As any reader who is even a tad observant will quickly recognize, the subject of female partners/executives in the accounting profession is splashed not just across the front page of this issue, but has wandered onto the Opinion page, as well.A confluence of events - whether external, such as increased regulations, or internal, like more firms offering that much-sought-after work/life balance - has seen to it that the 2,400-plus hours to the partner track is rapidly going the way of pay phones.

In other words, this is not your father's accounting firm.

The face of the profession is changing, both figuratively and literally. A half-century ago, substantially less than 1,000 females had earned the CPA credential. Roughly 20 years later, that figure hovered at 2,000. Last year, the American Institute of CPAs had more than 40,000 female members in public accounting alone.

Yet if you examine any major accounting firm, the ratio of male to female partners remains unbalanced. Should current demographics remain on course that should, and will, change.

But to highlight an unpopular fact, and risk having my mailbox flooded with four-letter responses or being saddled with unprintable monikers, one can view the female management issue in a couple of ways.

Case in point: As many have pointed out, in an earlier era the profession did not exactly put out a welcome mat for women. And to be fair to accounting, its not-so-veiled misogyny was in lockstep with a host of other industries. But that has changed substantially and so, as a result, a large portion of women entered the profession in more recent years.

In fact, over the last 10 years, the combination of staff shortages and a high number of women accounting graduates has translated into a surge of females entering the field, if not exactly reaching management or partner parity.

But here's an uncomfortable question: How long does someone have to work at a firm or in the profession before they're placed in a management or partnership position? Or, for that matter, on the partnership track?

As a shortcut to the answer, let me suggest taking a moment to look at our Top 100 Most Influential People feature, which came out in September.

Carefully check the biographies of any and all managing partners and CEOs - male or female - and see how long they worked at their current firm or in accounting in general before ascending to their present levels.

No matter how much one can hint at or scream gender discrimination - or any type of discrimination, for that matter - you can't realistically expect to make it to managing partner or CEO if you've been at a firm less than 12 to 15 years, particularly if you started at an entry-level position.

In truth, it may take as long as 20 or 25 years.

I believe that our Page 1 feature in this issue chronicles some terrific examples of the progress that women have made in the profession, and all of those who were featured in the piece expressed high degrees of optimism that that trend will continue.

I have little doubt that it will. Because in the end, it's really about being able to mine, cultivate and retain the best talent possible, and hoping that they eventually will become the ones to carry the leadership torch.

Register or login for access to this item and much more

All Accounting Today content is archived after seven days.

Community members receive:
  • All recent and archived articles
  • Conference offers and updates
  • A full menu of enewsletter options
  • Web seminars, white papers, ebooks

Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access