Women can crunch numbers with the best of the big boys. But how many skirts stick around long enough to work their way to the top of the pile of suits, and do they have what it takes to succeed if they make it there? Pose that question in today’s society and the immediate answer may be “Yes” based on political correctness rather than truth. While 57 percent of today’s accounting graduates are women, only 30 percent of managers and 10 to15 percent of partners are female. The average male member of the American Institute of CPAs is 50, while the average female member is 40. So what happens when those older male partners retire and expect to rely on the younger women they hired to take over the reins? Firms looking to train female successors need to teach them certain skills they didn’t learn in school—or CPE classes for that matter. Skills like communication, confidence and building credibility. “We have all these women being drawn out of accounting schools and we’re not developing them and they’re dropping out of the profession. Firms are investing millions of dollars in women and they’re just walking out the door,” says Gale Crosley, CPA, founder and principal of Crosley + Co., which serves as consultants to CPA firms looking for practice development assistance, including establishing programs to help women excel in their careers. “Women aren’t taught to be initiators. You have to be an initiator to be a good rainmaker.” Crosley hesitates to use the word, which Webster’s defines as “a person whose influence can initiate progress or ensure success,” because it is typically associated with men. But she promotes the idea of “making rain” or “getting wet” in her upcoming 2007 Forum for Women in Accounting, whose theme is “Becoming All You Can Be.” The May conference aims to teach potential female rainmakers how to network, take risks, make money and manage the clock without compromising their family life in the process. When assessing firms, Crosley runs into many professional women who feel uncomfortable asking men out to business dinners for fear they will think of it as a date. Guys go out to lunch together and the women don’t participate, and she hears lots of “locker room talk” that makes the women employees uncomfortable. Her job is to help them overcome their fears and uncertainties so they can climb the ranks. “Getting comfortable with how to position and handle yourself is a challenge and always will be,” Crosley says. “A key quality is knowing and understanding the process and what techniques to use and avoid.” When one of her associates was invited to a hockey game with 25 men and complained that she didn’t enjoy the experience, Crosley explained to her that “business development isn’t about cocktailing around and having a bunch of fun.” Rather, it is part of the job description, like learning to play golf to network outside the office. “It’s just another line item on the resume,” she says. And perhaps one that helps place more women on top.
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