[IMGCAP(1)]As women in the profession work to advance their careers, many feel the push and pull of balancing work and life. Balancing a personal life while also climbing the professional ladder is tough, but not out of reach.

Sheryl Sandberg, the author of the book “Lean In,” is a dedicated advocate for the advancement of women. Both her book and her successful online campaign (leanin.org) are dedicated to “encouraging women to pursue their ambitions and changing the conversation from what we can’t do to what we can do.” She advocates that women “lean in” to situations and make their presence and contributions known in order to achieve their goals. I couldn’t agree more. I’m certainly a “lean in’er.” But before I leaned in, I jumped out…and that’s what I want to share.

Let me begin with an alarming statistic: less than 20 percent of CPA firm partners are women. Before owning my own firm, I was on the part-time-mommy track in a large firm. I quickly found that this wasn’t the right path for me. I felt like I was giving it my all and sacrificing a lot in terms of my personal life, and yet I wasn’t seeing any results. So, I jumped out.

I took the leap into firm ownership. It was scary, but I wanted to work on my own terms and achieve goals that were mine and not someone else’s. Of course, I work more hours than I did in my part-time gig, but it’s all for the advancement of my business, and I like knowing that I’m building something sustainable—something that will allow me to achieve a good balance between my work and personal lives. Both my very supportive husband and I don’t take the challenges and sacrifices of operating my own firm lightly, but we know it’s what is best for my career and our family in the long run.

As I look at other successful female CPAs in leadership positions, most of them did the same thing I did—they jumped out first. They took their careers in their own hands and have built their own businesses rather than wait for doors to open. Like me, they had to jump out first to really lean in to a leadership position.

It’s those that take a risk that rise to greatness, because they have faced the challenges of building a business and, ultimately, become strong leaders. One of my favorite “lean in” stories includes the CFO of Midwestern State. She also sits on many AICPA boards. What I love about her is her tenacious leadership style and the fact that she jumped out years ago and has been leaning in ever since—offering many females in the profession a stellar role model.

Another example is a female partner at a Top 100 firm. She first built a highly successful IT consulting practice, which was acquired by the Top 100 firm, and then moved into her current partner position.

It would be amazing if the doors of opportunity would simply open from the beginning, but the fact is that you have to make that happen. Great leaders are those that take risks, face challenges and lean in with confidence. So…are you a leaner?

Jody L. Padar, CPA, MST, is a Certified Public Accountant experienced with Complex Federal & State Income Tax Compliance for Business & Individuals. Jody is an adjunct professor at Oakton Community College, where she teaches Taxation and QuickBooks Courses. She is part of Intuit Trainer Writer Network and speaks nationally on various Technologies and Taxation. She can be reached at www.newvisioncpagroup.com.