San Diego (Sept. 26, 2003) -- In spite of improvements, women still lag well behind men when it comes to advancing within the accounting profession, the author of a book on women's advancement in the profession told 300 women accountants gathered here.

While women are entering the profession in record numbers, they represent less than 14 percent of partners/shareholders at public accounting firms, and the number of women at senior levels is still low, Nancy Baldiga, associate accounting professor at College of the Holy Cross and author of "Promoting Your Talent: A Guidebook for Women and their Firms," told attendees at the 63rd annual conference of the American Society of Women Accountants.

Baldiga outlined 10 ways women can drive change in their own organizations. One is to find or be a mentor. "It is extremely critical to have people to help guide you in your career," she said. "Young women need someone who knows how it works -- knows what it takes to succeed. Mentoring is the greatest way to influence an organization."

Baldiga also stressed the importance of teaching or learning practice development, which is an area that is still largely perceived as an obstacle for the advancement for women in accounting. "There are still people who think women can't sell, who still see practice development as being out on the golf course with the boys," she said. "Practice development is about relationship building. If you're good at it, teach someone else. If you're not good at it, become a student."

She also exhorted women to strive to be a positive role model. "Being a role model doesn't mean you have to be a recognized expert," Baldiga said. "Take stock of your skills. Think about your strengths and weaknesses. Think about the people you wanted to be like, and the people you didn't want to be like, and evaluate where you are."

Other ways to become a catalyst for change include encouraging and supporting the use of flexible work arrangements; helping create and joining an internal networking group; establishing relationships with local colleges or universities; identifying opportunities to participate in leadership development programs; communicating with firm leadership; learning what it takes to succeed in your organization; and sharing ideas with top management.

-- Melissa Klein

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