Female leadership on the rise, report finds

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The Accounting & Financial Women’s Alliance and its Accounting MOVE Project released their annual report Thursday on female leadership and gender equity at CPA firms and found some good news on rising levels of women leaders and partners at firms.

The report, Promotions, Plateaus and Possibilities: New Ways Forward for Women in Accounting, details the most recent findings on female leadership and diversity initiatives in accounting firms across the country. This year's report focuses on retaining top female leaders in firms by investing in relationships. "As firms work to retain and advance women, those on the leading edge are finding that the most powerful magnet is the most simple and straightforward: the personal investment of time and attention by leaders in less experienced, rising women," the report noted.

“Midcareer coaching offers the greatest return for investment in women, and the greatest opportunity for firms to drive immediate and long- term results from that investment," said Risa Lavine, principal and chief of staff at CohnReznick, per a statement. "This year’s Accounting MOVE Project report shows strategies to help firms retool the pipeline.”

The Accounting MOVE (Money, Opportunity, Vital Supports, and Entrepreneurship) Project, sponsored by CohnReznick, Moss Adams and other participating firms, examines female leadership trends in the profession by annually polling its participating firms. The 2019 Accounting MOVE results were based on research conducted by Wilson-Taylor Assoc. in Charlotte, N.C. Forty-eight accounting and advisory firms representing 30,000 employees were ultimately interviewed between December 2018 and March 2019.

“Firms of all sizes are engineering new ways for women to excel," stated Joanne Cleaver, president of Wilson-Taylor Associates, the content strategy firm that manages the Accounting MOVE Project. "And when women excel, firms win new clients and grow their relationships with existing clients. As well, the 2019 Accounting MOVE Project illustrates the power of re-investing in programs and culture proven to advance women. Firms that consistently participate in the Accounting MOVE Project promote more quickly. As a group, 28 percent of their partners and principals are women, ahead of even the high mark achievement this year of 27 percent women partners and principals, for all participating firms.”

Other notable findings from this year's report include:

  • 73 percent of participating firms formally identify high-potential employees.
  • 52 percent of participating firms have formal succession planning.
  • 27 percent of participating firms specifically measure the pipeline of women.
  • 39 percent of participating firms conduct pay equity surveys by gender and by race.

Polled firms also reported significant increases in female leadership representation since just last year. Women on management committees rose from 25 percent in 2018 to 33 percent in 2019. The percentage of female partners and managers also ticked upwards.

Released alongside the report, the 2019 Best CPA Firms for Women list, sponsored by AFWA, recognizes 14 firms who have demonstrated notable commitments to advancing female leadership in the accounting profession.

The firms, in alphabetical order, are:

  • BPM (San Francisco)
  • Brown Smith Wallace (St. Louis)
  • Clark Nuber PS (Bellevue, Wash.)
  • CohnReznick (New York)
  • Eide Bailly (Fargo, N.D.)
  • Elliott Davis (Greenville, S.C.)
  • Lurie (Minneapolis)
  • MCM CPAs and Advisors (Louisville, Ky.)
  • Moss Adams (Seattle)
  • Novogradac (San Francisco)
  • Oum & Co. (San Francisco)
  • Plante Moran (Southfield, Mich.)
  • Rehmann (Troy, Mich.)

The report also includes the 2019 Best CPA Firms for Equity Leadership, highlighting firms with at least 50 staff members where women make up at least 33 percent of partners and principals.

Top firms, in descending order of percentage of women partners and principals, include:

  • Kaiser Consulting (Powell, Ohio) – 100%
  • Kerkering, Barberio & Co. – 60%
  • KWC (Alexandria, Va.) – 60%
  • RoseRyan (Newark, Calif.) – 60%
  • Abbott, Stringham & Lynch (San Jose, Calif.) – 50%
  • Clark Nuber PS (Bellevue, Wash.) – 50%
  • James Moore & Co. (Gainesville, Fla.) – 50%
  • Councilor, Buchanan & Mitchell (Bethesda, Md.) – 47.1%
  • Jones & Roth (Eugene, Ore.) – 46.2%
  • HBE (Lincoln, Neb.) – 45.5%
  • Johanson & Yau (San Jose, Calif.) – 42.9%
  • Novogradac (San Francisco) – 40.4%
  • The Bonadio Group (Pittsford, N.Y.) – 39%
  • Hood & Strong (San Francisco) – 37.7%
  • MCM CPAs and Advisors (Louisville, Ky.) – 37.3%,
  • BeachFleischman PC (Tucson, Ariz.) – 37.5%
  • Brown Smith Wallace (St. Louis) – 36.6%
  • FrazierDeeter (Atlanta) – 35.4%
  • Lurie LLP (Minneapolis) – 33%
  • Oum & Co. (San Francisco) – 33%

For the full report, head to AFWA's site here.

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Gender issues Diversity and equality