person views accounting as a male-dominated industry and yet there are more and more women joining the profession and assuming leadership positions each year. This is in stark contrast to 50 years ago when there were almost zero women in the industry.
Despite this gender shift, women still have a long way to go.
According to a report by the Center for American Progress, in the financial services industry, women represent more than 54 percent of the labor force, yet only 12.4 percent are executive officers and 18.3 percent are on the board of directors. So the question remains: How can we attract women to the accounting industry and encourage them to pursue leadership positions?
Never Underestimate the Value of a Strong Mentor
In order to help women advance into executive roles, it is important to provide them with the opportunity to have formal or informal mentors who can offer insight into the industry and help develop their leadership skills.
For example, “Women of EisnerAmper” is our firm’s formal mentoring program and affinity group specifically developed to coach women in the firm. This program is led by the firm’s female leadership who encourage participants to ask questions and share their experiences, as well as the challenges they confront on a daily basis.
This formalized program provides the women in our firm with the opportunity to learn from one another and promote each other’s success and growth within the company. Even if your firm does not have a formal mentoring program in place, informal mentorship is a valuable outlet for women to join together and bolster each other’s success by discussing best practices and how to grow within the firm.
Understand and Embrace Differences in Leadership Styles
Women and men often approach leadership in the workplace differently. Rather than viewing one leadership style as better than another, it is important for leadership to work with young women to understand and leverage their strengths while identifying opportunities for growth.
This will help them cultivate their leadership skills as they continue to progress in their career. Additionally, by recognizing these differences, as well as the value each unique perspective brings to the team, we can motivate young women to share their opinions and ideas in the workplace so they know their voice is valued.
Address Women’s Concerns for Entering the Accounting Industry Head-On
Lastly, I have often heard that many women are known to turn down job offers because of questions they are afraid to ask in the interview. Some of these questions include: What will the hours of this job look like? Will I be able to balance a leadership role at work, as well as my personal life outside of work?
We need to address these concerns head-on without waiting for the questions to be asked, because sometimes they never will be. We need to promote that there are a variety of programs and technologies available to enable a strong work-life balance while pursuing and achieving leadership roles. Women leaders should serve as an example to young women in the firm of how they are able to achieve success in the workplace and in their personal lives.
With these tips in mind, we should all take a moment to think about how we can encourage the young women in our firms to perform to their full potential. We have been lucky enough to have mentors who have guided us throughout our careers, and it is now our turn to pay it forward.
Dana Trexler Smith is a partner in the Financial Advisory Services Group at EisnerAmper with 20 years of experience. She provides expert witness services in intellectual property litigation and complex commercial litigation.