Voices

Art of Accounting: Female staff are smarter, redux

My previous column, “Female staff are smarter than male staff,” drew a lot of comments and emails indicating considerable interest in this topic. Hence, this additional column.

Let me first start by saying that the title and article dealt with the specific issue of why there are fewer women partners and women in the pipeline to become partners. All statements are my own nonscientific opinions. I have no proof of being right or wrong about the pipeline, but was expressing my opinion based on discussions with hundreds of partners and staff and women who have left public accounting who I happened to speak to. The only criteria was that they called me. How, why or what made them call me is not that important.

Evidently some readers were upset that I offered my opinions without performing a thorough analysis. I did not — nor do I — have any interest in pursuing this further than I did, or am now doing here. Possibly I will do future articles or interviews if I find that I have something new to say. Take it as it is. I feel I accomplished a lot since it elicited a discussion and hopefully some thought by readers. I can tell you I like what I wrote, believe it is a realistic recitation of the current market situation, and also believe it will eventually change by drifting closer to my suggested solutions at some point.

With regard to women with babies, which is a separate issue, I posted two articles recently about how my firm, Withum, handles this. For some real cool insights I suggest reading these blogs:

http://quickreadbuzz.com/2019/05/08/practice-management-whitman-part-time-accountant/

http://quickreadbuzz.com/2019/05/15/practice-management-mendlowitz-part-time-accountant/

The work conditions I wrote about apply to men as well as women. I did not suggest women are treated differently; just that they are more proactive in extricating themselves from what they believe could be unfavorable situations.

I spoke to some of the email writers who felt women are treated differently. Some of the conversations were very interesting and insightful, but I do not want to get involved in this dialogue now — it would be a great topic for a future column. Many also relayed that they felt mentoring was either not readily available or inadequate when offered. This appears to be a concern that needs to be addressed and I will in a future column.

An interview that was published in The CPA Journal last year expressed some of my concerns about women in accounting. Here is a link if you want to read the entire interview: https://www.cpajournal.com/2018/12/24/state-of-the-profession-2018-views-on-practice-management/. In that article I expressed a way to start to determine the reasons women leave public accounting before opportunities for partnership arise and suggested these questions:

  • What percentage of accounting graduates are women?
  • What percentage of these women take jobs with public accounting firms, versus private firms and elsewhere? I would ask the same question of the men graduates and compare them.
  • Of the two groups (men and women), how many are still in public accounting after five and 10 years?
  • Is the proportion of women remaining in public accounting similar to the proportion of women who have been promoted to partner over the last five or 10 years?

The topic of women in accounting is complex, and my interviews and writing are done from a practice management vantage point. While I believe my suggestions are reasonable and workable,
I have no delusion that firm leaders will immediately shed the history and so-called rationale of what they are presently doing to adopt any of my suggestions. My primary interest is to present my opinions and thoughts in a way that opens minds to a view contrary to what they presently are. I have some satisfaction knowing that the few firms that have adopted my suggestions are pleased they did, and they periodically tell me so. As to the rest, use what you want, keeping in mind that many of my suggestions are made with the purpose of assuring the long-term sustainability of the firms that take my advice.

There is a lot more to this dialogue, but it will be continued by me at a later time, and hopefully sooner by others, who are operating their businesses trying to get through the day, but wanting many more calm days ahead. Keep the comments coming.

Do not hesitate to contact me at emendlowitz@withum.com with your practice management questions.

Edward Mendlowitz, CPA, is partner at WithumSmith+Brown, PC, CPAs. He is on the Accounting Today Top 100 Influential People List. He is the author of 24 books, including “How to Review Tax Returns,” co-written with Andrew D. Mendlowitz, and “Managing Your Tax Season, Third Edition.” He also writes a twice-a-week blog addressing issues that clients have at www.partners-network.com along with the Pay-Less-Tax Man blog for Bottom Line. Ed is an adjunct professor in the MBA program at Fairleigh Dickinson University teaching end user applications of financial statements. Art of Accounting is a continuing series where Ed shares autobiographical experiences with tips that he hopes can be adopted by his colleagues. Ed welcomes practice management questions and can be reached at (732) 743-4582 or emendlowitz@withum.com.

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