A new study says that women are increasingly attaining leadership positions in public accounting firms, and more accountants are taking advantage of the alternative career paths offered by an increasing number of firms.The study was conducted with the support of the American Institute of CPAs Work/Life and Women's Initiatives Executive Committee. Over 2,600 CPAs took part, including those working both in firms and in business and industry.

While women now account for 19 percent of all firm partners, up from 12 percent a decade ago, only 38 percent of firms surveyed offer some kind of alternative career path that does not lead to partner, such as choosing to stay a senior manager or moving into a less client-service-driven area.

The report concluded that the accounting workforce is changing faster than human resources policies can adjust, noting significant gaps between what firms think motivates and retains people and what is actually effective. Among the report's recommendations:

* Employers should be more proactive in providing guidance to mentors and protégés on more effective relationships, while professionals should actively seek out mentors.

* Firms and companies must provide access to professional development opportunities in response to an increasingly diverse workforce.

* Women should be more aggressive in seeking out opportunities and informing supervisors about their aspirations.

The report is available as a PDF from the AICPA Web site by clicking on the "Research" tab at www.aicpa.org/worklife.

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