Despite amassing a grade point average in college that rivaled my points-per-game average as an inept high school basketball player, I actually explored the idea of taking the LSATs and attending law school. Toward that end, I sought out one of the law school professors, a vibrant and charismatic woman who taught contract law. I was not so much focused on her outline of what to expect during the ensuing three years, but was far more entranced by her personal tale of attending law school in the late 1950s at a Northeastern college, which shall remain anonymous.
Very early on, she told me she asked a male classmate a question and instead of a reply, she got a stern reprimand that she was "occupying a seat that should have gone to a man."
I'm still astonished that someone could display such brazenly sexism, even in a bygone era where social or even legal repercussions were basically non-existent.
I remembered that conversation after reading that some 10 accounting firms were recently cited as Best Accounting Firms for Women by the American Society of Women Accountants and the American Woman's Society of CPAs, which conducted the survey in conjunction with research concern Wilson-Taylor Associates. Some 20 firms participated in the inaugural study, the 2010 Accounting MOVE Project List of Best Accounting Firms for Women, and they were ranked on such criteria as range, depth and success of programs, and workplace culture with regard to women at the mid-level position and above.
I found the study particularly relevant, since one of the most cited statistics in accounting is that more than half of accounting graduates are female, but women comprise something on the order of 15 percent of partners and shareholders at accounting firms. The demographics as women advance up the chain of command are inarguably off-kilter.
In the last issue, I wrote about the underpinnings of the future accounting firm, with an emphasis on career customization and workplace flexibility.But as I mentioned, and is reiterated in the report, flexibility is one solution to successfully keeping and retaining women (and men), but obviously not a panacea for gender parity.Several of the report's other conclusions jumped out at me, including a finding that women are an overlooked resource for gaining and retaining clients, currently a critical issue for firms. There was also scant evidence of women's initiatives. The recommendations that the report issued are more common sense than revelatory, such as starting retention efforts and career planning at the point of hire, and implementing women's initiatives to help build the pipeline of female talent.
I feel, as I'm sure others do, that there should also be more women-centric accounting events throughout the year. By coincidence, in our second October issue, if you'll pardon a small dose of self-promotion, we'll run our annual special section on "the Most Powerful Women in Accounting," which we hope next year to expand beyond print with a live event.
But I would be remiss if I didn't mention the firms that made the list. They are: BDO in N.Y.; Berry Dunn McNeil & Parker in Portland, Maine; The Bonadio Group in Pittsford, N.Y.; CCR in Westborough, Mass.; Hood & Strong in San Francisco; Jones & Roth in Eugene, Ore.; Moss Adams in Seattle; Rothstein Kass in Roseland, N.J.; William Vaughan Co. in Maumee, Ohio; and Wiss & Co. in Livingston, N.J.
We've obviously come a long way since that law professor's rude encounter a half-century ago, but few would argue that there's still work to do.
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