Krista McMasters hasn't celebrated her new executive position at regional CPA and business advisory firm Clifton Gunderson just yet.

"I've been so busy I really haven't taken a whole lot of time to celebrate," she told Accounting Today. "I think I'll celebrate when the position is effective and I'm through this transition year."

McMasters, who was named the firm's chief executive-elect -- the fourth in the firm's history and the first female to serve in that position among the country's top 25 public firms -- officially succeeds Carl George in June 2009.

In other words, it's a big deal.

Since she was named in March, McMasters has spent her time visiting client service centers and talking with senior managers and partners about the firm's strategic plan and her vision for the future.

"Our mission is going to stay the same," McMasters said, adding that her firm specifically plans to focus on succession planning to address aging partners and international alliances. "It's really, growth of our people, growth of our clients, all else follows. Certainly people initiatives are in the forefront today."

People initiatives -- not just women's initiatives -- are growing increasingly important as work-life balance and career development issues pertain to both men and women. At Clifton Gunderson, for example, a new formal women's initiative has been rolled out in an effort to guide more female recruits into leadership positions.

"We have a lot of programs right now to help develop people in general, but we needed to really focus," McMasters said, pointing out that the initiative was on the drawing board before she became chief executive-elect. "The business case is really there. We believe it will benefit all employees, not just females."

According to Catalyst, a New York-based think tank that focuses on expanding opportunities for women in business, nearly 62 percent of all accountants and auditors are women. Women, according to the Catalyst report released this year, make up 19 percent of the partner population in firms, although they comprise 43 percent of all new hires.


In an effort to learn what makes women executives in accounting tick, Accounting Today posed a variety of questions to nine top-tier leaders about their management style and experience in a historically male-dominated profession (see "All manner of management").

Not listening to one's instinct was named as one of the biggest mistakes that women make when they are first starting their career, and listening was listed as being their best management tip. Nearly all the interviewees have a workplace pet peeve (one is leaving dishes in the sink at the office) and all the women offered a pregnant pause when asked to describe their leadership style. They also shared the best nuggets of advice that they've received -- spanning from keeping one's career on course and ignoring distractions to the necessity of taking well-planned risks. (For the full text of their replies, see the unabridged version of "All manner of management.")

"The best advice I will give is the grass is not always greener," said Beth Salvati, chief executive of HLB Gross Collins PC in Atlanta. "My strategy is, if there is something at the firm I don't like, try to change it. Make the place work for me, versus trying to find a place that I think is going to work for me."

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